All About Baking Flour

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Baking flour, made from several materials to include wheat, seeds and grains, is a type of cooking or baking ingredient that is commercially and personally trusted by bakers and cooks around the world. The most common type of baking flour, wheat flour, is a big part of the ingredients used to make much-loved foods like pasta, pizza, bread, cakes and more. 

What is baking flour?

Most people believe that all types of baking flour have the same use, not surprisingly: baking. For others, it’s a very reliable way to add flavor and prevent food from getting sticky. What many do not know, however, is what baking flour truly is. And to answer this question, one would have to really understand the basics of this ingredient. 

Let’s get technical for a moment. Baking flour is a cooking agent that allows for water or gases to be held together when mixed with other ingredients. The proteins and chemicals inside the flour form an elastic bond that becomes spongy when baked under normal temperature. In addition, it improves yield by allowing expansion.

science of baking flour

When did baking flour first appear?

The earliest use of baking flour is dated back to the times when humans cooked over open heat and hot stones. During this time, baking was usually done at home by women trying to make bread for the family. Ancient people, particularly from North America, Europe, the Middle East and parts of North Africa, ground dry wheat into fine powder to be used for cooking later. 

In Central America, the preferred option was corn while some parts of Europe preferred to use rye. As time progressed, these cultures intermixed and soon enough, different types of methods were adopted in making flour. Wheat still took center stage (and remains so even today), but other types of seeds and grains were introduced as options. 

However, historical evidence suggests that flour has been with us for roughly 30,000 years. Using various methods to include mortar and pestle grinding, come mills and water mills, several civilizations invented even more ways to process wheat, corn and rye into flour. 

With the explosion of industrialization in the early 19th century, it became easier to process raw materials into finished goods. This made it possible for people to try their hands at different processes used to make flour. 

Humans began getting a sweet tooth in time, and with cakes and pastries becoming major food items, the need for flour continued to increase in the 19th and 20th centuries. Flour was no longer used solely for baking purposes. Commercialization of flour made it a very good investment and many people wanted a piece of the “cake.”

In more recent times, experimentation has led to several substitutes for common wheat flour. Even so, it’s safe to assume that baking flour will be around for a very long time.  

How is baking flour made?

To make flour, the major ingredients are ground together in a mill. Wheat flour, typically  used to make bread, is combined with other elements to bolster nutritional value and improve shelf life. 

Ordinarily, flour contains bran, germ and the endosperm. This is to allow it to hold weight when used. Conversely, refined flour contains no bran or germ and only has endosperm. This is made to remove the indigestible portion and make it better for baking and cooking. 

What does baking flour taste like?

Spoiler alert. Flour doesn’t taste like anything. It is a flavorless powder. The taste only comes when it is added during cooking or baking. 

There is an exception to this, however, but it’s not a good one. If baking flour has gone bad, it will taste sour or musty. It might also have a very unpleasant smell. 

One last tip…if for some reason you have the urge to sample raw flour to confirm for yourself that it is indeed tasteless, resist! Eating raw flour can result in ingesting bacteria that is harmful to health. 

taste of baking flour

What does baking flour smell like?

Flour is basically odorless. It may smell according to the kind of flavor added to it when cooking but on its own, doesn’t have a particular smell. One exception is that  in some cases, baking flour is believed to have a nutty or earthy smell because it’s made from seeds or nuts. 

Why is baking flour different from other types of flour?

The major difference between baking flour, or bread flour, and other types of flour is the protein content. While each flour may be used for different types of meals, they contain different percentages of proteins. 

Is baking flour the same thing as “plain flour”?

This is an easy one. The answer to this would be simply no. Baking flour contains a higher percentage of protein than plain flour. 

What are some substitutes for baking flour?

In some cases, baking flour may not be readily available for use. When this happens, there are certain options to consider. Some of them include:

Almond flour: made from almond seeds, this flour type is also ideal for baking and making doughs. It is rich in vitamin E, unsaturated fats and proteins. Those who use it can be assured that it will make their dough healthy and wholesome. 

Coconut flour: coconut flour is rich in fiber extracted from coconut pulp that has been ground to powder. It may not be an ideal substitute but it gets the work done. 

coconut flour

Quinoa flour: this flour type is an alternative for those who do not like the taste of wheat or perhaps cannot tolerate wheat.. It is made from ground quinoa seeds and is very rich in proteins.

Oat flour: made from ground oats, this flour type is the most ideal and most convenient flour type to use as a substitute for baking flour. It is also very rich in proteins and fiber with just about the right amount of texture as regular baking flour.

Brown rice flour: brown rice flour is very easy to use and doesn’t leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It also has a texture that is quite similar to baking flour. Light and very powdery, this fiber rich flour is ideal for baking. 

Chickpea flour: garbanzo beans are rich sources of protein and fiber. That is why chickpea flour is rich in the same. The ground powder is very filling and produces excellent baking results.

Buckwheat flour: although the name seems similar, buckwheat flour should not be confused with wheat flour. It is made from groats or buckwheat, which contains gluten. A rich source of protein and fiber, this flour type is a great substitute if baking flour isn’t available. 

Rye flour: depending on how light or dark the texture is, rye flour produces almost the same result as regular baking flour. It is made from ground rye kernels. Due to its texture, it is very rich in fiber. While light rye flour has a light texture, dark rye is heavier. Still, it gets the job done.