All About Flour
Wheat is the grain from which most flour is made. Wheat millers use their knowledge and skills to blend different varieties together so that the flour is produced to the exact specification required, depending on what foods it’s going to be used in – for example, flour used in a burger bun is different to the flour used for pizzas and different again to flour used in the tasty crumb coating of a fishfingers or for biscuits.
Let’s start at the beginning, with the farmer who grows the wheat, harvests it and brings it to the flour mill. When the miller gets the wheat, it’s tested to measure the amount of protein and moisture in the wheat. Then the wheat is sorted into different varieties and cleaned to remove anything that shouldn’t be there – like stones, wood, and other grains such as barley or oats. The wheat grains are then soaked to soften it and make it ready for milling. During milling, large rollers are used to crush the grains. The flour milling process has evolved from wheat being ground between two large stone wheels (although this process does still occur in a few mills!).
What is left is the white part of the grain, called the ‘stock’. For white flour, a sieve then removes the wheat bran and wheatgerm. White flour is made using just the endosperm, which is about 75% of the grain. Wholemeal or wholegrain flour, as the name suggests, uses all of the grain. And brown flour uses around 85% of the grain. Then, it’s ground down further into flour and sieved again to give your flour. The flour is then bagged and transported to the bakery.
So when it comes to making the bread and that we all know and love, water is added to the flour and it’s mixed or kneaded. The proteins in the flour develop into gluten to give dough `stretch`. The gluten holds the carbon dioxide that is produced by the yeast during the fermentation step, and allows the bread to rise.
Flour contains starch, and the natural enzymes that are present in the flour, along with the yeast, convert the starch into glucose. This produces the flavour during baking, and also turns the bread crust golden.
White flour is fortified with B Vitamins and minerals in the flour mill, and so these are often listed also. You might see it listed as Wheatflour (Wheat, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Thiamin, Niacin).
Finally, it is really important to know that in the UK and EU, it is illegal to bleach flour, so the whiteness you see is totally natural. Flour is bleached in other parts of the world, so you might see recipes that call for “unbleached” flour, but now you know that the flour e use is definitely unbleached!
For more information:
- UK Flour Millers https://www.ukflourmillers.org/wheat
- Agriland.ie EU official: Europe to have 38m tonnes of exportable wheat https://tinyurl.com/42re9e9v
- Andrews Flour https://www.andrewsflour.com/
- Food Drink Ireland https://www.ibec.ie/connect-and-learn/industries/food-and-drink/food-drink-ireland/irish-bread-bakers-association/breaducation/flour-and-wheat
- Flour Advisory Bureau https://fabflour.co.uk/fab-flour/how-flour-is-milled/
- Flour fortification blog post - https://www.ibec.ie/connect-and-learn/industries/food-and-drink/food-drink-ireland/irish-bread-bakers-association/breaducation/flour-and-wheat