White wheat flour is milled from wheat kernels after the outer covering, called bran, and the germ are removed.Wheat flour contains about 63 to 73 percent starch and 7 to 15 percent protein.The rest is moisture, fat, sugar, and minerals.
Wheat flour is the source of the protein called gluten,which you remember is one of the essential elements in baking. Bakers select flour on the basis of its gluten content. Flours high in protein are called strong, and those low in protein are called weak. (Note: Rye, barley, oats, and some other grains also contain gluten proteins, but these proteins do not develop into a gluten structure as do the proteins in wheat flour. Thus, for the baker, these other grains in effect do not contain gluten, but people with gluten intolerance may still have to avoid them in their diets.)
For our purposes, in the small bakeshop, we need to know about three kinds of wheat flour.
1. Bread flour is a strong flour used for making breads, hard rolls, and any product that requires high gluten.The best bread flours are called patents. Straight flours are also strong flours.
2. Cake flour is a weak or low-gluten flour made from soft wheat. It has a soft, smooth texture and a pure white color. Cake flour is used for cakes and other delicate baked goods that require low gluten content.
3. Pastry flour is lower in gluten than bread flour but higher than cake flour. It has the same creamy white color as bread flour, not the pure white of cake flour. Pastry flour is used for cookies, pie pastry, some sweet yeast doughs, biscuits, and muffins.
Being able to identify these three flours by sight and touch is an important skill because, sooner or later, someone will dump a bag of flour into the wrong bin, and you will need to recognize the problem.
Bread flour feels slightly coarse when rubbed between the fingers. If squeezed into a lump,it falls apart as soon as the hand is opened. Its color is creamy white. Cake flour feels smooth and fine. It stays in a lump when squeezed in the palm of the hand. Its color is pure white.
Pastry flour feels like cake flour but has the creamy color of bread flour.
All-purpose flour, seen in retail markets,is not often found in bakeshops.This flour is formulated to be slightly weaker than bread flour so it can be used for pastries as well. A professional baker,however,prefers to use flours that are formulated for specific purposes because these give the best results.
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