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Which flour do I use? A (brief) guide for Aussies.

Open a baking book or glance at a bread blog and you will quickly notice many labels and names for flour.

Perhaps you decide to try making “pain au levain” (sourdough bread).
One recipe book calls for bread flour with some light rye flour, another suggests all-purpose flour with a small amount of hard red spring wholewheat flour, the third suggests T55 flour, your final reference suggests organic unbleached high-protein white wheat flour.

But none of those appears on the supermarket shelf. Even Google is confusing with local options.

The challenges are twofold: recipes are available from all over the world and there are almost no standards or universal labels for flour.

This blog is intended as a guide for Australian home-bakers seeking help for what flour to use. It will not answer every question, but it may answer some. These are based on my personal reading, experience, and research only and results are not guaranteed. I’ll update it periodically as required. 

 

KEY POINTS:

  • There are no standard labels for flour in Australia.
  • All flours/grains will vary due to different varieties, growing conditions and milling methods.
  • Adjustments are usually required (e.g. how much water in the dough, how much mixing, to what level the dough is fermented).
  • A great loaf of bread can be achieved with most flours – speciality flours are great to use, but not required.
  • A good farmer, miller and distributor/retailer should be able to tell you more specifics about their product/s.

 

TERMS:

Roller-milled: grain is passed through a series of stainless-steel rollers (think rolling pins with tiny grooves) and sifters which separate the grain into lots of parts. The mill then blends each component to make the final desired flour.

Stoneground (stone-milled): grain is passed through two parallel, rotating stones with grooves. These stones crush the grain to the desired fineness. The resulting flour may or may not be sifted to remove some of the larger chunks of milled grain.

Farmer: the person who manages the growing of the grain.

Miller: the person who mills and usually distributes the flour.

Baker: you or me who ferments the flour and bakes the bread.

 

RYE

Rye flour, white rye flour, dark rye flour, pumpernickel flour, wholemeal rye flour, stoneground rye flour…

The darkness (colour) of the flour primarily relates to the amount of bran in the flour. So, a wholegrain flour will be darkest and most dense textured (because the bran interrupts the gluten forming). Sifted rye flours (often simply labelled as rye flour) will be lighter in colour and flavour. White rye flour is sometimes available and is very light in colour and mild flavoured. 

Australian rye flours are interchangeable with other rye flours. Choose based on preference for rye flavour and desired texture.    

 

SPELT (dinkel)

White spelt flour, wholemeal spelt flour, stoneground spelt flour…

Spelt flour options are simple and most recipes will specify which one. Choose white spelt flour for a lighter texture; choose stoneground spelt flour (fine texture) or wholemeal spelt flour (more obvious bran pieces) for a stronger spelt flavour.

 

WHEAT

‘White’ flours: all-purpose flour, bread flour, strong [high-protein] flour, high gluten flour, baguette flour, pizza flour, bagel flour, durum flour

The nuances of wheat flours, especially ‘white’ (called ‘white’ due to removal of darker coloured bran and germ) flours, available is a huge topic. As a generalisation, most are interchangeable, however adjustments will need to be made to how much water is added to the dough, amount of mixing, and how far the dough is fermented.  

For white flours, most Australian flour mills seem to have a bread flour and strong (high protein) flour. My observation:

  • North American all-purpose flour is a rough equivalent to our bread flour.
  • North American bread flour is somewhat equivalent to Australian strong flour.
  • High gluten and bagel flours are equivalent to some Australian speciality high protein flours.

WHEAT

Wholemeal flours: wholewheat flour, wholemeal flour, wholemeal bread flour, high-protein wholemeal flour, stoneground wholewheat flour, atta flour, wholegrain durum flour     

Most wholemeal flours can be split between bread flours (generally high protein and milled for bread-making) and general use (e.g. plain wholemeal flour) for cakes, biscuits, etc. Ask the miller what theirs is.

Atta flour is usually milled finer and can be used for bread-making: flatbreads and tallbreads (is that a word?).

Most roller-milled wholemeal flours has the germ removed, to extend shelf life. For a “whole” wholemeal flour, wholegrain stoneground flours are your best option.    

 

Supermarkets

Here are some common supermarket labels.

Plain flour: wheat flour, generally white flour unless labelled wholemeal.

Self-raising flour: like plain flour, but with the addition of baking powder. Not interchangeable in bread recipes.  

Unbleached flour: with the exception of some speciality cake/biscuit flours, almost all flours in Australia are unbleached. The label has stuck around from when they were bleached decades ago.   

 

T45, T55, T85, T100, T150 flours (French)

French classifications for wheat flours. The numbers relate to the amount of minerals in the flour. Most minerals are in the outer part of the wheat kernel, so the more numbers the more wholegrain it is. T55 is comparable to our white bread flours; T150 is comparable to a stoneground wholegrain wheat flour.

 

0, 00, 000, 0000, 1, 2 flours (Italian)

Italian classifications for wheat flours. Conveniently, these can be found at many speciality supermarkets and providores. White bread flour is an acceptable substitution.  

 

Red wheat, white wheat, purple wheat (yes, it’s a thing)…

Most wheat grown for human food in Australia is white wheat. Red wheat is grown but is primarily used for animal feed. Purple wheat is grown, but isn’t available widely.

The colour does not influence the baking performance, so are interchangeable. The flours may be different, but not because of the colour specifically. Growing conditions, varieties, milling all play a part in differences in flour. The colour adds flavour, so a white wheat is mild, and the coloured wheats have a stronger flavour.

 

Organic, biodynamic, conventional, single origin, traceable…  

Most of these refer to the growing and milling and storage processes. They are generally interchangeable and can be used based on personal preference and food philosophy.

 

EXAMPLES

A couple of examples for how this might be applied for your bread.

EXAMPLE: You find a new recipe for “rye bread” in a British bread book. It calls for wholegrain rye flour and describes it as a flour using the whole rye grain, stone-milled.
Any Australian type of rye flour will work. Adjustments will need to be made (e.g. water, mixing, fermentation) because their rye flour is likely a different variety and has different growing conditions. Choose for preference: if you like a dense, more fibrous texture find a stoneground wholemeal rye flour. If you prefer a rye flavour but lighter texture, use a roller-milled rye flour.   

 

EXAMPLE: There is a recipe for a “pain au levain” from an American baker. They use all-purpose wheat flour and a little bit of wholewheat flour. Refer to descriptions above, but simply substitute bread flour for the all-purpose and any wholemeal bread flour for the wholewheat flour. Adjustments will need to be made (e.g. water, mixing, fermentation) because their wheats are probably a different variety and grown in different geography and climate.

 

CONCLUSION

Bread is a delicious and universal food, but ingredient labels vary. I trust this (very) brief guide will assist your baking.   

If you have questions or revisions, please feel free to contact us via email.

 

KEY POINTS (a reminder):

  • There are no standard labels for flour in Australia.
  • All flours/grains will vary due to different varieties, growing conditions and milling methods.
  • Adjustments are usually required (e.g. how much water in the dough, how much mixing, to what level the dough is fermented).
  • A great loaf of bread can be achieved with most flours – speciality flours are great to use, but not required.
  • A good farmer, miller and distributor/retailer should be able to tell you more specifics about their product/s.