FLOUR: is grain of any kind ground to fine powder, as wheat flour, rye flour, etc. In general use, except when otherwise specified, the term signifies wheat flour.
Flour is an article of prime importance to the grocer, as the quality which he furnishes has a direct effect on the growth of his trade, especially in country districts. Great care should therefore be taken to purchase reliable brands which do not vary in quality and of which the stock can be constantly renewed.
In manufacture, the wheat is thoroughly cleaned, crushed by steel rolls into meal ("whole meal") and sifted or "bolted" through silk cloths to separate the "flour" from the germs and bran (see WHEAT). The "flour" is then ground, sifted and purified —once or several times, according to the grade required.
The following rules may be used as preliminary tests for flour : First, look at its color. If for bread making especially, it should be creamy white, for this generally indicates a strong flour. If for pastry, a starchy-white color • 47] is acceptable, as this indicates a soft flour. If it is so white as to have a bluish or grayish cast, or if it contains small black or bran specks, it is not desirable for either purpose.
Next, examine its adhesiveness. Make a dough by mixing a small quantity with water. If it works dry and elastic, it is good; if soft and sticky, it is poor. If when pulled apart it breaks short, it is deficient in gluten and therefore not suitable for bread making, though if it is good in other respects it may be satisfactory for pastry, etc. If the dough is tough and tenacious, it shows a large percentage of gluten.
The place where flour is stored must be moderately cool, dry, well-lighted, airy and never exposed to a freezing temperature nor to excessive heat. An even temperature of 70° to 75° Fahr., is best if it is to be used within six months ; that to be held longer, should be kept in a cooler temperature. Whether in barrels or sacks, etc., it should always be placed on a rack at least two inches from the floor in order to allow a cur rent of air to pass under and prevent dampness and it should not be placed in contact with grain or other substances which are liable to generate heat.
Flour is peculiarly sensitive to atmospheric influences—hence it should never be stored in a room with any material which emits an odor—any smell perceptible to the human sense will be absorbed by it. Damp cellars or close lofts are especially unsuit able.
Flour of good quality improves in flavor and character up to about six months and under proper conditions will retain its merit for a considerable time thereafter.
The three chief varieties of wheat flour are the "Patent" or "Standard Patent" ( white), "Graham" and "Whole Wheat"—the last two containing part or all of the outer branny covering of the wheat. There are many grades on the market, but no one universally recognized standard. It is packed principally in sacks of paper, cotton or jute of various sizes, from 2 to 98 lbs. A barrel contains 196 lbs.
Flour should be sifted that the particles may be thoroughly disintegrated before baking. If cold, it should be warmed before use. This treatment improves the color and baking properties of the dough. Bread sponge should be prepared for the oven as soon as the yeast has performed its mission, otherwise bacterial fermentation sets in and acidity results. Too cold a dough causes too slow fermentation.
Average analyses of wheat flour show from 8 to 12% water ; 8 to 15% protein, 1 to 3% fat, and 60 to 80% carbohydrates (See FOOD VALUES). White flour generally has a little more carbohydrates and a little less protein than Graham and Whole Wheat flour.
In some sections, retailers find also a good demand for rye flour and those doing a "fancy" trade include in their stock such special varieties as barley, chestnut, potato. rice, "Boston Brown Bread," etc. The first four are chiefly imported.
See also RYE, SELF-RAISING FLOUR, FARINA, etc.