This post here is something very basic and elementary. It is what every baker like you and me should know. Because its all about getting basics right with just enough knowledge. this post is all about flour in baking

Baking basics

I have always loved to bake and continue enjoying it. but all I did was to make recipes just blindly following it. I wanted to know more about what went into the delicious cakes, cookies, pies. All had the same basic ingredients, but a difference in the proportion made all the difference.

So i started to delve further in to the basics and started reading up a lot on baking ingredients. And I wanted to share the same thing here in a concise form. So it is helpful while any of you start on baking journey. . Its all about flour in baking


In this post, I will take you through one of the most important and structural baking ingredient – The Flour.

  • What is flour ?
  • What does flour do in baking ?
  • Why do we use flour in baking ?
  • what flour do we use in baking ?
  • different types of flour

Read on…


Flour is any grain, pulse, cereal or nut that has been milled to a powder consistency to be able to use in any cooking or baking process.


Flour is a very generic term used in baking. It has various types, forms. Each kind of flour has its own properties. These properties will make us decide which kind of flour to use for which recipe or type of baked goodie.As a baker we need to know what is flour, kind, properties and functions..

In tradional baking the most common flour is all purpose flour, (which is from wheat, more on this further in the post).  Flour is the most vital ingredient to baking, and is almost impossible to make bread & pastries without flour. Yes we do have gluten free options, but I am not going there now. So, flour is a very important structural ingredient to any baked good.


  • Providing texture & appearance – which comes from the kind of grain, strength of flour & types of flour. The gluten it forms while reacting to other ingredients like eggs, sugar and fats brings texture, appearance to your cakes cookies and other goodies.
  • Contributes to the flavour depending on the grain used, types of milling. flour contributes to the flavour of a baked item.
  • Provides nutrition most grain flours have protein carbohydrates, and becomes essential part of nutrition
  • Acts as a binding agent –  as it absorbs liquid, forms gluten and helps in binding and bringing form to a baked product.

Hence we use flour to bind, bring structure and body to a baked good. SO flour is an indispensible ingredient to a baked good.

FLOUR IS USED TO BAKED JUST ABOUT ANYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE.- cookies, cakes, pastries, pies, tarts and much much more.


In baking,  the most common kind of flour used is all purpose flour. The others being cake flour, self rising flour, bread flour, pastry flour. Then there are nut flours – almond flour, hazelnut flour.

Most common flours used by a bakeshop is pastry flour, bread flour and cake flour and all purpose flour. All these flours are categorised based on their milling and type of wheat used.

The All Purpose Flour that we use in baking, is a product of milled soft & hard wheat flours. So basically the flour that we use comes from wheat.


Wheat is the main grain, which is milled to obtain different types of flour for baking purpose. It is the most important ingredient in baking.  It is the only grain that contains enough gluten forming proteins to provide the structure essential to baked goods.

To a novice baker, all purpose flour is good enough, but there are vareties of flour used for different baked goodies like pastry flour, bread flour. And to understand these, it is important to know the types of wheat which in turn contributes to the types of flour for baking. So you eventually pick up the right flour for baking the right type of baked item.

The main characteristic of a flour  depends on the type of wheat it is milled from and the milling process it self. More on how milling affects the final flour later in the post There are hard and soft wheat types.


  •  Hard wheat has more protein content, high in gluten content and contributes to strong flours. Primarily good for baking breads with yeast.
  • Soft Wheats have fairly low protein content, resulting in less gluten and gives weak flours. These kind of flours are  for cakes, cookies, pastries

Before going in to the kinds of wheat flour,  a small run through the wheat kernel composition  because this determine the kind of flour.

The Wheat kernel

the wheat kernel consists of the bran, endosperm and the germ

  1. The Bran – is the dark brown outer covering of the kernel, it is seen in form of brown flakes in whole wheat flours.
  2. Endosperm – this is the starchy part of the wheat, and gets the starch content from the endosperm. it contains the protein content. this is the part that is milled after removing bran and germ, giving white flour. this contains about 65 to 70 % of starch and 7 to 15% of protein.
  3. The Germ – this part of the kernel is high in fat. Flours containing germ spoils faster. hence these are sold seperately

The Milling

the milling process breaks down the wheat kernel and almost 70% is milled into flour, separating parts of germ and bran. The current modern milling process is fairly complex. It needs to be understood, that repeated sifting and milling process, results in different grades of flours determining different protein content and strength content. on that note there is another very important characteristic that bakers must consider while selecting their choice of flour and that is determined by the protein content, and moisture absorption.

Here’s what you need to know ..!

  •       Protein content in the flour depends on the type of wheat. For example : To get high protein flour, milling must start with high protein wheat. Milling processes affect the grades of flour. The inner part of endosperm produces less protein than the outer part. So to get high protein flour, only the outer part can be milled.
  • Another important point is water absorption, a higher protein flour will absorb more water and vice versa
  • Ash content – is indication of the mineral content in a particular type of flour. Darker the flour colour, the higher is the ash content.


FLOUR TYPE   protein content  ash content 

straight flour  13 – 15%  0.4-0.45%
patent  11-13% 0.35-0.55%
clear  17% 0.7-0.8%
high gluten flour  14% 0.5
all purpose flour  11 – 11.5% 0.39-0.4%
pastry flour  9% 0.4-0.45%
cake flour  8% 0.3

This basic information is enough for a baker to understand what type of flour to use in which baked good. This again, is determined by the protein content which results in high or low gluten flour. But basically these are all derivations from the wheat flour…


So here it is


  1. STRAIGHT FLOUR    is made from the endosperm,  and is the flour just after the bran, germ are removed. these go through various sifting processes to seperate the grade. when these grades are recombined, it is straight flour.
  2. BREAD FLOUR Is also called as patent flour, it is made from hard wheat and from the endosperm of the kernel. This flour is high in protein and good to bake breads and soft rolls. The protein content is around 12 to 15%.
  3. CLEAR FLOUR – it is the endosperm thats is left over after the patent or the bread flour is removed. this is darker in colour  and usually used in rye breads.
  4. HIGH GLUTEN FLOUR – this flour has high protein and high gluten content, used in hard crust breads, pizza doughs and bagels. the usual protein content in such a flour is 14%.
  5. ALL PURPOSE FLOUR  Is a blend of hard and soft wheat flours milled from endosperm. The protein content is usually around 8 to 12 %. This is commonly used by home bakers. I USE gold medal flour, easily available here.
  6. CAKE FLOUR  is a soft wheat flour, with high starch content, low in protein, made mostly from the inner part of the endosperm. The protein content is around 6 to 9% and used in cakes, cookies.
  7. PASTRY FLOUR is also low gluten, low protein, made from soft wheat, but it is a little stronger than cake flour. the protein is usually 9%. Used in soft pastry doughs like pie, croissants, danish pastries.

Apart from this, there are graded flours, which is the way flour is graded in Europe. However you can still pick up the flour of your choice based on the protein. content which is clearly written on any flour brand package.

For a simple home baker all purpose flour, cake flour and bread flour does the trick.

Theres is one more self raising flour – This type of flour has leavening agents already mixed to it. some recipes use these. However most of my recipes like traditional pound cake, best brownies & blueberry muffins use all purpose flour, because of its easy availability. unless and otherwise specified.

Thats all for now, on flour.

In the mean while, Have a good day.. !!

Much Love

Shri 🙂

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