The Difference Between Cake Flour, Bread Flour, Pastry Flour, and All-Purpose Flour

Cake flour, bread flour, pastry flour, and all-purpose flour (all made from wheat) vary primarily by the type of wheat they’re made from and their protein content. This is perhaps the most interesting and certainly the most significant difference between them, especially when it comes to baking.

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One of the most important ingredients used in baking is flour. While many recipes call for all-purpose flour, there are a host of different types of flour that are used specifically for certain kinds of baked items.

Many of these kinds of flours you are probably already familiar with, but there are some you might have never even heard of.

Whether you’re a baker or a home cook, it’s important to know the many different types of flour.

No need to get overwhelmed, this blog post has you covered.

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If you think there’s one type of flour that fits all, think again.

There are many different kinds of flour out there, each with its specific characteristics and functions.

It might be a bit perplexing, especially when you’re at the grocery and a dizzying array of flours stares at you in the face.

Relax, I’m here to help you figure out which type of flour to pick for whatever purpose you may have.

Whether you’re baking a cake, deep-frying chicken, or cooking for someone with intolerances, this walkthrough has your back.

Flour is the fundamental ingredient of many baked goods – including bread, pastries, pies, and cakes – as well as pasta and pizza dough. However, not all flour is alike. Various factors, such as protein content, how the flour is processed, and the grain, affect how you use it while baking. Whether you own a bakery, cafe, or restaurant, it’s imperative to use the best types of flour to produce high-quality food and desserts. We explore the different kinds of flour, their uses, processing considerations, and protein content to help you find the best flour to meet the needs of your establishment.

Shop All Flour

Spelt Flour

What’s spelt? It’s just another type of wheat, and spelt flour is a type of whole wheat flour milled from the entire grain of spelt. But unlike regular whole wheat flour, spelt flour is lower in protein and behaves similarly to all-purpose flour (but with a lot more flavor). It tastes slightly acidic and tangy, almost like yogurt.

Use it for: Cakes, muffins, cookies, crumbles, crisps

Buy it: Janie’s Mill Spelt Flour

Almond Flour

Almond flour is quickly becoming a must-have in the pantry of any health-conscious person.

It’s packed with healthy fats, fiber, plant-based protein, and various vitamins.

Almonds have been touted as a superfood for years, and now we get to enjoy them in flour form!

Almond flour is a fantastic alternative to regular flour for baking and cooking.

It can be used in almost anything like muffins, brownies, pancakes, and even pasta.

It’s naturally gluten-free, making it an ideal option for those on restricted diets.

It’s also a great swap if you’re looking to reduce carbs or calories while still enjoying all the flavor.

And to top it off, almond flour is incredibly easy to work with.

Try using it today and see how much healthier your baked goods become.

All About Protein

Protein content determines how much gluten the flour will form, which in turn affects the textural quality of your baked good. Flours with a high protein content create more gluten, which provides a strong and dense structure. Those with a lower protein content form less gluten (lower protein and less gluten get you a light and airy structure-think ‘LLL’ for Lower protein, Less gluten, Light texture). Let’s take a closer look at each of these four flours-from high to low protein content—and chat about the best uses and substitutions.

Self-Rising Flour

Making baked goods just got a lot easier with self-rising flour!

This special type of flour is a great alternative to all-purpose if you don’t want to burden yourself with adding baking powder and salt.

All you have to do is swap your normal flour measurements with self-rising flour.

The result will be light and fluffy cakes, scones, biscuits, and every other baked good imaginable.

Self-rising flour has revolutionized the baking landscape.

It allows budding bakers or busy home cooks to whip up simple yet delectable treats.

Pastry Flour and Cake Flour

While these two flours aren’t the same, they are both fine-textured soft flours with a low protein content-pastry flour clocks in at approximately 9 percent protein, while cake flour is even lower, with a protein content of about 7 to 8 percent. These flours have just enough protein to give structure to cakes and other tender-crumbed baked goods, while keeping texture deliciously airy and light.

In a pinch, you can pretty easily and successfully substitute AP flour for cake flour and pastry flour, by using this ratio: For every 1 cup of cake or pastry flour called for in a recipe, measure 1 cup of AP flour, then remove 2 tablespoons (this will leave you with 7/8 cup of AP flour, also known as a scant cup, which you can alternatively measure by eye). Add 2 tablespoons cornstarch to your scant cup of AP flour and poof!-you’re good to go.

Bleached Flour vs. Unbleached Flour

All flours are bleached, but unbleached flour is bleached naturally as it ages—exposure to oxygen causes it to whiten over time. It has a denser texture and duller color, and it provides more structure in baked goods. Bleached flour has been treated with bleaching agents (like benzoyl peroxide) to speed up the flour’s aging process. The result is a paler color and lighter, softer texture than unbleached flour. Baking with bleached flour will yield softer results, too, but overall, the two are interchangeable.

Gluten-Free Flour

For baking enthusiasts, the introduction of gluten-free flour has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Now, people with gluten intolerances or Celiac disease can enjoy treats that were formerly off-limits.

Gluten-free flour comes in a variety of grain and nut-based varieties.

This means that bakers have an incredible range of textures and flavors to work with.

There are some tried-and-true recipes out there that can help those new to gluten-free baking get started, so dive right in!

White Whole Wheat Flour

White whole wheat flour is the perfect solution for any baked goods lover looking for a healthier alternative.

It’s made from hard white winter wheat and has a nutty flavor and the same light texture as all-purpose flour.

But it’s loaded with more fiber and nutrients due to the bran being left in.

When baking, white whole wheat flour can be substituted one-for-one in recipes that call for all-purpose flour.

However, it absorbs liquids differently so keep an eye on your dough or batter and add more liquid, if necessary.

You might also need to add extra rising agents like baking powder or yeast to your recipe.

The germ found in white whole wheat flour gradually converts starches into sugar and weakens dough over time.

Do I Need to Worry About Sifting Bread Flour or Other Flours?

You usually can skip sifting most of these types of flour. Even though many flours come presifted, the flour settles in the bag during shipping. So, it’s wise to stir the flour in the bag or canister before measuring to make it lighter. Then gently spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level it off with a spatula or the side of a knife. You will need to sift cake flour before measuring it, especially for sponge cake recipes, to achieve a cloudlike texture.

For the most accurate results when measuring flour, employ a food scale.

