Bleached vs Unbleached Flour: All You Need to Know & More


From preparing cookies, bread, pies, or your favorite cake, you will need some flour in your kitchen. In the past, all milled flour was always the same since it was all unbleached. However, in the 19th-century, scientists discovered the bleaching process, which was to make flour age faster. As a result, today we have the bleached vs unbleached flour supremacy battle.

Well, while shopping for some flour, you are going to be faced with a choice of picking between the two. You are probably wondering what sets the two apart. In this article, we are going to wage into unbleached and bleached flour debate. By the time you read this to the end, you will know the differences, uses, processing, texture, taste, and appearance. 

Bleached Flour 

Bleached flour is usually aged using chemicals. The bleaching process occurs by oxidation of unsaturated carbon chains. These chemicals include chlorine and benzoyl peroxide, which quickens the aging process. Chlorine is not only used for color altering but also improves on baking performance. This is primarily where the sugar level is above 120% of the flour weight. 

Since benzoyl peroxide cannot produce the bleaching effect alone, it’s usually used in combination with ADA. In turn, the process results in whiter and softer grain flour by getting rid of the yellowish wheat pigment. It is widely preferred by large-scale bakers that don’t have enough time to store flour at the bakery for aging. It also works for consumers that prefer the pure white color on their all-purpose cooking flour. 

Bleached Flour
Bleached Flour

Unbleached Flour 

The unbleached flour can also be categorized as bleached only that it’s allowed to bleach naturally. Unbleached flour is left to age naturally without the use of chemicals. Natural processing occurs by allowing aging through natural oxidation whereby the flour absorbs oxygen from the atmosphere. This process takes several months to complete because it requires prolonged exposure to oxygen. Typically, unbleached flour is not sparkling white and has a denser grain.

Unbleached Flour
Unbleached Flour

Bleached vs Unbleached Flour 

Beyond their aging process, the bleached vs unbleached flour differences are fought on many fronts. Let’s explore some of those fronts in this section;

Potential Uses 

Each type of flour has a different texture, thus making it suitable for a particular recipe. On the one hand, bleached flour feels smooth and fine on touch. It also has a finer grain that raises faster while baking quick bread. With that, this kind of flour makes foods softer while also increasing their volume. Foods you can make with bleached flour include cookies, quick bread, muffins, and cakes.

On the flip side, unbleached flour is a little bit coarse and denser. It is, therefore, a perfect choice for preparing pastries, éclairs, and yeast bread. Moreover, unbleached flour also helps in holding the shape of your baked foods better.

It’s important to take note of each flour’s uses because what you use determines the end result of your recipe. Moreover, you should notice that foods made from bleached flour tend to be brighter than those made from the unbleached type.

On the common ground, both flours have a considerable amount of protein, making them ideal for most of your baking needs.

Unbleached Flour Yeast Bread
Unbleached Flour Yeast Bread

Processing 

There is a notable difference when it comes to the processing of bleached and unbleached flour. The only common processing aspect with both types is that they are usually milled. The milling process involves the usual process of grinding grains to powder. First of all, unbleached flour takes a longer time to process than the bleached type. This is because one goes through natural processing while the other undergoes chemical processing. 

Typically, bleached flour is refined, which of course, strips it off most of its essential vitamins and nutrients. Only the endosperm is left after refinement. The bleached floor has some enhanced qualities of specific types of baking. For instance, the chemical processing changes the flour’s texture and appearance as well. On the other hand, unbleached flour may or may not be refined depending on the particular type of flour. Furthermore, unlike the bleached flour, this kind of flour ages naturally without any chemical additions. Notably, the natural aging process takes longer than the bleaching process, making it a bit more expensive. 

Safety 

Safety is an important consideration to make any time you are shopping for household products. For that very reason, you must be knowing the safety levels of both types of flour before making a purchase. Luckily, we have dug into both types of flour, and we are sharing their safety levels.

