Baking is a carbohydrate-heavy activity.
However, by focusing on certain types of flours, you can have a bit more control over how much protein you get as well.
Here’s a table of the protein content in 100 grams of several types of flour. Most are wheat, but I added a few non-wheat ones as well for comparison.
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In terms of getting the most protein per calorie, chickpea and coconut flour are the best options. However, it’s not exactly easy to cook with those, and substituting them for wheat flour isn’t straightforward.
For wheat flours, either whole wheat flour or strong bread flour will have the highest amounts of protein. Note that the amount of protein will vary depending on the brand (i.e. where it was grown).
The Different Types of Wheat Flours
Here’s a quick summary of each type of wheat flour just so you know the main difference between them, and when to use them.
- All-purpose white flour – A mixture of soft and hard wheat with a protein content ranging from 10-12%. Very versatile and can be used to bake almost everything with fairly high quality.
- Bread flour – Bread flour has a high protein content of 12-14%, which is why it’s considered a “strong” flour. It’s great for making sourdough bread from scratch, but is also commonly used for bagels and pizza dough.
- Cake flour – The lowest level of protein in all wheat flours, usually ranging from 5-8%. Because of this, it absorbs water really well, so it’s great for moist foods like cakes and muffins.
- Italian-style (00) flour – Not as common as the other flours here, but great for pasta and pizza doughs. It has a relatively high protein level of 11-12%.
- Pastry flour – Mainly used for pastries like pie crusts, cookies, and biscuits. It’s protein content usually ranges from 8-9%.
- Self-rising flour – This is simply soft wheat that’s already mixed with baking powder and salt. It’s a convenient flour to use when baking things like biscuits and pancakes. It’s very different from other flours like bread flours.
- Whole wheat flour – Whole wheat flour contains not only the endosperm of the wheat, but also some percentage of the germ and bran. It has a high fiber content, and also a high protein content of 13-14% typically.
Things to Keep in Mind About Flours and Protein
The reason that protein content matters is that it affects the moisture of dough, and amount of gluten (if using wheat flour). Gluten development is extremely important for making bread.
Here’s a few random tidbits about flour that you might find useful:
- The protein content of flours depend on where their wheat was grown. For example, flour from the U.S. southern states has less protein than from the midwest or northern states.
- More protein isn’t always better. Even though most flours can be substituted for each other, it will affect the texture and taste depending on what you’re making. For example, you can substitute almond flour for regular wheat flour, but only in certain types of recipes (and even then the taste changes a lot).
- Whole wheat flour is often mixed with white flour. Look for 100% whole grain if that’s what you’re looking for.
- “Soft” flours typically refer to flours with a low protein content, while “hard” flours have more protein.