What is Bleached Flour?
Bleached flour refers to a type of flour that underwent bleaching through a bleaching agent. These bleaching agents are edible and most are considered safe for human consumption. Flours that result from this bleaching process become whiter in color, have finer texture, and give a better overall look on a food. Flours that are considered “unbleached” meanwhile are yellowish in color. ‘Unbleached” flour also undergoes some form of bleaching process, not with chemicals, but by natural means. In this way, the flour becomes less white and the texture is grainier.
Aside from whitening the flour, bleaching agents also aid in oxidizing the flour grains resulting to a smoother texture. These chemicals also aid in the development and/or production of gluten in the flour. Most common bleaching agents used are benzoyl peroxide, nitrogen dioxide, calcium peroxide, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, atmospheric oxygen, and azodicarbonamide. In some countries, the use of peroxides, chlorines, and bromates are disallowed in flour bleaching.
Bleached flours are known to have finer grains and help in increasing the number of loaves in bread or pastry-making. Bleached flours treated with chlorine also help maintain the shape and consistency in making cakes. This is called the stiffening effect and pastry chefs won’t be able to do the same cake form if unbleached flours are used. Another big difference between bleached and unbleached flours is in terms of the aging process. Unbleached flours are known to age very slowly and so will make the flour soften over time. Bleached flours meanwhile age faster because of the chemical agents involved. But in terms of protein content, unbleached flour is said to contain more of it when compared with the bleached variety. Yeast breads, cream puffs, and puddings are best baked using unbleached flour while pancakes, waffles, pie crusts, and cookies are better off with the bleached versions.