FLOUR TYPE & APPLICATION
Which Flour To Use
Learn what differentiates types of flour and how to choose the one that's best for your outcome
The choice of flour to use is conditioned both by the type of product that is intended and the preparation and cooking methods that will be used. This is where the professionalism of the millers comes into play, ensuring the right mix of the different grains; so they have a fundamental and irreplaceable role making sure that consumers can purchase flours that are suitable for every type of product. These flours may have different nutritional and technological characteristics but they all have a specific value for the different uses envisaged.
The baker chooses the flour to make bread not only based on its rheological and functional properties but also based on the baking techniques. Bread flours have a high protein content and, doughs made from high-protein flours are both more elastic (stretch further) and more extensible (hold their shape better).
There are two methods of making bread. The straight or direct dough method is a single-mix process of making bread. The dough is made from all fresh ingredients, placed together and, combined in one kneading or mixing session.
The sponge and dough method is a two-step process: in the first step, a sponge or yeast starter is made and allowed to ferment for some time. In the second step, the sponge is added to the final dough’s ingredients. This method requires the strongest flours with the most structural support, and a strong gluten network is required to contain the CO2 gases produced during fermentation.
Traditionally, fresh egg pasta in Italy was prepared using carefully sieved light flours, which ensured the elimination of any lumps present in the flour. This principle still holds today.
To make traditional egg pasta dough, one can use “00” or “0” flour. But which of the two types is better than the other? In reality, the difference between type “00” and type “0” flours is linked to the ash parameter (i.e., the residue that remains when a sample of flour is heated above 600°C). The ash parameter cannot exceed 0.55 percent for “00” flours and 0.65 percent for “0” flours. The difference is negligible, and even a trained eye has difficulty distinguishing between these two types of flour.
Given the recipe’s simplicity and authenticity, the results will be excellent whether you use a “0” or “00” type flour. The product obtained at the end of the rolling of the dough will be a slight “grey,” but this is not a defect and is not the fault of flour.
High temperatures during cooking give the egg pasta its yellow hue, and the pasta takes on its characteristic color. To make fresh pasta, soft wheat flour with a protein content of around 10% should be used.
The protein content of the flour is determined by the alveograph properties of the ground wheat. Flours obtained from the same wheat have higher protein and ash content.
Potato gnocchi is one of the fresh pasta recipes that can be made with soft wheat flour. The recipe is simple and differs from the regular pasta dough by adding potatoes and a pinch of salt (prepared with or without eggs). The flour should account for 20-25 percent of the total weight of the potatoes. Furthermore, flour with a low protein content should be used, as flours with a high percentage of proteins would make the dough too tough. To preserve the yellow color of the potatoes in the dough, use flour with a low ash content and grain size similar to semolina.
To make good-quality pizza dough, mixes of type “00” flour and Manitoba type “0” flour are used in a percentage from 5 to 20% with medium-strong rheological properties to guarantee an elastic dough that is both soft and tenacious.
In the case of the Pizza Napoletana TSG, there is a product specification that indicates the precise characteristics of the flour to be used – it must be made up of a mixture of type “00” and type “0” flours with a medium-high strength varying between 220 and 380 W.
The characteristics of the flour for the Pizza Napoletana
|Value index E10||max 60|
|Dry gluten||9.5- 11%|
|Protein||11 – 12.5 %|
For Cakes and Pastries
There are numerous types of cakes and pastries, each of which requires the use of a specific flour. For this, type “00” flours are most commonly used but, sometimes type “1” flour is also used. The type of flour used depends on the cake to be made.
So there are shortcrust pastry flours, cake flours, choux pastry flours, puff pastry flours, leavened product flours, brioche flours, and Manitoba flours.
Shortcrust pastry requires a low protein flour to maintain the right crumbliness and consistency while preventing excessive crumbling. Its characteristics are W 100-120 (regarding the strength) and a P / L ratio of 0.38-0.42 (the resistance (P) is the force necessary to lengthen the dough and the elasticity (L) is the ability to stretch without breaking).
Flours with a W 190-210 and a P / L 0.40-0.45 are recommended for chemically leavened sponge cakes that are light and fluffy.
Medium-strong flours with W 240-260 and P / L 0.40-0.45 should be used for natural leavening with organic yeast, as seen in cream puffs and pancakes.
Puff pastry dough must be easily rolled and withstand long processes. So for puff pastry, the flour must have W 300-320 and P / L 0.48-0.50 characteristics.
For the production of panettone and Baba, strong flours like “Manitoba” with W 420-450 and P / L 0.55-0.60 should be used.
Learn more about such technical terms and their definition in our glossary section
Flour strength is measured by a W-value
In baking, the gluten level in flour is referred to as its “strength.” Flours with more gluten are considered “stronger,” while flours with less gluten are considered “weaker.”
Knowing both the composition and gluten content of the flour allows cooks and bakers in Europe to be more precise in their baking.
A weak flour usually has only 8–9% protein, corresponding to a W-value between 90 and 180. Super strong flour can have up to 15–16% protein, corresponding to a W-value between W 350–380. This is the case with some wheat grown in Campania which is destined for the beautiful pasta di Gragnano.
So, for example, for making pasta, weak flour is used because the dough must stay flat and retain its moisture (not absorb all the water and dry out).
Two flours might have the same refinement but not the same strength and vice versa.