Also Known as Wheat Flour
What is Flour?
Flour is the powder made from the grinding of seeds, nuts, roots, and most commonly grains. Wheat flour is the most common type of flour used in baking, especially in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa.
However, flours made from other crops such as corn are popular throughout Mexico and Central America. Much of South America, including Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay make breads from yucca flour.
The first flour was estimated to be produced in 6000 BCE by crushing grains between two stones. Since then, the production and variety has steadily increased in technology.
Flour today is typically made in a roller mill, which crushes the individual grain kernels into fractions, and then the germ and endosperm are sifted out to obtain white flour. At this point it can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the desired use.
There are literally thousands of types of flour, including corn, cassava, wheat, barely, almond, and almost any other grain. Each one of these variations has a different nutritional value. Flour is typically high in carbohydrates, while low in fat and protein. It is the major ingredient in staple foods such as, bread, crackers, pasta, tortillas, cakes, and pastries. All of these products have differing nutritional values depending on other additives.
All-purpose wheat flour is the most common type of flour and will suffice for the majority of baking needs. Wheat flour has a protein content of 8-11%. This type can be bleached or remain unbleached. Unbleached white flour may be treated to possess a stronger gluten structure with additions from ascorbic acid or potassium bromate.
If the flour is bleached, it is primarily treated with chlorine gas. Chlorine gas strengthens the flour funcitonality, makes the final product whiter, and weakens the gluten structure. As a result, nearly all cake and pastry flours are bleached because of the desire of bakers to integrate a flour with weak gluten development to impart a tender, soft mouthfeel.