Doughs, batters, leaveners

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Flour sources and contents

Cereals are members of a family of grasses that are cultivated for the edible components of its grain.

They generally consist of (from the outside inwards)

  • bran - the outer protective layer. High in protein.
  • endosperm - most of the volume (~80%), and mostly carbohydrates (starch), plus some protein.
  • germ - nutrient-rich core, some fat

As a category, cereal is very wide, and includes (in no particular order) wheat, rice, millet, maize, spelt, durum, barley, rye, and many more.

Gluten is specific protein composite found in wheat and various related grains (barley, rye, others). As such it's one of various protein sources. It is also

Whole grain cereals are those with most components left, so a good source of protein, fats and oils, some vitamins, some minerals.

Refined cereals are typically primarily endosperm, so primarily carbohydrates. It's smoother, but not as healthy.

General-purpose flour is mostly endosperm, because the rest has been sifted out (the leftover bran and germ, if not mixed into something else, is often used as animal feed).

Whole-wheat flour is basically flour from a whole grain, or at least most of it, so typically has more taste and is a little healthier. A lot of bread is relatively healthy (white bread is basically nothing, and some brown bread is basically white bread plus coloring. This sort of thing varies a lot, e.g. with regional preference).

You've got most intermediates of separated, and some more variation in how much other treatment it gets. Some languages have words for less-separated mixtures (for example, Dutch has meel versus bloem)

Flour variants

Flour is a general term, which can refer to any powder from cereal grains, seeds, or roots.

From a perspective of protein content - which is usually the most interesting to your baking purpose

Higher-protein flour makes for things you have to chew on, so is often used for pasta, bread, pizza dough, and such.

Lower-protein flour, also cake flour, makes for crumblier results so is used for cakes, cookies, pie crust, and such.

  • Note that self-rising flour is typically low-protein.
    • straight flour - wheat flour from primarily its endosperm (the inside of wheat), so containing fewer branny bits, and impurities
      • patent flour - ground finer than general wheat flour. Short, medium, and long patent refers to the amount of straight flour used
      • clear flour - basically everything except the patent flour product: the bran and the bit of endosperm stills stuck to it. Typically looks dark.

Pastry flour serves a goal somewhere inbetween -- too much protein and it can be too tough, too little and it can be too brittle.

Specific-purpose variations (such as pastry flour) are often wheat-based, but not only.

Noodle flour can refer can refer to various blends, often involving wheat or rice.

Pasta can also be made from various types, but it too typically involves wheat.

A bunch of flour types:

  • Wheat flour, as in flour from Wheat (tarwebloem) is usually the default thing that 'flour' refers to in Europe, North America, Middle East and North Africa, simply because it's the most common flour.
    • Note that there is still variation in wheat itself, e.g. in gluten content
  • Rye flour - used for many sour doughs
  • Corn / Maize flour -
    • also contrast with polenta, which basically is larger bits of corn
  • Cornstarch flour -
  • Buckwheat flour - used in american pancakes, japanese soba noodles,
  • Potato starch flour -
  • Tapioca flour -
  • Almond flour - one useful option for those with gluten allerties, though somewhat hard to digest
  • Chickpea flour, a.k.a. gram flour , besan -
  • Atta flour -
  • Bean flour -
  • Rice flour -
  • Brown rice flour -
  • Glutinous rice flour -
  • Peasemeal / pea flour -
  • Peanut flour -
  • Mesquite flour -
  • Maida flour -
  • Amaranth flour -
  • Cassava flour -
  • Chestnut flour -
  • Chuño flour -
  • Pecan flour

See also:


A cereal grain mostly consists of:

  • the endosperm - the food for you or the germ
    • most of a grain, by volume and mass
    • Nutritionally: decent contribution to the overall carbohydrates. Little of the things the germ and bran have.

When referring to grains or grain flours, Whole grain refers to using them with their cereal germ, and bran. Whole grains can generally be sprouted.

Refined grains keeps only the endosperm. The bran and germ have been mechanically separated. Further steps may include bleaching, brominating.

Enriched grains refers to taking refined grains and adding some nutrition.

Whole grain has more nutrition than refined and enriched grains, and also typically has more taste.

Refined and enriched grains have a longer shelf life, but less taste and nutrition. In a few cases, refined grains have more directly usable energy content.

There are further differences and details, some of which can matter to certain diets.

Your basic supermarket flour will be refined/enriched. Bread (depending a little on where you live) is typically also made from refined/enriched wheat. White bread is the most obvious example, being bleached, but much of the browner bread in supermarkets is also the refined sort - with more ingredients, but rarely made from whole wheat or having the nutrition of whole wheat bread(verify).

