Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

flour is the refined product that results from the milling of grain. Any type of grain can be milled into flours that range in consistency from coarse to fine, but for the purposes of baking, wheat flour is the most widely used. Whole-wheat flour is milled from the whole grain of wheat, also known as the wheat berry, which is composed of the bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran layer—the hard outer shell of the kernel—contains most of the fiber. The germ is the nutrient-rich embryo that, when cultivated, sprouts into a wheat plant. The endosperm is the largest part of the grain and is mostly starch. The flavor of whole-wheat flour is strong and distinctive. Refined white flours, by contrast, are made from only the endosperm. Since the sixteenth century white flour was sought out by the elite, in part because it was the most expensive, and fine pastry chefs favored white flour because it yielded the most delicate pastries and cakes. Only recently has whole-grain flour, long despised as peasant food, become something desirable, even trendy.