An ingredient used in many
foods, flour is a fine powder made from cereal
grain or other starchy food sources. It is most commonly
made from wheat, but also corn, rye, barley and rice,
amongst many other grasses and even non-grain plants.
Flour is always based on
the presence of starches, which are complex carbohydrates.
Usually, the word
"flour" used alone refers to wheat flour, which
is one of the most important foods in European and
American culture. Wheat flour is the main ingredient in
most types of breads and pastries. Wheat is so widely used
because of an important property: when wheat flour is
mixed with water, a complex protein called gluten
develops. The gluten development is what gives wheat dough
an elastic structure that allows it to be worked in a
variety of ways, and which allows the retention of gas
bubbles in an intact structure, resulting in a sponge-like
texture to the final product.
The vast majority of
today's flour consumption is of wheat flour.
Wheat varieties are
typically known as "hard" or "soft",
depending on gluten content. Hard wheats are high in
gluten, and soft wheats are low. Hard flour, or
"bread" flour, is high in gluten and so forms a
certain toughness which holds its shape well once baked.
Soft flour is low in gluten and so results in a finer
texture. Soft flour is usually divided into
"cake" flour, which is the lowest in gluten, and
"pastry" flour, which has slightly more gluten
than cake flour.
In terms of the parts of
the grain (the grass seed) used in flour -- the endosperm
or starchy part, the oil-containing germ or protein part,
and the bran or fiber part -- there are three general
types of flour. "White" flour is made from the
endosperm only. "Whole wheat" flour is made from
the entire grain. A "germ" flour may also be
made from the endosperm and germ, excluding the bran. The
germ is sometimes sold by itself, as "wheatgerm".
wheat flour (or wholemeal flour) contains
flour is a white flour with coarsely ground bran
and wheatgerm mixed back in. It thus contains all
three parts of the wheat kernel as whole wheat flour
does, but it has a different texture.
flour is a milled bleached flour containing a low
amount of protein, and therefore bakes with a fine
flour is a blended white flour containg a medium
amount of protein (around 10%).
flour is an all-purpose flour that has a leavening
agent such as baking
soda or baking
powder already blended in. Care must be taken not
to confuse self-rising flour with "normal"
flour (generally known as all-purpose
flour), or the recipe can fail to rise or over
rise. All-purpose flour is generally preferred,
because the amount of leavening can be precisely
controlled within each recipe.
- Corn flour is an ambiguous term that can mean
or finely ground cornmeal.
Cornmeal which has been leached with lye is called corn
masa (masa harina) and is used to make tamales
tortillas in Mexican cooking.
- 100% rye
flour is used to bake the traditional sourdough
breads of Germany
flour is of great importance in Southeast
flour is an alternative to wheat flour. Note: although
some people with wheat allergies can tollerate spelt,
other wheat-allergic patients have adverse reactions
to spelt flour as well. Spelt also has less gluten
than wheat, but it is not gluten-free.
Legumes, tubers, etc.
flour (besan) is of great importance in Indian
- Flour can also be made from
soybeans, arrowroot, potatoes, taro
root, and other non-grain foodstuffs.
Some of the many foods made using flour are: