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Wheat flour terms demystified

Article Published: Apr. 5, 2012 | Modified: Apr. 5, 2012
Wheat flour terms demystified

During a recent cooking class, I was asked about the difference between wheat flours. There are many types on the market, and the terms on the labels may seem confusing.

One word on labels I often see is unbromated. This means the flour doesn’t contain potassium bromate, which is sometimes added to bread flour to strengthen the dough and allow higher rising.

The additive is not permitted for use in the European Union, but it is used in the U.S. Under the right conditions, it will completely bake out. If too much is added, or if the bread has not baked long enough or at a high enough temperature, then a residual amount may remain.

Bromate is considered possibly carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. In California, a warning label is required when bromated flour is used. Due to consumer demand, few retail flours available to the home baker are bromated anymore.

Stone ground means that the grain has been ground in a mill in which a revolving stone wheel turns over a stationary stone wheel with the grain in between. I don’t know of any nutritional advantage to this method.

Some flour is unbleached, which means that it has not been processed with benzoyl peroxide or chlorine gas, common bleaching agents. Chlorinated flour allows cakes and other baked goods to set faster, rise better, the fat to be distributed more evenly, with less vulnerability to collapse. Cake flours in particular are nearly always chlorinated.

Whole wheat flour contains the three components of the grain: bran, endosperm and germ in the proportions in which they existed in the seed. Whole grains are higher in vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and disease preventing compounds than refined grains.

White whole wheat flour is made from hard white spring wheat, rather than traditional red wheat that we are accustomed to. Fortunately, for those who prefer a lighter product, the nutritional benefits are still there.

With enriched flour, the fibrous bran and nutrient dense germ are removed, leaving only the starch-filled endosperm. This endosperm is what is used for refined grain products, including most processed food. Some of the vitamins and minerals that are lost in processing are added to the flour, making it enriched.

All-purpose flour is typically enriched. It is appropriate for most bread and pizza bases. Some cookies are also prepared using this type of flour.

Bread flour is high in gluten protein, with 12.5 to14 percent protein compared to 10 to 12 percent protein in all-purpose flour. The increased protein binds to the flour to entrap carbon dioxide released by the yeast fermentation process, resulting in a stronger rise.

Self-rising flour is sold premixed with chemical leavening agents. The added ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the flour. If a recipes calls for self-rising flour, you may substitute 1 cup AP flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt.

More wheat flour is produced than any type.

Wholesome Pizza Crust

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ - 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 package rapid rise yeast
1 cup very warm water, 125 to 130 degrees
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour, yeast package and salt.
Stir very warm water and olive oil into bowl until well incorporated.
Gradually, add the all-purpose flour to form non-sticky dough.
On a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, around 5 to 8 minutes.
Cover and let rest for 10 minutes or more.
Stretch your dough over a cookie sheet or pizza pan.
Cover with spaghetti or pizza sauce and toppings, such as bell peppers, olives, fresh spinach, mushrooms and onions.
Top with Italian-style cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email or call (828) 264-3061.

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