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It’s easy to feel a bit of anxiety when faced with the many varieties of flours in the baking aisle of the grocery store. All-purpose, bleached, unbleached, self-rising, and a whole lot more line the shelves. Let’s explore the differences.

The most common flour, all-purpose, is a wheat flour that is milled with only the endosperm, not the bran or germ. Since it’s missing the bran and the germ, it’s missing much of the fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E and antioxidants. However, it’s the most versatile of flours, making good pie crusts, cookies, quick breads and yeast breads. All-purpose comes in bleached or unbleached. Bleached uses chemicals to speed up the aging process, resulting in a whiter, finer-grain flour with a softer texture. Unbleached is bleached naturally as it ages from exposure to oxygen, resulting in an off-white, denser flour. The two flours can be used interchangeably; however, you may notice differences in color and volume.

Self-rising flour, on the other hand, should not be used as a substitute for all-purpose flour. Self-rising flour has baking soda and salt added during milling. It’s best for biscuits, muffins, pancakes and some cakes, not yeast breads. Use it within six months of purchase to maximize the effects of the leavening agent. Choose the right flour for the job.

Bread in a Bag

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1 package rapid rise yeast

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water (120-130 degrees)

3 tablespoons oil

1 cup whole wheat flour

Add one cup all-purpose flour, yeast, sugar, dry milk and salt in gallon-size freezer bag; seal. Shake bag and work with fingers to mix. Add hot water and oil to dry ingredients; reseal and mix by working with fingers. Add whole-wheat flour; reseal and mix thoroughly.

Gradually add remaining cup of flour — enough to make a stiff dough that pulls away from the bag. On a floured surface knead the dough for 2 to 4 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover dough with the plastic bag and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a smooth roll and place in a greased loaf pan. Cover with clean dish towel.

Put bread in a warm place. Let dough rise 20 minutes or until double in size. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until baked through.

Yield: 20 slices

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 94 calories, 2 grams fat, 120 milligrams sodium, 16 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein

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Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.