Not all flours are the same. There’s all-purpose flour, baker’s flour, bread flour, whole wheat flour, cake flour, and even gluten-free flour. The trick is to figure out which one works best for your recipe.
All-purpose flour is how most manufacturers refer to plain flour. This is your choice when you want to buy only one type of flour. King Arthur Flour says his all-purpose flour is versatile, strong enough for bread, and soft enough for scones and muffins. Baking flour contains less protein and can be good for light, fluffy baked goods.
Flour is obtained by grinding the grain into powder. This gives it the consistency to use in bread, muffins, muffins, and more. Some varieties, such as coconut flour, don’t even come from wheat. According to Bob’s Red Mill, the two most common types of all-purpose flour and bread flour used are.
All-purpose flour, often called plain flour, is quite high in protein. King Arthur All-Purpose Flour has a protein content of 11.7 percent, while Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Flour has a protein content ranging from 10 to 12 percent. This allows it to stay firm and hold its texture while providing good texture for muffins and cookies.
According to Bon Appetit, this protein content helps flour form gluten when water is added. In fact, it is the gluten content that gives bread and other baked goods their structure. Unbleached, all-purpose flour is not chemically treated to whiten and soften.
All-purpose wheat flours are more shelf-stable, according to Bon Appetit. The oils in wheat germ can cause the flour to smell. All-purpose wheat flour does not have the nutritional value of whole wheat flour but is predictable when used in bakeries. Although it won’t give the same texture, you can often substitute it for other flours.
Baking With Baking Flour
Baking flours are usually named based on their targeted use, whether cake flour, self-rising flour, or bread flour. Cake flour is used to bake cakes. This fluffy, tender flour has a low protein content, about 9 percent, according to Bon Appetit. King Arthur states that its cake flour yields a higher-rising, tender cake, with a fine, moist crumb.
Pastry flour has an even lower protein content than cake flour, about 8 percent, according to Bon Appetit. Used to make pie crusts, biscuits, and scones, it is meant to provide a tender, crumbly, flaky texture. If the tenderness is what you want, you can swap cake or pastry flour for all-purpose flour in the recipe. All-purpose flour is fine for pancakes, for example, but cake or pastry flour won’t work well for a flatbread.
Bread flour has a protein content that exceeds even all-purpose flour, at over 12 percent protein. This is why it isn’t the best choice for tender cakes, pie crusts, and biscuits.
Baking with Bread Flour
According to King Arthur Flour, if you have bread flour, which contains even more protein than all-purpose flour, it will have 12.7 percent protein. This ingredient gives the bread a firmer consistency and helps the loaf retain its shape. It can be used in roll recipes where the protein content will help the rolls retain their shape.
Bread flour can be used in baking, but it is best for baking bread, especially sourdough bread crumbs and loaves. It is also suitable for cookies, but they will be firmer and flatter.
But not ideal for cakes or biscuits, according to Bon Appetit. These work better using a softer flour with lower protein content. You can use it as a substitute for all-purpose flour, but expect anything you make to be chewier than with all-purpose flour.
Bread flour can be used for quick bread, although it depends on the consistency you’re looking for. If you want a firmer texture, bread flour will be best, but if you want a softer, softer texture, you’re better off using all-purpose flour, according to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.
Cake and Pastry Flour
Cake flour with 7 to 8 percent protein content and cake flour with 9 percent protein content can be used interchangeably without changing the flavor too much. The gluten you want to chew up in your bread and pizza dough when making cakes, cookies, biscuits, or pie crusts isn’t very desirable.
The low protein content of cake flour helps make the cake texture fluffy and soft. Pastry flour gives it that soft, soft, smooth consistency that helps make biscuits light and airy and gives pie crusts a flaky texture. Pastry flour is also ideal for cookies and crackers, according to Kansas State University Research and Extension.
For biscuits, you can also use self-raising flour, which is a low-protein flour made from a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt. It provides a fluffy, flaky, light texture. However, if you are using self-raising flour, remember not to add baking powder.
If you’re looking for the lighter texture of cake or cake flour and only have all-purpose flour on hand, Real Simple magazine has a suggestion: For every 1 cup of all-purpose flour, measure that 1 cup, then subtract it. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
Wheat Content of Flour
Most all-purpose and baking flours are made from refined flour. According to the Mayo Clinic, this food ingredient is created through a process that removes some of the nutrients and fiber found in whole wheat. Refined flour is typically enriched by adding some nutrients back, but its nutrient content is less than that of whole wheat flour.
You can buy whole grain flours. According to King Arthur Flour, whole wheat bread flour made from hard wheat will make the bread softer. It still has a high protein content that gives yeast bread the ability to rise.
White whole wheat flour contains the same whole grains as whole wheat flour but is made from white wheat that lacks the bran color of red wheat. It has a milder flavor and softer texture than whole wheat flour made from red wheat.
Whole wheat dough flour made from soft red wheat contains less protein. You can use it for cakes and muffins, but the presence of the bran makes for denser whole wheat baked goods than pastries and cakes made from enriched flour, according to Kansas State.
Nutritional Content of Various Flours
All-purpose flour is enriched with B vitamins and iron, according to the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate. A quarter cup of all-purpose flour contains 1 gram of fiber, 100 calories, and 3 grams of protein. It also contains less than 1 percent of the recommended daily value (RDV) of potassium.
A quarter cup of bread flour is similar to all-purpose flour in terms of nutritional content. King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour contains 1 gram of fiber and 4 grams of protein, providing a slightly higher protein content than all-purpose flour. It provides 110 calories. It also contains 6 percent RDV of iron and 2 percent RDV of potassium.
If you prefer extra fiber in whole wheat flour but like the taste of all-purpose flour, you can choose white whole wheat flour. King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour contains 3 grams of fiber, similar to the fiber content of regular whole wheat flour. A quarter cup of whole wheat flour contains 102 calories and 3 grams of fiber, along with B vitamins and slightly more potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
A quarter cup of pastry flour has 1 gram of fiber, 120 calories, and minimal levels of vitamins and minerals. Pastry flour isn’t meant to offer a lot of nutrients. Instead, the goal is to provide flour with a completely light, flaky texture. If you still want better fiber content, 1/3 cup of King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour contains 3 grams of fiber.
- King Arthur Flour: “How to Substitute Bread Flour for All-Purpose Flour”
- King Arthur Flour: “Flours”
- Bon Appetit: “What’s the Difference Between Bread Flour, All-Purpose Flour, Cake Flour, and Pastry Flour? (Phew!)”
- Kansas State University Research and Extension: “Flour Q & A”
- Better Homes & Gardens: “Substituting Cake Flour for All-Purpose Flour in Cookies”
- King Arthur Flour: “The ABCs of Cake Flour”
- Bob’s Red Mill: “What’s the Difference Between Bread Flour Vs. All Purpose Flour?”
- Bob’s Red Mill: “Flours and Nut Meals”
- University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service: “Quick Breads”
- USDA Nutrient Database: “Wheat Flour, Whole Grain”
- USDA Nutrient Database: “Unbleached White Fine Pastry Flour”
- USDA Nutrient Database: “All Purpose Flour, Unbleached”
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: “All About the Grains Group”
- Mayo Clinic: “How Can Bread Be Labeled as Both White and Whole Wheat? Is White Whole-Wheat Bread a Healthy Choice?
- King Arthur Flour: “White Whole Wheat Flour”
- King Arthur Flour: “Unbleached Bread Flour”
- Real Simple: “What’s the Difference Between Cake Flour, Bread Flour, Pastry Flour, and All-Purpose Flour?”
- King Arthur Flour: “Whole Wheat Pastry Flour”