Flour

Flour

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From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

The indispensable item in store cupboards, milled from grains or cereals such as rye, wheat, rice and corn. Wheat flour is most used in cooking and is classified according to the type of wheat milled, which varies from hard to soft. Wheat flours can be highly refined white or coarse-ground whole-wheat.

Types of flour:

All-purpose flour is used for all types of cooking in the US; it has no raising agent. It is milled from a blend of medium to strong wheats. Arrowroot is an excellent thickening agent, especially for fruit sauces or pie fillings, as it becomes clear when cooked. Do not overcook arrowroot as it has a tendency to become thin again. Atta flour is a fine ground whole-wheat flour used to make Indian flat breads.

Buckwheat flour is also known as saracen corn or beechwheat. It is used to make Blini, the traditional little yeast pancakes of Russia which are eaten with caviar and sour cream. It is also used for some crêpes, and added to other flours in breadmaking.

Chickpea (besan) flour is used for batters, especially for pakoras, little Indian fritters, or to thicken soups, stews and gravies.

Cornflour (cornstarch) is used as a thickening agent, and in shortbreads and biscuits when a particularly short texture is needed and in cakes and puddings for extra lightness. Pure cornflour is made from the heart of the maize kernel which is ground to a very fine powder. Some cornflour is made from wheat, and this is stated on the packet. Plain (all-purpose) flour is produced from soft wheat grain that is refined and bleached to give the familiar fine white flour. The low gluten content gives a light, short texture which makes it excellent for baking cakes, biscuits, pastries and scones. Plain flour can be substituted for self-raising flour by adding 2 teaspoons baking powder to 150 g flour. Sift together 3 times before using.

Potato flour has many of the same qualities as arrowroot and can be used in the same ways. Rice flour is made from very finely ground, polished rice grains. It is used as a thickening agent, and if you wish to freeze a dish, rice flour will help prevent the sauce separating during reheating. Ground rice is a thicker form of rice flour, used in some shortbreads and some baking.

Roti flour has a granular texture and is a cream colour. It is made from part of the wheat grain and is used for unleavened breads.

Rye flour is used for breads and crispbreads. Coarsely ground whole rye flour is used in pumpernickel, more finely ground in black bread, and a blend of rye and wheat flours is used in lightly coloured rye breads.

Self-raising flour is plain (all-purpose) flour with the addition of baking powder as the raising agent. It is used to make standard butter cakes, sponge cakes, scones, etc. Use 2 teaspoons baking powder to 150 g plain flour if you do not have self-raising flour on hand.

Strong plain white flour is a mixture of soft and hard wheat with a higher gluten content than plain (all-purpose) flour. Strong flour is the one to use when baking breads, buns and pizzas as the gluten strands stretch and become flexible and elastic during kneading.

Whole-wheat or wholemeal flour is milled from whole wheat grains, retaining most of their original vitamins, minerals, salts and fibre. Breads made from wholewheat taste delicious and produce loaves with a more dense texture than those made with plain white flour.

If you prefer a lighter loaf, use a mixture of half whole-wheat flour and half strong plain white flour. For whole-wheat pastry, sift the flour and use the fine part to make the dough. Retain the particles of grain and roll the dough in them before shaping. Do not buy more whole-wheat flour than you need at one time and store in a very cool, dry place.

Ingredients

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