There is a seemingly endless number of different kinds of flours at the grocery store...all-purpose, cake, bread, almond, pastry, bromate, bleached, unbleached...how in the world do you decide? Does it really make a difference?
Well, today, let's talk about bleached vs. unbleached. It's a topic I've grown fairly passionate about lately!
The difference between the two is pretty simple. Bleached flour is flour that was aged chemically (usually with peroxide) to speed up the aging process. And unbleached flour has been naturally aged after being milled.
So what does that all mean? Well, did you know that natural wheat flour isn't white at all at first?! It's actually pale yellow. So, while the natural aging process and exposure to oxygen whitens it, unbleached flour will remain a bit grainier and a bit less white in color. Your baked good may be a bit less bright, a bit more dense, and a bit more sturdy.
Bleached flour, on the other hand, often results in a whiter, finer-grain flour with a softer texture and more volume. It also had a brighter color. Sounds good, right? Maybe appropriate for certain baked goods? Sure.
But, if it's bleached - peroxide, chlorine, or another chemical agent was used to bleach it. And, unfortunately, you don't always know what chemical was used... For example, Pillsbury's all-purpose bleached flour includes: Bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour (improves yeast baking), niacin), iron), thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid. Note that the methods and ingredients used to bleach it are not listed.
Contrast King Arthur's all-purpose unbleached flour's ingredients, which include: unbleached hard red wheat flour and malted barley flour.
So, bleach = bad, unbleached = good? Nah. Maybe. It depends. :) Because remember, a lot of things have chemicals. And that's not always a bad thing. But also know that certain chemicals used to bleach flour are banned in other countries. That's something to consider. So just be knowledgeable about it. Read ingredient labels. Make an informed decision in what you use.
For me, and I have a somewhat sensitive palate; I think I can tell a difference in taste - one in bleached that I don't prefer. That, plus consuming those unnecessary chemicals means I choose unbleached. For myself, my family and all The Good Cookies.
As always, happy baking!