For those that may be new to baking homemade sourdough bread, it may seem like the most important part of the process is getting a good rise and a perfect bake. However, one of the key changes that can greatly affect the flavor profile of a homemade sourdough loaf is the decision that needs to be made before the oven is ever turned on: selecting the right bread flour. From the popular all-purpose to the unique spelt, this sourdough flour guide will cover the best flour for sourdough bread.
Most popular soudough flours are found below:
There are two common varieties of flour: hard flour and soft flour. Hard flour is also known as high protein flour because of the strong wheat it uses. The increased amount of protein in hard flours produces more gluten. With more gluten, hard flour creates a dough that is easier to shape and bread with more volume and a stronger structure. For those that like a chewier or more dense loaf, hard flour is the best flour for sourdough.
On the other hand, soft flours have generally lower protein levels, and thus lower gluten levels. Soft flour is perfect for those that prefer types of sourdough bread with a lighter and fluffier texture. Soft flour is also used in more delicate baked goods like cakes and biscuits.
All-purpose flour is one of the most common varieties of flour and therefore the first stop in our sourdough flour guide. All-purpose is made from a blend of both hard and soft wheat, making it one of the most versatile of all flours. With high elasticity and a powerful ability to rise, all-purpose is the easiest flour to bake with and perfect for beginners looking to make their first homemade sourdough breadloaf. All-purpose flours are widely available and can be easily purchased at any grocery store.
When it comes to bread baking, there is no denying that bread flour is one of the best flours for sourdough. This high protein flour is made from hard red wheat and is created specifically for the purpose of baking bread. Bread flour has a high gluten content that retains its structure well, so is good to use when creating more intricate sourdough loaf shapes such as a plait. This flour also achieves a strong vertical rise consistently during proofing, compared to some of the more temperamental flours below. Bread flour is the perfect foundation for any simple sourdough recipe.
Just like bread flour, spelt is also a high protein flour. If health is a priority in your sourdough baking, spelt is one of the most nutritious flours you can use. As far as sourdough bread varieties are concerned, using spelt tends to create a slightly sweet, nutty taste. However, spelt can be a bit tricky to work with as it tends to rise horizontally instead of upwards. It is also important to note that spelt absorbs less water, and thus bakers should adjust their simple sourdough recipes accordingly. Spelt is best for intermediate to advanced bakers.
For bread baking, rye is notably not the easiest flour to bake with. With low gluten and protein levels, its ability to hold in gas bubbles is weak, meaning the bread tends to come out dense and chewy. Rye is sensitive and thus can also be overworked more quickly than others in our sourdough flour guide. For those baking with rye, the kneading process needs to be gentle. Opposite of spelt, rye needs more water than the average flour, so more water should be added to the recipe. However, though rye presents some baking challenges, it is a deliciously moist bread with a strong and unique flavor profile that is worth the extra effort and boosts the artisan quality of a homemade sourdough loaf.
When selecting the right bread flour, the uncommon kamut flour is often overlooked. Like spelt, kamut is an ancient grain, making it one of the most nutritious flours on the list. Though not the most difficult, kamut is generally not recommended for beginning bakers as it has low elasticity compared to other flours. The low elasticity creates very soft loaves, but the bread tends to also be more crumbly and dense.
Though the right rise and a good bake are stepping stones for all types of sourdough bread, selecting the right flour is the very first step to great bake. Beginners are recommended to start with all-purpose or bread flour. Meanwhile, those with more experience can experiment with rye, spelt, or kamut. Bakers of all levels can get creative and blend a combination of flours as well to create all-new sourdough bread varieties. Find the most delicious combination of flavor and texture in your very own kitchen!
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