Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Prepper’s Pantry: Flour

Many of the recipes I’ve shared in my posts involve some form of flour. At a basic level, flour is the ground product of any of a number of grains, beans, nuts, roots, or seeds. Humans have been grinding all sorts of plants to a fine powder for at least eight thousand years, though there’s some evidence it may go back much earlier in our development.

The biggest issue with long-term storage of flour, as with so many things, is oxygen. If the germ of the grain is left in during production of flour, the fatty acids present start to oxidize immediately, leading to spoilage. This high risk of spoilage led to the prevalence on the market of white wheat flour, which is basically whole wheat flour with the germ and bran removed. In fact, most wheat flour is processed as white flour, and then the germ is added back in after it’s treated for preservation, producing whole wheat flour.

Currently in the United States, the most common flour is made from wheat. Following that, corn is the next most popular source, and even these basic categories have a number of varieties. However, almond, various bean, buckwheat, chickpea, hazelnut, peanut, potato, rice, tapioca, and many other flours can be found in the baking aisle of many grocery and specialty stores.

It’s not uncommon in the baking aisle to see packages of flour labelled all-purpose, bread, biscuit, cake, enriched, pastry, self-rising, unbleached, and whole wheat. These divisions are generally based on the fineness of the grind as well as additives or supplements in the mix, though some labels are more for advertising purposes.

A selection of flours and friends from the author’s pantry.
L-R: Self-rising white; regular white; potato flakes; Semolina; 
whole wheat; White Lily soft wheat; corn Masa; corn meal; corn starch.

The most common uses of flour are for making things like bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, and as additives in a wide variety of other foods. For example, when making a roux to thicken gravy and sauces, some form of flour is essential to produce the proper consistency. In non-food use, when mixed with water and a little salt, flour is an essential ingredient in papier-mâché or wallpaper paste. It can also be used to make a sort of clay for children’s projects.

While it’s certainly possible to get un-milled grain and run it through a manual or electric mill, that’s a pretty significant investment in time and money. Most preppers are likely better off buying pre-milled flour in bulk and storing it in food-safe airtight containers with oxygen absorbers. Larger quantities can be kept in buckets, and smaller amounts in Mylar bags. In our house, we tend to store some flour in canning jars and zip lock bags because we have them conveniently at hand.

While there is some overlap between types and styles, it’s important to use the right flour for the job. Coarseness, density, water retention and other factors will determine how a particular flour affects a recipe. As they say, "Horses for courses."

Good prepping, and good cooking.

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