Flour in Germany (Mehl)
Originally published on my A Travel for Taste blog on May 14, 2014
Note: I lived in Germany for a number of years teaching English. I created this post while living there and trying to suss out the hows and whys of German baking:
During my baking experimentation in Germany, I’ve discovered that the products found in supermarkets here differ greatly from those found in American grocery stores.
No product demonstrates this more than (what I thought was) simple Mehl (flour). The German supermarkets presented me with many different small, one-kilo bags (about two pounds) of flour with names like Weizenmehl, Instant Mehl, Vollkonmehl, Maismehl, Kartoffelmehl, Roggenmehl; it seemed insurmountably confusing.
After my research, I can tell you the bottom line is that Weizenmehl is wheat flour. In the USA most of the wheat flour is labeled ‘All-Purpose’ (AP) or ‘Self-Rising’, with ‘Cake’ and ‘Bread’ rounding out the choices. In Germany the system is completely different. The flour bags have type numbers instead of words. The most common is Type 405, but you see a lot of Type 550 and other, higher numbers. There is also specialty flour for Spätzle and pasta.
My German “mom” Hilde always uses Type 405 for her copious baking, so I assumed that was like AP, which was sort of right but not exactly. In Germany, flour is labeled according to the refinement, or how much whole grain is left in it after processing. Therefore, a more refined flour, which has less of the grain included, and less gluten, will have a lower number. Therefore, Type 405 is more refined and has less gluten than Type 550, and whole wheat flour has a very high number like 1600.
But how do you convert an American recipe to use German flour? Here are the details:
- Type 405 – pastry flour (lower gluten content than AP); not generally found in US supermarkets
- Type 550 – AP flour
- Type 812 – bread flour
- Type 1050 – high-gluten flour for things like bagels ****and pretzels???
- Type 1600 – whole wheat flour
So what about all those other German words on the flour shelf? Here are a few translations:
- Dinkel Mehl 630 – spelt flour; very popular in German cooking (and my favorite grain name)
- Dinkel-Vollkornmehl – whole-grain spelt flour
- Hartweizen – semolina flour (for Spatzle and pasta)
- Instant Mehl – self-rising flour
- Kartoffelmehl – potato flour
- Maismehl – corn flour
- Maisgriess – corn meal (may also say “Polenta”)
- Roggenmehl 1150 – rye flour
- Roggen-Vollkornmehl – pumpernickel flour (whole-grain rye flour)
- Speisestärke – corn starch
- Vollkonmehl – whole-wheat flour
- Weizenmehl – wheat flour
There you have it! Now you can move to Germany and keep on baking!