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How to use flour

Sift through our guide to the essential kitchen staple - flour. From self-raising to 00, bread flour and spelt. Different flours can be used to make different things, and even tweak some of your favourite recipes. Read our handy guide to find out more.

  1. How to store

    White flours will keep for longer than wholemeal varieties, as the latter contain natural oils that spoil more quickly. All flour should be stored in airtight containers: this helps prevent it from oxidising and turning rancid, and helps keep out weevils. Make a note of the expiration date, and don’t mix old and new in the same jar.

  2. White vs wholemeal

    Several flours come in wholemeal or white varieties. Wholemeal includes every part of the grain and has a higher fibre content. It’s more absorbent than white flour, so you’ll need to add slightly more liquid when baking. In white varieties the coarse bran and wheat germ are removed for a finer, more delicate flour.

  3. Plain flour

    If you only buy one kind of flour, make it this one. Plain flour has a middling gluten content, which means dough made from it won’t be stretchy... but equally won’t fall apart. This makes it perfect for biscuits, shortcrust pastry and sauces.

    Plain flour
  4. Spelt flour

    Spelt has a distinctive nutty, mildly sweet taste, and can be used in the same way as plain flour. The gluten breaks down more quickly than in wheat flours, so don’t overwork it.

    Spelt flour
  5. Rye flour

    Rye flour has a unique treacly, slightly sour flavour. It’s naturally low in gluten and creates close-textured, dense bakes. It can be sticky if overmixed and tricky to work with, so it’s often combined with other flours.

    Rye flour
  6. 00 flour

    The name refers to the Italian grading system for how finely the flour is ground: ‘00’ is very fine, with a texture similar to cornflour. It has a high amount of gluten and protein, and is ideal for making pasta and pizza dough.

    00 flour
  7. Buckwheat flour

    Buckwheat flour has a high protein content but contains no gluten, so is often added to gluten-free flour blends. It’s slightly sweet, and is traditionally used to make blinis, soba noodles and Breton galettes.

    Buckwheat flour
  8. Bread flour

    Also called ‘strong flour’, bread flour is made from hard wheat varieties for a strong gluten content. Developing the gluten is vital when making bread. Don’t use for cakes.

    Bread flour
  9. Self-raising flour

    This baking favourite contains added raising agents to make fluffy cakes a doddle. If you don’t have any, you can substitute plain flour plus 2 tsp baking powder per 150g.

    Self-raising flour