Bread Flour vs. All Purpose Flour

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by abefroman, May 22, 2010.

  1. abefroman

    abefroman

    Messages:
    1,413
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    What are the main differences?

    Are some breads made with APF?

    Would there be any benefit to go half and half?

    TIA
     
  2. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,344
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Go navigate a website called The Fresh Loaf to find the answer.
     
  3. Guest

    Guest Guest

    bread flour has more protein and is good if you want more gluten developement. as such, it is a stronger flour. all purpose is right in the middle, as far as strength goes. cake flour is the delicate one. they all have their purpose and there is a difference. just use what the recipe calls for.
     
  4. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,344
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Think bagels and their chewiness when thinking of bread flour.  AP flour would have less chewiness, like Wonder Bread.  The flour lowest in protein is known as pastry or cake flour and has the least chewiness and is more crumbly as in biscuits.
     
  5. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    The basic difference is percentage of protein, Abe.

    Flour is made from two kinds of wheat. Hard winter wheat is high in protein, and is always used for bread flour. Pastry flours, on the other hand, are low in protein, made from soft wheat.

    The higher the protein count, the more gluten you can develop, and the tougher the dough.

    Knowing that you can immediately figure why. For pastry you want a tender dough. Gluten development is discouraged, and you strive for short threads. For bread, on the other hand, you want strong gluten development, with long threads.

    Shirttailing on KoKo's analogy, you would use bread flour to make bagels, but pastry flour to make doughnuts.

    All Purpose Flour is a combination of the two. As such, it can be used for any baking project. But, like all Jacks-of-all-trades, it doesn't do any of them quite as good as a specialist.

    There is also some overlap, depending on brand. That is, some all purpose flours have as much, or more protein as some bread flours. So it's good to read labels.

    Are some breads made with APF?

    Actually, quite a few. In fact, most older American cookbooks, and many new ones that aren't specifically about bread making, specify all purpose. As a general rule, it's more useful for loaf breads than free-standing ones; but that's not always true.

     Would there be any benefit to go half and half?

    Not much purpose that I can see. All you'd accomplish would be to up the protein percentage of the all purpose, but by lowering the bread flour's. You'd wind up with a high protein count all purpose flour.
     
  6. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

    Messages:
    8,550
    Likes Received:
    203
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    As already said, the primary difference in AP and bread flour is the amount of glutens, and bread flour has more than AP. 

    The difference is attributable to the types and locations of the wheat from which they are milled.  Bread flour is not AP with glutens added, nor is AP bread flour with glutens removed. 

    The distinctive percentages of glutens is not constant throughout the US, but varies.  As a rule, flour in the American south is "softer" (less glutens) than flour in the north. There is some overlap between northern AP and southern bread flours. 

    As a rough rule of thumb, chewier breads are made with stiffer doughs.  The differences between AP and bread flours are much less important than the amount of hydration and the handling.

    In fact, handling is where most of the rubber meets the road.  Bread flour stands up better to long and violent kneading better than AP, and should be favored with food processors and large mixer/kneaders.  With hand kneading, AP tends to work better -- not only with lighter "bread pan" loaves, but with European style, "artisanal" loaves as well.

    Of course, the above is just my experience.  There are no hard and fast rules.  And any apparent disagreement between my remarks and KY's should probably be best viewed from a "both right -- no hard and fast rules" perspective.

    BDL 
     
  7. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,344
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Some bakers will, I've heard, mix a bit of bread flour with AP flour just to give it a tad more 'chewiness'.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2010
  8. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    And any apparent disagreement between my remarks and KY's should probably be best viewed from a "both right -- no hard and fast rules" perspective.

     

    I certainly agree with the sentiments, BDL. But reading both your post and mine, I don't see where there's any disagreement.

    Hmmmmmm? How'd that happen? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

    Sometimes, I think, we can get overly involved in the technical aspects and forget whom we are talking to. From the type of questions he asked, for instance, I would guess Abe is at the point where he's buying national brand flours. So, talk about regional differences, while correct, might be gilding the lilly, as it were.

    Are there differences between White Lilly and Pillsbury? You betcha! But, based on my experience, it takes a lot of bread baking before those differences make much of a difference in practical terms.

    I would guess, too, that a lot of our brand preferences actually reflect the differences you brought up, even if we're not consciously aware of them. Case in point: When I switched from King Arthur to Weisenburger mills, a few years back, I had no idea what the actual differences were. Didn't even know there were differences, frankly. My switch was made because Weisenburger is local.

