When to comes to understanding the science of home bread making, the type of flour that is used to make your bread has a direct bearing on the taste and quality of the baked product. There are numerous different types of bread flour available and it is important that you understand the difference between them before embarking on your bread baking journey.
You may think that a flour is a flour and they all look similar but in reality, they can all be very different depending on how they were produced, milled and stored. Even different brands of the same type can be very different.
Sometimes called plain flour, this is a blend of refined hard and soft wheat flour, which is more suited for use in cake and cake bread recipes. All-purpose bleached white flour is not particularly good for use in home bread baking.
Self Raising or Self Rising Flour
This white or wholemeal flour contains chemical leavening ingredients. These agents will interfere with bread and cake making so this type of flour is not recommended for use when baking by hand or in home bread making machines.
Strong Plain Bread Flour
This is strong plain flour, which has a high protein and gluten content. The flour is treated with conditioning agents in order to give the dough a greater tolerance during the kneading process. The gluten content is usually higher than all purpose flour but this can vary across brands depending on the individual milling practices. Strong plain bread flour is normally recommended for use in bread making machines.
Whole Wheat Flour
Also known as wholemeal, this flour contains the bran and the wheat germ since it is milled from the entire wheat kernel. Because of this, it is both heavier and more nutrient rich than all purpose flour. Breads made solely with wholemeal flour will normally be smaller and heavier due to the sharp edges of the wheat germ and bran cutting the strands of gluten. For that reason, whole-wheat flour is often mixed with strong plain bread flour in order to produce baked goods that are higher and more lightly textured.
You will soon discover that flour is flour except when it comes to baking bread. Even though different brands may say the same thing on the bag, there are quite large variations and you will need to experiment until you find the right type of flour to make the perfect loaf.
Whichever flour is used to make your bread, make sure that you store it in a secure airtight container otherwise the quality will deteriorate, as will your baked products.