Protein content is the primary distinction between all-purpose flour and bread flour. The protein level of bread flour, which is available in white and whole wheat variants, is typically 11–13% more than that of all-purpose flour. Because most bread requires greater protein levels to produce a lot of gluten, it is known as “bread flour.” The clingy threads known as gluten are what give bread dough its pliability and stretch, as well as baked bread its distinct crunch. When dough is kneaded, a network of gluten strands forms, trapping air and resulting in the airy gaps typical of many breads. You can substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour when you want a chewier outcome—for example, in pizza dough—but not when you want your baked items to be light and tender or when you want to replace cake or pastry flour.
When is bread flour appropriate to use?
There are more options than ever when it comes to baking with flour, including wheat, whole-wheat, bleached, and gluten-free. It’s a big, scary world out there when it comes to flour, so we talked to four experts: baker Alex Bois of Philadelphia’s High Street on Market (one of our 2014 Best New Restaurants! ), Susan Reid, editorial director of Sift, a publication from King Arthur Flour, Alice Medrich, a master baker and the author of the brand-new alternative (non-wheat)-flour cookbook, Flavor Flours, and Maria Speck, food Put on an apron; we’re going to dive right into the flour bin.
The germ, the bran, and the endosperm are the three components that make up the seed head (top of the plant) of wheat. The bran and germ have been removed from white flour, leaving just the fine, pale endosperm. Though it is more shelf-stable than whole wheat flour, it has a softer flavor and less nutritional benefits as a result. The bran and germ are where the majority of the protein and fiber are found. The three components of the seed head are all ground to produce whole wheat flour. While large, commercial millers frequently separate the parts and add the bran and germ back into the endosperm for “Frankensteined” whole wheat flour, small-scale millers frequently grind the seed head whole.
White flour is less absorbent than whole wheat flour, so more liquid is needed. Doughs made as a result are extremely sticky and might be difficult for novice bakers to handle. If you want to make whole wheat bread, start by replacing 25% of the white flour with whole wheat. As you get better at kneading wet dough, you can increase that percentage. Whole wheat flour can be very coarse and contain big bits of bran, depending on how it is ground. These pointed particles can sever protein chains, crumbling gluten and turning elastic and chewy bread doughs into crumbly ones. Do not overwork the dough to prevent this.
The flour may be identified as “white whole wheat.” This flour has not been bleached (see below for more on bleaching). White whole wheat is a flour made from a paler kind of wheat that includes the endosperm, germ, and bran. Due to a reduced tannin concentration than regular whole wheat, it tastes a little sweeter and gives baked foods a lighter color.
Bleaching white flour occasionally involves using either chlorine or benzoyl peroxide (yep, the same stuff as in zit cream). Flour’s starch and protein content are damaged by bleaching, which also hastens the “curing” process that would ordinarily take a few weeks to complete. Due to the ease of working with cured flour, doughs are less sticky and more pliable. Additionally, bleached white flours rise better than whole wheat flours and absorb more moisture than unbleached white flours.
The majority of typical wheat flour varieties (bread, pastries, etc.) are offered in both white and whole wheat varieties.
If you just have one type of flour in your kitchen, Reid advises using AP. All-purpose flour is significantly more shelf-stable than whole wheat flour since it only contains the endosperm of the seed head. Unfortunately, it also means that less nutritive components like fiber and protein are present. Bleached or unbleached AP flour is available.
Best for: Baked foods like cookies and bread. Use in any circumstance, but sift it first for extremely tender baked items.
Compared to AP, which is manufactured from softer wheat varieties, bread flour, which has a higher protein level, includes more gluten. When gluten is created through hand kneading or stand mixer processing with a dough hook, it contributes to a chewier quality that is preferred in artisan breads. According to Reid, it gives doughs tremendous structure, transforming it into the “underwire bra of the baking industry.” Due to its hefty and dense texture, Bois prefers to use it just for extra-chewy baked items like pretzels and bagels.
Best for: Anything chewy and needing a lot of structure, like bread and pretzels. Use not: Tender pastries and cakes.
Many expert bakers prefer pastry flour for desserts because it has a fine texture and a reduced protein content because it is made from soft wheat varieties. Despite the fact that some millers, including King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill, sell unbleached pastry flour, most commercially available pastry flours are bleached.
Best for: Muffins, pound cakes, breadsticks, and pie crusts. Use sparingly: Because this flour has less gluten, the bread it makes has a weaker structural integrity.
Cake flour is ground to an ultra-fine fineness and has a protein content that is similar to pastry flour (about 8–9%). Additionally, it is typically bleached. The starches in the flour are slightly harmed by bleaching, which enables the cakes to rise higher and absorb more moisture.
