Flour is Flour—Right? WRONG. What You Need To Know Before You Bake Your Next Cake

Have you ever wandered into the baking aisle at the grocery store and stared at the flour, not knowing what to get? I used to, before I learned that there is a difference between flours.

When it comes to flour, it’s all about the grain and the processing method. Rather than bore you with all the scientific details, I thought I’d give you a general breakdown of the types of flour available on the market today. By the time you’re finished with this article, you will be able to walk down the baking aisle with confidence, knowing you are now in the flour “know-how.”

All-purpose flour: You likely know this flour well. It is used in just about anything, from brownies to pancakes, pizza dough to muffins. This is a sturdy flour, a blend of hard and soft wheats. Conveniently, this flour usually comes pre-sifted, making it a lovely choice for most baking. And if you’ve always wondered whether or not all-purpose flour is naturally white, the answer of course is no. To get all-purpose flour white, it is bleached with hydrogen gas and benzoyl peroxide.

Cake flour: Predictably, this flour is used to make cakes. It’s made from soft wheat flour and is also useful for baking pastries. If you don’t have any cake flour on hand, you can substitute all-purpose flour. Simply substitute 1 cup of the all-purpose flour less 2 Tablespoons for the cake flour.

Bread flour: This is a must for making many yeast breads. It’s made from high-gluten, hard wheat. This produces breads with superior taste and texture.

You can store bread flour, cake flour, and all-purpose flour in airtight containers for up to six months. Just make sure you keep the flour in a cool, dark space. To avoid our creepy crawly friends from making their way into your flour, consider refrigerating or freezing your flour in a moisture-proof wrapping. Frozen flour is good for up to a year if kept in the freezer. If you do freeze your flour, make sure to bring it to room temperature prior to usage.

Try this sourdough bread!