This post was written by my friend, Mimi Council. Mimi founded the first organic bakery in the United States. I've learned so much about the importance of organic growing and sustainable farm practices in the past few years. Mimi has really inspired me to take those lessons into the real world and demonstrates how easy it is to shop for and use organic ingredients. You can learn more about her on her blog mimibakesphotos.com and on Instagram.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many different kinds of flour? Why are there so many flours, and why can’t you use just one kind? What are the best flours to bake with? Today I am sharing 12 Best Flours to Bake With. This way you can stock your pantry with the best flours to bake with as we head into baking season!
Flour helps baked goods rise, it gives them texture, and it also provides flavor. Specialty flours such as Rye Flour, Almond Flour, and more can provide a flavor that another flour just can’t. Some flours can even help dry out baked goods (sounds weird right, because who wants dry baked goods?) but that can be very helpful in certain recipes to obtain the best texture given the other ingredients. Coconut flour can do this as well as provide an amazing flavor.
Many flours are given their name based on their protein content and what that does in your baked goods. This is where it is super important to use the correct type of flour to get the texture that you expect from a certain recipe. For tender cakes, chewy cookies, and fluffy bread make sure you use the flour that the recipe calls for.
What is flour protein content?
Flour is made from wheat, and the proteins in wheat are called gluten-forming proteins. The amount of gluten-forming proteins are what determines what that flour does to your baked goods. There are different amounts of these gluten-forming proteins in all the different types of flour. So, not all flour is created equal!
These gluten-forming proteins play a major role in your baked goods. Flours with a higher protein content will make your baked goods chewy and sturdy - think crusty breads like sourdough. Flours with a lower protein content will make your baked goods tender and fluffy - like cakes and cupcakes.
Why is protein content important in flour?
Protein content in flour is important for baking because baking is really all about texture. Think about if you had a bread that was crumbly and not chewy - that wouldn’t be good. Or if you had a cake that was hard and dense instead of spongy and fluffy.
So, when a recipe calls for a specific type of flour, be sure to use that specific type of flour. Otherwise, you will get a different final product - one that probably doesn’t taste as good as it should!
So I am going to share a dozen different flours with you today. This list of the best flours to bake with will tell you what these flours are good for, and why you should keep them on hand in your pantry (or at least be able to run to the grocery store and pick up a bag if you need it for a recipe)!
This list of 12 Best Flours to Bake With includes my favorite flours to bake with. I’ll also share my favorite brands, so you know which ones have organic options and have been tested thoroughly by me!
All Purpose Flour
All purpose flour is your most standard flour. It’s used in everything from chocolate chip cookies, brownies, some cakes, breads, cinnamon rolls and more! It is most common in cakes where there is a fruit or vegetable that makes the cake very moist, such as carrot cake. The higher protein content in all purpose flour versus cake flour will help with structure when you have a cake that is very moist, such as carrot or zucchini.
If you notice that organic all purpose flour will be accompanied by unbleached, let me explain why. While all flour is bleached in some way, traditional conventional flour is bleached using chemicals to speed up aging. Alternatively, organic unbleached all purpose flour is bleached naturally as it ages. This is why it is important to buy organic unbleached all purpose flour.
10 to 12% protein
All purpose flour is best for cookies, brownies, pie crust, muffins, cinnamon rolls, carrot cakes, and more.
Bread flour has a higher protein content than all purpose flour. It is most commonly used for yeast breads. Due to its higher protein content, bread flour makes dough more elastic which can result in a more chewy texture in your finished baked goods. Be sure to use bread flour if a recipe calls for it.
12 to 14% protein
Bread flour is best for sourdough, buns, bagels, pizza doughs, crusty breads, pretzels, and more.
Cake flour is a low protein flour, and it is milled into a very fine consistency. This combination of lower protein and very fine texture is what creates the light and fluffy texture that everyone loves about cake. There is no organic cake flour on the market right now, but King Arthur makes my favorite one that is Non GMO. You can also make Homemade Cake Flour!
7 to 9% protein
Cake flour is good for layer cakes, pound cakes, sheet cakes, cupcakes, sponge cakes, muffins, and more.
Pastry flour is a fine flour made from soft white wheat and soft red wheat. This is a lower protein content flour, which provides a soft texture or light crumb. It is used in pastries like croissants and puff pastry. Pastry flour and cake flour have a very similar protein content, and you can also use pastry flour in cakes as well if a recipe calls for cake flour but you can’t find it.