For the most tender cakes, you’ll want to reach for low-protein cake flour. It generally has a protein content of 5 to 8 percent, so it has less ability to form gluten bonds (hence the soft, tender texture it yields). Another benefit? Cake flour can absorb more liquid and sugar than other flours, so it keeps your cakes moist for longer.

Use it for: All types of cakes—sponges, angel food cake, chiffon, layer cakes and muffins

Buy it: Swans Down Cake Flour

With a protein content of approximately 14 to 16 percent, this high-gluten flour is a blend of 99.8 percent hard-wheat flour with a touch of malt barley added to improve yeast activity, plus vitamin C or potassium bromate, which increases gluten’s elasticity. In short, it’s your go-to flour for yeast breads, which are breads that use yeast as a leavening agent (brioche, croissant, French bread, and sourdough, for example).

Can you use all-purpose flour as a bread flour substitute (and vice-versa)? Yes, you can absolutely make a 1:1 substitute. For 1 cup bread flour, use 1 cup all-purpose, and vice-versa (note that bread and pizza crust made with all-purpose flour may have a little less chew than those made with bread flour, but results will still be good). If you want to try using bread flour as a substitute for all-purpose flour in recipes for yeast doughs that call for all-purpose flour, your breads and pastries will get a welcome extra little lift. You can try using bread flour as a substitute for all-purpose in our No-Knead Onion Rolls.

Want to know a secret? Self-rising flour is just finely milled flour with added leavener—specifically, baking powder and salt. It’s milled from soft wheat and has a protein content of approximately 9 percent. Self-rising flour yields lofty, light baked goods, but it can’t be swapped as readily as other flours because the added ingredients can throw off other measurements in the recipe.

Use it for: Biscuits, pancakes, scones

Buy it: White Lily Self-Rising Flour

Yuki Kondo/Getty Images

How to Store Flour

Even the most perfectly engineered recipe can be spoiled by, well, spoiled flour. (By the way, as long as you cook the flour, it likely won’t make you sick. Spoiled flour most often just smells off and doesn’t taste very great, which is why we recommend tossing it. If you notice any pests in your flour, definitely dump it in the trash.)

All-purpose, cake, pastry, bread, or self-rising flours should remain in good shape stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for about 10 to 15 months. Many whole wheat, gluten-free, and nut-based flours contain enough oils that they can go rancid, so store these in a moisture- and vaporproof container in the refrigerator up to 6 months or freezer up to 12 months. Before using a refrigerated flour in a yeast bread recipe, bring it to room temperature so it does not slow the rising of the bread.

Types and Uses of Flours for Baking

Background: All-purpose is probably the go-to flour of all the types that are
available. It is created using a combination of soft wheat and hard wheat so it
has a protein level from 8 to 11 percent. It has a higher starch content
because the germ and bran have been removed.

The FDA requires white flour to contain
iron, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, and niacin. If the all-purpose flour is
bleached, it was lightened with a type of peroxide.

Most used for: This flour is used for a variety of baking
items, such as cakes and cookies, biscuits and pizza dough, and it is used in
many cooking recipes to make sauces and gravies. It is also used as a
thickener.

Storage info: It is suggested to put a new bag of flour just purchased at the grocery store in the freezer for 48 hours to kill any eggs from insects that could be unseen.

It can then be transferred to a glass or plastic container and it will last for a year or more. It can also be left in the freezer and does not have to be defrosted in order to use it.

2 – Almond Flour

Background: Made from ground almonds, this type of flour has gained popularity in recent years because of its many health benefits. Almond flour is gluten-free, low in carbs, and contains fiber and fats that are healthy.

It offers a lower glycemic index so it will not cause your sugar to spike and because it is made of almonds it has been credited with helping lower cholesterol levels.

Most used for: Almond flour is used more and more to replace regular
wheat flours in recipes used by those on specific diets. While it can be used
in baking in the same proportions as regular wheat flours, the baked goods end
up being more dense and much flatter.

Storage info: Almond flour will last 9 months in a plastic or glass container in the
freezer or refrigerator.

3 – Amaranth Flour

Background: Made from grinding seeds produced by the amaranth plant, this flour was popular by the Incas and Aztecs in ancient times. It is popular again because it is packed with protein and is gluten-free.

Grinding the seeds results in a type of flour that is highly regarded because it contains the amino acids methionine and lysine. It was also tested and shown to have antioxidant qualities.

Most used for: This type of flour is used in addition to all-purpose flour to boost its gluten-free and other healthy properties.

A major flour company tested amaranth flour in proportions ranging from 25% to 50% added to all-purpose flour. The proportions that they found successful were 50% for pancakes and banana bread, and 25% for scones, cinnamon bread, and muffins.

Storage info: Amaranth flour will last for six months in a tightly closed container
in the freezer.

4 – Barley Flour

Background: Derived from a mixture of ground and dried barley, this type of flour can be used on its own for specific baking items, but also makes a useful addition to whole wheat and/or all-purpose flour for specific recipes.

Each cup of barley flour has 7 grams of fiber but it does contain gluten so it is not for those on a celiac diet. It can be kept stored for one year so it has a long shelf life.

Most used for: You can create a simple barley bread using this
flour as well as barley chocolate chip cookies. You can find a number of
recipes using barley flour online including a vegan zucchini bread.

Storage info: Barley flour will last about three months if stored in an airtight
container in the freezer.

5 – Bread Flour

Background: If you have been using regular all-purpose flour when making bread don’t worry, you are not doing anything wrong. Using either type of flour will yield a great loaf of bread.

So what are the pros and cons of bread flour over all-purpose flour? Bread flour was created specifically for baking loaves of bread that require yeast.

Bread flour has gluten in it and has between 12%% to 14% protein, which is higher than the 8% to 11% usually found in all-purpose flour. With a higher gluten content, bread flour will make a lighter and more elastic bread dough. This will result in an airy, chewy slice of bread.

Most used for: Besides white bread and sourdough, you can use
bread flour to make dinner rolls, bagels, cinnamon rolls, and even pretzels.
While you can use all-purpose flour to make bread, it does not work the same if
you substitute pastry flour or cake flour.

Storage info: Bread flour will last a year in the freezer in an airtight container.

6 – Buckwheat Flour

Background: Even though this flour has wheat in its name, it is not made of wheat but rather comes from the seeds of a plant and is most associated with wild rhubarb and sorrel.

