With so many types of flour to choose from-spelt flour, soy flour, quinoa flour, rice flour, organic bread flour and even gluten-free flour-your head may begin to spin. If you want your recipe to be a success, you'll need to understand what each type does and whether it's right for your recipe's need.
All-purpose flour is one of the most accessible and commonly used types of flour. You can buy bleached (i.e. white flour chemically bleached to reduce spoilage) or unbleached all-purpose flour. Bleached flour is good for pie crusts, cookies and pancakes, and unbleached flour is great for strudel, cream puffs and éclairs.
Whole-wheat flour is high in fiber and overall nutritional content, but it does not have the highest gluten level, meaning it is sometimes mixed with all-purpose or bread flour in recipes.
Bread flour is high in gluten and milled from hard wheat, which means it has a lot of protein, and is best for yeast products.
Pastry flour is used in more fragile cakes and other pastry products like pie crusts. Cake flour has a low gluten level and is usually used for angel food cakes and cookies. This flour is used when the desired effect is a texture that is tender or delicate.
Semolina is used to make some of the best high-quality pasta or white pasta. It's not bleached and is considered high protein flour.
Durum flour has the highest protein content of any flour and has the least starch. This flour is great for stretching, expanding and making pasta.
Gluten flour is white flour mixed with wheat protein. This type of flour has a high percentage of gluten in it - anywhere from 35 to 80% - and is used in such products as bagels and pizza.
Enriched all-purpose flour has iron and Vitamin B added to the whole wheat flour. Bolted flour is a whole grain flour with the majority of its bran sifted away. It is also called 20% flour because this is usually the amount of bran left.
Instant flour is exactly what its name sounds like: an easy-to-use flour that mixes quickly and helps produce lump-free batters. Self-rising flour already has baking powder and salt added. Its disadvantage is its weakness to humidity.
Generally, you can substitute one flour for another but it depends on your intended product. You can use wheat flour for bleached flour if the product is a cake, but if you were baking bread, you'd want a flour with a high protein or gluten count. Ultimately, your recipe should explain or mention substitutions.
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