I have decided on a name for my “science behind food” series:
Just Eat It: Brain Food 101 !
Check back later tonight to see the new Just Eat It: Brain Food 101 page, where I will link to all of my Brain Food posts, as well as tell you what topics are coming up!
Baking with Wheat Flour: It’s All About the Proteins
As I start to experiment with baking without a recipe, I find myself a bit overwhelmed with the array of flours available. Self-rising, whole wheat, pastry, all-purpose flours? What is the difference, and when can I (and can’t I) replace one with the other?
As evident from my Glo Bar giveaway, several of you have these same questions.
Because this is such a broad topic, I will be discussing the science behind the different types of flour in several installments throughout the week.
First, let’s talk about flour’s role in baked goods. Gluten is made of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, both of which are found in wheat flour. When water interacts with the proteins, gluten is formed. The gluten gives the dough, and therefore the final product, elasticity and structure.
The key difference between the different types of wheat flours is the protein level. The higher the protein level, the more moisture absorbed by the dry ingredients, which means the less your baked goods “spread.”
To keep from overwhelming you all, I’ll address gluten-free flours in my future gluten-free baking series.
Ever tried baking a cake or cookies with all-purpose flour from a recipe that got rave reviews, only for your final product to be too crumbly or too spread out?
I have. A few months ago, I found a particular cookie recipe that got great reviews and was meant to produce a puffy, soft cookie. Instead, mine came out flat and crisp. While I prefer my cookies crispy, this really wasn’t what I was hoping to get out of this recipe.
Now I realize that it may have been because of my all-purpose flour. Different brands of all-purpose flour contain different amounts of protein.
There is nothing wrong with any particular brand of all-purpose flour, but if your dough is drier or wetter than you think it should be, you may need to adjust your moisture levels. In this situation, it is more important that the dough match the description provided by the recipe than it is for the wet to dry ingredients ratio to be exactly right.
Self-rising flour includes leaveners such as baking powder, making it easier for bakers to get an even texture in their products. Be careful though, because if the flour is stored too long, the leaveners may lose their strength, and your goodies won’t have the texture you were going for!
Self-rising flour is lower in protein than all-purpose flour, so you may either need to use slightly less liquid in your recipe, or accept that your cookies will spread a bit more!
Pastry flour has approximately the same amount of protein as self-rising flour, but doesn’t include the leaveners. So for recipes that use pastry flour, you will need to add baking soda or baking powder or another leavener so that your cakes will rise the way you’d like.
Bread flour, or high-protein flour:
Based on the name, you can probably guess that bread flour, also called high-protein flour has… more protein than all-purpose flour! Because of this, the structure of foods made with this flour have a stronger, stiffer texture. This is why this flour is often used for bagels, as it gives it that tough, chewy texture we all know and love!
Moral of the Story: More protein in your flour = more moisture absorbed by dry ingredients = stronger dough and baked good!
At the risk of this winning the award for “longest post ever,” I’m going to break this post into 2 parts. Check back tomorrow evening to see what happens when I make the same baked good with different types of flour!
Oh, and the pictures in tomorrow’s post will be taken with our brand new Canon Rebel. I told myself I couldn’t open the box until I finished my homework and this blog post… which means I can go open it now. ‘Twas excellent motivation, I must say!
Do you have any other questions about the different types of flours that you’d like to see addressed this week?