It is gluten-free and can replace white or wheat flour in many recipes. It is low in fat, has almost 4 grams of protein per serving, and is brimming with vitamins and minerals. Each serving has 10% thiamin, 12 % niacin, and 14% of the vitamin B-6.

Most used for: It can be used as a replacement for recipes that
call for whole wheat or white flour. Buckwheat flour can be used to make
breads, muffins, and cookies.

Storage info: This flour can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 months, in the freezer,
in an airtight container for 6 months, and a year if kept in a dark cool area
in an airtight container.

7 – Cake Flour

Background: You have probably always used all-purpose flour whenever you made a cake, so do you really need cake flour? The difference between the two types of flour lies in the fact that cake flour is lower in protein, softer, and lighter than all-purpose.

Avid bakers do prefer the difference cake flour makes in their recipes. If you would like to see for yourself, just remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour from your cake recipe per cup and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Most used for: Most commonly used for making cakes, but you can also use it for making pancakes, muffins, and breads.

Storage info: Cake flour will last for up to eight months when stored in a sealed
glass or plastic container. It will last indefinitely if kept sealed in your
freezer.

8 – Oat Flour

Background: Oat flour has become more popular since people began avoiding gluten. Oat flour is made by grinding oats into a powder form and because it is not made from wheat it is gluten-free.

You can use it in place of white or whole-wheat flour and while it adds a fuller flavor to baked goods, it does leave the texture on the chewy side.

You can take 1 1/4 cups of rolled oats and grind it up in a blender to make your own oat flour or you can purchase it online or at most grocery stores.

Most used for: There are special recipes that are specifically adapted to oat flour so you can still make muffins, breads, pancakes, waffles, cookies, and cakes.

If you are trying to adapt it on your own, you can exchange up to 30% of the flour you are using for oat flour to reduce the amount of gluten in the recipe.

Storage info: If you keep your oat flour in a sealed container in a place that is
dry and cool, it will last up to a year.

9 – Pastry Flour

Background: If you are into baking, you already are aware of pastry flour. This flour is specifically for making pastry items and differs from both all-purpose flour and cake flour in the amount of protein it contains.

While all-purpose has about 11 percent and cake flour has about 8 percent, pastry flour lands right in the middle with 9 percent protein.

Substitutions: You can use pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour on a one to one basis. If you need pastry flour but don’t have any, you can remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

If you don’t have any pastry flour but you do have cake flour just add 2 tablespoons of cake flour to complete the recipe.

Most used for: Besides the obvious, pastry flour is the flour
of choice for making cookies, cakes, and muffins. It is not a good choice for
making bread.

Storage info: In a cool but dry place your pastry flour will last from 1 to 2 years.

10 – Rice Flour

Background: Rice flour originated in China, Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia where 90 percent of the rice is from. Rice flour was introduced to our culture in the 1980s and it became popular for use in baking.

Rice flour is created when kernels of rice are ground and milled into a powder form. The kind of rice depends on the type of rice that is ground, how the rice becomes milled, and the content of the starch of the finished flour.

There are two kinds of rice flour – white and brown. Both are used to make breads that are gluten-free. White flour has very little flavor while brown rice has a subtle sweet and nutty taste.

While they are almost equal in calories, brown rice four has more protein, more fiber, and more folate than white flour.

Most used for: When using rice flour you must use recipes that
call for this type of flour as you cannot substitute rice flour for any other
flours. There are recipes you can find to make muffins, cakes, and sweet baked
goods using rice flour.

Storage info: Both types of rice flour have a shelf life of 6 months to a year if
stored in an airtight container and kept in your freezer.

11 – Self-Rising Flour

Background: Self-rising flour begins with a cup of all-purpose flour and is combined with one-quarter teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder.

You can buy self-rising flour already prepared or make your own if it is not a type of flour you will use on a regular basis.

Most used for: Self-rising flour is used to make biscuits,
pizza crusts, sugar cookies, different kinds of pancakes, and dumplings.

Storage info: Because of the inclusion of the baking powder in this type of flour,
the shelf life is only about 4 to 6 months. Baking powder on its own loses
effectiveness after a short period of time so it’s always good to make sure it
is fresh when called for in a recipe.

12 – White-Wheat Flour and Whole-Wheat Flour

Background: Both white-wheat and whole wheat flour are considered whole wheat. White whole wheat flour comes from winter wheat or hard spring wheat.

Whole wheat flour is identical nutritionally but is lighter in color and has a milder taste. Ether of these types of flour can be substituted for the other.

Most used for: When baking with white-wheat flour and
whole-wheat flour you will find your baked goods come out with a better color
and a more nutty flavor. They work well in recipes for pancakes, banana bread,
waffles, and muffins.

Storage info: Both types of wheat flour will last up to three months in a cool dry
place while stored in an airtight container. If you want a longer shelf life
you can put the container in the freezer and it will last up to a year.

Pastry flour is a fun baking option for those looking to add a little something special to their next treat.

The lower protein content, compared to all-purpose flour, gives it a lighter texture and finer crumb.

It’s perfect for creating flaky pastries like puff pastries, shortcakes, and scones.

Many cake recipes call for all-purpose flour.

But you’ll find the results are much fluffier and more enjoyable when using pastry flour.

Keep some on hand in your pantry so you’re always ready to whip up something awesome!

Somewhere between cake flour and all-purpose flour is pastry flour, which has a protein content around 9 percent. It can make extremely flaky, tender baked goods, which is why it’s often used for pastries, pie crusts and cake.

Use it for: Pastries, cakes, pie crust, muffins, biscuits

Buy it: Bob’s Red Mill White Unbleached Fine Pastry Flour

Natasha Breen/Getty Images

White whole wheat flour is milled just like regular whole wheat flour, but it starts with a hard wheat that’s paler, called hard white wheat. It has a similar protein content (about 14 percent), but a milder taste. Bonus: It has the same nutritional benefits as whole wheat flour but won’t affect the taste of your baked goods quite as much.

Use it for: Bread, muffins and cookies

Buy it: King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

Johnathon Broekhuizen/Getty Images

Sprouted Flour

Sprouted flour is fast becoming a popular alternative in the kitchen due to its tremendous health benefits.

This super flour is made of germinated grains and packs an incredible nutritional punch.

