It's always in our pantry. It's in practically every baking recipe. It's got a permanent spot on our grocery list. And, if we didn't realize before just how much we rely on it, the buying rush and ensuing shortage last spring due to the pandemic made it pretty clear that everyone wants to have it on hand.
Yes, I'm taking about flour.
Today we consider availability, consistency, and specialty for a list of flour brands we rely on and buy again and again!
Our Favorite All-Purpose Flours
Overall we love King Arthur Baking Company, Bob's Red Mill, and Gold Medal for all-purpose flour.
$6.99 for three 3-pound bags from King Arthur Baking Company
Formerly known as King Arthur Flour, King Arthur Baking Company updated their new name and logo last summer to better represent the company's commitment to all kinds of baking. (You'll see some of the photos in this post still show the old "King Arthur Flour" name and logo, but rest assured, the product is the same!)
While other flour brands mill to a protein range, King Arthur mills their flour to a strictly-controlled and consistent protein count of 11.7%. This means you can expect the flour to perform the same way every time you use it.
King Arthur's all-purpose flour is made from 100% American-grown hard red wheat. It's also unbleached, unbromated, and contains no artificial preservatives.
I've been buying King Arthur flour for years. I love that it's an American company that's been around for over two hundred years (!) and that it's 100% employee-owned. The flour is very high-quality and always produces consistent basking results, thanks to its precise protein content, which is listed right on the bag.
"King Arthur is my go-to flour brand. It's reliable, and I like how the protein content is clearly listed on the bag." says Summer.
$4.69 for 5-pound bag from Bob's Red Mill
All Bob's Red Mill products, including their all-purpose flour, are made at their manufacturing facility in Milwaukie, Oregon. Their all-purpose flour is made of hard red wheat grown in Washington and Montana, and it's milled to a protein count range between 10-12%.
The flour is also unbleached and unbromated, and like many white flours, including King Arthur, it contains a bit of malted barley flour, which basically adds a little sugar to the flour to produce a stronger gluten reaction (like bromate, but without the chemicals).
"I like supporting Bob's Red Mill (a West coast company!) and it actually tends to be one of the more affordable top-shelf brands where I live," says Emma.
$2.38 for 5-pound bag from Walmart
Gold Medal's all-purpose flour is made with a blend of hard (red) and soft (white) wheat, which leads to a slightly lower protein content at 10.5%.
This is a solid, middle-of-the-road protein content, and it makes Gold Medal a versatile all-purpose flour for all kinds of baked goods, but especially for more tender cakes, cookies, and pastries.
"Stella Parks recommends Gold Medal Bleached for baking because of its blend of white and red wheat, and I have followed her lead," says Rachel.
Our Favorite Bread Flours
$4.95 for 5-pound bag from King Arthur Baking Company
King Arthur's bread flour is milled to a tight 12.7% protein content, and the higher protein (and more gluten) leads to a better bread rise. Like King Arthur's all-purpose flour, the bread flour is made from 100% hard red wheat grown in America.
It's also unbleached, unbromated, and is not enriched.
I use King Arthur's bread flour every week to make skillet pizza. I get such a fantastic rise, and the end result is a chewy pizza crust that surpasses all others.
$5.89 for 3-pound bag from Bob's Red Mill
While it's not milled to a specific protein content, Bob's Red Mill artisan bread flour is guaranteed to have a protein content between 12-14%, which is higher than other bread flours on the market. It's milled from 100% American hard red wheat.
It's also unbleached and unbromated, and enriched with niacin, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, and folic acid.
Our Favorite Whole Wheat Flours
$3.69 for 5-pound bag from Target
What do you do when you want the nutritional benefits of whole wheat flour without that full-on, hearty whole wheat flavor? Use white whole wheat flour, like this one from King Arthur.
King Arthur's white whole wheat flour is stone ground from hard white spring wheat instead of hard red spring wheat. It's just as nutritious as regular whole wheat flour, but the lighter, milder flavor is gentler and more accessible.
Depending on the recipe, you can confidently replace up to half of the all-purpose flour called for with white whole wheat flour without compromising the flavor or structure. (If you're nervous, start with replacing 1/3 of the all-purpose flour, and see how it goes!)
"I often swap a little white whole wheat flour for all-purpose to get more nutrition. King Arthur calls for white whole wheat in my favorite waffle recipe, so I've kept it on hand ever since!" says Rachel.
$4.69 for 5-pound bag from Bob's Red Mill
Bob's whole wheat flour is what we go to when we want that full-on, all-in whole wheat taste.
Stone ground on cool quartz millstones, Bob's whole wheat flour retains every part of the wheat kernel: the wheat germ, bran, and endosperm. It has a protein content in the 13-15% range and gives a deep, nutty, whole grain flavor to breads and baked goods.
Our Favorite Alternative Flours
Bob's Red Mill wins on all accounts when we're looking for alternative flours. It's the most readily-accessible brand, both in-store and online, and we can always trust the quality. Here are the alternative flours we cook with the most.
$4.29 for 22-ounce bag from Bob's Red Mill
"I like Bob's Red Mill for any specialty flour. I use spelt flour in pancakes and quick breads for the nutty flavor, and Bob's always delivers," says Summer.
$5.49 for 22-ounce bag from Bob's Red Mill
Bob's buckwheat flour is a staple in my house. I love our buckwheat pancake and buckwheat waffle recipes, and this flour works wonderfully.
$3.69 for 20-ounce bag from Bob's Red Mill
I like to sub in a little of Bob's oat flour in pancakes and muffins for a bit more whole grain flavor and nutrition.
Our Favorite Specialty Baking Flours
$3.19 for 32-ounce box from Target
Swans Down cake flour is a low-protein pastry flour made from soft white winter wheat. Bleached, enriched, and repeatedly sifted to create a very soft, very delicate flour, it's a classic choice when you're aiming for supremely airy, light desserts, like this vanilla cake!
$9.99 for 5-pound bag from Amazon
A must for Southern-style biscuits! White Lily's self-rising flour is milled from soft winter wheat and blended with leavening agents and salt. It has a super-fine texture and a 9% protein content.
"If you want to make a true Southern biscuit, White Lily is the only flour you should use. The soft winter wheat is milled so fine, it almost feels like cornstarch. Its low protein content makes baked goods light and fluffy. If you're making biscuits and they end up like hockey pucks, you might need to switch your flour to White Lily," says Summer.
- More from this series: What We Cook With: Our Favorite Cocoa, Baking Chocolate, and Chocolate Chips