For the longest time, I would go to the grocery store and grab a bag of all-purpose flour for all my baking and cooking needs. Then came my passion for studying food and nutrition, and I became more aware of the variety of flours available at the grocery store. Now that we know there is more than all-purpose flour at the grocery store, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide what flour would be best to use for a recipe and your health.
Here’s a breakdown of the latest and greatest flours you’ll find at the store, plus some nutritional differences between them all.
Popular Wheat Flours:
- 100% Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat flour contains all parts of the grain: the germ, bran and endosperm; therefore, it is high in nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is also more absorbent than other flours and therefore, requires more liquid in recipes. Using whole wheat flour will result in stickier doughs that may be harder to work with and heavier, denser products.
- White Whole Wheat Flour: Similar to 100% whole wheat flour (not bleached and contains all three parts of the grain), whole wheat flour is ground from a paler variety of wheat, producing a flour that is slightly sweet, milder in taste, and paler in color than 100% whole wheat flour, making it a great option for lighter baked goods.
- All-Purpose Flour: A flour most commonly used by your parents and grandparents generation, AP flour is a tried and true for many. If a recipe requires, “flour,” as one of the ingredients, it’s generally referring to all-purpose flour. Its nutritional quality is lower than 100% whole wheat flour because it only contains the germ.
- Self-Rising Flour: Self-rising flour is the same as all-purpose flour but has salt and baking soda already added to its flour blend, making it great to use when making bread.
- Pastry Flour: A type of refined flour that has a fine texture and is used when making baked goods, pie crusts, and breadsticks.
- Semolina Flour: Not as common as all-purpose or whole wheat flour, semolina flour is made from a type of wheat called durum. The grains are ground and sifted until only the toughest particles (highest in protein) are left, resulting in semolina flour. This type of flour is best used for pasta.
These types of flours are gluten-free and made from other grains or plant sources other than wheat.
- Almond Flour: Made from blanched and ground almonds, this flour is low in carbohydrates and high in protein and unsaturated fat (the good fat). It adds moisture and a nutty flavor to pastries and baked goods, but it does have a short shelf-life so pay close attention to the expiration date.
- Oat Flour: This flour is made from ground oats and has a superfine and fluffy texture when raw. It can replace flour in most recipes and will provide your finished product with a rich, nutty flavor and denser texture.
- Corn Flour: This type of flour is made from milling whole corn kernels and is best used for breading or blending with other types of flours in doughs.