Although there are many types of flour, all-purpose (or occident) flour is used most frequently. Bread flour is higher in protein. Unbleached flour is simply not as white as bleached.
Whole-wheat flour is brown in color, and is derived from the complete wheat kernel (the bran and germ). When used in bread baking, it gives a nutty flavor and a denser texture when compared to all-purpose flour. Bread does not rise as high in whole-wheat breads, which is why a mixture of both whole-wheat and white flour is often used when baking.
Cake flour has the least amount of gluten of all wheat flours, making it best for light, delicate products such as sponge cakes, genoise, and some cookie batters. Cake flour often comes bleached, which gives it a bright, white appearance.
Pastry flour also has a low gluten content, though it contains a bit more than cake flour. Made from a soft wheat flour, it is used for making tart and pie doughs, some cookie batters, and muffins.
High-gluten flour is milled from hard wheat and has a high protein content, making it high in gluten.
Most people think of flour in terms of wheat flour. When in fact, flour can be ground from a variety of nuts and seeds. Some types of flours available are: amaranth, arrowroot, barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, kamut, nuts, oats, potato, quinoa, rice, rye, soy, spelt, tapioca, teff, wheat, and vegetables.
Spelt flour contains gluten. It can, however, be tolerated by people with gluten allergies. When making bread with spelt flour, the bread is not kneaded as long as other breads. The gluten is not as durable as other wheat’s. Spelt flour may be frozen, if not used right away.
American flours and British equivalents:
Cake and pastry flour = soft flour
All-purpose flour = plain flour
Bread flour = strong flour, hard flour
Self-rising flour = self-raising flour
Whole-wheat flour = wholemeal flour
Season: available year-round
How to select: Cake flour often comes in a box rather than a bag, near the cake mixes.
How to store: Whole-wheat flour can go rancid, so it must be stored in a cool, dry place (up to 5 months) or refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.
How to prepare: There is a great deal of difference in flours. Soft wheat flour brands like "White Lily" flour produces bread, biscuits and cakes of much lighter consistancy than say "Gold Medal" which is a hard wheat flour. Biscuits show the greatest difference and all yeast breads. But soft wheat flours aren't marked , you just have to figure out which is hard and which is soft by using.
Substitutions: 1 cup + 2 tbsp sifted cake flour = 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour; 1 cup minus 2 tbsp unsifted flour = 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour; 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs = 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour; 3/4 cup whole wheat flour or bran flour + 1/2 cup all purpose flour; 1 cup rye or rice flour; 1/4 cup soybean flour + 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Whole-wheat flour usually can be substituted for part or all of the all-purpose flour in most recipes. If a recipe calls for two cups flour, try one cup all-purpose and one cup whole-wheat. When completely substituting whole-wheat for white, use 7/8 cup whole-wheat for one cup of white flour.