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The finely ground grains of cereals, root vegetables and pulses.
When buying flour, the main thing you need to be aware of is the difference between soft and strong flours - the latter contain a higher level of protein, or gluten, the substance that helps bread to rise.
For biscuits, cakes and pastry - when the primary aim is to keep them light and airy - a soft plain or self-raising flour is best.
For bread and pasta, you need elasticity, which you develop kneading the dough, and for that you need a strong flour.
When using flour as a thickener for sauces, it"s important to cook it thoroughly - or its raw flavour will come through. Five to ten minutes is sufficient, after thickening has taken place. See 'Flour, White'; 'Flour, Wholemeal'; 'Flour, Storing'; 'Flour, Strong'; 'Flour, Tipo 00'. For the best suppliers see our Mail Order Section
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