Tuesday, August 7, 2007


-Warning: Long and boring post -

7 and more!

Were you able to differentiate the types of flour in the photo above? Don't look at the labels la... That's cheating. But honestly, without their packaging and labels, it is normally difficult to tell them apart. Today, I'll be writing up on the types of flour and their respective usage. I hope this post will somewhat help you Kevin, and others who are just as curious as him.

Flour is basically a powder like ingredient used in many foods. Flour is the main ingredient in many cakes, bread, pasta, cookies and many many more. There are many types of flour available today, ranging from cereal based, legumes to nuts. So how do we know which flour is suitable to make a bread, chiffon cake, roti cannai or popiah skin?

Their respective usage would depend purely on its protein content, because it is the protein content which determines the amount of gluten that can be developed. Simply said, the more gluten it can produce, the "tougher/chewier" the baked product will be. Lesser gluten, a more "finer/softer" end product. Flour can be categorized in two main types: hard flour and soft flour. Hard flour has high gluten content, whereas soft flour is the lowest in gluten.

Wheat flour
  • All purpose/plain flour - A common and easily attainable in groceries. It has a combination of hard and soft flour. This flour is slightly weaker than bread flour and it is suitable for most usages.
  • Cake flour - It has the lowest protein content, pure white in colour and has a very soft, smooth texture. It is used for soft-textured cakes like chiffon and sponge cakes. This flour is also ideally used in many other delicate baked goods.
  • Pastry flour - It is also low in protein but is slightly higher than cake flour, lower than all purpose flour. It has a creamy white colour and is used for light-textured pastries: pie doughs, muffins, cookies and biscuits.
  • Bread flour - This has the highest protein content and is used for... well, bread. For instance, pizza dough, loaves and croissants. It can also be used to strengthen doughs which are made from flours that contain little or no gluten.
  • Self raising flour - It is an all purpose flour in which baking powder has been blended in uniformly.

Other flours
The origins of these flours are pretty obvious, so I'll just state their common usage.
  • Cornflour/ cornstarch - Usually mixed in flour to create crisp cookies and biscuits. It is also used as a thickening/binding agent to gravies and puddings.
  • Corn /maize flour - This flour is different from cornstarch. Coarser textured ones are known as corn meal. This flour is widely used in Mexican dishes like tortillas. "Nachos" would be a good example for us.
  • Rice flour - It is made from white rice and is usually used in Southeast Asian cuisine like popiah skin.
  • Glutinous rice flour - This is made from glutinous rice and is not the same as rice flour. It forms a very sticky dough when mixed with water and is used to make desserts like tang yuen.
  • Atta flour - A form of wheat flour that has much higher protein. Used in Indian cuisine in breads like roti and chapati.
  • Rye flour - This flour has some proteins but they do not form gluten. Breads made from rye flour are heavy and dense. An example of such breads would be sourdoughs.

Oklah... I think I'd better stop here. Else this post will never end and I think I saw someone sleeping already. Hehehe.... It is impossible to list everything here as there is a vast variety of flour from all over the world. I just hope that this will give you an idea why I have more than 7 types of flour at home. However, you don't need to specifically buy special flours for certain item. I can imagine how loaded your cupboard can be.

Tip: For most baking, just 2 types of flour would be sufficient. Cake and bread flour. Don't bake breads and hardly bake cakes and pastries ah... Then all purpose flour will do just fine. Don't bake but does cooking? Cornstarch and all purpose flour should be enough.

ps: Honestly, I never knew I had that many until I took a few out for photo session. If there are any discrepancies, feel free to correct me.


KeV's wAlKAbOuT said...

Oh Kimiko! Thx for the write up on flour... really educating.. finally I know what some of the flours are and for... thx ah!

Bento Pet said...

You are one amazing young lady. So young and already an accomplished cook. Wish my eldest daughter had your kind of interest in cooking.

Keep it up!!

lasilasi said...

buckwheat flour - i rmb i saw that b4... sifu got any idea what to do with it?

Cometh said...

Ooooo..... So many types.... And I always thinks that there is only one type of flour.... the white type.... =p

Kimiko said...

Kev: no probs =) Happy that u actually read it. Lolz! This is just a few of the commons ones here. If u have time, check out cook books. They're more detailed.

bento pet: *blush* thanks for the compliment. But, I guess I'm not 100% a cook yet. Still a long way to go =)

lasilasi: buckwheat? Japanese ppl usually make soba and pancakes with it. It's a pity I hardly see this flour in Malaysia though. =( Eehhh... not sifu la. Hahaha

cometh: Hehe... can't blame u. Almost all of the flours are white in colour. XD
I used to think there were only bread, plain and self-raising flours available. =P

Bell said...

That's very useful info Kimiko! Thanks for that!!!