Thanks to increased vitamin and mineral levels, it’s a smart way to bring more nutrients into your diet.

Sprouted flour also makes for a tasty bake.

You won’t believe how delicious your bread, muffins, and cakes come out when you make them with sprouted flour!

Plus, since it has less sugar than regular processed flour, you won’t have to worry about too many post-consumption guilt trips.

If you’ve been considering switching to a healthier type of baking ingredient, look no further than sprouted flour!

‘00’ Flour

Double zero, or doppio zerio, flour is an Italian type of flour milled from hard durum wheat (instead of red wheat, like most flours) and with a protein content of 11 to 12 percent. Its name refers to the extremely fine texture of the flour. While the protein content is similar to AP flour, the gluten in double zero flour isn’t as elastic, so it’s less chewy. It’s pricy and harder to find in the U.S., but it’s great for homemade pasta and pizza dough if you can get your hands on a bag.

Use it for: Homemade pasta and pizza dough

Buy it: Antimo Caputo Italian Double Zero Flour

Michelle Arnold/EyeEm/Getty Images

Flour Protein Content

Flour protein content varies depending on the brand and type of flour you plan to use. Bread flour, whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, and all-purpose flour contain protein ranging from 10% to 15% of their serving sizes. In contrast, pastry flour, cake flour, and self-rising flour contain far less protein than other types, as low as 6% of their serving sizes.

Protein in flour affects gluten formation in your dough, which impacts the texture of baked goods. More protein means more gluten develops, which might create a rubbery texture in your bread or pastries if handled incorrectly. Knowing your flour’s protein content and mixing instructions ensures your final product bakes to perfection.

You can calculate flour protein content based on the nutrition label using this simple equation:

Protein Quantity (grams) ÷ Serving Size (grams) x 100 = % Protein

Hard Flour vs Soft Flour

The terms “hard flour” and “soft flour” refer to the amount of protein in the flour. Hard flour is high in protein and gluten with a minimum protein content of 12%. As a result of the protein, hard flour is gritty and crumbly compared to flour with lower protein levels. In contrast, soft flour contains only 7% to 9% protein and is much smoother and finer than hard flour. Bread flour usually falls under hard flour, while soft flours are cake and pastry flour.

What Is Patent Flour?

Patent flour is a pure, high-quality flour made from the center part of the endosperm. The amount of straight flour that patent flour contains determines whether a bread flour is short patent (70-80% straight flour), medium patent (80-90% straight flour), or long patent (90-95% straight flour).

Note: Straight flour refers to flour in which 100% of the wheat kernel has had the bran and germ removed.

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best flours on the market, evaluating their key features—like the type of wheat, price, or consistency—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

11 Different Types of Flour Every Home Cook Should Know

When referring to flour as a general term, most people mean wheat-based all-purpose flour unless they say otherwise. That’s far from your only option, however, as you’ll see in our guide to different types of flour, below.

The Best Types of Flour for Baking

These are your best options for baked goods going into the oven.

Great for: Cookies, breads, muffins, piecrusts, pancakes, and biscuits

As its name implies, this type of flour is a common, multipurpose, and super-versatile flour called for in a range of sweet and savory recipes. So what is all-purpose flour made of, exactly? All-purpose, sometimes shortened to AP flour, is a blend of soft and hard wheat, or medium-protein wheats. Different manufacturers use varying proportions of hard and soft wheats, so the protein level in all-purpose flours ranges from 9 to 15 grams per cup. You may find all-purpose flour labeled as “unbleached” or “bleached”—these are interchangeable.

Test Kitchen Tip: When baking yeast or sourdough breads, reach for an all-purpose flour or a bread flour with at least 2¾ grams of protein per ¼ cup. High-protein flours tend to produce finer-textured, higher-volume yeast breads. To find out how much protein an all-purpose flour contains, check the amount of protein in grams per cup on the flour bag’s nutrition label.

Great for: Sponge cakes, pound cakes, layer cakes, sheet cakes, scones, cupcakes, and muffins

This soft wheat blend is fairly low in protein (5% to 8%) and low in gluten, which makes it particularly suitable for baking fine-textured cakes. Cake flour produces a tender, delicate crumb because the gluten is less elastic. Many bakers use this type of flour for baking cakes, of course, as well as for biscuits, muffins, and more. Cake flour is able to absorb more liquid and sugar than all-purpose; a factor that helps baked goods turn out moist and pleasantly sweet.

Great for: Pancakes, biscuits, scones, pizza or flatbread doughs, and bagels

Self-rising flour is an all-purpose or soft wheat flour (with about 8% to 9% protein) that’s mixed with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Since a leavening agent is already included, self-rising flour can make quick(er) work out of preparing batters and doughs. To make your own self-rising flour, whisk together 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon baking soda.

Great for: Yeast breads, sourdough breads, bagels, pretzels, and pizza and flatbread doughs

Since it’s milled from all hard wheat, bread flour contains more gluten and protein (12% to 14%) than all-purpose flour. This makes bread flour ideal for baking chewy, golden-brown (you guessed it!) breads and doughs. If you rub a bit of bread flour between your fingers, it tends to feel more granular than all-purpose flour. When used instead of all-purpose flour, you usually need less. If you use a bread machine, opt for bread flour instead of all-purpose flour for the best results. Or, use all-purpose flour and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of gluten flour (available at most supermarkets and natural food stores).

Great for: Piecrusts, cookies, muffins, cakes, cupcakes, pancakes, and biscuits

This unbleached soft wheat flour falls between cake flour and all-purpose flour on the protein scale, at about 8% to 9%. This type of flour for baking yields flaky, tender, and light results. To make your own pastry flour, whisk together 1½ cups all-purpose flour with ⅔ cup cake flour.

Great for: Breads, muffins, and cookies, especially when used in combination with all-purpose flour

Whole wheat or graham flours are processed less than all-purpose flour and, therefore, retain more nutrients and fiber since they contain the whole wheat kernel. This type of flour is quite high in protein (13% to 14%) and is ideal in some breads and some cookies, but is generally not the best choice for pastries, piecrusts, or other delicate baked goods.

Baking recipes often turn out pretty indistinguishable from the “real thing” if you use half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour called for in the mixture. Or if you reach for white whole wheat flour that offers the same nutrition as whole wheat but is made from a hard white wheat that acts very similar to all-purpose.

