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Flour 101: Guide to Different Types and Uses

Flour - different types and uses

Discover new and nutritious ways to make your favourite baked goods using different types of flours. Metro offers a large variety to choose from, including all-purpose, pre-sifted, unbleached, gluten, wheat, pastry flour, enriched bran flour, as well as many others.


Where does flour come from?

Flour is obtained by grinding wheat or other cereal grains such as rye, spelt, Kamut, oats, buckwheat and barley. A combination of flours can be used to make bread. This is what is known as “multigrain” bread, which generally contains 80% wheat flour and a maximum of 20% mixed grains. Most multigrain breads are made with 3 or 4 types of grains but some can contain as many as 16 different grains!


Leavened breads are made mostly of cereals, such as wheat, that contain a great deal of gluten, the protein that gives bread dough its elasticity. The cereal used determines the flavour of the bread: oat flour, buckwheat flour or spelt flour will produce oat bread, buckwheat bread and spelt bread.


The quality of flour is determined by the quality of the wheat and, the better the flour, the better the gluten, and, in turn, the better the bread. Wheat flour is richest in gluten; the more wheat flour there is in bread dough, the more air cells it will contain which will make the bread lighter. Conversely, the less gluten it contains, the denser the bread, the longer it will keep. Soft wheat contains little gluten, so it’s better used in pastry making. Hard wheat, durum wheat in particular, contains a larger proportion of gluten, which is why it is used to make bread.


Guide to different types of flour

White flour, bleached flour, enriched, all-purpose — with all the different labels, it can seem confusing which to choose. Here are the essentials on understanding each type of flour for your baking needs.


All-purpose white flour

is obtained by grinding and mixing different varieties of hard and soft wheat. It is mandatory in Canada to enrich white flour with folic acid, iron and B vitamins, making it a nutritious option for any purpose, as its name indicates.


Enriched wheat flour

is used to make enriched white bread. Because it is illegal to add vitamins or minerals directly into the bread, the nutritional elements in enriched bread come from the flour.


Bleached flour

is whitened artificially, usually with food additives that contain either calcium or phosphorous. The bread tends to be lighter, larger in volume, with a finer grain and a lighter colour. The gluten is also more elastic, which renders better cooking results.


Unbleached flour

is aged naturally and does not contain food additives or bleaching agents. It whitens to some extent but remains a creamy colour.


Whole-wheat flour

has the highest fibre content of any flour, approximately 4 grams per 60 ml (¼ cup). White flour can be substituted with wheat flour in most recipes but sometimes a slightly larger amount is needed. The end result will be more nutritious but the colour will be darker, the flavour more pronounced and the volume smaller. The higher concentration of bran is responsible for the loss in volume because bran contains an enzyme that reduces the elasticity of gluten. For a lighter product, whole-wheat flour should be sifted a number of times prior to use, taking care to reintegrate the bran left in the sieve. It can then be used to make bread or pastries that do not require elasticity, such as short-crust pastry, genoise sponge cake, shortbread or cookies. Whole-wheat flour should be stored in the refrigerator.


Soft wheat flour

is used to make muffins or pie crusts.


Hard wheat flour

is whole-grain flour that is used to make pancakes and pasta. It should be sifted several times if used to make bread.


Cake flour

is white flour made exclusively of finely ground soft wheat. It is highly refined because it always comes from the last grindings. Because this flour is higher in starch and lower in protein and gluten, it is ideal for very light cakes but not recommended to make leavened bread. It also contains the proper amount of baking powder and salt to save you time and guarantee best results.


Pastry flour

is usually made with soft wheat but it may also be made using hard wheat. Low in gluten, it is finely ground but not quite as light as cake flour. It is used to make pastries, biscuits or cakes. It contains the proper amount of baking powder and salt to save you time and guarantee best results. It should not be used to make leavened bread.


Bakery flour

or bread flour is milled from a blend of hard wheat. It is slightly granular and, because it has a very high protein content, it is not suitable for domestic use and only used in bakeries.


Gluten flour

is obtained from high-protein whole durum wheat that is washed to remove the starch, dried and then ground. Gluten flour is generally made up of 45% gluten and 55% white flour. It can be used with whole-wheat flour or with low-gluten flours such as rye, barley or oat flour.


Six grains flour

is made with durum wheat, rye, corn, barley, millet and brown rice that are stone-ground. It adds extra flavour and nutritional value to pancakes, bread and muffins.


Spelt flour

is made from an ancient variety of wheat. Spelt is high in gluten content which makes it suitable for bread and is often used in artisan goods for its delicious taste.


Wheatmeal flour

is obtained when the bran is removed from wheat before it is finely ground. Wheatmeal flour is mostly used to make pastry, cookie and pizza dough.


Kamut flour

gets its name from the commercial trademark “Kamut”; its scientific name is “khorasan” wheat. It is not “bread” wheat but it is still used to make bread because of its taste. Much like durum wheat, it is best used to make pasta.


Buckwheat flour

is usually associated with buckwheat pancakes. It’s a non-rising flour that’s gluten-free and highly nutritious; it contains potassium, magnesium, zinc, B6, phosphorous and iron.


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