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Difference Between Bleached and Unbleached Flour

flourBleached vs Unbleached Flour
In stores, we often come across two different varieties of flour ‘“ bleached and unbleached. Do you know what makes the difference? Bleached flour is whiter, has finer grains and gives your food a tempting aroma and look. And unbleached flour is less white or yellowish and may not be able to produce the effects as that of bleached flour. The major difference between the two is that bleached flour contains edible bleaching agents added to it and unbleached flour is bleached naturally.

Bleached flour is the plain flour in which a flour bleaching agent is added. This agent is a food additive which makes the flour appear whiter. Some benefits of adding the bleaching agent are that it accelerates the aging process, improves the texture, stiffens soft flour, and makes your food better. The white color is achieved as the agent oxidizes the surface of the flour grains. Some bleaching agents in the bleached flour are said to be harmful for the body.

Unbleached flour is bleached naturally and as it ages the color gets dulled. But this flour contains more protein content than the bleached flour. It is best for the baking of yeast breads, Yorkshire puddings, cream puffs, Danish pastries, and popovers. Bleached flour is best for making cookies, pancakes, pie crusts, and waffles. If you select the right flour depending on the food you are preparing, there is no harm with it being bleached or unbleached.

When bleached flour is used, the loaf shows more loaf volume and is of more fine grains. But if you use unbleached flour, you may not get this effect. Most food serving outlets use bleached flour to make the food appear more tempting. But some people, who have extreme sensitive palates, are capable of getting the bitter aftertaste of the food made from bleached flour.

In some food items like cake flour, chlorinating it gives the forming capacity to the flour. If you use unbleached flour for the purpose, it will not take the tight shape and surface texture, which may reduce the appeal of the food. Bleaching soft flours with chlorine gives the flour the stiffening effect. And if the flour has high protein content, adding an oxidizing agent is the best option.

Another difference between bleached and unbleached flour is the aging period. Flour softens with age. Unbleached flour takes longer to age and get softened while bleached flour is ready sooner due to the bleaching agents which accelerate the aging process of the flour.

Summary

1. The effect you get with unbleached flour for a specific food cannot be obtained by bleached flour.
2. Bleached flour is the plain flour in which a flour bleaching agent is added.
3. Unbleached flour is bleached naturally and as it ages the color gets dulled.
4. When bleached flour is used, the loaf shows more loaf volume but if you use unbleached flour, you will not obtain similar results.


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5 Comments

  1. One major difference that you have missed in your article is very important to the increasing number of diabetics in the USA, and that is that the bleaching agent most often used is chlorine gas. This substance reacts with the flour to leave behind a toxin called alloxan. Alloxan is a known destroyer of the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

    Consumption of bleached flours is therefore harmful to your pancreas and ability to properly metabolize sugar and carbohydrates. The ‘tight texture’ of a cake is surely not worth a lifetime of suffering with diabetes. If more people knew, they might save themselves from this disease.

  2. Poorly written article full of half-truths and outright misconceptions.

    My summary:

    1. The effect you get with unbleached flour for a specific food cannot be obtained by bleached flour.

    This is true only for specific purposes and the alternative is true under special circumstances.
    For instance, bleached flour – preferably using a process of chlorination – is preferred for cake flour because this is the ONE bleaching process commonly used commercially that does so. For a cake you do not want strong gluten development. Most of the creaming/mixing processes commonly used in making cake batter are aimed at reducing potential for gluten development. Thus, the best cake flour is a finely milled chlorinated product. On the other hand, flour that has been chlorinated makes lousy bread; so if a flour has been bleached via chlorination, it is true that flour bleached by THAT process will not work for making bread as well as an unbleached flour. However, flour that has been bleached by other processes does not experience this degradation in performance for making bread.

    Since most bleaching processes either enhance gluten development (examples: bromation, treatment with ascorbic acid) or leave gluten unaffected (peroxide processes), there is little or no degradation in performance baking between a bleached and an unbleached flour when baking breads at home. Bleaching also does not affect absorption rates, for the same type of wheat. Nearly all commonly available AP flour in the US is either bromated or treated with a peroxide. The vast majority of wholesale flour used by commercial bakeries is still bromated, while most flour available at the retail level to consumers has been treated with a peroxide process. Bromation is falling out of favor in the US, hence many sources of retail flour have switched from bromation to peroxide processes for bleaching. If flour has been bromated, it will be listed as an ingredient.

    2. Bleached flour is the plain flour in which a flour bleaching agent is added.

    This is sort of true; however, keep in mind that “unbleached” flour has also technically been bleached, via an aging process. The bleaching agent in this case is atmospheric oxygen. It is a slower process requiring storage of the milled flour.

    3. Unbleached flour is bleached naturally and as it ages the color gets dulled.

    Mmmm hmmm, kind of an oxymoron I think. “Unbleached flour is bleached”. The color of flour does not dull as it ages so much as it lightens until it is a very pale cream color that is virtually undistinguishable from most bleached flours.

    4. When bleached flour is used, the loaf shows more loaf volume but if you use unbleached flour, you will not obtain similar results.

    This is true from the point of view of the commercial bakery. Bromation in particular achieves equivalent and even slightly superior results for loaf volume, accelerated proofing times, and uniformity of crumb in commercial settings. Whether or not you prefer the characteristics of a commercial loaf of bread is an entirely separate issue. However, for the home baker, either bleached or unbleached flour will perform equally well in most home recipes, excluding only those flours bleached by a chlorination process.

    Where some unbleached (really, aged) flours excel in home baking is in the fact that they tend to be composed of a single type of hard red winter wheat which is superior for baking bread, rather than a mixture of several types of hard/soft spring/winter wheats blended together. King Arthur is a notable example of this type of flour. It is not the fact that it is aged rather than actively bleached that makes it superior for some breads; but the fact that a better quality, more uniform variety of wheat was used to mill it.

    Few people can actually taste the difference between a bleached and an aged flour, given that the flours are milled from the same type of wheat. Most flavor differences come down to the quality and varieties of wheat used to mill the wheat rather than whether or not it is bleached.

  3. Correct, unbleached flour is bleach naturally. Which one does you think would be more healthy? Bleached naturally, or adding bleach. I’m sure in past years, unbleached flour was widely used.

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