Flour has been a key component of the world’s diet for centuries, whether for baking, pastry-making. But there is a wide variety of flours. They don’t all have the same specific characteristics and are not all dedicated to the same uses, so it’s sometimes difficult to find your way around.

What is flour?

Flour is a powder obtained by grinding and milling cereal grains. In fact, today, the term flour no longer refers only to products obtained by grinding grasses* such as wheat, but also to other products such as nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts, etc.), legumes and seeds from various plants (beans, lentils, peas, broad beans, etc.).

The grind or action of grinding (especially for wheat) consists in crushing the grains to separate the envelope from the floury kernel. As its name suggests it is from the floury kernel that flour is made. In France, flours are numbered according to their strength (or gluten content), ranging from T45 to T150. In France, wheat flours are classified (and regulated) by type according to their strength (or gluten content), ranging from T45 to T150.

How are American flours?

In the United States, the classification is a little different and the variety of flours a little less extensive. A distinction must be made between hard-grain flours, which are richer in gluten (whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, bread flour) and used to make pasta, bread or pancakes, and soft-grain flours, which are richer in starch but with less gluten (unbleached pastry flour, whole wheat pastry flour). For its part, the “all-purpose flour” (the most consumed white flour) is a mixture of durum wheat flour and soft wheat that is used both for cakes and breads. Some equivalencies can be made with French flours: pastry flour/T45, all-purpose flour/T55, high gluten flour/T80, first clear flour/T110, whole wheat flour/T150.

Beyond this classification and according to professionals or amateurs of “French-style” bakery based in the United States, American flour doesn’t give the same results in bakery-pastry as the French flour does. Either cereal grown in the US and the manufacturing methods are not the same. The density of the grain is different, the flour does not absorb liquids in the same way, and the finished product is therefore different. They also contain less protein than French flours. In addition, unlike France, the USA offers bleached and/or enriched flours. In concrete terms, this means that they have been chemically treated with chlorine or bromine, and that they contain ingredients such as niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, or folic acid, except for certain organic or whole wheat flours. This sounds a bit scary!

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recommends that all American producers of wheat flour enrich it with five additives in specified quantities. These additives are found in commercial flours, as well as in all by-products (breads, cakes, pasta, etc.). This is a federal public health measure introduced in the 1940s, aimed at providing additional nutrients in everyday products, and preventing certain deficiencies or illnesses.

So, yes, the volume and cooking result may be better, but from a nutritional point of view, chemical processing inevitably leaves traces in our bodies! France has never accepted the use of additives in its flours, and therefore offers more “natural” flours.

Bakery Distribution offers a whole range of wheat flours of different strengths, white, whole wheat, and milling mixes to make all kinds of breads, pastries and cakes, as well as a French T00 flour. Discover all our products here: www.bakery-distribution.com

*Plants that form spikes.

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