Flour is a powder made by grinding raw grains, roots, beans, nuts, or seeds. Flours are used to make many different foods. Cereal flour, particularly wheat flour, is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for some cultures. Corn flour has been important in Mesoamerican cuisine since ancient times and remains a staple in the Americas. Rye flour is a constituent of bread in central and northern Europe.
Cereal flour consists either of the endosperm, germ, and bran together (whole-grain flour) or of the endosperm alone (refined flour). Meal is either differentiable from flour as having slightly coarser particle size (degree of comminution) or is synonymous with flour; the word is used both ways. For example, the word cornmeal often connotes a grittier texture whereas corn flour connotes fine powder, although there is no codified dividing line.
The CDC has cautioned not to eat raw flour doughs or batters. Raw flour can contain bacteria like E. coli and needs to be cooked like other foods.
The English word flour is originally a variant of the word flower , and both words derive from the Old French fleur or flour, which had the literal meaning "blossom", and a figurative meaning "the finest". The phrase fleur de farine meant "the finest part of the meal", since flour resulted from the elimination of coarse and unwanted matter from the grain during milling.
The earliest archaeological evidence for wheat seeds crushed between simple millstones to make flour dates to 6000 BC. The Romans were the first to grind seeds on cone mills. In 1779, at the beginning of the Industrial Era, the first steam mill was erected in London.In the 1930s, some flour began to be enriched with iron, niacin, thiamine and riboflavin. In the 1940s, mills started to enrich flour and folic acid was added to the list in the 1990s.
An important problem of the industrial revolution was the preservation of flour. Transportation distances and a relatively slow distribution system collided with natural shelf life. The reason for the limited shelf life is the fatty acids of the germ, which react from the moment they are exposed to oxygen. This occurs when grain is milled; the fatty acids oxidize and flour starts to become rancid. Depending on climate and grain quality, this process takes six to nine months. In the late 19th century, this process was too short for an industrial production and distribution cycle. As vitamins, micronutrients and amino acids were completely or relatively unknown in the late 19th century, removing the germ was an effective solution. Without the germ, flour cannot become rancid. Degermed flour became standard. Degermation started in densely populated areas and took approximately one generation to reach the countryside. Heat-processed flour is flour where the germ is first separated from the endosperm and bran, then processed with steam, dry heat or microwave and blended into flour again.
Milling of flour is accomplished by grinding grain between stones or steel wheels.Today, "stone-ground" usually means that the grain has been ground in a mill in which a revolving stone wheel turns over a stationary stone wheel, vertically or horizontally with the grain in between.
Roller mills soon replaced stone grist mills as the production of flour has historically driven technological development, as attempts to make gristmills more productive and less labor-intensive led to the watermilland windmill. These terms are now applied more broadly to uses of water and wind power for purposes other than milling. More recently, the Unifine mill, an impact-type mill, was developed in the mid-20th century.
Modern farm equipment allows livestock farmers to do some or all of their own milling when it comes time to convert their own grain crops to coarse meal for livestock feed. This capability is economically important because the profit margins are often thin enough in commercial farming that saving expenses is vital to staying in business.
Flour contains a high proportion of starches, which are a subset of complex carbohydrates also known as polysaccharides. The kinds of flour used in cooking include all-purpose flour (known as plain outside North America), self-rising flour, and cake flour including bleached flour. The higher the protein content the harder and stronger the flour, and the more it will produce crusty or chewy breads. The lower the protein the softer the flour, which is better for cakes, cookies, and pie crusts.
"Bleached flour" is "refined" flour with a chemical whitening (bleaching) agent added. "Refined" flour has had the germ and bran, containing much of the nutritional fibre and vitamins, removed and is often referred to as "white flour".
Bleached flour is artificially aged using a "bleaching" agent, a "maturing" agent, or both. A bleaching agent affects the carotenoids responsible for the natural colour of the flour; a "maturing" agent also affects gluten development. A maturing agent may either strengthen or weaken gluten development.
The four most common additives used as bleaching/maturing agents in the US are:
Some other chemicals used as flour treatment agents to modify color and baking properties include:
Common preservatives in commercial flour include:
"Cake flour" in particular is nearly always chlorinated. At least one flour labeled "unbleached cake flour blend" (marketed by King Arthur Flour) is not bleached, and the protein content is much higher than typical cake flour at about 9.4% protein (cake flour is usually around 6% to 8%). According to King Arthur, this flour is a blend of a more finely milled unbleached wheat flour and cornstarch, which makes a better end result than unbleached wheat flour alone (cornstarch blended with all-purpose flour is commonly substituted for cake flour when the latter is unavailable). The end product, however, is denser than would result from lower-protein, chlorinated cake flour.[ citation needed ]
All bleaching and maturing agents (with the possible exception of ascorbic acid) have been banned in the United Kingdom.
