bread flour vs reg flour


can I use bread flour in lieu of regular flour when baking breads? what difference if any could I expect? Thank You MD

badge posted by: marydorazio on July 22, 2011 at 4:42 am in Baking, misc.
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reply by: sandra Alicante on July 22, 2011 at 4:54 am
sandra Alicante

Bread flour is supposed to be used for baking breads, it is generally a 'strong' flour. How strong it is depends on the brand, check the protein content against the one you normally use. Higher protein is usually better.

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on July 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Conventional bread flour usually comes in at about 11.6% protein.

Conventional All Purpose flour is usually on the order of about 10.5% protein.

King Arthur AP flour is 11.7% protein, and KA bread flour is 12.7% protein. Note these are both higher than "conventional" flour (where conventional is something like Gold Medal or Pillsbury).

KA AP flour works fine in most recipes that call for bread flour. For recipes from the KA website, if it calls for AP, they mean their own AP - conventional AP won't work as well.

Also if you're in the south, "AP" flour may be as low as 9% - I bought AP flour here in the SE US and couldn't figure out why nothing was coming out right. I finally tracked it back to the mill it came from and found out it was 9.2% !!! That's PASTRY flour. And of course it wasn't coming out properly for bread at all.

The upshot is that KA AP or conventional bread flour will work much better than conventional AP when making bread or pizza. The higher protein content flour has lots of other stuff in it too that makes it better suited for yeast breads.

reply by: marydorazio on July 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Thank You for the info....This may sound stupid, but how does one determine the protein content of flour? If I compare my KA unbleached bread flour bag, it shows 4g protein per 30 g flour, commercial brands are very similar in packaging info. This is all new to me..appreciate any info or resource you can point me to. Maryd

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on July 23, 2011 at 11:36 am
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Unfortunately you can't tell from the label. I don't know who made that decision but the grams of protein on the label of flour is for such a small quantity that you can't accurately determine the actual protein content of the flour from that, because of rounding error.

I had to find out who milled the flour I was buying and actually call the mill - this was fairly easy because I was buying flour from Costco and it's actually labeled "ConAgra", which is probably the largest milling concern in the US.

King Arthur is one of the few flour producers who will tell you up front what the protein content is.

I have tables somewhere that list various national brands but I don't know where they are right now. There's an old posting of mine somewhere where I posted most of that info.

Basically, some rules of thumb:

IF YOU'RE in the Northern US - your flour is most likely tending to the higher protein level because that's the wheat that grows best there.

IF YOU'RE in the Southern US - your flour is most likely tending to lower protein levels because that's the wheat that grows in the South.

NATIONAL BRANDS such as Gold Medal, Pillsbury, etc.
AP flour is probably 10.5% protein, give or take 0.5%ish
Bread flour is probably around 11.5% to 12%
High gluten flour is probably around 13% to 14%
(Technically bread flour is supposedly in the range of 12% to 14%, but most bread flour I've seen is just under 12%, anything near 14% that I've ever seen is labeled "high gluten")

King Arthur lists the actual protein content for all their flours on the website. The AP is 11.7%, which is essentially any other brand's bread flour.

So I'd stick to flour labeled "Bread flour" for bread making for any brand other than King Arthur. The King Arthur all purpose flour is high enough in protein to use like "bread flour" for most recipes.

reply by: sandra Alicante on July 23, 2011 at 11:39 am
sandra Alicante

Here it is usually marked as a %, ie X g per 100g.

In your case, 4 divided by 30, then multiplied by 100 = 13.3%

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on July 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

And that shows how inaccurate that method is, since KA bread flour is actually 12.7%.

For example, both my ConAgra flours show 3g of protein per "serving". A "serving" is 30g. So according to that, both the flour labeled "AP" and the flour labeled "Bread flour" would be 10% protein.

However, the AP flour is actually 9.2% protein and the bread flour is actually 11.6% protein.

The actual amount of protein per serving for the AP would be 2.76g. This gets rounded up to 3g.

For the bread flour, it's 3.48g of protein. This gets rounded DOWN to 3g.

So you can't tell from the label, not even close.

reply by: Mike Nolan on July 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm
Mike Nolan

You can thank the US Department of Agriculture for the nearly meaningless information on the nutrition label, at least when it comes to things like flour.

reply by: sandra Alicante on July 24, 2011 at 3:30 am
sandra Alicante

If it's that bad, I'm surprised no one has sued them yet! :)
I'm afraid I assume the packet information here is reasonably accurate and even if it isn't there is seldom any way of checking. It gets to be silly if you have to go as far as tracking down the supplier and asking them, I have other things to do with my time.

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on July 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Well I only had to call them once to get the info. It was worth it to me since I needed to know what I was working with, and you can't tell from the label. Even the national brands vary regionally. I strongly suspect that is why they are using such a small portion - there's so much slop in the numbers the way they are now, if the flour varies by a full percentage point it's going to be invisible to the consumer. Basically everything between 9% and 11.7% comes out to be 3 g of protein! And 9% flour is NOT going to behave the same as 11.7% flour!

reply by: Mike Nolan on July 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm
Mike Nolan

It's not that it is inaccurate, it is that it is imprecise.

There are two reasons for this, the serving size and the roundoff factor, since everything is reported in whole gram increments.

The serving size for flour is usually 30 grams. (I wonder who decided THAT??)

1 gram in 30 is 3.33%. 3 grams in 30 is 10%, 4 grams in 30 is 13.33%.

That means most AP or bread flours, including King Arthur's AP and bread flour, are going to be somewhere between 3 and 4 grams of protein in a 30 gram serving.

If it is above 11.666%, it gets rounded up to 4 grams (per FDA requirements) if it is below that it gets rounded down to 3 grams.