I love to bake. I’m notorious for ordering large quantities through our local good food store. Yes, I had a 50 lbs. bag of flour at one time. As you can tell from the recipe folder that cookies and pizzas are on my list of goodies.

When making a chocolate cookie recipe it called for sifted flour. When making chocolate cookies you need to sift the flour with the cocoa so the cocoa is mingled with the flour equally. However, wondering if there was something mysterious at work besides the obvious I opened my know-everything-humanly-possible-about-cooking book. “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee. 

So flipping to the flour section I saw a paragraph on bleached flour. Basically fresh milled flower weakens the gluten. Gluten is the part that makes flour springy and fluffy. As flour ages, its gluten returns etc. So sometime around the 1900s millers began to want to speed up that process by “supplementing  freshly milled flour with oxidizing chlorine gas and then with potassium bromate.¹” Even then there was a concern about the toxicity.

So spring forward, that practice lasted until the 1980s. Now they use ascorbic acid that gets oxidized and does the same thing in the flour.  Harold McGee notes that the practice of bleaching flour is not allowed in Europe due to the concern of chemical alteration.

I want to have this information out there to encourage folks to use simple ingredients in all their cooking. I did check the local grocery aisle and was surprised to find that bleached flour is still available. So, when you pick up a 5lbs. or 50lbs. bag of flour, check the label and …. sigh, ingredients.

¹  “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee. pg. 529