Bromination of flour in the US has fallen out of favor, and while it is not yet actually banned anywhere, few retail flours available to the home baker are bromated anymore.
Many varieties of flour packaged specifically for commercial bakeries are still bromated. Retail bleached flour marketed to the home baker is now treated mostly with either peroxidation or chlorine gas. Current information from Pillsbury is that their varieties of bleached flour are treated both with benzoyl peroxide and chlorine gas. Gold Medal states that their bleached flour is treated either with benzoyl peroxide or chlorine gas, but no way exists to tell which process has been used when buying the flour at the grocery store.
During the process of making flour, specifically as a result of the bleaching process, nutrients are lost. Some of these nutrients may be replaced during refining – the result is known as enriched flour.
Cake flour is the lowest in gluten protein content, with 6-7%(5-8% from second source ) protein to produce minimal binding so the cake "crumbles" easily.
Pastry flour has the second-lowest gluten protein content, with 7.5-9.5%(8-9% from second source ) protein to hold together with a bit more strength than cakes, but still produce flaky crusts rather than hard or crispy ones.
All-purpose, or "AP flour", or plain flour is medium in gluten protein content at 9.5-11.5%(10-12% from second source ) protein content. It has adequate protein content for many bread and pizza bases, though bread flour and special 00 grade Italian flour are often preferred for these purposes, respectively, especially by artisan bakers. Some biscuits are also prepared using this type of flour. "Plain" refers not only to AP flour's middling gluten content but also to its lack of any added leavening agent (as in self-rising flour).
Bread flour is typically made from red hard wheat planted in the fall and harvested in the spring (winter wheat). Hard wheat is high in gluten, a protein that makes dough stretchy. Hard wheat is 11.5-13.5%(12-14% from second source ) protein. The increased protein binds to the flour to entrap carbon dioxide released by the yeast fermentation process, resulting in a stronger rise and chewier texture.
Hard is a general term for flours with high gluten protein content, commonly refers to extra strong flour, with 13.5-16%(or 14-15% from some sources) protein (16% is a theoretically possible protein content ). This flour may be used where a recipe adds ingredients that require the dough to be extra strong to hold together in their presence, or when strength is needed for constructions of bread (e.g., some centerpiece displays).
Gluten flour is refined gluten protein, or a theoretical 100% protein (though practical refining never achieves a full 100%). It is used to strengthen flour as needed. For example, adding approximately one teaspoon per cup of AP flour gives the resulting mix the protein content of bread flour. It is commonly added to whole grain flour recipes to overcome the tendency of greater fiber content to interfere with gluten development, needed to give the bread better rising (gas holding) qualities and chew.
Unbleached flour is simply flour that has not undergone bleaching and therefore does not have the color of "white" flour. An example is graham flour, whose namesake, Sylvester Graham, was against using bleaching agents, which he considered unhealthy.
In English-speaking countries, self-raising (or self-rising) flour is commercially available with chemical leavening agents already in the mix.In America, it is also likely to be pre-salted; in Britain this is not the case. The added ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the flour, which aids a consistent rise in baked goods. This flour is generally used for preparing sponge cakes, scones, muffins, etc. It was invented by Henry Jones and patented in 1845. If a recipe calls for self-raising flour, and this is not available, the following substitution is possible:
Wheat is the grain most commonly used to make flour.[ citation needed ] Certain varieties may be referred to as "clean" or "white". Flours contain differing levels of the protein gluten. "Strong flour" or "hard flour" has a higher gluten content than "weak" or "soft" flour. "Brown" and wholemeal flours may be made of hard or soft wheat.
When flours do not contain gluten, they are suitable for people with gluten-related disorders, such as coeliac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy sufferers, among others.Contamination with gluten-containing cereals can occur during grain harvesting, transporting, milling, storing, processing, handling and/or cooking.
Flour also can be made from soybeans, arrowroot, taro, cattails, acorns, manioc, quinoa, and other non-cereal foodstuffs.
In some markets, the different available flour varieties are labeled according to the ash mass that remains after a sample is incinerated in a laboratory oven (typically at 550 °C (1,022 °F) or 900 °C (1,650 °F), see international standards ISO 2171 and ICC 104/1 ). This is an easily verified indicator for the fraction of the whole grain remains in the flour, because the mineral content of the starchy endosperm is much lower than that of the outer parts of the grain. Flour made from all parts of the grain (extraction rate: 100%) leaves about 2 grams (0.071 oz) ash or more per 100 grams (3.5 oz) dry flour. Plain white flour with an extraction rate of 50–60% leaves about 0.4 grams (0.014 oz).