Best for: Moist pastries, such as sponge cakes. Use not: Cake flour does not result in bread that is of high quality.
This flour, which is manufactured from soft wheat varietals and is extremely finely ground, is widely used in Italian pasta dishes. The grain is so fine that rolling 00 dough to an extremely thin thickness is simple (necessary for pasta).
Pasta and very thin crusts work best. Use not: Too fine of a grind will result in unsuccessful bread.
Although there are other alternative flours available, we’ll concentrate on the most popular ones in this article. Use tried-and-true recipes when experimenting with new or obscure flours for the best outcome.
While technically a type of wheat, spelt is frequently mentioned in the “alternative” flour guide. Spelt is a centuries-old grain, and many people who have sensitivity to items made from regular wheat find that they can digest it more easily. It is naturally sweet, has a light nuttiness, and is generally simple to deal with.
Although it is a grain, rye is not a division of wheat. When processed, it develops a sour flavor and a natural gumminess.
Best for: Rye-based breads keep their freshness longer and taste best when made with slightly fermented doughs. Use not: A 100% rye bread can be difficult for novice bakers. Start with 75% wheat and 25% rye flour.
Buckwheat flour is blue in color and extremely nutty in flavor. It is naturally gluten-free. The batter may need more liquid during baking because it absorbs a lot of moisture.
Best for: It produces delicious pancakes, thick cakes, and noodles. Use not: A 100% buckwheat loaf will be very difficult to structure. According to Bois, start with 15 to 25% buckwheat flour mixed with AP flour and work your way up as your baking confidence increases. It produces crackers and cookies that are crisp and pleasingly crumbly.
Barley flour is low in gluten and has a natural maltiness to the flavor. All whole grain flours, including barley flour, should be let to sit overnight, according to Speck. The product will become more workable, the bran will soften, and the flavors will mellow over the resting period.
Best for: Because of its malty-sweet flavor, barley is perfect for cookies and other sweet baked items. Useless For: Just like other alternative flours, 100% barley flour does not produce the best bread.
Gluten-free rice flour has a granular, gritty texture. To make a dough that is easier to work with, mix it with softer, finer oat flour.
The best for: Tempura batters, noodles, fritters, and sponge cakes. Useless for: Breads.
This flour is made from ground oats and is extremely fine and fluffy. It is one of the most palatable “whole grain” flavors and has a sweet flavor.
Best for: Oat flour produces wonderful bread when combined with wheat flour. Useless for: Because oats are gluten-free, they require a high-protein flour’s structure in order to withstand the baking process for bread. Make up for their lack of gluten by choosing a high-gluten food, such as bread flour.
Although it might be challenging to work with, this very nutty and thick flour has a rich flavor.
Best for: When used with moist components like eggs, butter, and dairy, amaranth flour performs best. Use in brownies, bars, cookies, and quick breads. Use not for: Avoid making bread with 100% amaranth flour. To prevent a crumbly texture, it requires the gluten found in wheat flour.
These are simple to make at home with a food processor out of ground nuts. They are naturally gluten-free and can be quite powdered. Almond meal, often known as almond flour, is the most popular.
Combining with wet ingredients and/or gluten-containing flours—consider cookies and tarts—is best. Useless for: Breads.
Is bread flour an alternative to all-purpose?
Yes, it is the answer. If you’re wondering if you can substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour or the other way around, you can! Although the outcomes might not be precisely the same, your baked items won’t be completely ruined, and you’ll still get a fantastic outcome. Whatever baked items you make—pancakes, muffins, bread, or cookies—it all depends on the outcomes you want. The flour specified in the recipe will almost always yield better results, despite the fact that the two can be substituted. Certain recipes were developed with a particular flour in mind based on ingredients, cook times, and other factors. As a result, the flour specified usually produces the greatest results while baking. However, if you’re already in the middle of making your favorite whole wheat banana bread and discover that you’re out of all-purpose flour, bread flour can be used as a good substitute. Try Bob’s Red Mill Homemade Wonderful Buns and Rolls or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free French Bread for a bread flour choice that is free of gluten.
What is the primary usage of bread flour?
Bread Flour: What Is It? High-protein flour made from hard spring wheat is called bread flour. The flour’s high protein content, which gives yeasted bread structure and flexibility, makes it predominantly used for baking bread.
Is bread flour suitable for baking purposes?
“I need all-purpose flour to make a recipe for bread, but the only thing I have on hand is bread flour. Is it acceptable to switch out all-purpose flour for bread flour?”
You might find a striking blue bag of King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour on your pantry shelf for a variety of reasons. It’s possible that someone else performed the supermarket shopping and was unaware of the distinction between bread flour and all-purpose flour. Or perhaps there is an impending snowstorm and all that was left in the grocery store was bread flour.
