Bread Making Flours & Grains

It is often said that cooking is an art relying on the creativity of the chef, while baking bread is much more of a science. This means that the process of combining flour, water, and yeast results in a chemical reaction that produces bread. You have to remember that when the ingredients combine with each other they produce a specific result. A wonderful loaf of bread is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. Use only the freshest ingredients, and use the proper ingredients.

Flours, while visibly similar, can be very different by virtue of how they were grown, milled, stored, etc. You may have to experiment with different brands of flour to help you make the perfect loaf.

Storage of flour is also very important. Keep flour in a secure, airtight container. Rye and whole wheat flours should be stored in a refrigerator, freezer, or a cool area to prevent them from becoming rancid.

The following information about flour will give you a better understanding of the importance of each type flour in the breadmaking process.

All-purpose flour

All-purpose flour is a blend of refined hard and soft wheat flours especially suitable for making breads and cake. The most popular brands of flour work well in making quick breads.

Bread flour

This type of flour is recommended for making bread. It is a higher gluten/protein flour that has been treated with conditioners to give dough a greater tolerance during kneading. This white flour is a higher-protein flour than bleached or unbleached all-purpose flour. More protein in a flour ensures that a larger, higher volume, higher-quality loaf will result. If you have only all-purpose flour on hand, you can use it, but try adding a "booster" such as 1 to 3 tablespoons of gluten flour or vital wheat gluten.

Whole-wheat flours

Milled from the entire kernel of the grain, whole grain flours such as whole wheat and rye flours contain more fiber, fat, vitamins, and minerals than bread or all-purpose flour. All whole wheat flour can be used in a bread, but the loaf will be somewhat smaller than bread made with bread flour and whole wheat flour combined. Whole wheat flour gives baked goods a wholesome, nutty flavor and dense texture. Because this flour contains the fat from the wheat germ portion of the kernel, it can become rancid, so it's best stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Allow the flour to come to room temperature before using in recipes.

Rye flour

Rye flour is a high fiber flour similar to whole wheat flour, also called graham flour. Rye flour has less gluten for bread structure, so it must be mixed with a high proportion of bread flour or whole wheat flour, as it does not contain enough gluten to develop the structure for a high, even-grained loaf.

Gluten flour

This is wheat flour that has been treated to remove nearly all the starch, which leaves a very high gluten content. Gluten is the protein in the wheat that makes the dough elastic. This high-protein, low-starch flour is often used for special diets. Added in small amounts to low-gluten flours (like whole wheat and rye flour) or low-protein all-purpose flour, gluten flour improves the texture of your bread.

Cake flour

Is made from softer or lower protein wheats and is specially designed for use in cake recipes made in your bread machine.

Self-rising flour

Self-rising flour contains leavening ingredients that will interfere with bread and cake making. It is not recommended to use with your bread machine.

Bran

This is the coarse outer layer of a kernel of grain, such as wheat, rye, corn, or wheat separated from flour by sifting or bolting. Corn bran and wheat bran are highest in fiber. Bran is often added in small quantities to bread for nutritional enrichment, heartiness and flavor. It is also used to enhance bread texture.

Cornmeal

This is coarsely ground dried corn (white, yellow, or blue, depending on the type of corn used). Corneal can be added to bread recipes in small amounts; it adds a bit of sweetness to bread as well as a slightly crumbly texture.

Cracked wheat

It is just that -- wheat kernels that have been cracked, or broken up usually by cutting the wheat kernels into angular fragments. It has a very coarse texture. For some recipes, the cracked wheat is cooked like a cereal, then added to the bread pan or bowl. It gives whole grain breads a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.

Oatmeal or Oats

They come from coarsely ground rolled or steel-cut oats. This cereal grain has a nutty flavor that lends an interesting flavor and texture to breads. Quick-cooking oats or old-fashioned rolled oats are interchangeable in bread recipes.

Seven grain cereal blend

This is a blend of cracked wheat, oats, bran, rye, corn meal, flax seeds and hulled millet.

Wheat germ

The true embryo of the wheat kernel, wheat germ adds a wonderful nutty taste and crunch to breads. It should not replace flour in a recipe, nor should you need to reduce the amount of flour when adding it to a recipe.

Related Links:

Bread Machine Tips for Success

Bread Machine Cycles

Bread Making Leavening Agents

How to Test or Proof Yeast -- Testing Yeast for Freshness or to See if it is Active

Sweeteners Used in Bread Making

Using Chocolate and Cocoa in Your Bread Machine

Fats and Oils in Bread Making

Using Fruits and Vegetables in Bread

Using Nuts and Seeds in Bread

Using Herbs and Spices in Bread

Slicing and Storing Homemade Bread

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