In the United States and the United Kingdom, no numbered standardized flour types are defined, and the ash mass is only rarely given on the label by flour manufacturers. However, the legally required standard nutrition label specifies the protein content of the flour, which is also a way for comparing the extraction rates of different available flour types.
In general, as the extraction rate of the flour increases, so do both the protein and the ash content. However, as the extraction rate approaches 100% (whole meal), the protein content drops slightly, while the ash content continues to rise.
The following table shows some typical examples of how protein and ash content relate to each other in wheat flour:
|Residual ash mass||Protein||Wheat flour type|
|~0.4%||~9%||Pastry flour||Soft flour||405||45||00||Hladká mouka výběrová 00||tortowa||0000||Hakurikiko 薄力粉||DiJinMianFen低筋麵粉|
|~0.55%||~11%||All-purpose flour||Plain flour||550||55||0||Hladká mouka||luksusowa||000||Churikiko 中力粉||ZhongJinMianFen中筋麵粉|
|~0.8%||~14%||Bread flour or "high gluten flour"||Strong or hard||812||80||1||Polohrubá mouka||chlebowa||00||Kyorikiko 強力粉||GaoJinMianFen高筋麵粉|
|~1.1%||~15%||First clear flour||Very strong or hard||1050||110||2||Hrubá mouka||sitkowa||0||kyorikimatsufun 強力末粉||TeGaoJinMianFen特高筋麵粉|
|>1.5%||~13%||White whole wheat||Wholemeal||1600||150||Farina integrale di grano tenero||Celozrnná mouka||graham, razowa||½ 0||Zenryufun 全粒粉||QuanMaiMianFen全麥麵粉|
This table is only a rough guideline for converting bread recipes. Since flour types are not standardized in many countries, the numbers may differ between manufacturers. There is no French type corresponding to the lowest ash residue in the table. The closest is French Type 45.
There is no official Chinese name corresponding to the highest ash residue in the table. Usually such products are imported from Japan and the Japanese name Zenryufun (全粒粉) is used, or it is called QuanMaiMianFen (全麥麵粉).
It is possible to determine ash content from some US manufacturers. However, US measurements are based on wheat with a 14% moisture content. Thus, a US flour with 0.48% ash would approximate a French Type 55.
Other measurable properties of flour as used in baking can be determined using a variety of specialized instruments, such as the farinograph.
Flour dust suspended in air is explosive—as is any mixture of a finely powdered flammable substance with air(see dust explosion). Some devastating explosions have occurred at flour mills, including an explosion in 1878 at the Washburn "A" Mill in Minneapolis that killed 22 people.
Bread, pasta, crackers, many cakes, and many other foods are made using flour. Wheat flour is also used to make a roux as a base for thickening gravy and sauces. It can also be used as an ingredient in papier-mâché glue.
Cornstarch is a principal ingredient used to thicken many puddings or desserts, and is the main ingredient in packaged custard.
Pasta is a type of food typically made from an unleavened dough of wheat flour mixed with water or eggs, and formed into sheets or other shapes, then cooked by boiling or baking. Rice flour, or legumes such as beans or lentils, are sometimes used in place of wheat flour to yield a different taste and texture, or as a gluten-free alternative. Pasta is a staple food of Italian cuisine.
Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history, it has been a prominent food in large parts of the world. It is one of the oldest human-made foods, having been of significant importance since the dawn of agriculture, and plays an essential role in both religious rituals and secular culture.
Pastry is a dough of flour, water and shortening that may be savoury or sweetened. Sweetened pastries are often described as bakers' confectionery. The word "pastries" suggests many kinds of baked products made from ingredients such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, shortening, baking powder, and eggs. Small tarts and other sweet baked products are called pastries. Common pastry dishes include pies, tarts, quiches, croissants, and pasties.
In North America, a corn tortilla or just tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flatbread, made from hominy, that is the whole kernels of maize treated with alkali to improve their nutrition in a process called nixtamalization. A simple dough made of ground, dried hominy, salt and water is then formed into flat discs and cooked on a very hot surface, generally an iron griddle called a comal.
A croissant is a buttery, flaky, viennoiserie pastry of Austrian origin, but mostly associated with France. Croissants are named for their historical crescent shape and, like other viennoiseries, are made of a layered yeast-leavened dough. The dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a thin sheet, in a technique called laminating. The process results in a layered, flaky texture, similar to a puff pastry.