The Best Types of Gluten-Free Flour

Gluten-Free Flour Blends

Great for: Replacing all-purpose flour in most recipes for cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pancakes, breads, and muffins

Many types of gluten-free flour are commercially available. Some are made with one type of grain, nut, or starch, but the most versatile of gluten-free flours include a blend that most closely performs like all-purpose flour. Sometimes labeled “cup-for-cup,” these blends usually include rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, and/or potato starch, plus xanthan gum (to replicate the chewiness missing sans-gluten).

Test Kitchen Tip: We recommend swapping gluten-free flour blend for all-purpose flour only if a recipe confirms that the substitute works or specifically calls for a gluten-free flour blend. Our Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles, Gluten-Free Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy, Gluten-Free Waffles, and Gluten-Free White Bread are tested and true! It certainly can’t hurt to try if this substitution isn’t listed, but keep in mind that results may vary.

Great for: Cookies, muffins, quick breads, pancakes, and biscuits

Made from blanched skinned almonds that have been ground down and sifted, this type of gluten-free flour is beloved for its healthy fat content and fiber. Those two features make it weigh more than wheat flours, though, so it’s best to use this only when called for in a recipe. As a general rule, you’ll want to use about ⅓ to ¼ less almond flour than all-purpose flour (so ⅔ cup to ¾ cup almond flour in place of 1 cup all-purpose).

Great for: Quick breads, muffins, cookies, and pancakes

Oat flour can be purchased or made by grinding rolled oats to a fine powder in a food processor, ½ cup at a time. Since oat flour acts similar to wheat flour, it often works surprisingly well as a substitute for whole wheat or even all-purpose flour.

Test Kitchen Tip: If gluten-free flour is what you’re after and you’re going the DIY route, check the label on the oats you’re grinding; some are made in facilities that may pose cross-contamination risks.

The Best Types of Flour for Pasta and Pizza

For Italian night, or other kinds of pasta and pizza, try these types of flour.

Great for: Noodles, pizza and flatbread doughs, crackers, sourdough recipes, and sourdough discard recipes

One of the best types of flour for pastas and pizzas, “00” flour is a popular Italian-style hard wheat flour that has about 11% to 12% protein. Curious about the “00” in type “00” flour? This reflects the very fine texture of the flour on a scale that Italians use to measure flour coarseness (2, 1, 0, and 00 are the options). Also known as double-zero or doppio zero, “00” flour is easy to roll out thinly into crackers, noodles, and doughs. If you’ve had Neapolitan pizza, you’ve likely enjoyed this type of flour. For this reason, some brands, including King Arthur, even market their type “00” flour as “pizza flour.”

Great for: Focaccia breads, gnocchi, pasta doughs

One of the highest protein (13% or so)—and, thus, highest gluten—flours available, this type of flour is made from hard durum wheat. The ample gluten allows for doughs to be stretched without breaking or shrinking too much.

A Note About Gluten-Free Flours and Nut Meals

We didn’t include gluten-free flour blends, nut meals or rice flours in our list—while they’re all technically “flours” (aka anything that’s been ground up), they behave entirely differently than wheat flours do.

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Whether you own a bakery, restaurant, cafe, or coffee shop, understanding the different types of flour and their uses allows you to offer customers high-quality food. Homemade bread, pasta, and pastries use flour as their base ingredient, but the ideal flour for each varies. In addition to the dough’s malleability, flour affects flavor, texture, and protein content. Regardless of the type of flour you use, remember to measure flour with a food scale for the most accurate measurement.

Below are 12 common types of flour, their primary uses, and their textures.

For soft, moist baked goods, cake flour is the ideal choice. It has the lowest protein content of gluten-based flour, making it less structured than the others. Additionally, it is milled extra-fine and bleached, allowing it to absorb more liquids and fats to make a deliciously moist cake. This flour is easily the best to make different cakes, so be careful when using substitutes while baking cakes.

Used for: Cake, chiffon, muffins, scones

Characteristics: Soft flour, fine, extra-absorbent. Creates a moist, spongey final product.

Bread flour has a high protein content compared to all-purpose flour to create the ideal chewy texture for loaves of bread. Due to the amount of protein, the mixing process forms more gluten and helps the bread rise without collapsing. This gluten structure results in a porous, chewy texture for your bread.

Used for: Bread, sourdough, cookies, pretzels, bagels, pizza dough

Characteristics: Hard flour, coarse, elastic. Creates an airy, chewy final product.

Semolina Flour

Semolina flour is milled from durum wheat, which gives it a nutty flavor and yellow hue. Its high protein content keeps it intact when stretched and kneaded, making it perfect for homemade pasta. However, semolina flour is also found in bread, biscuits, and other baked goods.

Used for: Pasta, couscous, bread, gnocchi, puddings

Characteristics: Hard flour, sandy, easily thickens. Creates an elastic dough that holds its shape under cooking conditions.

00 Flour

Also known as doppio zero flour, 00 flour is a popular choice for many Italian dishes. Durum wheat is milled to an extremely fine consistency to form the flour. This quality and the flour’s high protein content allow it to be rolled and stretched thin to make pasta without breaking, maintaining its shape during cooking.

Used for: Pasta, pizza dough, flatbreads, focaccia, gnocchi, crackers

Characteristics: Hard flour, super-fine grain, easy to blend and roll. Creates a strong, chewy final product.

Named for the wheat it’s made from, spelt flour is milled from entire grains rather than part of the grain. It has medium protein content, making it an ideal substitute for all-purpose flour. However, the most unique aspect of spelt flour is its flavor, which many describe as slightly sweet, tangy, and nutty.

Used for: Desserts like cookies, cakes, and muffins, combined with other flours to make bread

Characteristics: Soft, sticky, medium protein content. Creates a soft, airy final product.

Unlike other types of flour, whole wheat flour is milled from the endosperm, germ, and bran of the wheat kernel. These extra elements give goods baked with whole wheat a dense, nutty quality, but they make the flour challenging to use during baking. While this flour is high in protein, it does not form gluten well. Additionally, whole wheat flour is more perishable than other flour, so store it in a freezer or refrigerator to increase its shelf life.

Used for: Bread, cookies, pancakes, pasta

Characteristics: Hard flour, grainy, coarse. Creates sticky dough and a dense final product.

