Flour 101

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Flour forms the structure for baked goods, so it is important to know how the flour you use will affect the texture of the your food.  Flour contains proteins which, when water is added, grab onto each other and form strong, elastic sheets of gluten. Through mixing and kneading, higher protein flours, such as bread flour, can develop even longer and stronger chains of gluten.

More or less gluten is desirable for various baked goods. High protein flour is not used in pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, or quick breads, because the extra gluten that develops can make them tough and chewy. Lower protein flour yields pie crusts that do not shrink and soft, tender, pastries and non-yeast breads. Here we explore the types of flour you can purchase and what baked goods they are best used for.

All-Purpose Flour:
Most national brands typically have an 11 to 12% protein content which make them perfect for baking quick breads, cookies, biscuits, and cakes.  Flour can vary in protein content by brand and also regionally; Southern brands are made from a soft winter wheat and Northern brands from harder wheat, meaning the protein content can range from 8% to 13%. If you like more tender, finely textured results, use flour that is milled from Southern wheat, such as Martha White and White Lily.

All-purpose flour that bleaches naturally as it ages is labeled “unbleached”; flour treated with chemical whiteners is labeled “bleached” and contains less protein.  They can basically be used interchangeably, but most bakers believe that bleached is best used for making pie crusts, cookies, muffins, scones, pancakes, and other quick breads, and unbleached is good for baking yeast breads, popovers, and cream puffs.

Self-Rising Flour:
For all brands, this is a uniform blend of all-purpose flour and leavening agents. Most bakers find self-rising flour an ideal blend for biscuits.

Cake Flour:
Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose – from 6 to 8 %.  It is chlorinated to break down the strength of the gluten and is very finely ground, yielding tender cakes with a fine, delicate texture. It measures differently than all-purpose flour; 1 cup of all-purpose flour is the equivalent of 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour.

Pastry Flour:
Although similar to cake flour, it has a slightly higher gluten content.  This helps form the elastic bonds to hold up flaky layers of piecrusts, croissants, and puff pastry.

Bread Flour:
Bread flour is an unbleached, high protein blend of mostly hard wheat flours.  The elasticity of the gluten gives the bread its ability to retain gas as the dough rises and bakes, making it chewy. 

Flour Substitutions:
2 tablespoons of cornstarch + 7/8 cup all-purpose flour = 1 cup cake flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder + ½ teaspoon salt +1 cup all-purpose flour= 1cup self rising flour

1 cup all-purpose flour = 1 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour

Our favorite flour-power recipes!
Grandmother Paul’s Red Velvet Cake
Biscuits
Cinnamon Rolls
Honey Whole-Wheat Pancakes with Honey Lime Butter
Old South Jelly Roll Cake

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Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

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Paula cant find your flour. Where to get it. its the best. I miss it and u.

By debbie on August 16, 2013

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This is a very good website I would recamend this website to someone who wants to learn a lot about foods and what they consiste of. This website gave me a lot of information, and I could follow it really well. It told a lot on the subject I was looking for. It is very informal and I like how it talks about the different flours. There was a lot of stuff that I didn't know had to do with flour, that I really enjoyed learning about. I love you Paula Deen

By Anonymous on February 25, 2013

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thank you for all of these tips

By hugs on February 05, 2013

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I have high gluten I use for bread. Can I use it for cookies?

By Shirley Knowles on November 11, 2012

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Someone wanted to know what ARROWROOT IS ....it is a thickening agent similiar to cornstarch.....don't know if one is better than the other, but some people use either....as for myself, I don't use thickening, like some people do....and things turn out just fine.....(things I have cooked anyways smile ) When I make potato soup, I never use thickenings...I just cook extra potatoes and mash some and put back in the soup.....there is your thickening.....so you don't need corn starch, or flour or arrowroot....you also can use instant mashed potatoes (dry) to thickening soups too......I just don't like using flour for things like that......just sayin............ And how come Paul Deen never answers anyone's questions on here ???? Why even bother to ask her.....as she never answers !!!!

By Kentuckylady717 on October 20, 2012

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Hi Paula i hope you can help me. I have Lupus and i want to and need to change my diet. I already have changed some of what i eat, no canned food.I only use fresh or frozen. No sugar. I only use Agave necter.Yes i still use real butter. my problem is that i love to bake but i have a problem with buying glutin free flours, they are sooo expensive. do you a mixture in your magic bag to help me with this. Thank You April P.S also i don't use package foods. To much salt, plus if i can't pronounce the words i will not eat it.

