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Flours and Starches

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Flours and Starches: I Can Buy Myself Flours, Write My Name in the Sand

Flours and starches are the backbone of numerous culinary staples.  Stick with the classics or try a more unique variety to build your own edible creation.

In this section, we will briefly go through the differences that flours and starches have to offer and, hopefully, help you find the perfect choice (or choices) for your pantry.

Flour and Starch Types

When choosing the right flour for your cooking, you want to ask yourself:

  1. What are they made of? For example, does anyone at your table have an allergy or intolerance to gluten? The most common flour for cooking contains wheat, and thus gluten, but there are numerous gluten-free alternatives for your consideration.
  2. Are you looking for whole grain or refined flour? Flours made from whole grains, for example whole wheat, will typically contain much more nutrients given the milling process compared to refined grains. Due to this, whole grain flours also absorb more liquid than their refined counterparts which can affect the ratio of ingredients you’re using in your cooking.
  3. What is the desired final product? The milling process will determine the macro nutrients in the flour as well as how fine it is, both of which will affect how your end product cooks and the final texture. Some recipes will call for specific kinds of flour to ensure that you end up with the perfect dish on your table.

Now that we’ve reviewed the factors that can change which flour you are shopping for, let’s take a closer look at some specific types

  • Wheat Flours: This category is what many of us are most familiar with and often already have on our shelves at home, like all-purpose flour and bread flour. However, there are 6 different types of wheat from which wheat flour is milled, and the end products have different attributes that can change the taste or texture of what you’re making. One example is atta flour, an Indian whole wheat flour that is ground using stone mills – this milling process grinds the flour very finely and affects the starch and protein in the flour, making the end result perfect for flatbread. On the other side of the spectrum, Korean wheat flour is made from Anjeunbaengi wheat, which typically has a lower protein content than other wheats, so that flour is softer and great for making noodles.  
  • Gluten-Free Flours: A perfect choice for our friends with Celiac disease, gluten allergies, or folks who are just looking to try something new, this category is the traditional flour we know and love but made from products other than wheat. This includes almond flour, chickpea flour, rice flour, and more. These flours often have their own nuances in terms of flavor, and they are great to have on hand for folks with dietary restrictions or just to try some new recipes. While gluten-free options may be a more recent addition to American kitchens, many cultures have been utilizing gluten-free flours in recipes for generations. In Ethiopia, injera is traditionally made with teff while dosas in India – similar to crepes – are made from rice and lentils.
  • Flours from Ancient Grains: These superfoods have been around long before hip restaurants started featuring them in healthy bowls, so if you want to read more about ancient grains in their whole form, check out our page about grains. Some ancient grains are used to make their own unique flours, like millet flour and sorghum flour, which are commonly used due to their lower gluten content than traditional flours (though, note that they aren’t gluten-free). If substituting ancient grain flours in baking, you may want to swap out just a portion of the flour, especially when making bread, to ensure that your product has the rise that you desire.
  • Starches: Starch is the most common carbohydrate in the human diet. Starchy foods, like potatoes, bread, and pasta, is what most of us think of when we hear the word, but you can also purchase pure starches, which typically come in a white powder. When mixed with water, starches, like cornstarch and tapioca, become a paste that is a great tool for thickening sauces, gravies, and pudding.

Visit us soon and expand your culinary expertise – we’re passionate about educating and sharing the vast world of flour and starches with you and the numerous cultures that have been growing and utilizing them for centuries (and the ancient grains for millennia!).

Have a favorite recipe with one of these flours or starches? Share it with us!

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