Rye Flour

Rye flour comes from rye, not the typical red or white wheat used to make flour. It has a low protein content and less gluten than all-purpose flour, creating a unique density in bread baked from it. Additionally, rye flour has a unique, nutty flavor and distinct texture that adds flair to baked goods.

Used for: Bread, cookies, pie crust

Characteristics: Soft flour, dark, doesn’t rise as well. Creates a moist and dense final product.

As the happy medium between cake flour and all-purpose flour, pastry flour has low protein content and is bleached during processing. Its fine texture makes it easy to blend with other ingredients. Due to these qualities, pastry flour creates flaky, tender, mouthwatering goods. Pastry flour also has a lot of substitutes due to its similarities to all-purpose flour and cake flour.

Used for: Pie crusts, tarts, croissants, cookies, muffins, biscuits, pound cakes, and other pastries

Characteristics: Soft flour, bleached, fine texture. Creates a flaky, tender final product.

Many people consider white whole wheat flour the unhealthy version of whole wheat flour, but this is not the case. The primary differentiator of white whole wheat flour is that it’s milled from a light variant of white hard winter wheat, which causes a softer texture and sweeter taste. Like whole wheat bread, it uses all three parts of the wheat kernel and contains the same high protein content and nutritional value as its counterpart.

Used for: Bread, cookies, muffins

Characteristics: Hard flour, grainy texture, sweet and mild taste. Creates a sticky dough and dense final product.

The distinctive feature of self-rising flour is the addition of salt and baking powder during the milling process. These elements act as leavening agents, providing an easy shortcut while baking. However, do not substitute self-rising flour for other flour because the salt and baking powder will cause problems in those recipes.

Used for: Biscuits, scones, pancakes,

Characteristics: Soft flour, finely milled. Creates a light, airy final product.

All-Purpose Flour

A staple of every kitchen in bakeries, restaurants, and cafes, all-purpose flour is precisely what its name implies. Its versatility is due to its average protein content, containing a combination of hard and soft wheat with a remarkably stable shelf-life. Capable of creating flaky pie crusts and chewy cookies, all-purpose flour is the ideal flour for nearly any task.

Characteristics: Neutral texture that varies based on bleached or unbleached nature.

Instant Flour

Often referred to by the popular brand name Wondra, instant flour is a low protein, finely milled, pre-cooked flour. Due to this, the flour dissolves instantly in hot liquids without clumping and saves you time since it is not raw. Check the recipe carefully for instructions on how to use instant flour and possible substitutes.

Used for: Thickening sauces and gravies, battering, crepes, pie crusts

Characteristics: Soft flour, pre-cooked, easily dissolved. Creates a smooth, thick final product.

All flours are made from wheat kernels, which are separated into three components—the endosperm, germ and bran—during the milling process. For white flours, only the endosperm is milled, but with whole wheat flour, some of the germ and bran is added back in, which give it a nutty flavor and dense texture (plus fiber, minerals and vitamins). Whole wheat flour has a protein content around 14 percent, but it doesn’t form gluten as readily as white flour. That means if you want to bake with whole wheat, it’s best to swap for no more than 25 percent of the white flour. (Psst: Whole wheat flour also spoils quicker, so store it in the freezer.)

Use it for: Bread, pancakes, pasta and adding a nutty flavor to baked goods

Buy it: Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour

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Bread flour is a special type of flour created specifically for baking (bread, in particular).

It’s derived from hard wheat, which has higher protein content than all-purpose flour.

Bread flour is one of the most important ingredients for making homemade bread.

Whether you want to bake classic French bread or a more rugged sourdough, bread flour guarantees that you’ll be off to a good start.

It can take some practice to get your loaves just right.

But having quality bread flour on hand ensures that you’ll get delicious results every single time.

Instant Flour (Wondra)

If you ask us, instant flour (which is sometimes referred to as Wondra, a popular brand name), is underrated. It’s a finely milled, low-protein flour that’s been pre-cooked and dried out. Because of this, it dissolves instantly and doesn’t clump when added to hot liquids, making it ideal for gravies and sauces. It also means you don’t have to cook out that raw flour taste beforehand, which streamlines your overall prep time. It’s not interchangeable for all-purpose in every recipe, but it can be used in pie crusts for a flakier bite, and it makes for a super-crispy breading when battering and frying veggies or fish.

Use it for: Gravy, pie crust, thin batters

Buy it: Gold Medal Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Su-Jit Lin has over a dozen years of experience in food writing and research and three times that in eating and comparing it with zeal. Her extensive travels have led her on singular scavenger hunts for the best and most authentic regional baked goods around the world, from the typical like croissants in Paris, pizza in Naples, and scones in Dublin to Sacher tortes in Vienna, pistachio paste cookies in Rome, pineapple buns in Hong Kong, and rusks in Cape Town. She’s a food science enthusiast and as such, an avid collector of ingredients known among friends to overflow her long-suffering pantry with things like single-purpose flour. She is not against gluten.

Amanda McDonald is an editor at The Spruce Eats and has over seven years of experience researching, writing, and editing about all things food — from what new products are at the grocery store to chef-approved hacks that keep tricky leftovers fresh for days. She updated this story to include the most up-to-date information.

Similar to double zero flour, semolina flour is milled from durum wheat. It’s high in gluten and has about 12 to 13 percent protein content, with a yellow color and nutty flavor. Even if you’ve never baked with it, you’ve probably eaten semolina flour in pasta and couscous. The gluten content is ideal for creating a dry, elastic dough that holds its shape when cooking.

Use it for: Pasta, Middle Eastern desserts, puddings

Buy it: Janie’s Mill Semolina Flour

Eddy Zecchinon/EyeEm/Getty Images

Bleached flour is made by whitening all-purpose flour with chemicals like chlorine gas, benzoyl peroxide, and/or acids.

These chemicals act as bleaching agents to chemically remove the yellow and gray components of the flour and create white flour.

Don’t worry, though.

Even though this process sounds medically unsafe, it’s actually been approved by the FDA.

But why bleach in the first place?

Well, it affects how quickly bread rises, plus provides an attractive visual appearance to baked goods.

The results? Incredibly soft and fluffy bakes that even put store-bought goods to shame!

However, note that bleached flour often lacks the same nutritional value as unbleached flour.

All the chemical treatments wear down essential vitamins and minerals. Be sure to use it in moderation.

These different types of flour all have specific uses for baking! From all-purpose to gluten-free to self-rising, learn how best to use each type.

