Flours and Grains

Terminology and definitions for bread types, bread ingredients, bread making and baking.

© 2011 by KV5R — Rev. April 15, 2011.

3. Flours and Grains

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Flour, All-Purpose (AP)

In the US, a blend of soft and hard wheat flours with a medium amount of gluten, suitable for most baking purposes including conventional hand-made yeast breads. Not recommended for use in bread machines. In Canada: a hard wheat flour suitable for baking bread by hand and in the bread machine.

Flour, Amaranth

One of several grains that may be used to make gluten-free breads.

Flour, Bleached

Flour processed with a “bleaching agent.” Freshly milled wheat flour does not result in consistently good products. Over time, flour ages and whitens and within several months it produces a better product. To hasten the improvement process, modern flour mills bleach and age flour chemically through the addition of tiny amounts of a bleaching agent. Many home bakers avoid bleached flour, as it is commonly assumed (without evidence) that such chemical treatment somehow degrades the nutritional quality of the flour, and/or adds something toxic. Bleaching simply oxidizes the surface of the flour faster than air by using a more reactive oxidant, such as a peroxide.

Flour, Bread

A special flour, higher in gluten, that can be used for making yeast breads by hand; recommended for use in a bread machine. This kind of flour is the same as ordinary white flour, except that it has a higher gluten content. Bread flour costs a little more, but experience will show that it consistently yields better results. As an alternative, both whole wheat and AP flours may be made equivalent to bread flour by adding Vital Gluten (seitan), usually at the rate of 1–2 Tbsp per cup.

Flour, Buckwheat (Kasha)

A seed of a small plant, ground into light or dark flour. Although both are whole buckwheat, the light flour has less fiber and a milder flavor. Kasha is roasted, hulled buckwheat kernels. Since buckwheat flour can be difficult to find, kasha can be processed in a food processor for about 3 minutes to create an acceptable substitute.

Flour, Enriched

Flour with added folic acid, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and iron to compensate for some of the nutrients lost during the milling process.

Flour, Kamut

A variety of high protein wheat that has been used in bread baking, pasta and cereals. It is considered one of the original strains of wheat used in ancient times for bread making.

Flour, Millet

A tiny yellow seed that lends texture and flavor to breads. Millet flour is nutritious but low in gluten.

Flour, Polenta (cornmeal)

Coarsely ground, whole corn meal. It should be refrigerated to preserve freshness.

Flour, Rye

Flour milled from rye grass seeds. Contains less gluten than wheat flour, and is usually mixed therewith. It comes in several types:

  • Light: Rye flour ground from the rye endosperm. It does not include the bran or germ of the grain.
  • Medium: Rye flour ground from the endosperm of the rye grain. It has part of the germ and bran removed prior to milling.
  • Dark: A coarse rye flour ground from the whole rye grain. It bakes into a dark loaf and is best suited to rustic black breads and dark pumpernickels.
  • Pumpernickel: A coarse rye flour ground from the whole rye grain. It bakes into a dark loaf and is best suited to rustic black breads and dark pumpernickels.

Flour, Spelt

An ancient wheat variety, native to Southern Europe. It can be used in equal quantities to replace wheat flour in recipes.

Flour, Teff

Teff is the smallest of grains and therefore has a high ratio of bran and germ. Teff flour has been used in Ethiopia for centuries and has recently been grown in Idaho for the American market.

Flour, Unbleached

White flour without bleaching or aging agents added to hasten the aging process. This flour whitens as it ages. Widely preferred over “bleached” flour, perhaps because of the word association with laundry bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or a general mistrust of all “chemical” treatments. See also Flour, Bleached above.

Flour, Whole Wheat (or Whole Grain)

Wheat flour milled using the entire wheat berry. Unless labeled otherwise, this flour typically works like an all-purpose flour. Breads made with more than 50% whole wheat flour may not rise as expected because the hull particles are sharp and tend to puncture the dough during rising. Master chef Mark Anthony recommends that 100% WW dough be moistened and refrigerated overnight before leavening, to soften the hull particles. 100% WW breads benefit from addition of vital gluten, else they may be dense and heavy. The typical “whole wheat” recipe is one-third WW and two-thirds white bread flour, and experience shows that this ratio works very well.


A protein in wheat flour that, when the bread dough is kneaded, becomes an elastic web that traps the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast (or chemical reactions, in quick breads).

Gluten, Vital Wheat

A processed flour that is 75% wheat gluten. Usually added to low-gluten flours at the rate of 1–2 Tbsp per cup, it increases the structure and rise of dough and the chewiness of bread. Also used to make vegetarian meat substitutes.

Wheat types

Six classes bring order to about 30 thousand varieties of wheat. They are: Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Soft Red Winter, Durum, Hard White and Soft White.

Wheat, Hard Red

Generally grown in northern climates, especially suited to bread making because of a high level of gluten. Also known as “winter” wheat, because it is planted in fall, is dormant through winter, and then heads in spring.

Wheat, Hard White

Like Hard Red, but with a milder, sweeter flavor. Hard White will rise well with less added sweeteners.

Wheat, Soft White

Contains a relatively small amount of gluten. Generally used for bakery products, not bread.

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