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FLOURS, STARCHES AND BREADCRUMBS

Flour types vary according to the type of grain and the level of coarseness it is milled into. Listed below are some flour types commonly used in Finnish cooking and in the recipes of this site.

Flour types Finland is the northernmost crop producing country in the world. Main cereals grown and harvested here are barley (51 %), oats (35 %), wheat (11 %) and rye (3 %). Although the growing season is short and the amount of crop smaller compared to other countries, the range of various Finnish grain products and flours is wide. There are thousands of different bread varieties available in Finnish bakeries alone.

Only additives allowed to be added to flours in Finland are ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and enzymes like amylases and proteases. It is forbidden to use additives in grain products like whole or husked grain, germ, grits, cereals, bran, etc. To improve its performance and whiten its colour, wheat flour is let to mature before being sold to consumers. In some countries, this process is speeded up by treating the flour with various chemicals. This is never done in Finland, where flour is matured naturally by letting it rest in storage for a couple of weeks before being sold.

The amount and quality of protein in the flour is an important factor affecting the baking quality of different flour types. The protein in wheat flour, called gluten, forms an elastic web of gluten strands when combined with liquid. The springier and stretchier the gluten web is, the better the dough will withstand handling, kneading and leavening, resulting in larger and more uniform breads and pastry products. Although the flours milled from the wheat varieties grown in Finland have a high protein content (10 - 13 %), their ability to produce strong gluten web is not the best possible. Growing of wheat exceptionally high in protein (14 - 15 %), producing very strong gluten strands, is only possible in continental climates, like in Canada and the United States. North American wheat is imported to Europe to improve the quality of the local wheat.

Read more about different types of cereals and grains here.

See also:

Wheat kernel
Wheat kernel 1 - Bran layer
2 - Aleurone layer
3 - Endosperm
4 - Germ
5 - Brush

Grains of different cereals share the same basic structure. The principal components of wheat kernel are seen in the picture above.
In milling process, the different parts of the kernel are separated and used to produce various grain products:

  1. The outermost bran layer of the kernel is divided in the grain wall (pericarp) and the seed coat (testa). These parts in their turn consist of numerous thinner layers, partially or completely surrounding the endosperm and germ. The bran layer is rich in fibre, minerals and vitamin B. Separated from the kernel, it is used added to cereal mixes, muesli or various bread doughs. Read more about bran here.
  2. The aleurone layer is the outermost layer of the endosperm. It is rich in proteins, minerals and vitamin B. Part of aleurone layer mixes with bran during milling.
  3. Endosperm is the largest component of the kernel, with high starch and gluten content, but lower vitamin and mineral content. Regular, white wheat flour is milled from this part, separated from the bran and the germ.
  4. Germ is the embryo of the kernel, containing the elements of the young wheat plant. Being the most nutritious part, it is rich in vitamins E and B, proteins, minerals and fat. Separated from the kernel, the wheat germ is used to add nutrition to many foods. Because of its high fat content, it turns rancid rather quickly.
  5. Brush is a tuft of fine hairs at the upper end of the kernel.
Wholemeal flours are milled using the whole kernel from germ to bran.


Wheat flour, fine
(Triticum aestivum aestivum)

Fine wheat flour

This type of fine wheat flour is usually called semi-coarse wheat flour in Finland, where it is sold under the name "puolikarkea vehnäjauho". It is milled from the endosperm part of the wheat kernel.

Fine wheat flour is especially suitable for making sweet or savoury yeast doughs used for baking breads, rolls or buns.

The protein content of Finnish fine wheat flour is slightly higher than 13 %.

When baking rich cakes, cookies or flaky pastries it is better to use coarser special wheat flour instead, see right.

 
Wheat flour, coarse
(Triticum aestivum aestivum)

Special wheat flour

This coarser and heavier wheat flour is just regular all-purpose wheat flour. It is usually called special wheat flour in Finland, meaning it is specially intended for baking cakes and pastries, but also bread. It may be found sold under the names "erikoisvehnäjauho", "leivontakarkea vehnäjauho" or "ydinvehnäjauho". The protein content of Finnish special wheat flour is about 12 %.

There is also even coarser variety of this type of wheat flour available, used mainly in products that are exceptionally light, springy and low in gluten, like certain cakes and jelly roll batters. This type of flour is simply called coarse wheat flour ("karkea vehnäjauho") in Finland.

Special wheat flour is milled from the endosperm part of the wheat kernel. It is suitable for all cooking and baking. Use it especially when baking cakes or pastries that are rich in sugar and butter or light in texture, like sponge cakes and cookies. However, getting a better result in making yeast doughs, use fine wheat flour instead, see left.


Whole wheat flour
(Triticum aestivum aestivum)

Whole wheat flour

Whole wheat flour  —  also called graham flour  —  contains all parts of the wheat kernel: the germ, endosperm and bran, thus having coarser texture and higher nutritional value and fat content than regular wheat flour. It is rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

In Finland, this type of flour is sold under the name "grahamjauho" or "täysjyvävehnäjauho". It may be replaced with dark wheat flour (see right).

