1. Bread Flour is white flour made from hard, high-protein wheat. It has more gluten strength and protein content than all-purpose flour. It is unbleached and sometimes conditioned with ascorbic acid, which increases volume and creates better texture. Bread flour has 12% to 14% protein (gluten). This is the best choice for yeast products.
2. All-Purpose (Plain) Flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat; it may be bleached or unbleached. It is usually translated as “plain flour.” All-Purpose Flour has 8% to 11% protein (gluten). All-purpose flour is one of the most commonly used and readily accessible flour. 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.
3. Cake Flour is a fine-textured, soft-wheat flour with a high starch content. It has the lowest protein content of any wheat flour, 8% to 10% protein (gluten). It is chlorinated (a bleaching process which leaves the flour slightly acidic, sets a cake faster and distributes fat more evenly to improve texture. When you’re making baked goods with a high ratio of sugar to flour, this flour will be better able to hold its rise and will be less liable to collapse. This flour is excellent for baking fine-textured cakes with greater volume and is used in some quick breads, muffins and cookies. If you cannot find cake flour, substitute bleached all-purpose flour, but subtract 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup used in the recipe (if using volume measuring).
4. Instant Flour is granular and formulated to dissolve quickly in hot or cold liquids. It will not work as a substitute for all-purpose flour, although there are recipes on the container for popovers and other baked goods. It is used primarily in sauces and gravies.
5. Organic Flour is used in the same way as regular flour.
6. Pastry Flour also is made with soft wheat and falls somewhere between all-purpose and cake flour in terms of protein content and baking properties. Pastry flour (also known as cookie flour) has a protein (gluten) of 9% to 10%. Use pastry flour for making biscuits, pie crusts, brownies, cookies and quick breads. Pastry flour makes a tender but crumbly pastry. Do not use it for yeast breads. Pastry flour (both whole-wheat and regular) is not readily available at supermarkets, but you can find it at specialty stores and online. You can try to mimic it by using a 2-to-1 ratio of all-purpose flour to cake flour.
7. Self-Rising flour sometimes referred to as phosphated flour, is a low-protein flour with salt and leavening (baking powder) already added. It is most often recommended for biscuits and some quick breads, but never for yeast breads. Exact formulas, including the type of baking powder used, vary by manufacturer. Recipes that call for self-rising flour do not call for the addition of salt or leavening agents.
8. Whole-Wheat Flour (Low Gluten) – Also called graham flour. It is made from the whole kernel of wheat and is higher in dietary fiber and overall nutrient content than white flours. It does not have as high a gluten level, so often it’s mixed with all-purpose or bread flour when making yeast breads.