Everything You Need to Know About Flour

Thinkstock/iStockphotoThinkstock/iStockphotoAll-purpose flour is called "all-purpose" for a reason - because it can be used to make everything from muffins to pizza, cakes to cookies, and quick breads to pie crust. Just because it's all-purpose, though, doesn't mean it's the best choice for your baking.

Related: The Daily Meal's Guide to Baking

With lots of different varieties of flours out there, it's no surprise that certain flours are best for certain types of baking projects. If you're looking to fine-tune your baking skills, learning about other flours and which ones are best for certain types of baked goods can make your baking even better.

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When considering different types of flours, there is one very important factor that will greatly affect the outcome of your baking: the protein levels. Lower protein percentages give baked goods a more tender texture, and higher protein flours result in thicker, doughier consistencies. Most commercially available flour is made from hard winter wheat, which has a higher protein level, or soft winter wheat, which has lower levels of proteins. Understanding the wheat and protein levels of the flours you're using to bake with will help you understand your baking better, too, and will help you get the results you desire.

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If you want to improve your baking, or just want to know why you should use something other than all-purpose, it's time that you learn everything you need to know about flours. This guide will walk you through some of the most essential flours out there, and will help you to be more informed about your baking.

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High-Gluten Flour

High-gluten flour is like super-charged bread flour, so it's a great choice for yeast baking as well. Because it has a much higher level of protein, at 14.2 percent, it's a great choice for making extra chewy baked goods like bagels or artisan-style breads.

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Cake Flour

Cake flour is typically bleached, although unbleached versions can be found. It has the lowest protein content, therefore making it a great choice for light and fluffy baked goods such as cakes, muffins, and biscuits.

Pastry Flour

This is a middle-ground flour with a protein content that usually falls between cake flour and all-purpose. Many bakers like it for piecrust. Try making it by combining half all-purpose and half cake flour.

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-Dede Wilson, The Daily Meal