Different flour types serve different purposes, so understanding flour basics is going to help you in your baking adventures!
1. All-Purpose Flour or AP Flour is the most commonly used type of flour for baked goods. It is a combination of hard and soft wheat flour and it's bleached. Bleached flour is treated with chemical agents to speed up aging, while unbleached flour is bleached naturally as it ages. AP falls in the mid-range of protein levels, which makes it the most appropriate choice for most baked goods like cookies, muffins, and pie crust (hence the name “all-purpose”). Look for an unbleached variety, which indicates that it has not been chemically treated to whiten and “soften” the flour.
2. Bread Flour is especially for bread making. It is a hard wheat flour with a high protein content that yields a sturdier yeast bread, which is the main difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour. Bread flour, comes in white and whole wheat types and has a higher protein content than all-purpose, usually by 11-13%. It’s called “bread flour” because most bread requires higher amounts of protein to produce lots of gluten. Gluten is the stringy strands that give bread dough its stretch and elasticity, and baked bread its chewy factor. Kneading dough develops a network of gluten strands that trap air and produce the airy holes characteristic of many breads.
Pro Tip: For a chewier result use bread flour in place of AP flour — in pizza dough, for instance—but you don't want to use it in place of cake or pastry flour, or in any baked goods that you want to be light and tender.
3. Cake Flour is a soft wheat flour that contains a much lower protein content. This flour produces a tender, velvety, delicate crumb. You can use all-purpose flour in place of cake flour by using 2 Tablespoons less of all-purpose flour per cup.
4. Self-Rising Flour is an all-purpose flour with salt and leavening already added in and it's not meant to be used in yeast bread. Do not substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour. Also, you can substitute all-purpose flour for self-rising flour by adding 1 teaspoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt to 1 cup all-purpose flour per 1 cup of self-rising flour.
5. Unbleached Flour is all purpose flour that has not had any bleaching agents added during processing. Unbleached flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour and takes longer than bleached flour to produce, and because of this, it's usually more expensive. Having a denser texture, unbleached flour provides more structure in baked goods, which makes it an ideal base for things like yeast breads, cream puffs, eclairs, and pastries.
6. Whole Wheat Flour is flour in it's truest form. Milled from the entire red wheat kernel, it has a higher nutritional value and contains more fiber than other flours. It should be used in combination with all-purpose or bread flour and often preferred by many bakers. If you want to use whole wheat flour, you can substitute whole wheat flour for white flour by subtracting 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour per cup of all-purpose flour.
7. Gluten Free Flour known as the allergy free flour might contain coconut flour, oat flour, rice flour, teff flour, tapioca flour, almond meal, sorghum flour, potato starch, garbanzo flour or buckwheat flour – just to name a few of the many options that could be a foundation for a gluten free flour blend. These flours could also contain nut flours, made from very finely ground almonds or other nuts.
Here's a cool Popular Gluten Free Flours Chart from Swanson Vitamins:
You can get a ton more information from Wheat Foods about more flour power! 🙂
Of course, the most accurate way to measure flour is to weigh it out. The reason why it is important to use dry measuring cups for measuring a dry ingredient, such as flour, by volume is that you have a very precise top to the measurement to level off and keep things more accurate.
If you know how much flour should weigh, you can easily measure flour by weight even if the recipe is written by volume. 1 cup of all-purpose flour should weight 4.2 ounces or 120 grams if measured properly.
Most recipes call for flour to be measured before it has been sifted and then will call for it to be sifted later. This is important to notice because sifted flour weighs less by volume than unsifted flour. It is important to notice how the recipe is written so you know if you should measure it before or after sifting. (1 cup of sifted all-purpose flour weighs 4 oz or 113 grams.)
When measuring flour by volume
- Fluff up the flour.
- Lightly spoon the flour into your dry-cup measurement, without packing it down.
- Scrape off the excess with a straight edge by using the handle of a spoon or knife.
(Dipping the cup into the flour will cause the flour to be packed down and will result in too much flour in your recipe.)
Weight Conversions for Baking Ingredients
All-Purpose Flour: 1 cup = 4 ¼ oz, 120 grams
Bread Flour: 1 cup = 4 ¼ oz, 120 grams
Whole Wheat Flour: 1 cup = 4 ¼ oz, 120 grams
Cake Flour: 1 cup = 4 oz, 113 grams
Pastry Flour: 1 cup = 4 oz, 113 grams
White Granulated Sugar: 1 cup = 7 oz, 198 grams
Brown Sugar: 1 cup = 7 ½ oz, 212 grams
Powdered Sugar: 1 cup = 4 oz, 113 grams
Other Important Ingredients:
Large Egg= 1.8 oz, 51 grams
Butter: 1 cup = 8 oz, 227 grams
Baking Soda: 1 tsp= 7 grams
Baking Powder: 1 tsp= 0.17oz, 5 grams
Morton Kosher Salt: 1 tsp= 0.2 oz, 5 grams
Most liquids: 1 cup = 8 oz, 227 grams
Water: 1 cup = 8 oz, 227 grams
Milk: 1 cup = 8 oz, 227 grams
Cream: 1 cup = 8 oz, 227 grams
Yogurt: 1 cup = 8 oz, 227 grams
Sour Cream: 1 cup = 8 oz, 227 grams
Honey: 1 cup = 12 oz, 340 grams
Flour Me Please!