Key Ingredient

Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga


The new King Arthur Flour cookbook offers many ways of using this specialty flour.

Many of us go through life using nothing but all-purpose flour. In general, this is what all-purpose flour is suited for -- all purposes. But if you step out of that box for a moment, you'll find that all flours are not one and the same.

The basics: All-purpose flour is milled from a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat. Gluten is a kind of protein that provides structure or elasticity. All-purpose is a fine-textured flour milled from the inner part of the wheat kernel and contains no bran or wheat germ. All-purpose flour comes bleached or unbleached, which refers to whether the flour was whitened, chemically or naturally.

Other types of flour include:

>> Bread flour, characterized by a high gluten content that makes it ideal for yeast-bread baking.
>> Whole-wheat flour, which contains the wheat germ, making it higher in fiber and nutritional content. It also has a deeper wheat flavor.
>> Cake flour, a very fine, soft-wheat flour that is high in starch and low in gluten. Cakes and pastries take on a softer texture with cake flour.
>> Self-rising flour, all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt added, is often called for in old quick-bread and yeast-bread recipes.

One brand of flour that's been gaining attention lately is the King Arthur brand from Norwich, Vt. The flour mill dates to 1790 and is touted for its superior, natural, unbleached flours that many bakers swear result in better breads, crusts and baked goods.

The newly published "King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion" (2003, Countryman Press) includes more than 400 recipes for waffles, muffins, quick breads, coffee cakes, pies, cakes, cookies and much more.

Selecting: All varieties of flour are traditionally sold in 5-pound bags, which yield about 19 cups of flour.

Storing: All flour should be stored in an airtight container. All-purpose flour can be stored at room temperature for several months, but in Hawaii flour is often susceptible to bugs, so you may opt to store it in the refrigerator. Wheat flours go rancid faster and should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Use: All flour is presifted, but should be fluffed up before using. Never pack flour into a measuring cup; lightly scrape any excess off with a knife. Flour is used in everything from coating to thickening, but is probably most popular in baking.

Where to buy: Most supermarkets carry all types of flour, with King Arthur flour generally available at Daiei, Times and Foodland. King Arthur flour runs $2 to $5 for a 5-pound bag, while other brands are priced at $1 to $2.

Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga is
a free-lance food writer. Contact her
online through


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