Whatever flour a recipe states, I tend to substitute a different one! This is mostly because I try to turn rather decadent baking offerings into something that can be as healthy as possible whilst still remaining delicious. I very rarely use plain old white flour when baking. Nor do I use self-raising flour as I prefer to add a good quality gluten free raising agent myself. Stoneground wholemeal spelt is my staple - see Ingredients are the Key. It's about the healthiest wheat flour you can get and can often be eaten by those who don't normally fare too well with wheat. However, I will often use a combination of flours depending on what I have to hand and what I feel like using at the time.
The best flour I have ever used was ground less than 1/2 an hour before I used it for baking bread - it was the most delicious bread I think I've ever eaten. Sadly, for most of us our flour is unlikely to be that fresh.
For most cakes I will use half wholemeal spelt and half white spelt as this gives a lighter texture than straight wholemeal. However, I often substitute some other flour for some of the white - buckwheat works particularly well as it is a very fine flour. These are the flours I use on a regular basis. All are, of course, organic.
- Wholemeal Spelt - see Ingredients are the Key
- White Spelt - used on those rare occasions when nothing but white flour will do. More often I mix it with wholemeal to lighten a cake or biscuit mixture.
- Wholemeal - I grew up using only wholemeal flour and until I discovered Spelt, just over a decade ago, this is what I used for all of my baking.
- Gluten Free - I use this if making cakes for anyone who is wheat or gluten intolerant and sometimes use it for lightening the wholemeal.
- Quinoa - a white fairly grainy flour which has a particularly high protein content, is meant to be easy to digest and is gluten free.
- Buckwheat - a very fine grey flour which works really well added to cakes and is also gluten free. Ysanne Spevack is more informative than I am on the subject.
I have just booked onto Baking for a New Food Culture with Andrew Whitley - the Real Bread guru - at Shumacher College in a few weeks time. I'm terribly excited about this and am hoping I will learn heaps more about flour and the best flours to use (as well as bread making of course).
The main thing is not to worry too much about what flour the recipe states, just use whatever you have to hand. If you've never tried using anything but traditional white, you could just try substituting a tbsp with an alternative flour the next time you are baking. See how it goes and if all is well, build on that.