    The fact that I now understand the difference, and know why I prefer it, is really irrelevent. At the time, far as I was concerned, flour was flour.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2010
    colleens likes this.
  9. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,344
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    KY:

    Just made some bread using a newly acquired 25# bag of Weisenberger and methinks that the resultant loaf differs a bit from one made with KA Bread Flour but can't exactly tell the reason why. 

    What's your impression concerning the difference(s) between KA and W? 
     
  10. Guest

    Guest Guest

    well i do know that many go to the trouble of importing flour and water from their specific region to keep the bread similar. it will probably still taste different since the wild yeast varies from place to place, though.
     
  11. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    KoKo, speaking just with gut feelings, cuz I haven't done any comparisons, but my impression is that the Weisenberger is slightly softer. I know all the wheat for their bread flour is grown right here in Kentucky, and that could explain it.

    But, being as I can't remember the last time I baked without using a retarded fermentation, the additional softness doesn't seem to matter.

    I do like the taste better, but can't actually describe what the difference is.

    So, all in all, I'm like you. I can tell a difference, which I can't describe. But of the two I like the Weisenberger better. KA would be my second place choice, though, of flours I've tried.
     
  12. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,344
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Yeah, overall the W had a better flavor although the flavor of KA is not bad by any stretch of the imagination.  Sigh, when I lived in Denver in the early 2000's, I had my choice of about 15 different bread flours offered by the Rocky Mountain Flour Mill that, at this time, has pared down their selection.  Boy oh by was I ever spoiled by that mill: 50# bags selling for less than $12 on site.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2010
  13. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    Yeah, now it's almost twice as much: 11 bucks for #25.

    Just out of pernicious curiousity, what was the shipping on your #25 bag?

    Interestingly, I don't care for W's high-gluten flour. I've made several things with it that, when I substituted bread flour, actually came out better.

    There's is the only high-gluten I've used, however, so really don't have anything to compare it to.
     
  14. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,644
    Likes Received:
    557
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    If you're hard core about baking, you'll want to seek out high grade suppliers.

    The USDA requirement for labeling flour is pretty shoddy. From memory, it's based in grams of protein in the flour per cup. So beside mixing and matching measurement scales (Metric/US), they mix a weight measurement with a volume measurement. AP is supposed to be 4 grams per cup. Bread higher, cake lower. But because of regulations for rounding fractions, there is often negligible diffrences between them. Even by percentages there's only about 5% between the lowest protein cake flour (8%) and highest bread four (13%). Generally speaking cake flour is the lower 2 percent, AP flour the middle 2 percent and bread flour the upper 2 percent, but there is some overlap in them.
     
  15. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,344
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Well, it's really pernicious.  Well over $15 to ship a 25# bag to south Georgia.
     
  16. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    If you're hard core about baking, you'll want to seek out high grade suppliers.

    Conceptually, I have no disagreement with this sentiment, Phil.

    The problem is, what constitutes high grade? Price certainly isn't the criterium when we're talking about flour. And, as is apparent from Koko's and my comments, preferences are often based on indefinable nuances. F'rinstance, I certainly have nothing against King Aruthur; used it for years very happily. I just prefer the Weisenberger; even though I can't tell you why.

    And the fact is, thousands of loaves are successfully baked using national brands bought in the supermarket.

    I think the trick is to try as broad a spectrum of flour as possible, then decide which works best for you, keeping in mind that there are a lot of things beyond raw ingredients that influence flavor.

    For instance, a premium flour, used to make a direct dough that's baked the same day might produce a bread that doesn't taste as good as one using preferments and delayed fermentation but made with a lesser flour.
     
  17. torkuk

    torkuk

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Other
    I usually always use all purpose flour. I would have said that I am quite hardcore about baking so it seems I have picked up some wise words of wisdom in this discussion!!

    Thanks

    Chris
     
  18. abefroman

    abefroman

    Messages:
    1,413
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    Yep!  Looks like there is always more to learn.
     
     
  19. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    Ain't that the truth! I figure, give me another 20 years, and I'll be able to call myself a baker.
     
  20. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,344
    Likes Received:
    83
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Annually, I myself bake approximately 40 loaves of bread using a 6C recipe.  And one figures that a 'real' breadbaker bakes at least that much in two days makes me realize that I have a long, long way to go in achieving mastery at bread making.