Baking Bread: The Best Flour For Baguettes, Sourdough, and More!

published Jul 16, 2012
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

I don’t bake very much in the summer, and I’m guessing the same might be true with you. (When it’s hot out, the last thing you want to gear up is your oven!) But the two things I do find myself baking are pies and loaves of bread, the latter of which is a staple all year-round. But when reaching for those trusty ingredients, what type of flour do you turn to?

People study bread-baking techniques for years, and I am the first to admit I’m far from an expert. But I do know my way around whole-grain flours and often bake Jim Lahey’s simple, dreamy round loaf and Laurie Colwin’s wheat baguette at home. Recently in their May 2012 issue, Saveur did a story on American bread, with wonderful recipes and process photos. In it, they discuss the best flours to use for certain purposes. Here’s what they say:

• All-purpose flour: This flour is a blend of hard and soft wheats and is wonderful for making airier breads, like baguettes.
• Bread flour: This flour has more protein than all-purpose flour, so it’s sturdier and a good candidate for rustic loaves with a good chew.
• Whole-wheat flour: Like bread flour, whole-wheat flour is high in protein. Its darker color is a result of being ground with the wheat germ and bran intact. Many folks like it for its higher vitamin and mineral content, too.
• Rye flour: This flour absorbs more water than whole-wheat flour so it creates super sturdy loaves of bread. Many people use rye flour for sourdough starters because it attracts more natural yeasts than many other flours.
• Spelt flour: You wouldn’t expect this, but spelt flour actually forms weak gluten despite its high protein content, leading to a much denser loaf. Many people mix in a dash of spelt flour with another type of flour to take advantage of its nice nutty flavor without relying on it solely for texture.

What’s your go-to bread recipe, and what kind of flour do you reach for?

Read More: Choosing Flour for Bread Baking at Saveur