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Confused about All Purpose Flour - Please advise?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi,
Some cake/cupcake recipes call just for 'All purpose flour' and others specifically will say 'bleached' or 'unbleached' All purpose flour. Is there really a difference which one I use? Any advise you can provide on this subject would be greatly appreciated as I don't know which one to grab when it only says 'All purpose flou.'
Also, I see 'cake flour' used in some recipes so I bought the 'soft as silk' cake flour. Is that acceptable or is there a way to make my own?

Thanks!
post #2 of 13
Cake flour AKA pastry flour is the lightest flour there is. Just buy the cake flour. It is milled a certain way so the grain is finer and lighter. There is no way to really make your own cake flour unless you have a mill and yada yada for making flour.
All purpose bleached and unbleached should bake the same. The only difference is that the unbleached is a little healthier for you. I personally sample flour straight and can tell the difference between bleached and unbleached (I test at work to make sure it's still ok and since I'm the only one who can tell I got that job duty), but in baking you really can't tell the difference.
Bleached flour is basically just that it's been through a process to bleach it out and striped of it's nutrients. When it's been enriched that means that the nutrients that were striped out they then try to replace back into the flour towards the end.
I always buy unbleached flour (King Aurthur brand) just because I like it better and it hasn't been through as many steps process wise.
For some baking for my family and even sometimes at work I'm able to use the King Arthur's White-whole wheat all natural flour. For some applications this works very well and makes a slightly healthier product.
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post #3 of 13
I have to disagree with mkolmar.

First, cake flour is made with a different type of wheat - soft wheat. AP flour is made with hard wheat. There is a difference in the amount of gluten in the two types of wheat.

Second, bleached flour and unbleached flour DO work differently. Bleaching the flour decreases the pH (increases the acid) - that balance is worked into recipes that call for AP flour. In cookies and the like it makes little difference, but I found that there was a significant difference in cakes (and yes, I usually use AP flour in my cakes - the mixing method I use creates less gluten, so my cakes aren't tough).

If you use unbleached flour, you need to increase the acid content to compensate, IMO. Usually lemon juice is added, at least in bread.

I used to use unbleached, thinking it was "healthier", then discovered the pH difference. Unbleached has the same nutrient content as bleached, just has a higher pH and a less white colour.
post #4 of 13
Please allow me to throw in what I've learned about bleached vs. unbleached:

All cake flour is bleached, however, not all AP flour is bleached.

When baking cakes heavy with butter (butter or pound cakes for example) if the recipe doesn't specifiy cake flour - just AP, using a bleached AP flour will yield better results.

As Rose Levy Beranbaum explained it, bleached flour has more irregular edges that hold the butter in better suspension. To see if this was true, I baked two of the same pound cakes except for the flour - one was AP bleached and one was AP unbleached.

The unbleached flour pound cake had a discernible greasy appearance toward the lower portion of the cake and a somewhat greasy taste, while the bleached flour pound cake had a uniform appearance and no greasy taste. - it was perfect.

Who knew. icon_biggrin.gif

Handy list of common baking ingredients emergency substitutions:

http://www.joyofbaking.com/IngredientSubstitution.html

HTH

P.S. But if a recipe specifically calls for a certain type of flour (bleached or unbleached) that's what I'd use... After all, the recipe was written with certain outcome in mind.

And if you're really interested - here's a discussion on flours:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/316961
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by JanH



As Rose Levy Beranbaum explained it, bleached flour has more irregular edges that hold the butter in better suspension. To see if this was true, I baked two of the same pound cakes except for the flour - one was AP bleached and one was AP unbleached.

The unbleached flour pound cake had a discernible greasy appearance toward the lower portion of the cake and a somewhat greasy taste, while the bleached flour pound cake had a uniform appearance and no greasy taste. - it was perfect.



Thanks for letting me know how much better bleached AP flour is! That is great!! icon_biggrin.gif
post #6 of 13
Sorry, if I my post was confusing. Canadianchick is correct that they have a different amount of gluten. I make breads and cakes for work and I kind of forget sometimes to put in all info just because I know it I sometimes forget that others may not.
If a recipe says to use a certain type of flour, use that type of flour. There is probably a reason.
I do disagree though about the nutrient content about bleached vs unbleached. I'm in class going for another certification for the ACF. I just had to do an entire chapter about this. The nutrition content may look the same on the label but that's only because it was put back in after being striped away in the first place. Hard to explain but as they put it "Why use a product that has this happened to it, unless you absolutely need to."

