What Flour Do I Need?

Did you know that all wheat flours are not alike?  Different types of wheat are grown in different areas depending on the climate, and growing conditions.  Soft wheat is grown in the Ohio Valley and in the Pacific North West.  These wheat varieties are used for baking products that do not need much gluten protein – things like cakes and cookies.  During the milling process for white flour, the bran and germ of the wheat kernel is removed.  On the other hand, whole wheat flour grinds the entire kernel, bran and germ included.  Whole wheat offers many health benefits but will also produce products that are more dense and heavier. 

Hard wheat varieties are grown in the central plains region from Texas to Canada.  These wheat varieties have higher levels of gluten protein and are perfect for making bread, rolls, buns, etc. 

So what does this mean for the home baker?  You can buy ‘all purpose’ flour, that is a blend of varieties and does a pretty good job in baking most home baked products.  You can also buy bread flour, which has more and stronger gluten forming proteins.  These are best used in bread baking but, prepare your arms for a little more work in kneading the dough. 

  • Cake flour is also available in grocery stores.  This flour has the very lowest content of gluten forming proteins which allows you to make light fluffy cakes. 
  • Self-rising flour is frequently available.  This flour is usually an ‘all purpose’ flour with baking powder and salt already added.  It would be commonly used for biscuits, muffins and pancakes. 

Get started with some fun recipes here!

Maureen Olewnik, PhD, Coordinator, Global Food Systems Initiative | KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY

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