Since the discovery of cereals in ancient Mesopotamia, the importance of these in Western eating habits is unquestionable. In the Mediterranean arc, flour is almost synonymous with wheat flour, since it is the most used for bread making and in a great variety of food and beverage products.
Flour is the main ingredient in the preparation of an element as indispensable in our diet as bread, an irreplaceable food in any balanced diet.
Although at first sight the flour may seem like a simple food, it is a very complex product, given that the proportion of its different components (proteins and starch), determine to a large extent its technological characteristics and its aptitude and suitability to be used in the different processes: manufacture of different types of breads, pastries, confectionery or biscuits, among others.
What is common to all flours and is regulated and harmonized at EU level are the issues related to hygiene and food safety, while the technical characteristics or quality of the flours depend on the Member States themselves and there is no harmonized regulation at EU level.
What are the most used flours?
The wheat flour remains a healthy and natural product, obtained by grinding grain healthy mature wheat, whole, clean and industrially. At present, around 600 types of high-quality flour are produced in the European Union to meet the specific needs of customers.
Wheat flour is the most widespread for bread making, but there are numerous subtypes depending mainly on its protein content and the ability of these to form gluten, but also depending on whether the resulting masses are more or less tenacious or extendable.
From the legal point of view, depending on their composition and the uses to which they are destined, wheat flours are classified into: bread flour, loose flour, wheat flour, quinoa flour, rye flour, corn flour.
- Flour strength and high quality gluten (at least a percentage of 12 grams of protein in each 100 grams of flour, up to 15%), the most voluminous loaves require this type of flour able to support its structure and retain the gas that it is generated during fermentation. This type of flour will also be used when other ingredients such as fat, sugars, nuts, etc. are present in the dough. This is the case of sliced breads, bulky bread obtained by a traditional process, but also panettones, croissants and roscones among others.
- Medium strength flour, which develops gluten moderately (between 10-11 grams of protein per 100 grams) and will be used for all those masses that need moderate kneading and that do not have excess fat such as pizzas, cocas or similar. This type of flour can be obtained by mixing loose flour and strength flour in a certain proportion.
- Loose flour, also called baking or pastry flour, is a flour indicated for low-fat and low-gluten masses (less than 10 gram of protein per 100 gram), that is to say, those that are not going to be kneaded, such as biscuits, cupcakes, muffins, or broken dough.
However, despite the vast extent and popularity of wheat flour there is an increasing tendency to make bread and other products with flour from other cereals (oats, rye, rice and others).
The rye flour is one of the most used in bread making, after wheat. It has an ash color and acidic flavor. One of the most used mixes is 80% baking or strength flour and 20% rye flour, this allows to get high structure breads and tender crumbs, and also savor the nuances offered by rye flour. It is rich in fiber, folic acid and vitamin B.
The spelt is considered the origin of all the current wheat varieties, but it has been in this last decade when its popularity has grown dramatically, thanks to the discovery of its multiple nutritional qualities and its gastronomic use. It stands out above all for its high protein content of high biological value with amino acids such as lysine, scarce in other cereals, being also a great source of minerals and vitamins, especially in group B.
On the other hand, corn flour is the most famous alternative for those intolerant to gluten. It is precisely because of this quality, so that in itself is not of bread making quality, if you do not have to be combined with other types of flour.
But in addition to these cereals, there are new relatively recent additions, such as Tritordeum, which is a new natural cereal that is born from the combination of a durum wheat and a barley from Chile and Argentina. It is the first cereal of new creation that is commercialized in the world for human consumption. In addition to a pleasant flavor, Tritordeum flour has high levels of protein and fiber.
Flours of other grains, known as pseudocereals, are also being prepared, such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat. Quinoa flour is a food that is obtained by grinding the previously washed quinoa grain. It is a simple and quick to prepare food, very versatile. It has a high protein, calcium and iron content.