Ingredients

  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • White Whole Wheat Flour
  • Vital Wheat Gluten Flour

Directions

  • Select your favorite type of flour.
  • Try a fun and exciting new recipe.
  • Enjoy!

Vital Wheat Gluten Flour

Vital wheat gluten flour is a vegan-friendly wonder ingredient that can take your baking game to a whole new level!

It’s packed with protein and gives you an amazingly satisfying texture for all your bread, pastries, and even steamed dishes.

With some practice, you’ll be able to make soft buns, layered cakes, and even firm chewy dumplings, without breaking a sweat.

Don’t let strange-sounding ingredients get in the way of trying something new.

Remember that vital wheat gluten flour could take your dishes from delicious to downright magical!

All-purpose flour is the baker’s savior!

This pantry essential is your go-to ingredient for almost any baking application.

From cakes to cookies to bread and pizza dough, all-purpose flour is a great choice.

It’s so versatile, it can even be used when making pancakes, waffles, and batter-coated dishes.

And because it has a good balance of protein and gluten content, all-purpose flour makes an ideal base for any recipe.

How Should You Store Your Flour?

Whether you are keeping your flour in your refrigerator or your freezer, you will want to put it in an airtight glass or plastic container.

You can also keep your flour in a zip-lock type plastic storage bag specifically for the freezer. You should mark the date on the bag or place a sticker with the date on it on the airtight container.

Whole wheat flour is a healthy and delicious substitute for all-purpose white flour.

You really can have your cake and eat it too!

Whole wheat flour is a staple in many healthy kitchens, and for good reason.

Not only is it made from 100% whole-grain wheat, but it typically has more fiber, protein, and vitamins than refined white flour.

It’s incredibly versatile as well.

Whole wheat flour can be used to make anything from waffles and pancakes to pizza dough and fresh pasta.

It makes muffins and cakes healthier while providing that classic flavor we know and love.

To make the switch, replace half of the all-purpose white flour in your favorite recipe with whole wheat.

You’ll be amazed at the wonderful texture it adds while possibly reducing your chances of cardiovascular disease.

Living a healthy lifestyle has never tasted so good.

Types of Gluten Free Flour

Many types of gluten-free flour are available to accommodate customers with dietary restrictions. Since the base of these flours is something other than wheat, the varying flavors and textures provide a unique twist on your typical baked goods. With foundations stemming from nuts, roots, and vegetables, ask customers about any additional allergies before serving them. Additionally, check if your chosen gluten-free flour requires any special inclusions that help with the baking process before using it.

  • Almond flour: Able to replace all-purpose flour in a 1:1 ratio, almond flour contains many healthy fats and fibers and adds a pleasant, nutty flavor to your baked goods.
  • Cassava flour: Made by grinding down a South American root vegetable called yuca, cassava flour is an ideal substitute for white flour due to its neutral flavor and consistency.
  • Corn flour: Corn flour is made from finely-ground corn kernels, adding a unique taste and color to quesadillas, pizza crust, and chicken or fish breading.
  • Rice Flour: Rice flour is used in Asian recipes for rice noodles, cakes, and pastries. Brown rice flour is present in desserts such as cookies due to its flavor.
  • Tapioca flour: Made using a starchy root from the cassava root, tapioca flour is used as a thickening agent in soups and pies or is combined with other flours to make bread.
  • Oat flour: As a popular gluten-free option, oat flour provides a chewy, crumbly texture to your baked goods.
  • Coconut flour: Other than adding a distinct coconut flavor to your food, coconut flour is a great all-purpose flour substitute for bread and desserts.
  • Buckwheat flour: Despite what the name implies, buckwheat flour does not contain wheat grain. Its high antioxidant content and earthy flavor make it ideal for baking delicious homemade bread.
  • Chickpea flour: With a nutty taste and coarse texture, chickpea flour makes delicious gluten-free flatbread and batter-based foods.
  • Teff flour: The best use for teff flour is making fermented sourdough bread from Ethiopia, but you can also utilize it to make cereals or batter-based foods.
  • Sorghum flour: Sorghum flour comes from sorghum, a cereal grain high in protein and fiber. Its density and mildly sweet flavor taste great in pancakes, muffins, and flatbread.
  • Arrowroot flour: Primarily used as a thickening agent for sauces and puddings, arrowroot flour combines with other gluten-free flour to make bread, cookies, or cakes.

This type of flour is likely already a staple in your kitchen, thanks to its versatility. It’s milled from a combination of soft and hard wheat and has a protein content of approximately 10 to 12 percent, depending on the brand. Because of this moderate protein level, all-purpose (or “AP”) flour can yield chewy cookies and flaky pie crusts, but also works as a breading for cutlets and a thickener for sauces.

Use it for: Cookies, pie crusts, pancakes, muffins, brownies, quick breads—essentially, everything

Buy it: King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

What is the Most Accurate Way to Measure Flour?

If you are an at-home baker cooking for
friends and family, using a good set of measuring cups will work just fine.
Spoon out the flour and use the flat edge of a butter knife to level off the
flour at the top of the measuring cup.

If you are a more serious baking
enthusiast, you might want to consider getting a small baking scale. One cup of
flour equals 120 grams and weighs in at 4 1/4 ounces. This type of measuring
produces precise and consistent amounts for your recipes every time.

It’s always best to use the correct type
of flour called for in your recipe, but if you have to make a substitution, you
may find there is not that big of a difference.

Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.

What is the secret ingredient to delicious cakes? Cake flour!

This type of flour gives you light and airy cakes that almost melt in your mouth.

Unlike all-purpose flour, cake flour is much finer, so it helps prevent your cakes from becoming tough and chewy.

It also has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, which helps produce a crumb that’s free of large voids or empty bubbles.

Using cake flour brings an extra level of deliciousness to your baking creations.

The next time you bake a cake, reach for a bag of cake flour.

It’ll be the best decision you ever make in the kitchen.

FAQs

Self-rising flour isn’t a magically levitating substance—all it means is that salt and baking powder have been added to it already in all-purpose proportions. However, because the rise is the highlight of this flour, it’s typically made with a lower protein base for a more tender result. To make your own, choose a soft wheat flour and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to every cup.

How long does flour last?

