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Flour: Bleached vs. Unbleached

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Ignoring differences among brands and protien levels, does it make it difference in your end results if you bake with either bleached or unbleached flour?

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  1. From whatscookingamerica.net.

    "Flour that is bleached naturally as it ages is labeled "unbleached," while chemically treated flour is labeled "bleached." Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and waffles. Use unbleached flour for yeast breads, Danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, Yorkshire pudding, éclairs, cream puffs and popovers."

    1 Reply
    1. re: JoanN

      Excellent information. Thanks!

    2. The short answer is no, as long as you select the right flour for the right purpose. Soft (low protein) flours are bleached with chlorine in order to stiffen the gluten and adjust the amount of spread you get when baking cookies. Higher protein flours are bleached with a powdered oxidizing agent which works on the carotins in the flour. Left to themselves the carotins will naturally oxidize over a period of time.

      1. I use unbleached flour almost exclusively in all my baking. The only time I'll use something else is when I specifically need cake and pastry flour, which doesn't come unbleached. I can't see any reason to use a product that has undergone an additional chemical process for purely cosmetic reasons. And, for the record, I've even used unbleached all purpose to make really delicate and wonderful cakes. No problem at all.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Nyleve

          I do the same for the same reason. I use whole wheat pastry flour. Does anyone know if that is bleached? I assumed it wasn't but never checked.

          1. re: chowser

            Whole wheat flours are generally not bleached in any way as the creamy yellow the carotins impart is not visible due to the high bran content in the flour.

          2. re: Nyleve

            Hello Nyleve, I just wanted to let you know that King Edward flour has unbleached cake flour.

            1. re: cmj1459

              Thanks -didn't know that. Don't use it often but it might be worth keeping in the house.

          3. By accident, I found out how much of a difference in taste can be found between the bleached and unbleached. As the prices were the same, I bought unbleached, and used it for some months. Then I came across some bleached a-p flour on at a really good buy. I could taste the chemically qualities, even in the highly flavoured baked goods. I won't use bleached flour anymore.

            AnnieG

            1. Does anyone know the reason why you would even want a chemically bleached flour? Is it purely a color thing?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Den

                Bleaching the flour accelerates the natural aging of the flour. Flour needs age to soften it so it can be used for baking, etc. Unbleached flour will age naturally in, say, 6 months. Bleaching the flour make it ready in weeks. Time is money, and it is cost effective for a big company to keep product moving (rather than tying up warehouse space, being vulnerable to critters and bugs over months rather than weeks, etc).

                As a baker I prefer the quality of unbleached, unbromated flours. And I don't care for the additional chemical processing of the grain.

                1. re: Non Cognomina

                  I remember reading an article in CI a few years back that said that bleaching allowed producers to include inferior parts of the wheat kernel, which would otherwise turn the flour grey. It also mentioned that only a small percentage of people can actually taste the difference. Bleached flour, I remember, was considered superior for sugar cookies, but little else.

                2. re: Den

                  Bleached & bromated behaves differently in some uses. IIRC it's slightly more acidic, like cake flour, but not super-finely ground, like cake flour. If you want "light and fluffy", it might produce better results with quick breads - biscuits, muffins, baking powder pancakes - as one guess. I don't go through a whole lot of flour in general and only use this rarely, for a couple of Chinese dumpling doughs made with boiling water, as specifically directed by most of the recipes I've seen for them.

                  I think Rose Levy Berenbaum discusses it among other flours in her Cake Bible, and I'd bet any major book on breadmaking would also discuss it and probably turn up "surprise" uses where only it produces expected results.