How Much Do You Know about Wheat Flour Classification?
Types of Flour
The harder the wheat, the higher the protein content in the flour. Soft, low protein wheat are used for cakes, pastries, cookies, crackers and Oriental noodles, while hard, high protein wheat make excellent breads and quick breads. Durum is used in pasta and egg noodles.
- White flour: The finely ground endosperm of the wheat kernel.
- All-purpose flour: White flour milled from hard wheat or a blend of hard and soft wheat by wheat flour mill plant. It gives the best results for a variety of products, including some yeast breads, quick breads, cakes, cookies, pastries and noodles. All-purpose flour is usually enriched and may be bleached or unbleached. Bleaching will not affect nutrient value. Different brands will vary in performance. Protein content varies from 8-11 percent.
- Bread flour: White flour that is a blend of hard, high protein wheat and has greater gluten strength and protein content than all-purpose flour. Unbleached and in some cases conditioned with ascorbic acid, bread flour is milled primarily for commercial bakers, but is available at most grocery stores. Protein varies from 12-14 percent.
- Cake flour: Fine-textured, silky flour milled from soft wheats with low protein content. It is used to make cakes, cookies, crackers, quick breads and some types of pastry. Cake flour has a greater percentage of starch and less protein, which keeps cakes and pastries tender and delicate. Protein varies from 7-9 percent.
- Self-rising flour: Also referred to as phosphate flour, a convenience product made by adding salt and leavening to all-purpose flour. It is commonly used in biscuits and quick breads, bur is not recommended for yeast breads. One cup of self-rising flour contains 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt. Self-rising can be substituted for all-purpose flour by reducing salt and baking powder according to these proportions.
- Pastry flour: Has properties intermediate between those of all-purpose and cake flours. It is usually milled from soft wheat for pastry-making, but can be used for cookies, cakes, crackers and similar products. It differs from hard wheat flour in that it has a finer texture and lighter consistency. Protein varies from 8-9 percent.
- Semolina: The coarsely ground endosperm of durum, a hard spring wheat with a high gluten content and golden color. It is hard, granular and resembles sugar. Semolina is usually enriched and is used to make couscous and pasta products such as spaghetti, vermicelli, macaroni and lasagna noodles. Except for some specialty products, breads are seldom make with semolina.
- Durum flour: Finely ground semolina. It is usually enriched and used to make noodles.
- Whole wheat, stone ground and graham flour: Can be used interchangeably and nutrient values differ minimally. Either grinding the whole-wheat kernel or recombining the white flour, germ and bran that have been separated during milling produces them. Their only differences may be in coarseness and protein content. Insoluble fiber content is higher than in white flours.
- Gluten flour: Usually milled from spring wheat and has a high protein (40-45 percent), low-starch content. It is used primarily for diabetic breads, or mixed with other non-wheat or low-protein wheat flours to produce a stronger dough structure. Gluten flour improves baking quality and produces high-protein gluten bread.
Wheat Flour Terms
- Enriched flour is supplemented with iron and four B-vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid). These nutrients are added back to the processed flour in amounts equal to or greater than amounts found in the unprocessed flour
Fortified implies that something is added to a product that makes its nutritional status higher than the product made from “unprocessed” raw materials. i.e. cereals. Calcium and folic acid are examples of nutrients added to fortified flour.
Refined, unenriched flour has had the germ and bran removed with only the endosperm remaining. This represents less than 5 percent of the total white flour milled in the U.S. It is primarily for organic and artisanal products. A small amount goes into mixes for overseas consumption.
- Pre-sifted flour is sifted at the mill, making it unnecessary to sift before measuring.
- Bromated flour is largely discontinued in the United States. Ascorbic acid is now being added to strengthen the flour for bread doughs.
- Bleached refers to flour that has been bleached chemically to whiten or improve the baking qualities. It is a process which speeds up the natural lightening and maturing of flour. No change occurs in the nutritional value of the flour and no harmful chemical residues remain.
- Unbleached flour is aged and bleached naturally by oxygen in the air. It is more golden in color, generally more expensive and may not have the consistency in baking qualities that bleached flour does. Unbleached is preferred for yeast breads because bleaching affects gluten strength.
- Patent flour, bleached or unbleached, is the highest grade of flour. It is lower in ash and protein with good color. Market-wise it is considered the highest in value and mostly used by bakers.
