Flour is a powder milled from wheat. According to the amount of protein in flour, it can be divided into high-gluten flour, gluten flour, low-gluten flour and no gluten flour. Each type of flour may be best suited for different recipes.
We can usually look at a few things when selecting a good flour: moisture, colour, gluten level, freshness. Flour with normal moisture level usually has a smooth touch, and has low resistance when inserting fingers into it. A clear white colour usually means the flour is well processed, but it also may mean there’s less vitamin or other nutritional value. Different gluten level are usually selected depending on the type of recipe, but it also has different implication on the nutritional value. Finally, fresh flour should have a light and normal fragrance rather than showing a rotten smell, dark colour, or having clumps.
There are also a few other important aspects to consider when choosing the right flour
- Unbleached flour is definitely preferred. Bleaching often used to remove a yellowish tint from freshly milled flour, speed up the aging process of flour, and improve the texture of some baked goods. However, bleaching causes significant oxidation process on the flour that removes or greatly reduces a lot of nutrients in the flour such as vitamin E/B, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and β-Carotene. Bleaching also causes a degradation to the taste.
- Organic food has been widely accepted as a better alternative than conventional food in recent years. Organic flour is produced free of pesticides and other synthetic agents, making it safer to eat. Many bakers also claim that it tastes better due to the natural aging process which could highlight certain flavor of the grain.
- Whole wheat or whole grain is another healthy trend. Flour is made of grain kernels, and a grain kernel is composed of the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Germ is the part that grows into a plant. Traditional white flour removes the germ and bran during the grinding process, leaving only the endosperm which is high in starch. However, the germ and bran actually a lot more rich in fiber, vitamin, and nutrients. Whole grain flour contains all parts of the kernel, thus allowing it to keep the most amount of nutrients, and making it much healthier.
- There are other types of specialty flour that could provide different health and nutritional benefits. For example, coconut flour is gluten-free, high in fiber, and low in calories; Einkorn flour reduces risks to eye disease, soothes allergy symptoms, and reduces risks with diabetes; Another example is rye flour which is known for being antioxidant, anti-cancer, and provides heart benefits.