Flour is the ingredient that gives baked goods their shape and texture. When flour is mixed with water, proteins in the flour interact to form gluten. Gluten gives dough elasticity and ability to stretch as a leavening agent produces carbon dioxide gas that causes dough to rise.
Different types of wheat flour contain varying amounts of proteins for forming gluten. Hard whole wheat flour is a blend of soft and hard wheat flours with a 9% - 10% protein level.
Whole wheat flour is ground from the entire kernel containing the bran, germ and endosperm. Bran in whole wheat flour reduces gluten development. Baked products made from whole wheat flour tend to be heavier and denser than those made from white flour. Whole grain flours are not refined and retain all their nutrients. Flours labeled as "wheat" instead of "whole wheat" are often refined.
White flour is refined whole flour, ground only from the endosperm. Because it contains neither the bran or the germ, it has less fiber per cup (3.4 grams) than whole wheat flour (15 grams.)
The refining process strips away the fiber-rich bran and the germ which contains valuable vitamins and minerals. To replace these nutrients, flour is enriched by the addition of vitamins and minerals.
All-purpose flour is the flour most commonly used in the home. It comes as bleached and unbleached and must be labeled. Nutritionally, bleached and unbleached are the same. Both can be readily substituted.
Bleached: refers to flour that has been treated with chlorine to whiten and improve its baking qualities. The chlorine evaporates, does not destroy the nutrients, but does reduce the risk of spoilage or contamination. It is a process which speeds up the natural lightening and maturing of the flour.
Unbleached: is aged and bleached naturally by oxygen in the air. It is more golden in color and may not have the consistency in baking qualities that bleached flour does.
Enriched: Is flour that has been supplemented with iron and four B-vitamins (thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid) in amounts equal to what was removed. Compared to the whole grain, it is still deficient in fiber, protein value and 18 race vitamins and minerals.
A small amount of malted barley flour is usually added to all-purpose flour to increase its level of enzyme activity.
(Whole wheat recipes will be added to Simply Recipes in the next few days. Sorry about the delay in the Food Storage post. It has been a crazy week around here.)
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