Pastry flour is good for pastries such as croissants, puff pastry, donuts, biscuits, cakes, and more.
Guisto’s makes the best organic pastry flour.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour is a high protein flour. This flour also provides a very hearty and distinct flavor – most of you can probably tell when something is whole wheat flavored! You can use whole wheat flour in some cookie recipes or cinnamon rolls, like my Healthy Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls. It can also be used to make breads, crackers, or waffles.
13 to 14% protein
Whole wheat flour is good for: whole wheat breads, crackers, tortillas, cookies, waffles, pancakes, and more.
White Whole Wheat Flour
White whole wheat flour is a type of whole wheat flour. The name may be confusing as it may seem that it is a blend of whole wheat and white flour or that it is bleached whole wheat flour. But, neither of these are true. White whole wheat is milled the same way whole wheat flour is, but it just comes from different wheat berries. While whole wheat flour usually comes from red wheat berries, white whole wheat flour comes from hard white wheat berries which are sweeter! You can use white whole wheat flour interchangeably with whole wheat flour, but the taste will be different.
13 to 14% protein
White whole wheat flour is good for cookies, waffles, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, and more.
King Arthur makes the best organic white whole wheat flour.
00 flour is a specialty flour that is most commonly used to make pizza dough and pasta. It hails from Italy, and the 00 stands for the size of the grind. In Europe, mills or grinds can range from 00 to 2, with 00 being the finest grind. 00 flour is made from Durum wheat, which has a high protein content so that means that the gluten formation is strong. This is one of the reasons why it makes amazing pizza dough! And some people even call this pizza flour. The protein content is very similar to all purpose, so you could substitute that in a pinch but I really think that this flour makes a big difference. I have even used it to make cookies and brownies before!
11 to 12.5% protein
00 flour is used for pizza dough, pasta, cookies, brownies, and more.
Guisto’s makes the best organic 00 flour.
Kamut flour is one of my favorite specialty flours to use. Its flavor is unmatchable with any other type of flour and it lends a sweet, nuttiness to baked goods that will just make you wonder what that flavor is! I love using it in cookies.
Kamut flour is made from Khorasan wheat, which is an ancient grain. This ancient grain is an amber wheat and is closely related to durum wheat. Kamut is the only brand that guarantees the preservation of this ancient strain of wheat. Kamut flour is also higher in protein than traditional wheat, coming in up to 40% more!
Kamut flour is good for cookies, pastries, biscotti, bars, and more. Try my Kamut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies, it's one of the top recipes on my site!
Food to Live makes the best organic Kamut flour that I have used yet.
Rye flour is made from rye berries, which are also sometimes called rye kernels. While everyone knows that rye flour is used in rye bread, it can also be used in other baked goods to provide a distinct flavor. Try my Rye Chocolate Chip Cookies! Rye flour is known as a healthier flour option because it is high in fiber, iron, B vitamins and more. Plus, rye flour provides an amazing flavor in baked goods – this is why I love it.
Rye flour is good for breads, cookies, sourdough, crackers, scones, and more.
Self Rising Flour
Self rising flour is just flour with baking powder and salt already added to it. Baking powder is a leavening agent, which makes baked goods rise. So, adding this to flour is where this flour got its name (I think, haha). Self rising flour is common in Southern baked goods, and it's important to use it when a recipe calls for it, as it has added leavening that is needed in the recipe.
Self rising flour is most commonly used for biscuits and sponge cakes.
There is no organic self rising flour on the market, but you can make your own self rising flour very easily with my Homemade Self Rising Flour recipe.
Almond flour is made from grinding blanched almonds. It is a tan colored flour that can be used in many ways that all purpose flour is used. Though, it doesn’t have gluten-forming proteins, so it won’t act the same as far as creating chewy texture and helping baked goods rise. I like to use almond flour in cookies, brownies, and biscotti. You can even make your own almond flour by grinding blanched slivered almonds in a food processor until fine.
Almond flour can be used for cookies, brownies, bars, biscotti, scones, French macarons, and more.
Coconut flour is a specialty flour that provides a sweet coconut flavor to baked goods. This flour is very drying and it cannot be substituted for any other type of flour because it does not act the same way as anything else. I use coconut flour sparingly in addition to other types of flours in cookies and coffee cakes.