Types of Flour

We have seen, from the descriptions of wheat types available, that there are many characteristics of the grain which will determine the quality of the finished products. There is no such thing as one flour being any "better" than another. The priority for the flour miller is to provide the customer with a flour that is "fit for purpose". A clear understanding of the requirements of the customer will enable the miller to select which wheats, or which blend of wheats, will provide that functionality.

There are three main categories of flour: White, Brown and Wholemeal. White flour is made with only the starchy endosperm, wholemeal is made with the whole grain and brown flour is a varied mixture at differing levels of both endosperm and branny material.

Wholemeal bread has the least varieties due to its nature. The main differences between them is the granulation of the flour and the size of the bran particles. Wholemeal flour made in the traditional stoneground mill will be relatively coarse as the system is unable to grind the material fine enough without risking damage to the stones. The modern flour milling process is able to separate all the component parts of the grain, manipulate the granularity or size and mix them back together again.

This same process of separation and adjustment is used to create brown flours with the exception that extra flour may be added or some of the branny materials removed to produce the desired quality of brown flour.

Protein levels on wholemeal flours is generally higher than the white flour made from the same grain, and it is not uncommon to use lower protein wheats for wholemeal and for gluten to be added to improve its bread baking quality. The particle size of the bran will also affect the resultant loaf.

White flour is by far the biggest category, amongst which breadmaking is probably the biggest percentage. Breadmaking flour generally needs the following characteristics:

  • Sufficient quantity and quality of protein to give required stability, strength, extensibility and gas retention needed for the baking process
  • There should be sufficient enzyme activity to break down the starch to release sugar for fermentation to occur
  • The amount of damaged starch granules should be sufficient to allow the required water absorbtion, and to make accessible the sugars for the enzymes

Most breadmaking fours are produced as straight run flours ie. all flour streams from the process are combined to give an average quality. In some cases there is a requirement for "patent" flour which requires some streams of darker flour to be removed - this increases the brightness or colour of the flour.

Other grades of white flour, created by blending appropriate qualities of wheat for milling, are also produced to meet their specific purpose. This could include, but is not limited to, biscuit flour, cake flour, pizza flour (different types for deep pan or crispy !), soup flour, batter mix, cake mixes, rusks and coatings, burger buns, ethnic breads etc.