The Best Bread Makers wants to use the best flour. We use flour in all bread making recipes but do you know where flour comes from and how it is made? In this article we discuss how flour is made and the differences between the most common types of flour that we use to make bread, cake or cookies.
Flour is mostly made from wheat though it can also be made from rice, barley, rye, corn or nuts. Most flour contain gluten but for gluten free bread, the flour is often made from Buckwheat.
Let’s have a look at the process of making flour from wheat. We start with the grain once it has been separated from the wheat plant. The chaff and rachis by products from the wheat plant) are not used to make flour but may serve other purposes that are obviously beyond the scope of this article. The grain will be processed to flour and goes through the following process once it arrives at the mill;
- At arrival all impurities such as straws, sticks and grain dust are removed from the grain. After the impurities have been removed, the wheat is often stored in silos before further processing.
- Now we are ready to start the production that starts with blending together the right varieties of wheat for the type of flour that will be produced.
- Another cleaning session; the grain need to be pure and clean!
- Grinding and sifting to separate the Endosperm from the Bran (hard skin) and Germ (seed). For white flour we only need the Endosperm. I recommend you do a search in Google Images for the term “Grain Endosperm” to see some clear pictures explaining how a grain is build up.
- Grinding continues to crush the Endosperm into pieces (semolina) and sifting follows to remove the endosperm and loose bran pieces. It remains a hard job to separate the semolina needed for our flour from all other particles. Cleaning stations that use controlled air flow to separate the loose bran pieces from the heaver semolina are setup between every milling station.
- The process continues until the right texture has been achieved.
The whole production process from wheat grain to flour results in three products;
- White wheat flour, that’s why we started the whole production in the first place.
- Bran, this is used for animal food and baking.
- Wheat Germ, used for the health food market
How Flour is Made; three different types of flour
What types of flour can we make using this process?
First of all, probably the most important for the bread makers, is the ‘high protein’ or ‘bread flour’. This is made from hard wheat species that enables the dough to rise well and bake firm textured bread.
Secondly we have the ‘lower protein’ or ‘soft wheat’ flour often used to produce cakes and pastries. This flour will produce a more crumbly texture when used for backing.
The third type is the good old ‘all purpose flour’ which is an “in-between” between the ‘high protein’ and ‘low protein’ flour. It is suitable to make both bread and cakes.