Flour: What’s the Right Choice?

With all the different flour varieties available to home baked bread bakers today, it may be challenging to select the varieties that best fit your baking goals.

Reader Contribution by Loretta Sorensen
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by Unsplash/Rebecca Matthews

Some main reasons we make our own bread include freshness, avoiding artificial ingredients and increasing the nutrition of our bread.

Reasons for selecting particular flours include availability, cost, ease of storage and ease of use. Some flours also offer higher nutrition values or can be combined to provide added protein and other nutrients.

Whatever your reason for selecting flour in the past, it may be worthwhile to consider these flour options:

  1. All-purpose flour can be used to bake bread. Choosing unbleached all-purpose flour means you will have less chemicals in the flour and reduce the grain processing by one step. Keep in mind that highly processed wheat flours lose much of their original nutrition during processing.
  2. Bread flour has higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which aids gluten development and may result in a more satisfactory rise.
  3. Whole wheat flour naturally provides fiber, a nutritional element many Americans struggle to consume on a daily basis. If you grind your own whole wheat flour from wheat berries, your bread will contain a greater percentage of nutrients due to the freshness of the grain. Learn more at MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
  4. When a family turns away from the somewhat strong flavor of hard red wheat (the wheat variety found on most baking sections of a grocery store), you might consider using white wheat to make bread. White wheat has a milder, sweeter flavor. It also looks more like white bread, which is why it has become a popular flour selection for both home bread bakers and commercial bakers in recent years.
  5. If you’re working to switch from processed white flour to red or white wheat, you might consider mixing whole grain flour with the white processed flour to begin your transition. This can help family members adjust to the taste and texture of a whole grain bread.
  6. Sprouted flours and grains can provide all the same nutrition found in a whole grain — i.e. wheat, rye, barley, etc. — while aiding digestion by removal of phytates and lectins that are naturally found in grains. Sprouting can be done at home, although it’s very convenient to purchase sprouted grains or flours. Due to the extra step involved in producing the grain and flour, they may have an added cost. Find more about sprouting grains.
  7. Multi-grain breads can combine the health benefits of numerous grains/legumes and provide a range of health benefits. If you are using or considering using a multi-grain recipe, searching for nutrient information and details about the benefits of combining specific grains can help determine your optimum flour selections.
  8. Other flour options include spelt, barley, rye, oat, einkorn, amaranth and more. Prior to substituting a new flour for a wheat flour, it’s wise to research the characteristics of the flour — which could include lower gluten, strong flavor, high fiber, etc. — to avoid producing an unsatisfactory loaf. Here is a guide to help you begin learning about some flour options.

Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site at Bake Your Best Bread Ever, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook.

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