Rising, Leavening agents

Used when you want the product to be airy in a bubbly way, such as in muffins, some cakes, and such. (for layered, look to puff and phyllo pastry)


Most yeast you can buy is a fairly direct product of growing the organism - often Saccharomyces Cerevisiae[1].

Yeast converts sugars (and starches?) to alcohol and CO2. In baking you mostly care about the latter, as it forms the bubbles that make the dough rise and be light rather than brick-like. Both these products will be gone by the end of baking.

Active-dry yeast (granular, looks larger than instant) needs to be activated, which refers to mixing it with a little room-temperature or perhaps lukewarm water (hotter will kill it) before adding it to your dough. (You don't need sugar to activate it - it'll get it soon enough in the dough.)

Instant yeast (granular, finer, like tiny sticks) doesn't need the water step, it will activate fast enough when it is mixed into the dough.

Rapid-rise yeast is instant yeast plus some additives to make rising happen faster.

Compressed yeast, a dense clay-like stuff, is easy to use but has a shorter shelf life than the others, so is mainly interesting for professional bakers.

Brewer's yeast

Things that slow down yeast include

  • salt
  • fat
  • eggs
  • dairy - which is why bread is often baked with water
  • cold

This is one reason that richer doughs rise slower and less, while lean flour-water doughs rise more quickly.

Nutritional yeast - deactivated yeast, a useful source of protein and vitamins. It has a strongish taste, so beyond uses as a healthy ingredient in vegetarian food, it is also sometimes used as a condiment.

Baking soda, baking powder

Baking soda and baking powder are both leaveners - they both produce CO2.

They are useful where you don't like to use yeast(+sugar) either to avoid yeasty taste or to because yeast doesn't store as well.

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonte (NaHCO3).

You need to add moisture and something acidic for it to work (things like milk, yoghurt, honey, chocolate). This reaction starts fairly quickly, so you need to bake fairly soon.

Baking powder is basically baking soda plus the acidifying (cream of tartar) and a drying agent (usually starch).

Single-acting baking powder are activated by moisture, so you need to bake after mixing.

Double-acting baking powder is slower, activated a little by moisture but mostly by heat - so can stand a little longer before baking.

In various situations you can use both. It basically depends on whether there's anything acid in there -- if there isn't, the recipe will have called for baking powder rather than baking soda.

Can be used instead of yeast, particularly where you want to avoid a fermented taste.

You may see flour mixed with baking powder sold as a product, although depending on where you live, it may be hard to find just that mix -- in some areas it will also containing additives like salt, lemon, vanilla, or or such tastes.


Dough in general tends to refer to flour plus some water (or other liquid), as a basis of bread-like food, pancakes, noodles, and such.

Each variant comes with its fine-tuning instructions and hints.

Dough can be leavened/fermented, but isn't necessarily.

Savory pies and quiche is often made with something between basic dough and pastry crust.

The elasticity in doughs comes mainly from the gluten (protein)

Bread dough

Flour, water (or sometimes milk), salt, yeast, and a little sugar for the yeast.

  • Dutch: Brooddeeg

Choux pastry

Associated with pastries, such as eclairs and profiterole and harder-to-spell things, it's a fairly simple mix: flour, butter, water, and eggs.

Does not rise (in the produces-CO2 way), but most variants do expand as the water content becomes steam while baking.

Shortcrust pastry

A sweet dough often used for pies and tarts (sweet or savory).

Does not puff up.

Sugar, butter, flour.

Mixing in a more sensible order can make your life a lot simpler. In particular, add liquids only after the basic three ingredients are well mixed.

Too much kneading will make the product too tough for many purposes (because of the gluten).

After mixing and kneading it helps to store the dough in the fridge to stiffen the butter.

Proportions vary. One variant is 1:2:3 (respectively)

More butter makes for more delicate

More sugar (sweetcrust) is sweeter, and more brittle.

In various languages:

  • Dutch: Zanddeeg / boterdeeg

See also:

Puff pastry

Layered and light, made by folding and rolling.

Related to phyllo (which is pulled instead).

The air layers originate in moisture{{{1}}}

must be kept relatively cold while making, to avoid the shortening becoming runny. It also needs rest between folds to allow gluten to

In various languages:

  • Dutch: Bladerdeeg, Korstdeeg

See also:


Thin ('leafy') dough. Unleavened.

In various languages:

  • English: Phyllo, philo
  • Dutch: Filodeeg

See also:

Biscuit dough

In various languages:

  • Dutch: Biscuitdeeg


(Semi-)liquid mixture of flours, water (or other liquid(s)), milk or eggs, and possibly a leavening agent. Carbonated water or another carbonated liquid such as

Various pancakes, crêpes, waffles, tempura, fritters, as well as some cakes and donuts are made largely from batter.

In various languages:

  • Dutch: Beslag

See also