Or perhaps there was just something alluring about the blue bag—promising soaring loaves of fresh bread—that drew you in.
No matter how it got there, once bread flour was in your cabinet, you might have wondered what you could actually accomplish with it. How can all-purpose flour be changed into bread flour?
While we like answering your baking-related questions on the hotline, we also want to provide you with the knowledge and resources you need to take charge of your own decisions. So you won’t have to pick up the phone if you suddenly need fresh bread, which happens frequently in my family.
“How is bread flour different from all-purpose flour?
Hard spring wheat, used to make bread flour, has a higher protein level than the hard winter wheat used to make all-purpose flour. Protein gives dough strength and helps bread loaves rise tall. Our all-purpose flour has 11.7% protein, compared to 12.7% in our bread flour.
“So can I use bread flour in a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour?
A few of us hotline bakers thought some testing was necessary before responding with a hearty “Yes.” So I went to the test kitchen to investigate what would actually happen if I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour in some of our favorite bread recipes.
We recommend starting with our Classic Sandwich Bread. When you butter a slice of this bread, your toes will curl under (in a good way!).
All-purpose flour is needed to make this sexy loaf. However, let’s say you only have half a bag of bread flour left. (Plus, making those BLTs you’ve been daydreaming about might require a bit more chew.)
I experimented with the recipe using both bread flour and all-purpose flour to see what would happen.
The oven produced these two gorgeous loaves. They both rose around the same amount, but you can see that the all-purpose recipe somewhat overflowed the pan’s sides.
On the other hand, the loaf of bread flour maintained its shape. Because bread flour has a larger protein content than other types of flour, the dough it produces absorbs a little bit more liquid, making it firmer and causing the finished loaf to rise upward rather than outward.
Don’t panic; the difference in absorption is not sufficient to alter the loaf’s texture or prevent it from rising. As you can see, either of these breads would make a fantastic BLT.
You might now be wondering if these loaves had any surprises.
You could notice that the bread flour loaf on the right has somewhat smaller holes, or what we refer to as a “tighter crumb,” if you look closely at the crumb (the tiny holes that give the bread its structure). Although the difference was minimal.
Both models were ideal for spreading butter and jam on thick pieces of toast. So feel free to use the same amount of bread flour as all-purpose in the recipe. (Remember to sprinkle and fluff your flour, or measure by weight using a scale.)
Whole wheat bread
To give whole grain loaves a boost, bread flour or all-purpose flour is frequently used in place of some of the whole wheat flour. Using a flour with more gluten can improve the structure and rise of the bread because the bran in whole wheat flour degrades the gluten.
To strengthen the rise in a whole wheat loaf, we compared the effects of using bread flour and all-purpose flour. So, using 50/50 whole wheat and all-purpose flour in one loaf and 50/50 whole wheat and bread flour in the other, we decided to test it in our Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread.
When the flour was tasked with enhancing the performance of whole grains, we questioned whether the tiny variation between the two sandwich loaves would become more obvious.
The outcome? Similar to what we observed with the Classic Sandwich Bread recipe, the all-purpose loaf was wider across the top (more “mushroomed”) than the bread flour loaf. There wasn’t much of a difference between the two loaves, other from the all-purpose loaf being a little more tender.
So, can you substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour? The answer is
We respond with assurance “When callers inquire if they may substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour (or vice versa) in their bread recipes in a pinch, the response is yes.
We always advise bakers to use the type of flour specified in the recipe, such as bread or all-purpose, for the absolute finest loaf. After all, if a flour is listed, the recipe was created to produce the best results with that flour. These recipes meticulously balance the amount of liquid required with the protein content of the flour to produce the correct hydration and a properly risen loaf.
However, substituting is completely acceptable in a pinch. Whether you use bread flour or all-purpose flour, you’ll still be rewarded with a delicious homemade loaf. The dough’s consistency and the bread’s structure may change.
Therefore, start baking! Grandma’s ancient recipe, which calls for only a few simple ingredients, but you’ve been afraid to attempt it “Give flour a try; it’s waiting for you! Choose all-purpose flour if you prefer a slightly more open texture and more tenderness, or use bread flour if you prefer a tighter crumb and a loaf that retains its shape.
I like to remind the hotline callers that yeast dough is a living, breathing entity, and it is your responsibility as the baker to provide for it. You want a dough that feels exactly correct, not one that is rigid or slack.
If the dough feels too wet, add a little flour; if it feels dry, add a little water. You want your product to have the same somewhat tacky feeling as the adhesive strip on a sticky note.
The options are infinite once you have that blue bag of bread flour in your cabinet. To properly appreciate what it is capable of, try it in a recipe that calls for bread flour or as a substitute in a favorite dish to see how it improves your loaf.