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What You Need to Know About Flour; Hint, It's Not All the Same

self-rising flour used for fluffy pancakes, flaky biscuits and tender muffins. All-purpose used for baked goods, soups & sauces and coating for fried foods uses, all-purpose flour uses
The more you know about flour, the happier you will be with the end product.


Flour is flying off the shelves in grocery stores. I was shocked when I went to buy some because I was low. My thought was “do people not keep flour at home?” Maybe my no-knead and artisan breads that I shared a couple weeks ago caught on and everyone is making them.

If so, you know there is probably no better aroma to fill a house than that of fresh bread baking in the oven. It is one of the smells that pleases the senses and most likely brings back fond memories of childhood.

You have flour at home, now what do you do with it?

The more you know about flour, the happier you will be with the end product.

The quality of wheat used, the milling process, blending, testing and matching a specific flour type with a recipe all work together to produce consistent results time after time, recipe after recipe.

The FDA reminds us to not eat raw flour!

Flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs. Bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked. That’s why you should never taste raw dough or batter even if it doesn’t contain eggs.

“What is flour?”

Flour usually means wheat flour, made from the most widely distributed cereal grain. Wheat is the only cereal grain that can be made into cohesive, elastic doughs when mixed with water. Flour is the major ingredient in bread and bakery products, proving unique textural and visual characteristics.

You probably already knew that the wheat kernel is the seed from which the wheat plant grows. Each tiny seed contains three distinct parts (endosperm, bran and germ) that are separated during the milling process to produce flour. The nutrients in the kernel are essential to the human diet. The endosperm is the source of white flour. Bran and wheat germ are included in whole wheat flour and can also be purchased separately.

There are numerous types of flour on the market today. Flour types you will find: white or all-purpose, bread, cake, self-rising, pastry, and whole-wheat. All types have different purposes in baking. Know what type of flour you need before beginning your baking project.

  • White or all-purpose flour is most commonly used in making cookies, cakes, muffins, and biscuits. This type of flour comes bleached and unbleached.
  • Bread flour is a high-protein flour that typically contains between 12% and 14% protein and is designed for baking yeasted breads. The high protein content means that it has more gluten in it, which makes the dough more elastic and lighter and results in a chewy and airy texture when baked. This is what I use when making my sourdough bread.
  • Cake flour is better able to hold its rise and less liable to collapse. As the name suggests, it's the preferred flour for many kinds of cakes, as well as biscuits, and some pastries and cookies. Don’t have cake flour at home, here is how to make it: Step 1: Measure 1 cup all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Step 2: Measure 2 Tablespoons cornstarch. Add to the flour. Cornstarch contains less gluten than flour. Step 3: Sift together TWICE. Sift into a mixing bowl once. Then run it through the sifter one more time. Sifting not only mixes the two ingredients together, it aerates the mixture, so the consistency is like real cake flour. Step 4: Measure 1 cup from this mixture. You’ll have about 1 cup anyway, but sometimes sifting can produce more volume since it’s adding air.
  • Self-rising flour is a mixture of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt that enables baked goods to rise without additional leaveners but leads to especially voluminous baking when combined with yeast.
  • Pastry flour is a low-protein flour designed to make pastries lighter and more delicate than those made with all-purpose flour. It bakes tender pastries, chewy cookies and is an excellent solution for pie crusts. It is typically used for baking when baking powder or baking soda is the leavening agent. It is more of a specialty flour that you will likely have to request.
  • Lastly, whole wheat flour is used in baking breads and other baked goods, and typically mixed with lighter all-purpose flour. Whole wheat flour contains nutrients such as fiber, protein and vitamins, texture, and body to the white flours that can be lost in the milling process.

Bake up a batch of Blueberry Muffins. Serve with fresh fruit and milk, and your family will think you went to the bakery.

Blueberry Muffins

Yields 1 dozen muffins; 195 calories per muffin.

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable, or canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries or three fourth cup frozen blueberries
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Grease bottoms only of 12 medium muffin cups.
  3. Beat milk, oil and egg.
  4. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all at once, jut until flour is moistened (batter will be slightly lumpy).
  5. Fold in blueberries.
  6. Divide batter among muffin cups.
  7. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.
  8. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.
  9. Immediately remove from pan.

*If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt.


Contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609.

By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

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