Whole wheat flour is suitable for both cooking and baking. Because of its coarser texture and fuller flavour, it is used mainly in bread and pie doughs and is not suitable for "finer" and very delicate baked goods. The protein content of Finnish whole wheat flour is about 13 %.

Dark wheat flour
(Triticum aestivum aestivum)

Dark wheat flour

Similar to whole wheat flour (see left), the coarse dark wheat flour contains 75 % of the wheat kernel, including part of the bran layer. It is darker in colour and contains more vitamins and minerals than regular white wheat flour. Dark wheat flour may be added to whole wheat flour to improve the baking quality of the latter.

Also called yeast bread wheat flour, dark wheat flour is sold in Finland under the names "tumma vehnäjauho", "hiivaleipävehnäjauho", or "hiivaleipäjauho". The protein content of Finnish dark/yeast bread wheat flour is about 14 %.


Durum wheat flour
(Triticum turgidum durum)

Durum wheat flour

Durum flour is milled from hard-grain durum wheat. It is yellower in colour compared with regular wheat flour. Durum wheat is not grown in Finland.

Durum flour is not usually used in baking, since its ability to produce strong gluten web is not the best possible. It is mainly used to make pasta doughs.

In Finland, durum flour is sold under the names "durumvehnäjauho" or "durumjauho". The protein content of durum wheat flours sold in Finland is about 13 %.

Barley flour
(Hordeum vulgare)

Barley flour

Barley flour is milled from hulled barley kernels. It has a stronger flavour than wheat flour. Breads containing barley flour keep fresh and moist-seeming a bit longer than some other breads.

In Finland, barley flour is used to make flatbreads, pancakes, crêpes, porridges and gruels, and it is added to bread doughs, like potato bread. It is sold under the name "ohrajauho". The protein content of Finnish barley flour is about 11 %.


Rye flour
(Secale cereale)

Rye flour

Regular Finnish rye flour is milled from whole rye kernels. Used alone, it is suitable for baking Finnish soft or crisp rye breads or pastries or cooking rye porridges. Most of the traditional Finnish dark rye breads are baked with whole rye flour, using the lactic acid fermentation method. Whole rye flour is sold under the names "ruisjauho", "täysjyväruisjauho" or "karkea ruisjauho".

Lestyruisjauho is rye flour milled from the endosperm part of the rye kernel, but is mainly sold to and used by bakeries only.

Rye flour can be used in making yeast bread doughs and rolls or pastries when mixed with some higher-protein flour. Heavier than other flours, rye flour produces slightly denser and darker baking products. The protein content of Finnish whole rye flour is about 10 %.

Rye flour may also be used to coat whole small vendace or Baltic herrings or fish fillets before frying them in butter.

Fine rye flour
(Secale cereale)

Fine rye flour

Also called bolted rye flour, fine rye flour is milled from partly hulled rye kernels, making it finer in texture and lighter in colour than regular rye flour. It can be used in baking breads, rolls and pastries. It may even be used in jelly-roll batters or gingerbread cookie and other sweet doughs instead of wheat flour, but the flavour will naturally be quite different.

In Finland, this type of flour is sold under the names "ruissihtijauho" or "sihtiruisjauho". The protein content of Finnish fine rye flour is about 8 %.

Fine rye flour can be replaced by using half the amount regular whole rye flour (see left) and half wheat flour.


Rye malt, powdered

Powdered rye malt

Rye malt is produced by germinating, drying and roasting rye grains. Malted grains may then be milled into grits or powder.

Mixed in bread doughs, powdered malt gives bread a wonderful, full aroma and an attractive colour. It is also an important ingredient in making Finnish homemade beer, or the traditional Finnish Easter dish mämmi, as well as sweet malt bread.

In Finland, powdered rye malt is sold under the names "ruismallas" or "mämmi- ja leipämallas".

Talkkuna

Talkkuna

Talkkuna is a mixture of half-cooked, dried (and usually roasted) grains, like barley, oats, rye, peas and/or beans, milled into coarse flour. Similar products have been known in many cultures throughout the world, made with various ancient grains, like sorghum, emmer, einkorn, etc.

The Finnish name for "talkkuna" comes from its Russian name, толокно (tolokno). The word is derived from the Russian verb толочь (toloch'), which means "to crush, mash or grind".

Talkkuna flour may be eaten as it is, mixed with yogurt or other milk products, or cooked into porridge with the addition of liquid. In Finland, talkkuna is most often eaten with the Finnish curd milk viili. Talkkuna has traditionally been agrarian food, mostly consumed by the older generations, but has made a comeback as a trendy ingredient, lending its malty flavour to many savoury dishes and desserts, like pies, cakes, chocolates and milkshakes.

However, it should be noted that because of the roasting and/or smoking process, some talkkuna products contain a very high level of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), like
enzo[a]pyrene (BaP).


