Apr 21, 2015

Flour Basics

Flour1200_2077 copy 2“Which flour do I use for bread, or muffins, or cookies?” “Can I substitute one flour for another?” “Why is my flour mixture so dry?” I hope this helps clarify any questions you have about flour. By the way, with all baking the amount of protein in flour matters. The lower the protein, the softer the baked goods. So here is my simple guideline to baking with flour:

How to Measure (& Aerate) Flour
Flour must be aerated before measuring because it often settles in the bag or container making it heavy  and compact, resulting in too much flour being measured. Aerating basically means fluffing it up and is not the same as sifting. Flour should not be sifted before measuring unless the recipe states to do so. Otherwise sifting will result in too little flour being measured.

If you dip into flour without aerating, you will be getting too much flour and your dough will be too dry. To aerate flour you simply stir it around with a spoon before measuring. To measure, be sure to use a flat-topped dry measuring cup like in my photo. You can see how I aerate flour in my Easy One Bowl Chocolate Cake video: http://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/easy-one-bowl-chocolate-cake/

After aerating, there are two ways to measure the flour: 1) Scoop & Level – Gently scoop the flour up with a spoon and sprinkle it into your measuring cup until it’s mounded above the rim. Do not tap the cup or the container of flour. Finally, level off the excess flour with the back of a knife. 2) Dip & Level – Gently dip your measuring cup into the flour until it’s mounded above the rim and level off the excess flour with the back of a knife. A properly measured cup of flour weighs 4 1/4 ounces.

The Difference Between Flours

Whole wheat flour (about 14% protein/gluten)
Whole wheat flour is not the same as whole wheat pastry flour and should not be substituted for whole wheat pastry flour. Whole wheat flour is milled from hard winter wheat and is best used only for yeast breads. A loaf made entirely with whole wheat flour will be a dense and somewhat heavy loaf. For a softer loaf, it is often combined with some all-purpose or bread flour. Whole wheat flour is not suitable for other baking like cookies and cakes. *Since it contains the germ of the wheat which contains oil, once opened, this flour should be kept refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.

Whole wheat pastry flour (about 10% protein/gluten)
Also called whole grain pastry flour, this flour is good for most recipes that use all-purpose flour when you want to add fiber. Whole wheat pastry flour is milled from a soft summer wheat and is best for baking cookies, brownies, pancakes, waffles, quick breads, and some cakes. Results will not be as light and soft as using all-purpose flour but you can also mix part whole wheat pastry flour and part all-purpose flour for soft baked goods with added fiber. (I use this flour the most in cookies, brownies, even pancakes & waffles for extra fiber) This flour is not a good substitute for whole wheat flour and is not suitable for baking yeast breads. Don’t have whole wheat pastry flour? Regular whole wheat flour is not a good substitute – your baked goods will be dense and heavy. Look for whole wheat pastry flour at health food stores or you can order it online. Once opened, it should be kept refrigerated in a tightly-sealed container.

Bread flour (about 14% protein/gluten)
This flour is designed for yeast baking. It helps create more gluten for a better rise in yeast doughs. Use it for yeast bread and pizza dough for a chewy texture and good structure. However, all-purpose flour works almost as well with yeast. From my experience, if you don’t have bread flour, all-purpose flour can be used as a substitute in yeast bread and pizza dough.

All-purpose flour (about 10% protein/gluten)
The name says it all. Use it for cookies, cakes, quick breads, yeast breads, pies, pancakes, etc.

Pastry flour (about 9% protein/gluten)
This flour falls between all-purpose flour and cake flour and can be used in pastries, cookies and cakes. This flour is not suitable for baking yeast breads.

Cake flour (about 8% protein/gluten)
This very fine grain flour is good in light and airy cakes like angel food cake. However, if a recipe does not call for cake flour and you decide to use it, you would use more (2 tablespoons more per each cup). Conversely, if a recipe calls for cake flour and you don’t have it, you can make your own: For one cup of cake flour, measure one cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of flour and replace that with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. I do not use cake flour – I don’t find it necessary. This flour is not suitable for baking yeast breads.

Self-rising flour (about 8 % protein/gluten)
This soft flour is similar to pastry flour but has salt and baking powder added. Many southern recipes call for this flour in biscuits and pancakes but if the recipe calls for all-purpose flour and you substitute self-rising flour, you will need to adjust any added salt and baking powder. (one cup of self-rising flour contains 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder and ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt) This flour is not suitable for yeast breads.

I hope these simple flour basics are helpful. – Jenny Jones

33 Comments on "Flour Basics"

  1. Trish Pines

    Hello! Thanks for all the info. I’m hooked on your No Knead bread – a couple times my bread has been a little more dense and a few have been more airy. Any tips on keeping my end result more consistent? Also, what is the difference between sifting and aerating?

    Thanks and Happy New Year!

  2. Crystal

    It turned out perfect! Such an easy recipe!

  3. Frieda

    I have tried it twice and still mine do not rise. I don’t understand what could old be wrong. My is good and sits at room temp (I keep it in the Refrigerator. It does come to room temperature. I am using 50/50 flour. Mine never works.