- Organic or chemical-free flour is not standardized, so its definition varies from state to state. It may be grown and stored without the use of synthetic herbicides or insecticides. It may also mean no fumigants were used to kill pests in the grain and no preservatives were added to the flour, packaging, or food product.
- Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten gives bread dough elasticity, strength and gas-retaining properties. Wheat is the only grain with sufficient gluten content to make raised or leavened loaves of bread.
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9 Types Of Flour: What They Are And How To Use Them
You’ve probably seen multiple varieties of flour on your local grocery store’s shelves, but the differences between those types of flour aren’t always so clear. To make things simpler, we’ve collected data on the most commonly found flour varieties for you as a reference.
All-purpose flour, or white flour, is the most commonly used type of flour, reports the Wheat Foods Council. This variety of flour is made from a blend of soft and hard wheat, and can be used in any number of baked food products. This type of flour is a source of several B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid) as well as iron. Around 95 percent of white flour sold in the U.S. is enriched, meaning that these nutrients were re-added to the substance after being removed during processing.
Bread flour is quite similar to all-purpose flour, the chief difference being that it has a greater content than the all-purpose variety. The Wheat Foods Council reasons that a high gluten content is optimal for the production of yeast breads. For this reason, bread flour is widely milled for use in commercial baking (it can, however, be found in most grocery stores) as well. The Huffington Post adds that bread flour has a greater amount of protein than the all-purpose variety.
Cake flour is very finely milled from soft wheat, writes the Huffington Post, giving it an almost silky feel. It has a low protein content and is used for a wide variety of baked goods, cakes, cookies, and quick breads in particular. Cake flour is higher in starch and lower in protein than bread flour, meaning that food products made with cake flour are generally tender and more delicate. The Wheat Foods Council notes that you can make a cup of cake flour by measuring out 1 cup of all-purpose flour, removing 2 tablespoons of flour, and replacing with 2 tablespoons of corn starch.
Pastry flour is made from soft wheat, and is generally finer than all-purpose flour. Its traits fall somewhere between those of cake and all-purpose flours, and — as you may have assumed — it is most often used in pastry baking. Pastry flour can also be used for foods such as crackers, cakes, and cookies, writes the Wheat Foods Council. It has a greater amount of protein, and less starch, than cake flour.
As the name suggests, whole-wheat flour is made by grinding entire kernels of red wheat. This process results in a darker brown flour, which is relatively high in nutrients and dietary fiber, writes the Wheat Foods Council. The presence of bran in whole-wheat flour means inhibits gluten development, thus, items baked with whole wheat flour are generally denser than those produced with white flour. To counteract this effect, some bakers will add more gluten (about 1 tablespoon per cup of whole wheat flour used). Alternately, some bakers prefer to subdue the strong wheat flavor of whole-wheat flour by blending it with all-purpose flour.
White Whole-Wheat Flour
White whole-wheat flour offers the same nutritional qualities that are offered by whole-wheat flour. However, white whole-wheat flour is ground from hard white wheat, yielding a paler tint and a subtler wheat flavor than the alternative, writes the Huffington Post. Some bakers blend it with all-purpose flour, resulting in heartier and healthier results than a strictly all-purpose flour food product would.
Oat flour is gluten-free, making it a popular choice for all dieters who prefer to avoid gluten. Livestrong notes that while it can be purchased at some grocery stores, it is quite simple to make at home — simply grind dried oats in your food processor or blender until they have become a fine powder. Each 1¼ cups of oats will yield 1 cup of oat flour. Oat flour is a bit sweeter than whole wheat flour, so bakers may wish to adjust their recipes in kind. Because it is gluten-free, oat flour can sometimes yield crumbly baked goods. Seasoned bakers combat this issue by adding more liquid ingredients to their recipes to make up for the lack of gluten.
Self-rising flour is a type of all-purpose flour that contains both salt and a leavening agent. The Wheat Foods Council reports that one cup of self-rising flour contains 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt, meaning that it can be used as a substitute for all-purpose flour — so long as you reduce added salt and baking powder amounts proportionately. Self-rising flour is frequently used in biscuits and quick breads, but is not recommended for use in yeast breads.
Semolina is made from the coarsely ground endosperm of durum wheat, which is the hardest variety of the 6 classes of wheat. The Wheat Foods Council reports that semolina has the highest protein content of all types of wheat, which makes it an ideal base ingredient for high-quality pasta and couscous. This type of flour is very rarely used to make bread.
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