Corn flour
(Zea mays)

Corn flour

Corn flour is fine-textured flour dry-milled from the endosperm part of the maize/corn kernel. It is used to prepare gruels, flatbreads and pancakes and is added to bread doughs. It should not be confused with cornstarch (see right).

Cornmeal is coarser-textured type of corn flour. It gives foods like polenta, muffins and cornbreads a subtly grainy texture.
Read more about cornmeal here.

Masa harina is fine-textured corn flour made of dried masa, a paste made by kneading and grinding wet-milled maize/corn kernels, after they have been treated with an alkali solution. Masa harina may be used to make maize/corn tortillas, giving them a softer texture than regular, dry-milled corn flour.

Masa harina
In picture above: masa harina.

In Finnish, corn flour is called "maissijauho"  —  although you should note that in many Finnish recipes this term is also used to mean cornstarch. The protein content of corn flours sold in Finland is about 7 - 8 %.

Note: the flour called corn flour in Britain is called cornstarch in the USA.

Cornstarch
(Zea mays)

Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a gluten-free powdery flour consisting of the starch extracted from corn/maize kernels. It is mostly used as a thickener in sweet or savoury sauces, soups and puddings. It gives an opaque result, so it is usually used in milk or cream based dishes instead of clear soups or sauces. It is also used in cake, pastry or cookie doughs to make them extra crumbly or moist.

Cornstarch should be dissolved in a small amount of cold liquid before being heated or added to thicken hot mixtures. The mixture is then cooked for at least one minute (usually three minutes). It can also be mixed with the cold ingredients, brought to a boil and cooked for three minutes.

In Finnish, cornstarch is called "maissitärkkelys" or simply "Maizena", after its brand name. However, in some Finnish recipes, cornstarch is misleadingly called "maissijauho" (corn flour), but should not be confused with corn flour/cornmeal (see left).

In most dishes, cornstarch may be replaced with potato flour (see below left).


Potato flour

Potato flour

Also called potato starch, potato flour is a gluten-free powdery flour made from cooked, dried and ground starchy potatoes. It is mostly used as a thickener in sweet or savoury sauces and soups. It gives a clear result, being suitable to be used in clear fruit soups and sauces. It can be mixed with a cold liquid before being poured into hot dishes in thin stream, whisking continually, and cooked only briefly. Potato flour can also be mixed with the cold ingredients and brought to a brief boil.

Potato flour can also be used to replace a part of wheat flour in cake, Swiss roll or cookie doughs to make the cakes moist, soft and spongy and to give the cookies an extra crumbly texture. It is suitable to be used in gluten-free and vegetarian diets. In Finnish, potato flour is called "perunajauho".

In most foods, potato flour may be replaced with cornstarch (see above right).

Arrowroot

Arrowroot

Also called arrowroot flour, arrowroot is obtained from the ground and dried rootstalks of a tropical plant maranta (Maranta arundinacea). It is used to thicken sauces and other cooked foods instead of wheat flour, potato flour or cornstarch.

Arrowroot is absolutely tasteless, becomes clear when cooked and does not impart a chalky taste if undercooked, unlike other flours and starches. It should be mixed with a cold liquid before being heated or added to hot dishes, and cooked only briefly.

Arrowroot, called nuolijuuri in Finnish, is less used in Finnish home cooking. It can be found sold here in well-equipped grocery stores, health food stores or ethnic food stores.


Dry breadcrumbs

Dry breadcrumbs

Dry breadcrumbs are made by finely grating thoroughly dry bread, biscuits or rusks. They can be made either with white or dark bread. Preferably use homemade breadcrumbs in cooking instead of store-bought brands, as some of them may taste stale.

Rye breadcrumbs
In picture above: dry rye breadcrumbs.

To prepare dry breadcrumbs at home, first dry some bread slices in cool oven until thoroughly crisp, but not browned. Process the slices into fine powder in a blender. Store the breadcrumbs in a tightly sealed container.

In small amounts, dry breadcrumbs can be used as a binding ingredient in hamburger mixtures (the "secret" for Nordic meatballs being soft and not rubbery, like most "foreign" meatballs :-) , as a gratin in casseroles or in coating pork, chicken and fish fillets or vegetable patties before cooking or frying. When added to various mixtures, they are usually first softened by soaking them in liquid.

Dry breadcrumbs are called korppujauho or korppujauhe in Finnish.

Fresh breadcrumbs

Fresh breadcrumbs

Fresh breadcrumbs are made by grating fresh, soft bread. If a recipe specifically calls for fresh or soft breadcrumbs, make them of fresh or slightly dry white bread by processing it in a blender. Breadcrumbs may also be made with soft dark and rye breads.

Fresh breadcrumbs can be used in hamburger mixtures, and to coat foods like hamburger or vegetable patties before cooking.

Fresh breadcrumbs are called leipäraaste or tuore leipäraaste in Finnish.

Although used in a similar way, fresh and dry breadcrumbs are not interchangeable in recipes.


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