I had to walk through “Flour 101” on my own. I had to go through and find all the information by myself. However, I am going to make your flour education easier. I’m going to give you a crash course in wheat flour and put all the information in one place.
Wheat Flour Terminology
In order to understand anything about wheat flour, you first need to know how it begins. Wheat flour starts out as a wheat berry. Wheat berries are simply the seeds of wheat; don’t let the berry part of the name deceive you. Wheat berries are comprised of 3 parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Depending on how much of the wheat berry is used determines if you end up with White or Whole Wheat flour; which variety of wheat berry determines the type of flour.
The Two Basic Types
White Flour – White Flour is made when wheat berries are ground up and both the bran and germ is removed leaving only the endosperm. This results in flour that is finer and lighter but it has now been processed with less nutrients then Whole Wheat Flour and converts to sugar faster in the body.
Whole Wheat Flour – Whole Wheat Flour is made when the wheat berries are ground up and the entire berry is used. This results in flour that is more coarse with specks of brown (from the bran and germ) but it has not been processed and has more nutrients then White Flour.
White Flour Terminology
All-Purpose – This is the standard white flour that many people use. It may be made from many varieties of wheat berry. As with all white flours, it has been processed, had many or all nutrients removed, may be enriched and/or bleached. This type of flour is great for pretty much any baking recipe, however as far as nutrition goes it is one of the lowest on the flour list.
Enriched – When wheat flour has been processed and has most or all of its nutrients removed, companies add vitamins/minerals back in. While this flour does have more nutrients then plain white flour, it still has less then whole wheat flour. Not to mention the vitamins/minerals that are added back in are usually synthetic.
Bleached – Flour that has been chemically bleached to make it whiter in appearance. Bleached flour has less protein then unbleached flour.
Other Varieties of White Flour – Bread Flour, Cake Flour, Self-Rising Flour, and Pastry Flour. All have their own unique qualities but they are all processed and are not high on the nutrition ladder.
Whole Wheat Flour Terminology
Whole Wheat Flour – Entire wheat berry is ground up and the resulting flour is packaged as is. Usually made from Hard Red wheat berries. Also referred to as Graham Flour. This is probably the most common type of Whole Wheat Flour.
White Whole Wheat Flour – Despite the term white, this flour is still a whole grain flour. White Whole Wheat means that the flour has been made with Hard White wheat berries. This flour is lighter in color and tastes less “whole grainy”. White Whole Wheat Flour is great to use if you or others don’t particularly like regular Whole Wheat Flour.
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – This flour is still a whole grain but it has a finer texture and is made from Soft White wheat berries. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour has less gluten then Whole Wheat Flour and therefore is not well suited for yeast breads. However when it comes to muffins, cookies, and other yeast free baked goods, Whole Wheat Pastry Flour comes closest to White Flour.
Sprouted Flour – Sprouted Flour is made by sprouting, dehydrating (you can't make flour from wet sprouts) and then milling the wheat berries. Sprouted flour turns whole grains into a living food, which gives this flour more nutrients then other Whole Wheat flours and it is easily digested and absorbed. I find that Sprouted Flour tastes even more like White Flour then any of the other Whole Wheat Flours.
It should be noted that all Whole Wheat Flours are best when sprouted, soaked, or fermented (sourdough) first. These methods break down phytic acid, which inhibits mineral absorption.
I hope this crash course into flours has helped you better understand all the different flours. To sum things up, Whole Wheat Flours are more nutritious than White Flours. When choosing which flour, opt for Whole Wheat Flours but the variety of Whole Wheat Flour is up to your preference and baking needs.