Cornbread is a quick bread made with cornmeal, associated with the cuisine of the Southern United States, with origins in Native American cuisine. Dumplings and pancakes made with finely ground cornmeal were staple foods of the Hopi people in Arizona. The Hidatsa people of the Upper Midwest called baked cornbread naktsi. Cherokee and Seneca tribes enriched the basic batter, adding chestnuts, sunflower seeds, apples or berries, and sometimes combining beans or potatoes with the cornmeal. Modern versions of cornbread are usually leavened by baking powder.
Seitan is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is also known as miàn jīn, milgogi, wheat meat, gluten meat, vital wheat gluten or simply gluten. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving the sticky insoluble gluten as an elastic mass, which is then cooked before being eaten.
Dough is a thick, malleable, sometimes elastic paste made from grains or from leguminous or chestnut crops. Dough is typically made by mixing flour with a small amount of water or other liquid and sometimes includes yeast or other leavening agents, as well as ingredients such as fats or flavorings.
Soda bread is a variety of quick bread traditionally made in a variety of cuisines in which sodium bicarbonate is used as a leavening agent instead of the traditional yeast. The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. Other ingredients can be added, such as butter, egg, raisins, or nuts. An advantage of quick breads is their ability to be prepared quickly and reliably, without requiring the time-consuming skilled labor and temperature control needed for traditional yeast breads.
Wheat flour is a powder made from the grinding of wheat used for human consumption. Wheat varieties are called "soft" or "weak" if gluten content is low, and are called "hard" or "strong" if they have high gluten content. Hard flour, or bread flour, is high in gluten, with 12% to 14% gluten content, and its dough has elastic toughness that holds its shape well once baked. Soft flour is comparatively low in gluten and thus results in a loaf with a finer, crumbly texture. Soft flour is usually divided into cake flour, which is the lowest in gluten, and pastry flour, which has slightly more gluten than cake flour.
A whole grain is a grain of any cereal and pseudocereal that contains the endosperm, germ, and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm.
Rye bread is a type of bread made with various proportions of flour from rye grain. It can be light or dark in color, depending on the type of flour used and the addition of coloring agents, and is typically denser than bread made from wheat flour. It is higher in fiber than white bread and is darker in color and stronger in flavor.
Indian breads are a wide variety of flatbreads and crêpes which are an integral part of Indian cuisine. Their variation reflects the diversity of Indian culture and food habits.
Maida is a white flour from the Indian subcontinent, made from wheat. Finely milled without any bran, refined, and bleached, it closely resembles cake flour. Maida is used extensively for making fast foods, baked goods such as pastries, bread, several varieties of sweets, and traditional flatbreads. Owing to this wide variety of uses, it is sometimes labeled and marketed as "all-purpose flour", though it is different from all-purpose flour.
Vienna bread is a type of bread that is produced from a process developed in Vienna, Austria, in the 19th century. The Vienna process used high milling of Hungarian grain, and cereal press-yeast for leavening.
A dough conditioner, flour treatment agent, improving agent or bread improver is any ingredient or chemical added to bread dough to strengthen its texture or otherwise improve it in some way. Dough conditioners may include enzymes, yeast nutrients, mineral salts, oxidants and reductants, bleaching agents and emulsifiers. They are food additives combined with flour to improve baking functionality. Flour treatment agents are used to increase the speed of dough rising and to improve the strength and workability of the dough. While they are an important component of modern factory baking, some small-scale bakers reject them in favour of longer fermentation periods that produce greater depth of flavour.
A flour tortilla or wheat tortilla is a type of soft, thin flatbread made from finely ground wheat flour. It was originally inspired by the corn tortilla of Mexican cuisine, a flatbread of maize which predates the arrival of Europeans to the Americas. Made with a flour- and water-based dough, it is pressed and cooked, similar to corn tortillas. The simplest recipes use only flour, water, fat, and salt, but commercially-made flour tortillas generally contain chemical leavening agents such as baking powder, and other ingredients.
Barley flour is a flour prepared from dried and ground barley. Barley flour is used to prepare barley bread and other breads, such as flat bread and yeast breads.
Manitoba flour, a name chiefly used in Italy, is a flour of common wheat originating in the Canadian province of Manitoba. It is called a "strong" flour to distinguish it from other, weaker flours. The flour strength is indicated by the value of the coefficient "W" measured with a Chopin alveograph: the higher the value, the stronger the flour. A weak flour has a W value lower than 170 while the manitoba has a W value higher than 350.
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