Flour’s been around for 10,000 years, and was one of — if not the first — plant to ever be cultivated by humans. So the history of flour — and the things we can make with it — is closely tied up with human technology. The part that we use for white flour is are the insides of tiny, individual seeds of grass. It used to take the most muscular men hours to grind wheatberries into an edible meal, and even then, it could only be made into a starvation-delaying, gloppy mush. A few hundred years ago, separating the germ from the bran and endosperm advanced from being powered by humans or animals, to getting milled with the power of flowing water. The flour this yielded made a lot more than mush, but a cookbook from 1747 still instructs you to beat a cake batter “all well together for an hour with your hand, or a great wooden spoon.” These days, electric mills slice open wheatberry seeds and a highly sensitive machine separates each particle of ground up endosperm by its miniscule weight, to give us white flour. This sounds like the last word in milling technology, but to this day we can only remove about 75% of the endosperm, but it makes up 83% of the seed. More exact milling could mean higher grade flours for ever-better textures. That’s just milling techniques – to this day research scientists still dedicate themselves to wheat science and we can only hope that one day, all that mental exertion will translate to a baked good of unimaginable deliciousness.
Flour (via Kaufmann Mercantile Blog)
Great primer on the history and application tips for various types of flour.