Flour is a fine powder obtained by grinding cereals, legumes, or seeds. It is used to make a large number of foods, including bread, pasta, and pastries.
There are many types of wheat flours. In Europe, they are classified by type and quality. French flours are classified according to ash content (mineral residue), which varies between 45 and 150. Type (T) 45 flour (less than 0.5 percent ash) is the most refined, and, therefore, the whitest. It is mainly used in pastry making. T110 (1.10 percent ash) and T150 are used to make whole-wheat (wholemeal) bread, bran bread, or whole-grain bread. Quality is determined by the wheat used in making the flour and its type. A distinction is made between different qualities of flour. Patent flours, always T45, comprise fine-grade flours made from the center part of the endosperm of soft wheat and high in gluten, and they are used for fine dough (buns, brioche, etc.). “Sifted” flour is suited to making waffles and crepes, and for thickening sauces. Self-rising flour is enhanced with baking powder to do away with the need for leavening agents.
Flour is never eaten by itself. It must be converted into a digestible substance. It also needs to be mixed with other ingredients and cooked. In this way, it gives shape and consistency to food.
Mixed with water or a combination of milk and butter, flour is mainly used to make bread dough, pizza dough, cake batter, or different pastry doughs (shortbread pastry, basic pastry, puff pastry). The elasticity and softness of a dough depends on its gluten content. The higher this content, the more moldable and consistent the dough becomes. Flour is also the basic ingredient of pasta. Because it contains a great deal of starch, flour is also used to thicken liquids. It is particularly used to make roux, a mixture of flour and butter, which is used to thicken sauces, such as béchamel.
Flour should be stored in an airtight container away from moisture and heat.
Depending on its basic ingredient, flour contains a varying amount of vitamins (B1, B2, PP, E) and minerals (phosphorous, potassium, magnesium).
The most commonly used flour in France is wheat flour. However, there are more than a dozen other kinds of flours: rice, corn, chestnut, quinoa, barley, spelt, einkorn wheat, chickpea, buckwheat, rye, lentils, kamut, cassava, millet, soy, etc. A choice can be made based on three criteria: the recipe, the desired flavor, and whether there is intolerance to gluten.