    • Jenny

      Please tell me which recipe and your exact ingredients and I will try to help. I want my recipes to work for everyone.

  4. John

    Have you ever used unbleached all purpose flour? If so, are there any changes that have to be made?

  5. Charlotte

    I just came across jennycancook.com this morning. Thank you for the simple, healthy, quick recipes and the details you provide about the ingredients and recipe instructions. And the videos are great. The tutorial on the various kinds of flour is most helpful. So many recipes I want to try.

  6. Jen

    I made these with Garlic Flavored Olive Oil and they turned out amazing! Thanks for the recipe, Jenny! 🙂

  7. gittl

    i use spelt flour … i make challah (bread every week) just a small amount usually. 3 cups makes about 9 rolls or a loaf. i know there’s a difference with the amount one uses for other flours

    i’d like to know when i use other recipes what’s the equation/difference when measuring the flour. thanks love your show love the colours
    gittl

  8. Susi

    Have you or has anyone else experimented with King Arthur’s ‘White Whole Wheat Flour’ in any of your baked goods?

    I’m thinking I may try using it in No Knead Bread?? What do you think??

  9. Just Jan

    Hi Jenny
    Hello from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
    Any chance you might experiment with gluten free recipes? We are wheat free and use almond flour or coconut flour for our baking.
    Thank you for such a wonderful website. It’s not only informative and aesthetically pleasing but it’s user friendly!
    Thanks
    Jan

  10. Antoinette

    Hi Jenny, a friend of mine gave me your recipe for no knead bread and now I am hooked!! Thank you!
    I was just wondering would spelt flour work for the no knead bread recipe as well?

    • Jenny

      I’m not sure it has the right kind of gluten. You may need to research this.

  11. ana

    hi jenny,can your tortilla recipe be doubled?

  12. luckey

    i have tried your crusty yeast rolls twice. The first time I thought my flour was old. I purchased new all purpose flour. Made the rolls according to the recipe, let it rise 3 hours (dough didn’t look like yours). Dough was more dense and looked heavy not light & sticky. Couldn’t make the lil draw string pouches, but did have 8 rolls. Let sit on counter 35 mins. Placed in 450* preheated oven for 25 mins they turned out hard & heavy. (1st time the inside wasn’t done, 2nd time the inside was more done, but outside uneatable) What went wrong? Please advise.

    • Jenny

      I will try to help. First, you need to aerate the flour before measuring, otherwise, you’ll be using too much flour but I’m guessing you did that. Second, yeast has a very short shelf life and once opened, should be tightly sealed and kept in the freezer. It’s possible your yeast was stale. If you answer these questions, I may be able to help further. 1) How long did you preheat the oven? 2. What kind of flour did you use (brand & type)? Did you use VERY hot tap water? Let me know…

      • luckey

        it takes 20 mins for my oven to preheat to 450*, but I let the dough rest for 35 mins before putting into the oven. The yeast I just bought the day before. The flour was store brand and I did airate the flour. The water was hot, not boiling from my tap.

        • Jenny

          It looks like you’re doing everything right so I’m not sure I can help you. You didn’t say the brand & type of yeast so please let me know. And do you have an oven thermometer to confirm your temperature?

      • luckey

        The flour was store brand (Southern Biscuit / all purpose flour)

        • Jenny

          A dough that’s too heavy can only mean too much flour or not enough liquid – maybe you could adjust a little. The only thing left I can suggest is that the rolls need that first blast of a very hot oven and it’s possible your oven was not at 450 (my oven takes 30-35 minutes to reach 450) and I assume this is standard size oven with room for air to circulate. Other than that, I’m sorry these rolls have not worked for you.

    • Lyre

      Hello I too have had the same experience and not going to try this recipe again and I found they tasted very salty.. In North Bay, Ontario, Canada I’d call them Hockey Pucks..LOL!! Thanks, anyway..

  13. Lou Ray

    how long can i keep all purpose flour? does it expire?

  14. Doris

    still received no reply from you. where did u buy all these colourful spatulas
    thanks

    • Jenny

      I never expected the thousands of daily visitors that come here and to my youtube channel and the number of questions is overwhelming. I do my best but sometimes it takes several days for me to catch up. I only share my recipes as a hobby so thanks for understanding.

  15. Doris

    Jenny, love yr baking equipment, where did u buy alL those colourful spatula, cups, bowl etc n yr big wide blue working board for rolling your dough.
    U are a great baker, interesting n fun to watch. thank alot. hope to see more videos on all yr wonderful recipes posted on yr blogs
    Cheers!

    • Jenny

      I find most of my colorful items at places like Sur La Table, Pier One, World Market, Target, and even some hardware stores. The blue board came from Star Restaurant Supply here in Los Angeles.

  16. Kimberly C.

    Thank you for this information! I see what you mean by aerating now and I’m sure it will make all the difference in my tortillas.

  17. Terry

    Can your bread recipe be doubled?

    • Jenny

      Which bread recipe?

      • Terry

        The one with only 4 ingredients,white flour,salt, and yeast and hot water

        • Jenny

          Yes, it can be doubled as long as the Dutch oven is at least 6 quarts.

          • Terry

            Thank you Jenny. I love all your recippes and videos.

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