The differences between the many flours is an often-asked question. So here’s a short flour primer for those with inquiring minds…
This is usually a blend of hard and soft flours (don’t worry, we’re getting there) and has a protein content of about 8–11%. There are two general types, unbleached and regular. Unbleached flour has slightly more protein than its bleached counterpart and is not, obviously, bleached like bleached flour. Unbleached flour is better for making breads as the bleached version may not rise as well.
Soft vs. hard flours: FIGHT!
Soft flours (cake and pastry, soft whole wheat, soft white) have a lower protein content than hard flours (bread flour, hard white flour, hard whole wheat), making them ideal for pastries, muffins and cookies. Hard flours are best for breads because of their higher protein content—called gluten—which gives dough its elasticity and bread its fluffy-ness. The higher protein content also makes hard flours great for making soft cookies! Trust me. Hard flours have between 12–14% protein whereas soft flours have 8–10%.
This is just all-purpose flour with baking soda and salt already added. It’s best for quick breads and biscuits but not yeast breads. Nuff said.
First off, spelt flour is NOT GLUTEN FREE! We get asked this a lot and the answer is NO. It is, however, OK for most people with a wheat sensitivity as it is more easily digested than wheat. It is also delicious! It’s slightly nutty and more water soluble than wheat, too, so you may need less liquid in your recipe. Nutrient wise, it’s a good source of vitamin B2, manganese, niacin, copper, phosphorus and fibre. I find light spelt best for baking (it’s like the difference between white and whole wheat) but I use whole for cookies and muffins, too.
This flour is also NOT GLUTEN FREE but like spelt and kamut flours, it is usually OK for wheat-sensitive people. It is easily digestible and contains higher amounts of fibre and fewer calories than wheat. Barley has eight amino acids and is a good source of vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, folate and niacin. It can be substituted half and half in wheat recipes for added nutrients or with the aforementioned spelt and kamut to be helpful for wheat-sensitive folks like me!
Like spelt flour, kamut is NOT GLUTEN FREE but is OK for most people with a wheat sensitivity. Its flavour is slightly sweet and nutty. Kamut is rich in protein (about 15%, which is higher than wheat) and minerals as well as B vitamins and vitamin E. It is easily digested, too!
Small but mighty, teff seeds pack a nutritional punch! One cup of cooked teff contains 387 mg of calcium! It’s also loaded with easily absorbable iron and is high in fibre. Teff is gluten free but contains more protein than wheat flours. It substitutes well in muffins and cookies but needs help in breads and cakes. It can also be used to thicken stocks and gravy.
This gluten-free beauty is not even a cereal but a fruit closely related to wild rhubarb! It is said to be the best source of plant protein and contains all of the essential amino acids as well as being high in fibre and vitamin D, among other nutrients. It is best used mixed with other gluten-free flours or spelt/kamut flour.
OK, OK, so it wasn’t short, but now you are fully informed about the wonders of most common—and a few uncommon—flours! So go out and try something new and create something delicious!!
Click here for a recipe to get you started…