The debate about bleached vs unbleached is the same as scratch vs mix. It's just up to what you prefer.

That's interesting JanH . We use bleached at work and I use unbleached at home (I still always have bleached on hand for some recipes though). I've never really thought much about a slightly greasy feel. I've never really noticed too much of a large difference, just a slighter one. Than again I bake at work so early in the morning and all my baking for home is usually late at night. I usually shouldn't be baking at these hours I do.

Once you figure out what type of flours you like to use you can begin to play with recipes a little more and tweak them to your liking. For instance if you have a muffin recipe you like but you would like the muffin lighter and it's made with all AP flour you could do 1/2 AP flour and 1/2 cake flour to see if that make a difference and go from there till youget the effect you like. (boy, that was one huge run on sentence --don't call my old English lit. professor.) icon_lol.gif
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post #7 of 13
Isn't the removal of nutirients during the stage that removes the bran and germ, rather then the bleaching? At least that was my understanding.

The health concerns about bleaching (IIRC) are changes to the pH of the flour, plus any contaminants left behind by the bleaching process.
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post #8 of 13
The removal of the bran and germ is what helps cause the striping of nutrients. Enriching the flour just actually tries to replace what was already taken out through the striping process. This happened due to health issues way back when, a lot of people where having serious health issues, so they started enriching the nutrients back into the flour to try to help the health issues.
The bleaching isn't as much as an issue from the culinary standpoint view. However, from a health aspect view it is. I never really thought about it but one of my DH's family members is a naturalist doctor. (She does believe in medicine but only when there is no choice she's more into the natural way of treating things) She's wicked smart and is flown out to Europe for seminars and is a licensed doctor in the US and in Europe. She swears off anything bleached. She wouldn't eat one of my desserts once because I used bleached flour (that and who knows--she really just doesn't like me too much, but that's another story icon_lol.gif ) She went on and on about how never to use bleached flour and I just nodded my head and said interesting when I wasn't really paying attention. Kind of wish I would have now. icon_lol.gif
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post #9 of 13
Now you want another wrinkle in here about flour. I use a hard red winter wheat organic white flour for bread, cakes, croissants. I was a this protien level for this, this protien level for that. If you have the right flour to begin with it doesn't matter.

Mike
post #10 of 13
Alright Mike, that flour sounds awesome. Where do you buy it. I'm only about an hour away from you. I have about 8 different forms of flour in my house at all times (don't even get me started on all the different olive oil I love cooking with icon_wink.gif )
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post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by mkolmar

Cake flour AKA pastry flour...



I didn't read through all of the replies, so forgive me if someone else pointed this out, but cake flour and pastry flour are actually two different things. Pastry flour has a slightly higher protein content than cake flour.

The approximate protein ranges for different flours are:
Bread flour 12-13%
AP flour 9-12%
Pastry flour 8-9%
Cake flour 5-8%

The protein content (glutenin and gliadin) affects how much gluten is produced.
Tara
<---wonders if anyone uses REAL ingredients anymore--sugar fruit nuts, cream, butter etc--instead of flavoring chemical cream from a bucket with pudding & jello and calling it "mousse"
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Tara
<---wonders if anyone uses REAL ingredients anymore--sugar fruit nuts, cream, butter etc--instead of flavoring chemical cream from a bucket with pudding & jello and calling it "mousse"
Reply
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by mkolmar

Alright Mike, that flour sounds awesome. Where do you buy it. I'm only about an hour away from you. I have about 8 different forms of flour in my house at all times (don't even get me started on all the different olive oil I love cooking with icon_wink.gif )



I get it from work. icon_biggrin.gif

Mike
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by mkolmar

Alright Mike, that flour sounds awesome. Where do you buy it. I'm only about an hour away from you. I have about 8 different forms of flour in my house at all times (don't even get me started on all the different olive oil I love cooking with icon_wink.gif )



I get it from work. icon_biggrin.gif

Mike
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