Plain or all-purpose flour is a bit weaker, less stretchy and will not rise as much as very strong flour – it makes bread with a softer texture. Cake and pastry flour is weaker again, even less stretchy, and does not make great bread although it does make great cake and pastry (funny that). Rye flour does not have stretchy gluten and cannot really be shaped at all. Gluten-free flours need to be handled much like cake mixture. Even spelt, emmer, kamut and einkorn – wheat’s older cousins – will behave differently from wheat. You can substitute them for wheat in any recipe but be prepared to adjust. Wholemeal/whole-wheat flour (flour made from the whole grain) performs a little differently from white flour. The bran and germ run interference in the dough, making it less stretchy and heavier. Different types of flour make different kinds of dough and different styles of bread. Even if you stick to one kind of flour, you have to remember that from season to season and field to field, grain differs, and from bag to bag, flour differs. Every time you change the brand or the bag of flour that you use, you will notice a difference. Further, countries categorize flour in different ways. This is one of the reasons it is difficult to replicate bread from place to place. Shopping for flour can be confusing, and good-quality flour is not always easy to find. Healthfood
stores are often the best places to get flour and the owner
can usually advise you.
Thankfully, flour is relatively cheap, so disasters are not
expensive. Besides, everything is good toasted. Even if it’s
Stone mills process grain more gently than most industrial
mills. The result is a better product from both a
performance and a nutritional perspective.
Further, because mill stones (see photo, below) are
‘dressed’ by the miller by hand, every mill stone and, thus,
all stone-milled flour is unique to the miller. There is
individuality and humanity in stone-milled flour and
although it is dearer, I am certain you will decide it is
If you would like to know more about flour, the Real Bread
Campaign in the UK is an excellent resource.