Czech and Slovak Flours in the US and UK (and substitutions)

Czech-Slovak flours
Hladká (smooth), polohrubá (semi-coarse), and hrubá (coarse) mouka

In the past, I have posted several Czech recipes on my blog. As an enthusiastic home cook and baker in the US, it is natural that I would make my native Czech husband foods that he grew up eating in Prague. My mother-in-law was an excellent home cook, and I’m lucky that she shared several recipes.

My husband and I have been together for almost 25 years now. Early in our marriage, I struggled to get some Czech dishes right, but have since mostly mastered them. In the early years, the flours I had access to in the US (or rather didn’t) were issues. In this post, I describe some of the most commonly used flours in Czech Republic – particularly wheat-based flours – and possible substitutions. The main wheat flours in Czech Republic are described according to coarseness, from smooth all the way to very coarse.

Where to buy actual Czech and/or Slovak flours (or equivalents) in the US or UK:

The US and UK have several residents originally from Central Europe. Areas with larger Central European populations sometimes have small grocery shops and delis that cater to these populations. I know of a couple Czech/Slovak shops, as well as Polish and Hungarian shops within an hour or less from my home. In this day and age, online shopping opportunities are also expanding rapidly. Visit my post Czech and Slovak Groceries in the US and UK for recommended shops that ship domestically.

Flour types and substitutions

Bobs Red Mill unbleached pastry flourHladká mouka (smooth flour) – This smooth wheat-based flour is used in making various cookies (i.e. Linzer tart or Bear Paws) and delicate tortes and pastries, and the like. It is also good as a thickener for sauces. The closest flour produced in the US is unbleached pastry flour (not cake flour) that is sold by US companies like Bob’s Red Mill (see photo to the left), often shelved in organic or health food sections of larger grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market. This is a recommended substitute for hladká mouka. If you can get actual hladká mouka, all the better. I’ve also used Polish “Maka Puszysta – Tortowa Typ 450”, which seems to be the same. If you can’t find any of these flours, US all-purpose flour may work. It has for me in many cookie recipes.

Polohrubá mouka (semi-coarse flour) – This semi-course wheat-based flour is often the flour choice for cakes, certain pastries (like kolache), and even many breads. It’s slightly coarser than US all-purpose flour, but the two can sometimes be used interchangeably, with minor differences in the texture results. When I’ve used US all-purpose flour in place of polohrubá mouka, I’ve occasionally needed a bit more than the indicated flour amount in the recipe. Polohrubá mouka has a slightly higher protein content than all-purpose flour.

IMG_20200114_190850_2
Houskový knedlík made with hrubá mouka (coarse flour).

Hrubá mouka (coarse flour) – A primary use of hrubá mouka in Czech cooking is for making various dumplings. And Czechs love their dumplings! It is also in the occasional cake and cookie recipe, especially some with beaten egg whites in the batter. After years of so-so to lousy results with suggested substitutes, I strongly recommend buying actual coarse flour (hrubá mouka), when suggested. [See “Where to buy actual Czech/Slovak flours” section above.] If one must substitute, the product “Wondra” flour, in the US, combined with a little bit of all-purpose flour, can work almost satisfactorily. Wondra, also called “instantized flour”, is sold in the bakery ingredient/flour sections of most US grocery stores. It is in a blue canister, and its usual use in American cooking is for making gravies.

Krupice (very coarse flour) – Semolina flour in Czech Republic, infrequently used, is pretty much the same as it is in the US.

Celozrnná pšeničná mouka (whole grain wheat flours) – This flour was not that commonly used in traditional Czech cooking, but has become more popular as people look for healthy wholegrain options. There are two groups of this flour: a fine version (or jemně mletá), which is similar to US whole wheat pastry flour, and a coarser version (hrubá) about the same as regular whole wheat flour, in the US.

Other flours – Just like in the US and UK, there are a few other less commonly used flour options in Czech Republic. These range from rye flour (žitná mouka) to spelt flour (špaldová mouka), corn flour (kukuřičná mouka), and others.

Vanilla sugar packet 8 or 9 grams
9 grams vanilla sugar equals ~2 tsp vanilla extract in vanilla flavor, plus ~1 Tbs confectioner’s sugar

Bonus tips: Additional Czech/Slovak baking ingredient information (and substitutions) can be found at the end of my blog post 10 Varieties of Czech Christmas Cookies and within some individual recipes there. One example is vanilla sugar (see photo and caption to the left).

