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Flour - Different Types

Different types of flour

Whole wheat flours

Whole wheat flours use every part of the kernel: the fiber-rich bran with its B vitamins, the starch- and protein-rich endosperm with its iron and B vitamins, and the oily germ with its vitamin E.* Because they contain bran, whole-grain flours have much more fiber than refined white flours. However, some studies suggest that the size of the fiber particles may have some bearing on their ability to absorb moisture and "bulk up" stool and that the fiber particles found in fine-ground whole wheat flours may be too small to have a bulking effect.

Finely ground whole wheat flour is called whole wheat cake flour; coarsely ground whole wheat flour is called graham flour. Cracked wheat is a whole wheat flour that has been cut rather than ground; it has all the nutrients of whole wheat flour, but its processing makes it less likely to yield its starch in cooking. When dried and parboiled, cracked wheat is known as bulgur, a grain used primarily as a cereal, although it can be mixed with other flours and baked. Gluten flour is a low-starch, high-protein product made by drying and grinding hard-wheat flour from which the starch has been removed.

Refined ("white") flours.

Refined flours are paler than whole wheat flours because they do not contain the brown bran and germ. They have less fiber and fat and smaller amounts of vitamins and minerals than whole wheat flours, but enriched refined flours are fortified with B vitamins and iron. Refined flour has no phytic acid.

Some refined flours are bleached with chlorine dioxide to destroy the xanthophylls (carotenoid pigments) that give white flours a natural cream color. Unlike carotene, the carotenoid pigment that is converted to vitamin A in the body, xanthophylls have no vitamin A activity; bleaching does not lower the vitamin A levels in the flour, but it does destroy vitamin E.

There are several kinds of white flours. All-purpose white flour is a mixture of hard and soft wheat, high in protein and rich in gluten.*** Cake flour is a finely milled soft-wheat flour; it has less protein than all-purpose flour. Self-rising flour is flour to which baking powder has been added and is very high in sodium. Instant flour is all-purpose flour that has been ground extra-fine so that it will combine quickly with water. Semolina is a pale high-protein, low-gluten flour made from durum wheat and used to make pasta.

Rye flours.

Rye flour has less gluten than wheat flour and is less elastic, which is why it makes a denser bread.**

Like whole wheat flour, dark rye flour (the flour used for pumpernickel bread) contains the bran and the germ of the rye grain; light rye flour (the flour used for ordinary rye bread) does not. Triticale flour is milled from triticale grain, a rye/wheat hybrid. It has more protein and less gluten than all-purpose wheat flour.


*The bran is the kernel's hard, brown outer cover, an extraordinarily rich source of cellulose and lignin. The endosperm is the kernel's pale interior, where the vitamins abound. The germ, a small particle in the interior, is the part of the kernel that sprouts.

**Gluten is the sticky substance formed when kneading the dough relaxes the long-chain molecules in the proteins gliadin and glutenin so that some of their intermolecular bonds (bonds between atoms in the same molecule) break and new intramolecular bonds (bonds between atoms on different molecules) are formed.


*** Hard wheat has less starch and more protein than soft wheat. It makes a heavier, denser dough.


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