The Different Types of Flour
It’s a general misconception that 00 flour should only be used for making pasta and pizza! When you go to Italy and eat bread, pastries, cakes… it’s all made with 00 flour!
Unlike in the US where flours are primarily categorized by how much protein they have, in Italy, flours are initially classified by ash content. Ashes are the minerals substances contained into the kernel husk, so the higher the sifting efficiency, the lower the ash quantity. However, like American flours, Italian flours also vary by protein percent. So while buying 00 flour for pizza and pasta is great (you’ll get a superior product than using an all-purpose or bread flour), it doesn’t mean it won’t be equally as good for all of your baking needs!
At Caputo, we craft flours for every purpose by combining different varieties of wheat to achieve specific characteristics, so although many of our flours are type “00,” our pizzeria flour is made specifically for pizza while our pastry flour is made specifically for your favorite baked sweets!
Another key difference in types of flour, is the type of wheat used. The US grows three types of wheat: winter wheat, spring wheat, and durum wheat. The majority of the wheat grown in the United States is Hard Red Winter Wheat (HRW), which is grown primarily in the Great Plains and is known for its high protein content, often associated with breadmaking. Unlike the US, Europe grows soft wheat and durum wheat. Soft wheats grow in warm and temperate regions and there are many different varieties grown around the world. Although soft wheats are generally lower in protein and higher in starches than hard wheats, at Caputo, we carefully curate different blends for our flours. This allows us to control different protein strengths and dough characteristics and ensure that our flours deliver the highest quality results.
Below, we’ve broken down different types of flour (American and Italian) to help you have a better understanding next time you’re in the grocery store:
Italian Primary Categorization:
- Whole Wheat (Integrale): Whole wheat flour is made from all three components of the grain: the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. Rich in nutrients, whole wheat flour has a heartier flavor than sifted flours and its protein percent can range. However, because of its high fat content, whole wheat flour has a shorter shelf life than the other types of flour. It also produces heavier and denser baked goods.
- Tipo 2: Also known as "semi-whole wheat" flour, Tipo 2, or Type 2 flour, contains more germ than types 1, 0 and 00 but is less dense and easier to work with than whole wheat flour.
- Tipo 1: Type 1 flour, or Tipo 1, in Italian, is more sifted than Whole Wheat and Type 2 flour, but less sifted than 0 and 00 flour. An homage to the age-old method of stone ground flours, Tipo 1 employs a modern milling technique that creates a flour with wheat germ and bran that is soft and light brown with a rich flavor and aroma.
- 0: Type 0 flour is slightly less sifted than 00 flour and retains a small amount of bran.
- 00: The most sifted type of Italian flour, 00 flour is made only from the endosperm. The transformation process of 00 flour is a separation between the husk and endosperm. Therefore, there is no chemical or molecular process in place.
However, like all American flours, each type of Italian flour ranges in protein content and can be further categorized.
American Primary Categorization:
- Cake flour: Like 00 flour, cake flour is only made from the endosperm. What sets cake flour apart is its extremely low protein at only 7.5-9%. Lower protein means less gluten which results in a finer, softer, and fluffier texture, making it ideal when baking its namesake: cake!
- Pastry: Pastry flour is similar to cake flour in that it is also on the lower end of the protein spectrum and typically consists of just the endosperm. However, pastry flour is less starchy and fine than cake flour and has a slightly higher protein content at around 9-10%. This makes it ideal for light and tender baked goods (muffins, scones, pancakes, etc.) that would become crumby if replaced with all purpose flour.
- All-purpose: It’s safe to say that we all are familiar with all-purpose flour. It’s a pantry staple because it’s just that - all-purpose. While it won’t give you the best possible results or make the best products you’ve ever had, its moderate amount of protein (10-12%) makes it versatile. However, while it also is made with just the endosperm, do be aware that it also often is bleached and enriched with additives. .
- Bread: Also like 00 flour, bread flour is sifted and made only from the endosperm. Although sifted, bread flour still has a high protein content: generally 12-16%. Gluten development is imperative when baking bread as you need a strong gluten network that can keep its shape as your dough rises and traps gas.
- Whole Wheat: Whole wheat flour is made from all three components of the grain: the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. Rich in nutrients, whole wheat flour has a heartier flavor than sifted flours and its protein percent can range. However, because of its high fat content, whole wheat flour has a shorter shelf life than the other types of flour. It also produces heavier and denser baked goods.
- Semolina: Most commonly used in dry/extruded pasta making, Semolina is made from durum wheat and is a very high protein flour. While wheat flour is most often applied for fresh pasta, when combined with wheat flour, semolina is great for making long cuts of fresh pasta. Its gold hue and rustic flavor also make it a great addition to breads and cakes.
- Organic: What determines if flour is organic is how it was grown in the fields and produced. This means that the wheat used is completely free of artificial additives and pesticides whether in the fields or being milled and packaged.
- Self-Rising: Self-rising flour is just all-purpose flour with a chemical leavener (often salt and baking powder) and you can easily make it yourself! we recommend using one cup Chef's flour, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. However, it should only be used when a recipe specifically calls for it.
- Gluten-free: It goes without saying - gluten-free flour is flour with zero gluten. Typically, gluten-free flour is not made with wheat, spelt, rye or barley. You probably are familiar with almond flour, coconut flour, oat flour, and brown rice flour as substitutes for wheat flours. At Caputo, we have crafted a gluten-free flour using de-glutenized wheat starch that will make you forget that what you are eating is gluten-free!
- White whole wheat: White whole wheat flour is made from a lighter variety of hard winter wheat and is slightly sweeter than regular whole wheat flour.
So. no matter what you are making, there is a flour out there for you! At Caputo we believe in creating a flour for every purpose instead of an all-purpose flour so that you are always achieving the best results possible. With flours in all categories (both Italian and American), we hope our flour finds a home in your kitchen. If you're still not sure which flour of ours you should be using, take our quiz to find out!