Flour is an invaluable ingredient with so many uses in the kitchen. It’s essential for everything from sponge cakes to flaky pastry, golden batters or for thickening sauces. Different flours behave in different ways, so here’s our guide for getting the most from your flour.
The most popular and widely used flour, plain flour is sometimes called white flour and is made from milled wheat. It contains no raising agent, which means it’s ideal for thickening gravy or for thin crepe-style pancakes. Or, simply combine with water for a really quick flatbread.
Swap plain white flour for wholemeal for a healthier, high-fibre result. Wholemeal flour contains 100% of the wheat grain, including the bran, which means it’s higher in nutrients and has a rougher texture. It works brilliantly in rustic bakes such as soda bread, or these gorgeous cinnamon buns.
This flour is key for baking. Raising agents are mixed with plain flour for the light, airy result we love in cakes, batters and puddings. These raising agents create air bubbles in dough and batters, perfect for fluffy muffins, classic sponge cakes, or American-style pancakes. You can simply sift in two teaspoons of baking powder to each 150g of plain or wholemeal flour if you don’t have self-raising in your cupboard.
This strong, white flour is high in gluten, which gives bread the strength and elasticity needed for good, bouncy doughs. Whether you’re baking Italian focaccia, Taiwanese Bao buns, Indian naan breads or Jamie’s basic white loaf – bread flour will give you the results you want!
There are many naturally gluten-free flours, such as rice flour, gram flour (from chickpeas), buckwheat or chestnut flour. But you can also buy pre-mixed gluten-free baking flours that include xanthan gum – this helps replace the ‘rise’ you get from gluten. These pre-mixed bags are a brilliant direct swap for gluten-free pastry, bouncy carrot cake, and even fresh pasta.
Dark, hearty and dense, rye flour adds a beautiful strong and rich flavour to breads. Used a lot in Scandinavian baking, rye flour can also be combined with other flours to add extra flavour to cakes and buns. Try this gorgeous rye bread recipe, and pair your loaf with creamy avocado for a real treat. Rye flour is lower in gluten that some other flours, but is not gluten free.