What Does Flour Do In Baking? Purposes, Functions, And More

Mary and Brenda Maher

By Brenda & Mary

Last updated:

If you asked me to pick the ultimate baking champ, it’s flour, hands down! 

As the backbone of all my baked goodies, flour brings in that sturdy structure and allows other ingredients to flaunt their unique flavors. Even the professional bakers in my crew wouldn’t dream of skipping flour unless they hit a kitchen crisis and have to resort to substitutes.

Flour In Baking

And oh boy, there’s a whole world of flour out there, way more types than you’d imagine, and each brings their own makeup to the baking table! Ready for the lowdown? Keep scrolling.

What Is The Function Of Flour In Baking?

Flour is the secret that holds everything together (literally): starches and proteins team up to create this stretchy network that makes your treats rise. And it’s the master of consistency, stopping batter from spreading like crazy and keeping things in line! Oh, and sometimes it also throws in a bit of flavor magic, influenced by its ingredients and milling process.

1. It Provides Structure

Flour structure

First off, let’s talk structure. 

Flour is the backbone engineer, doing all the heavy lifting for your baked goodies. The starches and proteins (especially the gluten in wheat flour) unite to craft a solid framework! 

Add water, mix it up, and bam – you’ve got this elastic network that captures those air bubbles made by yeast or baking powder. No wonder your bread and cake rise like a champ. 

And the coolest part? Different flours bring different strengths to the gluten game! For instance, bread flour flexes its protein muscles for chewy bread recipes, while cake flour keeps it soft and tender for fluffy treats. 

See more: How To Fix Cake Sink In The Middle?

2. It Is A Thickening Agent For Batter And Dough

Batter And Dough

Now, let’s get into its thickening power.

Flour doubles as a powerful absorbent that slurps liquids like milk and eggs. It’s the wizard behind the cake’s final texture and consistency! 

Flour often plays goalie in my cookies, soaking up moisture from the butter and sugar mix to keep the dough from spreading too much. And pancakes get the same treatment. Flour steps in, making sure they don’t turn into a gooey disaster and actually stay in proper pancake form. A true baking sidekick!

3. It Sometimes Contributes To The Flavor Profile

And here’s the flavor twist. 

Flour might seem like the quiet one, but it adds its own spin to the taste party. Different flours, especially the whole-wheat or nutty ones, bring in earthy, nutty, or even sweet vibes. 

The type of wheat and how it’s milled can also sneak in a flavor surprise. A classic example is unbleached flour: holding onto some natural wheat germ oils, this guy brings a slightly nuttier vibe than bleached flour!

8 Different Types Of Flour In Baking Quality

Types of flour

1. All-Purpose Flour

This type of flour is ready for any baking adventure! A mix of hard and soft wheat that packs a punch with 10-12% protein levels, it’s perfect for quick bread, brownies, muffins, pancakes, tart crusts, and cookie recipes  – basically everything. 

2. Bread Flour

The muscle in your baking aisle, rocking 12-14% protein. Ideal for pizza dough, pretzels, bagels, and killer yeasted bread! Trust me; this guy will have your back whenever you crave baked goods with solid structures that rise like champs.

3. Whole Wheat Flour

Here comes our health-conscious buddy with rustic vibes: it’s loaded with fiber and nutrients from the whole wheat kernel, bringing a nutty flavor and dense texture to pancakes, breads, and cookies. Sometimes, I even throw it into my pasta recipes!

4. Self-Rising Flour

Self-Rising Flour

Convenience in a bag! This all-rounded flour comes with salt and baking powder ready to roll, perfect for quick bread, biscuits, pancakes, and waffles. There’s no need for extra leavening agents – you just have to add wet ingredients and mix. 

A quick tip: since it has a pretty short shelf life, use it up quickly.

5. Cake Flour

Let me introduce you to this delicate ballerina of the flour family. With the lowest protein content (5-8%) and a fine texture, it crafts light, airy cakes with super tender crumbles. This versatile flour works like a charm for chiffon cakes, sponge cakes, delicate pastries, and more. Remember to handle it with care, though; overmixing might lead to tough results!

6. Pastry Flour

My friends often call it the cake flour’s heartier cousin, with a bit more protein (8-9%).  

Pastry flour brings the magic to your tender yet flaky treats; think flaky pie crusts or croissants! Your trustable friend for all things pastry, it provides impressive structures without sacrificing that melt-in-your-mouth texture.

7. Rye Flour

Rye flour – the bold and flavorful addition to your sidekick team! Produced from rye berries, it brings a tangy, earthy kick and dense texture to every bread. 

With its low gluten, this flour does need to team up with other siblings for structure. But you know what? I’m totally cool with that because rye is the sneaky genius that adds deep magic to my pumpernickel bread and sourdough loaves! 

8. Gluten-Free Flour

The lifesaver for gluten-sensitive souls! A blend of rice, almond, or coconut flour, this guy obviously can’t mimic the gluten crew 100%. But it opens the door to delicious gluten-free pancakes, breads, and cookies. Time to get playful with blends for your favorite flavor and texture! 


Flour’s got a whole crew, each bringing its own A-game to level up your finished products! 

Sure, you could flirt with alternatives like chickpeas, potatoes, or arrowroots when you’re in a jam. But let me tell you, none of them can work their magic quite like good old baking flour.

Share on:
Mary and Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher, are the founders of Cake Girls, a Chicago-based online baking shop specializing in cake supplies, party decor, and DIY cake tutorials. They are known for their elaborate and artistic cake creations, which have been featured on the Food Network Challenge and in a reality show, Amazing Wedding Cakes.

Leave a Comment