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Which Flour To Use When Making Italian Bread

Mar 18, 2008
Being made up of such a small number of ingredients, it is astounding how bread can vary so dramatically in taste, texture and appearance from one recipe to another.

Flour is the staple component of any recipe, accounting for the highest proportion of most breads, and for this reason, the choice of flour cannot be underestimated.
While organic, stone-ground flours will create more interest in the bread's texture and appearance. The majority of flours are made from wheat and you will commonly hear this type of flour referred to as either 'hard' or 'soft'.

Hard flours contain a larger proportion of gluten, which is responsible for the elasticity of the dough, and an important factor in successful bread making. Hard flours are best for bread making, while soft flours are more suited for pastry making. Plain flours are standard 'all-purpose flours' with low gluten content, while strong white flour is what you'll opt for in baking breads.

Italian flours are widely available in supermarkets these days and you'll often see the label '00', which is a grading based on the fineness of the flour. Tipo '00' is generally used for pastries and fresh pasta, while the coarser tipo '0' is used for bread making. The more nutritious wholemeal flour makes for a denser, but healthiest bread.

Stone-ground flour is a variety of stone-milled flour, which retains all the goodness and is an exceptional 'good-for-you' flour. Semolina flour is commonly used by all good pastifici (pasta maker) to create a textured pasta, which allows the sauce to cling and coat the shells. This type of durum wheat flour also works well to create bread with a particularly grainy texture, although it is generally used alongside a strong white flour.

Spelt flour is gaining a bit of a cult following these days, with food intolerances on the rise. It is easier to digest for those who suffer from wheat or gluten intolerances. Buckwheat flour makes an occasional appearance in bread making, but is traditionally associated with the Russian blini, the delicious yeast pancakes that accompany smoked salmon or caviar.

Whatever your bread, it's best to know your flour. Better quality flour will, as in all cooking make a difference to the finished product. You should always try to purchase the best ingredients that your budget will allow as this could be the difference between being hailed as the next master chef or alternatively being hailed as a disaster chef.
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