By april ford on October 06, 2012

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My little granddaughter was very sickly until we learned that she has celiac disease and cannot eat any foods that contain gluten. (She is 10 and loves to have me make movies of her doing cooking shows.) It would be wonderful if you could do some gluten free features that deal with making delicious foods for people with this problem. We recently went on a Carnival cruise with her and the so-called chef couldn't make anything except creme brule that was gluten free and tasted good! Betty Crocker now has some good mixes, and Pamela's Baking Mix is an excellent flour for making pancakes, etc. for our girl. Any suggestions? By the way, I'm glad the big mouth commentators have finally shut up some in their criticism of you. I think you are great and I love your spunk and style. Keep up the good work ! Ruth

By Ruth Rutherford on March 22, 2012

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I tried your fruity wins recipe with the pepper jelly and it was amazing. I luv u so much Paula. I told my daughter that I. Want to visit u in Savanna for my bday.

By gthomas_42 on March 10, 2012

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love your knowledge on flour 101 has help me in my bakeing skills.thank you keep up the great work.

By e.griffin on January 20, 2012

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Question: "WHEN TO SIFT FLOUR" I was instructed in my Home Economics classes many years ago to sift the flour before I measured it. One of my close friends and I have had a "fun" debate over this for many years. I am now having a great time teaching my grandchildren to cook so I want to teach them the correct way and if it doesn't make any difference, that is okay also. Thank you!

By Pat Holcomb on January 04, 2012

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Why can't we use self rising flour instead of plain flour and all of the soada bakig powder?

By leconya on October 23, 2011

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Hi Rita, It's a quick-mixing flour. It's a specially milled flour, and you should be able to find it in larger chains like Wal-Mart, or local grocery store.

By Jonathan Able on October 20, 2011

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I have looked over the section called flour 101. In your BLT Soup recipe it calls for 1/2 cup instant-blending flour. I can't say that I have ever seen it before. Can you give me a little better description as to what to look for in the grocery store?

By Rita on September 27, 2011

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What is arrowroot flour and where do you find it

By Sherry on August 11, 2011

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enjoyed this article very much very helpful

By Debbie Brown on August 10, 2011

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One of your Cornbread recipes calls for self rising flour and self rising cornmeal, what do I add to regular to make self rising? It's the corny cornbread recipe. Thanks.

By Linda Scroggin on August 10, 2011

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Dear Paula, After looking through recipe after recipe, and even trying some of them using Splenda, I have yet to find a cake recipe that really works and looks like it should. I am diabetic and need recipes for sweets that I can make here at home for myself and family. Each time I have tried using the Splenda, the cake does not look, feel, or have the texture of a regular cake made with sugar. I am getting frustrated with trying! Please help me if you can. Thanks and Happy Cooking, Rhonda S. Riley

By Rhonda S. Riley on August 10, 2011

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Say I have some flour not in the bag it come it, and don't know if it is plain or self-rising. Is there anything I can do to tell the difference other than baking with it to see what happens?

By Beverly Lastinger on August 10, 2011

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Hi Paula, I need to know which gluten free flours are best for what. There are so many! We miss you at S. Ellen Jones in New Albany,IN. Come visit us again! Sheri Isgrigg

By Sheri on August 10, 2011

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Paula; iwant use any thing but white lily flour for dumplings and biscuits i tried other kinds and i refused to use anything else ;my daughter in law has a catering business and i;d make dumplings only with white lily she said i was crazy.i took my own flour all the way to indiana for reunion they laughed at me thank you its good to hear some else talk about flour.

By PEGGY HICKS on August 10, 2011

What about your brand of flour ?

By Kelly Bell on November 13, 2010

we need some information on gluten free flour how to make this or where to buy large bags of this

i sure can use the information you gave on how to make different floure thank you

By carollee more on November 12, 2010

thank you for putting the rashow to make your difront flours . we need the none gluten flour
we need to know how to make this we have a lettle friend that can have gluten so to find gluten free flour it comes in 2cup bags   and if we have to make dreads there goes the flour and the cost for gluten free bread is very exspensive do you have the resipe for this or do you know where we can by big bags of this

By carollee more on November 12, 2010

Paula,
You did not mention in this article about your Lady and Sons biscuit Mix for your Easy Yeast Rolls.  What is in this mix?  What do I mix to get this bixcuit mix?  I want to make these rolls for Thanksgiving.

I am an huge fan of yours.
Thank you
Frances Whitley

By Frances Whitley on November 11, 2010

Great Article….............convesions very helpful.  Good recipes also.

By Gloria Bullard on November 10, 2010

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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm