The importance of flour: basic concepts to avoid buying mistakes!
Discussing the importance of flour might sound trivial, but – truly- this issue is crucial to the success of a recipe.
Using the wrong flour affects the success of a pastry product as much as plaster would affect a building made by a carpenter thinking he is building hard and strong walls.
Buying a high-performing flour is quite an easy job for professionals, but for a lay person, – say a home baker or a foodie -, it can be quite tricky.
Professional flours are classified according to certain and very specific technical parameters, such as their leavening power and ash content, to name a few.
This post is intended as a troubleshooting tool for all those people who stop and stare at flour bags on the supermarket shelf without the faintest idea of what it is they need to buy for a certain recipe.
Indeed, when I discuss flour, people often tell me: “The important thing is to get a white AP flour!”. Flour refining (or sifting) is no doubt an important parameter, but what you definitely need to ask yourself is:
What do I want to make with the flour I’m going to buy?
Knowing what bake or cake we are going to make is essential to choose the right flour. Will it be:
- Bread and/or a leavened product?
- Pizza and/or puff pastry?
- Sponge cake and/or choux pastry?
- Shortcrust pastry and/or pâte brisée?
Only when we know for good what we want to bake we can choose the right type of flour ..and bake for good!
Of course, this now raises another question: how can I find the right flour, if there are no technical parameters on the flour bag?
The answer is easier than you might think.
We only need check the nutritional values on the bag:
the higher the protein content, the more suitable is the flour for baking breads and leavened pastry goods (panettone, croissants, etc.) because high protein content flour is also rich in gluten.
Conversely, a lower amount of gluten means the flour is suitable for shortcrust pastry, sponge cake and biscuits.
Let’s now take a closer look at the technical concept of “flour strength”.
The topic of flour is so vast that it cannot be addressed in full in one post. Soon I will explore other related and no-less important aspects, but this is all for the moment.
Have a nice dessert!