If you’re baking, you need flour. It’s the most important ingredient in your recipe, and without it, your cookies would be crumbly, your cakes would be flat, and your pies would be hard as rocks. But flour comes in a lot of different varieties, from all-purpose to gluten-free to cake flour to whole wheat. So which kind do you need? What can they do? And how much do you actually know about them? Here’s our ultimate guide to flours, including everything from what they are to how to use them in your favorite recipes!
Why flour exists
Flour exists to give bread a structure it can’t naturally achieve. Yeast is key to creating leavening action—the process of trapping pockets of air inside dough—but it can only do so much on its own. It needs help in order to create a cohesive structure for which gas pockets can form within. Adding some type of dry starch, like flour or cornstarch, accomplishes that goal by absorbing moisture from surrounding liquid and turning into an elastic mass as yeast reacts with carbon dioxide.
What Is Flour? Whole grains of wheat are crushed to make grain that is used as an ingredient for breads and other baked goods. While some of these grains are used for baking, others may be sold as a commodity at local markets or through trading. There are four basic types of whole-grain flours; each type has its own unique flavor, texture, color and baking properties.