Flour: how to choose
Flour from wheat is the most common ingredient in bread making. It contains large amounts of a form of protein that will absorb liquid and in turn produce the elasticity that we see when kneading bread dough. The yeast gives off carbon dioxide which is trapped by dough making it rise up. When the dough is baked, it becomes rigid.
Terms like “bakers’ flour”, “high grade” or “standard” flour are often marketing terms associated with a particular brand of flour. I find it is more helpful to look at the protein content to clarify if the flour is suitable for bread or baking cakes.
The nutritional analysis panel on the flour’s packaging explains the protein content of a particular flour. In general, the higher the protein the “harder” the flour will be. Hard or “strong” flour has protein of 12-14 per cent and is preferred for making bread and pasta. “Soft” flour is around 9-12 per cent of protein and is better for baking cakes, cookies, tarts etc.
Wholemeal or whole wheat retains some of the bran and wheat germ and is considered healthier. Over time the wheat germ will oxidise and “go off” causing whatever you are baking to taste bitter and making the flour taste rancid.
Wheatmeal may have colour added and contains little or no bran or wheat germ
White flour has had the bran (husk) and germ removed.
Self-raising flour contains a raising agent similar to baking powder and should not be used in baking that requires yeast.
Stone- ground flour has been ground in a mill between stones. It is considered more rustic and nutritional. It is common to see rye, maize and millet often available as stone ground.