Flour is flying off the shelves in grocery stores, however, consumers need to know that it’s not all the same, according to Pia Woods, staff chair and Extension agent at the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service.
“I was shocked when I went to buy some because my canister was nearly empty. My thought was ‘Goodness! Did everyone fun out of flour?’ Maybe more people are making homemade breads or they’re doing more baking, as I have been,” Woods said. “If so, you know there is probably no better aroma to fill a house than that of fresh bread or other treats baking in the oven. It is one of the smells that pleases the senses and most likely brings back fond memories of childhood.”
People have flour at home, now what do they do with it?
“The more you know about flour, the happier you will be with the final product,” she said.
The quality of wheat used, the milling process, blending, testing and matching a specific flour type with a recipe all work together to produce consistent results.
The FDA reminds people to not eat raw flour. Flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs. Bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked. That’s why one should never taste raw dough or batter even if it doesn’t contain eggs, according to Woods.
“What is flour? Flour usually means wheat flour, made from the most widely distributed cereal grain. Wheat is the only cereal grain that can be made into cohesive, elastic doughs when mixed with water. Flour is the major ingredient in bread and bakery products, proving unique textural and visual characteristics,” she said.
People probably already knew that the wheat kernel is the seed from which the wheat plant grows. Each tiny seed contains three distinct parts (endosperm, bran and germ) that are separated during the milling process to produce flour. The nutrients in the kernel are essential to the human diet. The endosperm is the source of white flour. Bran and wheat germ are included in whole wheat flour and can also be purchased separately.
There are numerous types of flour on the market. Flour types in local grocery stores include white or all-purpose, bread, cake, self-rising, pastry and whole-wheat. All types have different purposes in baking.
One should know what type of flour they need before beginning a baking project. White or all-purpose flour is most used in making cookies, cakes, muffins, and biscuits. This type of flour comes bleached and unbleached.
Bread flour is a high-protein flour that typically contains between 12 and 14% protein and is designed for baking yeasted breads. The high protein content means that it has more gluten in it, which makes the dough more elastic and lighter and results in a chewy and airy texture when baked.
Cake flour is better able to hold its rise and less liable to collapse. As the name suggests, it’s the preferred flour for many kinds of cakes, as well as biscuits, and some pastries and cookies.
If one doesn’t have cake flour at home, here is how to make it: Step 1: Measure 1 cup all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Step 2: Measure 2 Tablespoons cornstarch. Add to the flour. (Cornstarch contains less gluten than flour.) Step 3: Sift together TWICE. Sift into a mixing bowl once. Then run it through the sifter one more time. Sifting not only mixes the two ingredients together, it aerates the mixture, so the consistency is like real cake flour. Step 4: Measure 1 cup from this mixture. You’ll have about 1 cup anyway, but sometimes sifting can produce more volume since it’s adding air.
Self-rising flour is a mixture of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt that enables baked goods to rise without additional leaveners but leads especially voluminous baking when combined with yeast.
Pastry flour is a low-protein flour designed to make pastries lighter and more delicate than those made with all-purpose flour. It bakes tender pastries, chewy cookies and is an excellent solution for pie crusts. It is typically used for baking when baking powder or baking soda is the leavening agent. It is more of a specialty flour that you will likely have to request.
Whole wheat flour is used in baking breads and other baked goods, and typically mixed with lighter all-purpose flour. Whole wheat flour contains nutrients such as fiber, protein and vitamins, texture, and body to the white flours that can be lost in the milling process.
Bake up a batch of Blueberry Muffins. Serve with fresh fruit and milk.
Three fourths cup milk; One half cup vegetable, or canola oil; 1 egg, 2 cups all-purpose flour (if using self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt); One third cup sugar, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup fresh blueberries or three fourths cup frozen blueberries.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms only of 12 medium muffin cups. Beat milk, oil and egg. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all at once, just until flour is moistened (batter will be slightly lumpy). Fold in blueberries. Divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle with sugar if desired. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Immediately remove from pan. Yields 1 dozen muffins; 195 calories per muffin.
Extension agents are still available during the pandemic. Details: Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Office, 870-534-1033, email@example.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UAEXJeffersonCo or at uaex.edu/Jefferson.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.