Well, it all comes down to protein and storage. If kept airtight and away from light, the average all-purpose flour can sit in your pantry for around eight months from opening with no difference in taste or quality. The reason for this is that the printed date is typically “best by” not “use by,” which automatically gives you some wiggle room. Lower-protein flours like cake or pastry will last longer; higher-protein ones like whole wheat may start getting musty after six months or so. The exception to the rule is self-rising types—the baking powder in it will lose potency at around the same rate as the hard wheat. But across the board, if you refrigerate it, you can buy yourself up to two whole years.

How do I tell if my flour’s gone bad?

As with most food, the nose will know. If your flour smells off in a rancid, sour kind of way, chuck it—it’ll affect the flavor of what you make with it, and the last thing you want to do is suffer through a hard-won carb instead of enjoying it. And of course, if you find weevils, larvae, moths, or other types of ick in it, it’s time to restock. You can kill the eggs and bugs by freezing the flour to reduce the risk of infestation in the trash, but into the garbage it should absolutely go.

What is 00 flour?

In short: 00 flour (or double zero flour) is the silkiest, softest, finest ground flour you can get, prized by pizza makers and pasta slingers from Naples to New York and everywhere in between for the strength and elasticity of its meager gluten. Typically, this beautiful, powdery ingredient is imported, hence the 00 designation, which is rated according to Europe’s grind level ranking system versus American protein percentage categorization. What this means is that although 00 flours may have varying levels of protein (8 to 12 percent), they’ll all have in common low levels of germ, bran, and gluten and high levels of satisfying chewiness.

What’s the difference between hard and soft wheat?

Hard wheat, such as durum or winter-planted white and red is higher in protein and therefore has a hardier molecular structure. Because of that, it doesn’t break down as easily and has a more granular texture and a coarser grind. Soft wheat can also be red or white and is planted in the spring. It’s more tender because it blooms faster and younger, and can be milled to a softer, more powdery feel that’s great for lower-gluten, less-structured baking projects.

How to Use Any of These Types of Flour

Which flour you choose is mostly a matter of personal preference and dietary needs. (Some cooks like their white cake and bread as white as can be; others prefer their flour to be processed as little as possible. And some are aiming to limit or avoid gluten.)

Still, as we mentioned, not all types of flour perform exactly the same. If you’re curious about substituting another type of flour for the one listed in your recipe, we’ve compiled a few handy guides:

You can’t have rye bread—or Reubens—without rye flour, which is milled from rye kernels. Rye is closely related to wheat, but it has a lower gluten and protein content and more soluble fiber than wheat flour does. It has a fresh, nutty flavor and can add additional texture to baked goods. Rye flour has its own set of subcategories, like pumpernickel and white rye flour, which vary in intensity and texture.

Use it for: Bread, pie crust, cookies

Buy it: King Arthur Rye Flour Blend

What to Look for in Flour

If you are going to bake cookies, muffins, and brownies, you will want a good, all-purpose flour that ranges in the 10 to 12 percent protein range. If you’re going to make sturdier products, such as bread, pizza, and pasta, you’ll look to semolina, tipo 00, whole-wheat and/or bread flours. (These flours have a higher protein content than all-purpose flour). Finally, for cakes and delicate pastries, you’ll look for pastry and cake flours.

You may have seen words such as bleached, unbleached, bromated, and pre-sifted on bags of flour before. These words will give you a clue as to how the flour will look and taste once it’s used and baked. Seek out those that are marked whole grain, stone-ground, and/or unbleached if you prefer products that are as wholesome and unprocessed as possible. If you can find locally or regionally milled flour, it will taste even fresher, and that will be evident in your baked goods—especially when it comes to homemade bread.

Don’t buy more flour than you need. If you find yourself in a situation where you can buy some good local flour and you want to stock up but you’re not sure how quickly you’ll go through it, you can always freeze flour. Freshness is especially important if the flour is whole grain. They still contain the bran of the grain and will therefore go rancid faster than all-purpose white flour.

This is the flour you probably know very well and (unless you are gluten-intolerant) likely love. Made from a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat, it’s terrific for everything from our favorite Pancake Recipe, Sugar Cookies, and Classic Chocolate Layer Cake, to dredging chicken for Oven Baked Chicken Tenders or Hot Chicken Tacos With White Sauce Slaw, and more.

All-purpose flour (or AP Flour, as it’s known in chef speak) is a fine-textured flour with an approximate protein content of 10 to 12 percent. This flour comes in two forms, bleached (which is flour that is bleached by a chemical process) and unbleached (which is flour that is indeed bleached, but is bleached naturally as it ages). Generally speaking, recipes that call for all-purpose flour are best made with such. If you happen to have leftover bread flour, you can use bread flour in place of AP flour (at a 1:1 ratio), for yeast doughs, like the ones mentioned under Bread Flour above.

Types of Flour Chart

Understand the various kinds of flour and their primary uses with this types of flour chart.

Think about sourdough bread—how does it get that satisfying chew? A lot of that texture comes from bread flour, which is the strongest of all the flours and has a protein content of 12 to 14 percent. The extra protein is essential for yeasted breads that need strong gluten to rise properly.

Use it for: Yeast breads, bagels, pretzels and pizza dough

Buy it: King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour

Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images

Bleached vs Unbleached Flour

All types of flour fall into one of two categories: bleached and unbleached flour. This distinction refers to how the flour was processed, which affects the flour’s flavor, texture, appearance, and uses. The difference between unbleached and bleached flour is that bleached flour is refined and treated with chemicals to speed up aging during processing, while unbleached flour is aged naturally and has a much coarser texture.

Unbleached flour is not refined or treated with chemicals during processing, which results in a rougher texture than bleached flour. Furthermore, it undergoes a natural aging process to prepare it for baking, which takes much longer than the sped-up aging process of bleached flour. As a result, unbleached flour has an off-white color and is rich in fiber, vitamin E, antioxidants, and manganese in addition to standard flour’s nutritional value.

Used for: pastries, cream puffs, yeast bread, eclairs

Characteristics: Tough, dense, grainy, off-white

During processing, bleached flour is refined by removing the wheat kernel’s bran and germ before milling the wheat. Then, the flour is bleached using chemical agents like benzoyl peroxide, potassium bromate, or chlorine to increase the speed of the aging process. This procedure results in a white color and malleable texture for the flour, making it excellent for many baking endeavors.

Used for: pie crusts, pancakes, waffles, muffins, quick bread, cookies

Characteristics: Soft, fine grain, white

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