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Choosing the Best Flour for Your Holiday Baking

Holiday Baking

Giving baked goods from your own kitchen is giving a gift from your heart. Everybody loves receiving those delights. For the bakers, though, looking at the many different kinds of flour on the grocery shelves can be confusing.

Shop for a good flour for your holiday baking. Here are a few tips on choosing the best flour to make those exceptional cookies, cakes, breads or just fantastic pizza.

First determine what you are going to make and how much money you want to spend on the baked good. Then decide on whether you want to make it from organic flour, wheat flour or white flour.

Most markets carry the usual store brand flours and local flours. Purchasing local flours helps the local economy and you may know about any pesticides or blights that may have gone through the area. Moisture and protein content vary from year to year and may affect the performance of some of your favorite recipes, so watch news reports regarding wheat crops.

All-Purpose Flour
The most popular flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat that produces a constantly dependable flour and gives the best results with a wide variety of baked goods. It is a favorite for baking cookies and quick breads. This flour contains only the endosperm (the nutritive plant tissue) of the wheat and sometimes will be enriched. However, this type of flour doesn’t have enough protein to produce a quality bread.

Stone-Buhr Washington White All-Purpose Flour is the next generation of white flour. It’s organic, locally grown and milled. This unbleached, shepherd’s grain wheat is fantastic for cupcakes and muffins. $3 for a 5-lb bag. Visit www.cheftools.com.

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Self-Rising Flour
This is an All-Purpose Flour to which baking powder and salt have been added. One cup of self-rising flour contains 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt. Not many recipes use self-rising flour because adjustments need to be made and isn’t preferred by those watching their salt intake.

Whole Wheat Flour
Sometimes referred to as Graham Flour, it contains the entire wheat kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm (the nutritive plant tissue). This flour packs a nutritional punch. King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour is the newest addition to King Arthur’s line of flours. It is made from white wheat as well as being less course and milder in flavor than most whole wheat flours. It costs around $5.95 for a 5-lb bag. Visit www.kingarthurflour.com.

Rice Flour
This is a specialty flour milled from brown or white rice and used most frequently for gluten-restricted diets.

Bread Flour
This is a flour made of hard and soft wheats and a blend of high protein flours. It is usually unbleached and finely milled.

Pizza Flour
Antico Molino Caputo Tipo “00” Pizza Flour is the best pizza flour and produced in Naples – the home of some of the world’s best pizza. This flour is 11.5% gluten which is less than most pizza flours and is the secret to a crust that is moist but crisp. $17.50 for a 5-pack of 2.2-lb bags. Visit www.fornobravo.com.

Leading Flours
Pillsbury is a favorite because it is known for the consistent quality of its baking products. Its BEST Bread Flour is finely milled flour that produces a light, fluffy loaf with a slight sweetness in taste. Its Whole Wheat flour also produces a nice flavor. Visit www.pillsburybaking.com/default.aspx for more information and recipes.
Gold Medal, a General Mills product, markets its Better for Bread Flour. It produces an airy bread with a crisp and a flaky crust. Visit www.goldmedalflour.com.

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For nice and reasonably priced organic flours, check out Hodgeson Mill. Primarily available east of the Mississippi and offers a variety of all-natural, whole grain products including a Best For Bread Flour to produce loaves with a mellow flavor and crisp crust.

Baking Mixes
Baking mixes are great for crusts, muffins, biscuits, shortcakes and more. They are available by box or bag, ranging in price. A favorite in the Midwest is Jiffy Baking mix. A box usually runs for $2 or even less with yummy and quick recipes on the back. Store brands are good, but sometimes produce a heavier baked good. For a wonderful buttermilk mix, try Williams-Sonoma Baking Mix which runs $15 for 2-lbs 6oz, is great for pie crusts as well as pancakes. Visit www.williams-somoma.com.