To begin with, bleached flour uses chemicals to speed up its aging process. There has been some debate on whether the peroxides used are safe for human consumption. Canada, China, and the European Union have banned the use of peroxides in flour processing. However, Benzoyl peroxide, commonly used in bleaching, is approved as safe by the Foods and Drugs Administration board. Simply, bleached flour is not necessarily unsafe for human consumption; however, it worth noting the use of chemicals. On the other side, unbleached flour does not use any chemicals. Therefore, it is considered a safer option for consumption.

Level of Nutrients 

Firstly, you should know that the bleached and unbleached white type of flour is almost similar. You only notice a difference with other varieties like the whole wheat flour, which contains more fiber. 

Nevertheless, the bleaching process reduces the amount of Vitamin E from the flour. This makes unbleached flour slightly richer in Vitamin E than the bleached type. Though the nutrients can be restored through iron fillings, the fiber levels are lost for good. Opting for the unbleached type of floor will enhance your nutrient intake as you enjoy your favorite pastries. It’s also important to note that both types are usually enhanced with vitamins like niacin, vitamin B6, thiamine, and folate.

Characteristics 

Bleached and unbleached flours come with different characteristics. In regards to taste, there is quite a minimal difference between the two. Only a person with a sensitive palate can sense a bitter taste on foods prepared with bleached flour. 

Moreover, bleached flour has a white color while unbleached flour has an off white pigment that fades with time. Furthermore, bleached flour has softer grains than those of its unbleached counterpart. Also, foods that are made with bleached flour are brightly colored, unlike the bleached type that is a bit dull. You might have noticed that already in your pastries.

Storage Recommendations 

Several consumers face the disappointment of having their flour spoilt before the expiry date due to poor storage. When stored properly, whichever type of flour you opt for could last you a good eight months. All you need to do is store it in a dry container and secure it with a lid. Another storage tip you should have on top of your mind is that flour absorbs odor quite quickly. Consequently, store it away from soaps, onions, or other foodstuffs with a strong smell. 

Why Bleached Flour?

  • It has a nice pure white color that leaves your pastries with a bright yummy color. This is especially ideal for anyone baking an angel cake.
  • The flour has a smooth texture, which is excellent for preparing soft-baked foods. 
  • Foods prepared using bleached flour have an enhanced volume because of the improved self-raising capability. 
  • Bleached flour has finer grains, which in turn makes it absorb more liquid hence enhancing its self-raising ability.

Shortcomings of Bleached Flour 

  • The flour tends to have a somewhat bitter taste due to the added chemicals. However, the taste is quite subtle and can only be discovered by individuals with a sensitive sense of taste. 
  • The consumer’s safety may be in question with long-term use of the chemical treated flour. 
  • More nutrients are lost during the bleaching process. 

Why Unbleached Flour?

  • All vitamins and nutrients remain intact during processing. This makes foods prepared with unbleached flour quite nutritious.
  • No chemical additives are added hence making it a healthy option for you and your family.
  • There’s no bitter after-taste from chemicals because the flour is naturally aged. 
  • It rises perfectly for yeast bread and also provides a stronger structure to baked foods. 

Shortcomings of Unbleached Flour 

  • It takes a long time to age because it uses the natural process.
  • The flour is not recommended for soft foods because of its dense texture.
  • It’s a little more expensive compared to the bleached type because of the prolonged aging process. 

Can Both Types of Flour Interchangeably? 

Though different in texture and color, both types of flour produce a minor variation on baked foods. This means that the overall results will almost be the same, with very slight differences in color and volume. In a nutshell, your muffins or cookies will just turn out tasty once you choose to use them interchangeably. However, it all depends on your personal preference when it comes to baking.

Final Thoughts

So, what is going to be about the bleached vs unbleached flour? After reading this post, you are now in a better position to decide what is good for you. We are happy that you are going to make a conscious decision every time you make pastries. Remember, we are only getting started about flour. Stay here and learn more.

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