Friday, November 2, 2012


This is a very simplified guide and certainly not complete but it helps to  learn how to  choose the flour that best suits our recipes. 

In general, the question rises when we decide to become home-bakers, making bread, pizza and all those preparations with natural yeast. For cakes and desserts in general it is much easier because the rising process is different and does not require big attention. 

First of all, we have to know a very important concept that will make us more professional and aware of what we are doing with our flour: The strength or W factor.

The strength of the flour  is indicated by the symbol W, and it is so important that I never understand why we cannot find it on the flour packages. However, we can keep in mind this basic principle: 

The greater the force is, the easier will be for the dough to rise.

Flour with a higher W, absorb more water and have a higher content in proteins that help the rising favoring the formation of the gluten network. The amount of protein you can find it on the packaging of each flour and is expressed as a percentage. 

  1. Ask yourself for what purpose you'll need flour: Pizza, bread, pasta, cakes, pies, cookies, puddings, creams. 
  2. Before buying the flour you chose, we must check the percentage of protein because that can change things. 

Example: We want to make white bread, and we decided to use a refined flour such as superfine (00 in italy). We go to the supermarket and find more than one brand. Checking on the label of the quantities of proteins, the first indicates 9%, the second 11%.  

Which do we have to choose? The first is far too weak to make bread. We opt for the second that seems to has been reinforced, and it does the job. Also remember there are flours already selected for specific meal preparations. They are generally more expensive but if you want to play it safe may be the alternative. 

Here is my handy table to choose flour according to the protein percentage. I know it is written in the italian language. In order to let you understand it, I made a second tabs just under this one. 

And the following  tab is to help you converting protein percentage into W factor:

From W 90 to W 170   = Weak flour
From W 180 to W 260 = Medium strength flour
From W 280 to W 350 = Strong flour
W 350 and over  =  Special flours

We bought our flour. Now we have to think of another very important thing:
The maturation time, which is not the same of the rising time. The greater is strength and protein content, the longer will be the time to maturity. 

The maturation is the chemical process triggered by the yeast, which leads to the formation of the gluten network. If the maturation time is not sufficient we will have a finished product less digestible, with probably a stronger taste of yeast.

A practical example: I have my all-purpose flour, with a protein content of 11%, and I want to make a pizza. Rising time in the recipe = 3 hours. I know the weak flour maturation is 3-5 hours so there are no problems because the times are the same.

- All-purpose flour = 150-200 W, maturation time: 3-5 hours. 
- Reinforced flour = 200-250 W, maturation: 5-10 hours
- Bread flour = 250-300, maturation: 8-12 hours
- Strong flour = 300-400, maturation from 12 to 24 hours.

Now it's up to you to figure out which flour is the best for your recipe, bread, pizza, or a beautiful homemade panettone
Was this meant to be only an introductory guide. 
But I hope, in my small way of helping to raise awareness of the complex world of flour offering a starting point for further personal research. 
Goodbye and see you soon!

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