The word "flour" is derived from the French fleur de farine, meaning "flower (or best part) of the wheat."
See also all-purpose flour.
Flour is a milled and finely ground starch product that can be produced from a variety of different edible grains or vegetables.
Wheat is the most common source of flour used for cooking.
The most commonly used flours are:
Made from a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat, this flour can be used in a wide variety of recipes with success. Bleached and unbleached styles can be used interchangeably.
This specially formulated, unbleached flour contains 99.8% hard wheat flour and a small amount of malted barley flour to increase yeast activity. It's ideal for making yeast breads.
Milled from the whole kernel to include the bran and germ, this flour is higher in fiber, nutrition and fat.
This is an all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt added in. It can be substituted for all-purpose flour in yeast breads by omitting the salt, and can be used to make quick breads by omitting both salt and baking powder.
Cake or Pastry
With a high starch content, this finely textured soft-wheat flour produces more tender cakes and pastries.
Used to make low-calorie and low-gluten breads like rye, this high-protein flour is treated to remove most of the starch.
Made from durum wheat, this variety is typically more coarsely ground than other wheat flours. Most pasta is made from semolina.
This granular flour is specially formulated to dissolve quickly in liquids. It's primarily used to thicken soups and sauces.
Most supermarkets carry steel-ground flour that is made by crushing wheat with huge, high-speed rollers or hammers. The heat generated by this process strips away the wheat germ, destroying most of its vitamins.
While U.S. government regulations require that vitamins be added to enriched flours, you will find a more naturally nutritious option in stone-ground flour. With this variety, the grains are crushed between two slow-moving stones, without the excess heat to remove the germ. It's carried by some large supermarkets, but more likely found at natural food stores.
Different flours are suited for different purposes. Checking the "Nutrition Facts" label on the package will help you select a flour with a protein level that's just right for what you're baking. Flours with 9 to 11 grams of protein per cup are good for quick breads and pie crusts. Those with 12 to 14 grams are better for yeast breads.