Please feel free to ask any questions by posting a comment below. Or if you have additional tips of your own to share, I’d love to read them.

 

13 thoughts on “Czech and Slovak Flours in the US and UK (and substitutions)

  1. Mark Holley April 4, 2020 / 9:18 pm

    I have no tips or questions, but I would probably kill someone for some vanilla sugar right about now. :p

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight April 4, 2020 / 9:30 pm

      It’s waiting for you in the grocery store baking ingredients aisle, Mark. By the way, I know that I’m older than you, but do you remember as a kid those candy paper straws that contained flavored sugar powder? Some of those old candies from the 1970s used to be pretty bad for kids! Do you remember Pop Rocks?

      Like

      • Mark Holley April 4, 2020 / 9:34 pm

        I’ll be 45 in two months; I don’t think you’re THAT much older than me. :p I *loved* Pop Rocks. The paper straws with the sugar were all right I guess, but the Pop Rocks were my favorite treat when I went to Little League baseball games. I hated sports as much then as I do now, so the Pop Rocks were my only reason for going.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Holley April 4, 2020 / 9:44 pm

        Holy shit we have the exact same chocolate preference: Ritter Sport and Lindt. :p

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Karin, theaustriandish April 5, 2020 / 8:23 pm

    Thanks a lot for this very useful post. You know, I always have difficulties to describe the different flours available in Austria.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight April 5, 2020 / 10:32 pm

      You’re welcome, Karin.

      When writing the post, I thought about emphasizing that many (or all) of the same flours are used in neighboring countries, but I wasn’t 100% sure about that. I do believe there are equivalent flours in Poland, as an example, but they seem to describe them differently, using a number system of sorts. From what you’ve written, they seem to describe the coarseness of flour in Austria, like they do in Czech/Slovak Republics. Am I correct? Do you know if there are differences between any Austrian flours and ones in Czech or Slovak stores? My strong assumption is that Czech and Slovak flours are exactly the same.

      My husband’s eldest sister and older brother live in Munich, Germany. He said his brother’s wife is able to get flours that work well for Czech cooking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Karin, theaustriandish April 6, 2020 / 5:57 pm

        I’m not sure wether Czech/Slovak and Austrian flour are the same. But I think that they are similar because of historic reasons, as we were one country until 1918. In Austria we also have these numbers on the packages, but nobody knows the meaning of these numbers, but the flours simply have different names, as in the Czech Republic. But I know that the flours in Germany are different. They use a different number system to describe the coarseness and you also find these numbers in German cookbooks…

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight April 6, 2020 / 7:13 pm

        That’s so interesting how flours differ a lot even within Central Europe. I’m glad I just referenced Czech and Slovak flours, and the coarseness descriptions.

        There’s a possibility my husband and I may move to France in the future. I guess I’ll have to learn about any differences between their flours and US flours. I have been cooking French recipes (which I translate from French). I’m used to metric weight and volume measurements, but I’ve had to learn some special new French culinary terms. I’ve cooked mostly savory dishes, rather than sweet ones.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Maria May 25, 2020 / 5:37 pm

    Hi there!
    What an amazing blog to find 🌹

    Im Slovak living in UK for number of years now ( keen baker) and i still struggle with types of flours Im able to buy in UK shops. The choice is vast however the name of flours don’t translate accordingly i would say. I always struggle to replace “polohruba muka” in my cakes or fine desserts. They just dont seem to either rise the same way or don’t taste the same as they would normally back home.
    Any help or ideas please?

    Ps: when i run low on Vanilla sugar a simply stick a pod of vanilla in my sugar jar. Does the trick 😉 Stay safe everyone ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight May 25, 2020 / 6:29 pm

      Thanks so much, Maria!

      As an American, I’m afraid that I am not familiar with the usual flours in the UK. I can say that no American flours are perfect substitutes for polohruba, either. In a pinch, I have simply used a bit more of what is “all purpose” flour, in the US, or usually buy actual polohruba flour online at a Slovak/Czech store that delivers through the mail.

      In my post at https://birdflight.blog/2018/04/04/finding-czech-and-slovak-groceries-in-the-us-and-uk/ I include links to online stores in the US and UK. I have no experience with the stores in the UK, but you may want to check them out.

      Like

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