The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is All Purpose flour?

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marlnock's picture
marlnock

What is All Purpose flour?

Ok, this is probably a dumb question but is the All Purpose flour everyone refers to on here the same as the regular old plain flour you buy in the supermarket for cakes and what not?


 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

it's the flour for pastries.

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys


it's the flour for pastries.


No, this is not quite true. It's all-purpose, which means exactly that - you can use it for cakes, and breads, and cookies.

Pastry flour, cake flour, are different.

All-purpose flour is: "A combination of hard and soft wheat is milled to produce all-purpose flour. The resulting medium protein content (between 9% and 12%) offers just the right balance of strength and tenderness for the everyday baker to make chewy breads, delicate tarts and everything in between."

Cake Flour: "Cake flour has a 6-8% protein content and is made from soft wheat flour. It is chlorinated to further break down the strength of the gluten and is smooth and velvety in texture."

Pastry flour: "Pastry flour is up only one notch, at 8% to 9% protein, and lets you create baked goods with a little more body and texture than cake flour, but still with the tenderness one associates with a well-made biscuit or pastry. "

Where as bread flour is typically at 11-13% protein.

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

sorry for the confusion.

TuzaHu's picture
TuzaHu

At the restaurant supply they had two different brands with these same types of flour:


HIGH GLUTEN


BREAD FLOUR


both had exactly the same protein, carbs, etc...per the lable, they are exactly the same.  So is there a difference?  price was $3.00 more for the High Gluten flour per 25 pound bag.  Bread flour was $6.29 for 25 pounds. 


 


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

What was the brand name?  What was the protein percentage for the HG flour?  Did you ask why the price was higher for the HG flour, given it apparently was identical to the bread flour?  I'd love to hear the reasoning behind it.


There is a difference between bread and HG flour, the latter having 14 percent protein.  Bread flour should be around 12 percent.


An example:  high gluten flour is required for bagels in order to get that lovely chewy crumb.   It's also an ingredient in many ryes.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Edit: This is from a US resident in response to a post from another apparent US resident, about US flours.


Most of the time(almost never), you cannot determine precise protein percentages by reading the nutrition label on a package of flour. Because the values given on the labels are rounded off to whole numbers, they are not accurate enough to indicate small, but significant, differences in protein levels.


Often within a manufactures product line, the protein difference between say, their "AP" flour and their "Bread" flour is only 1 percentage point. However, I'm pretty certain that, taking King Arthur Flours as an example, their AP and Bread flours have identical protein levels as indicated on the nutrition label.


So that "4 grams" is actually more precisely a value anywhere from 3.5 grams to 4.4 grams of protein(per 30 gram serving).


3.5 / 30 = 11.7 %


4.4 / 30 =  14.7 %


These can be significant differences as far as determing how the flour will perform, and/or how the manufacturer chooses to classify it in their marketing.


So, basically, usually, the only way to know the precise protein level of flour is from info provided by the manufaturer. This (precise)info is often freely disseminated(website, press, etc), but maybe not always(store brands, obscure flours, etc).

LindyD's picture
LindyD

A good place learn about bread basics is via the TFL Handbook, which contains a section on flour:


http://tfl.thefreshloaf.com/handbook/flour

marlnock's picture
marlnock

cheers- very helpful

copyu's picture
copyu

All-Purpose-Flour = "Plain Flour" = "Regular Flour" = "NON-Self-Raising Flour"


(It's a non-issue in Japan, as there is no S-R-F)


Bread flour is the "strong flour" that you'll read about from time to time...A-P-F is medium-strong in the USA...useable for most things, including French bread, batters, cookies, etc...In the UK, "Plain Flour" may be more like "cake flour", ie, too weak to make bread


If this is not helpful, let me know, please...I'll just shut up, then!


Best,


copyu

spacey's picture
spacey

There AP flour is softer (less protein).  It's mentioned in the handbook:


http://tfl.thefreshloaf.com/handbook/all-purpose-flour

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

This is a very general comment; I'm in Canada, so the following may or may not apply to where you are.  All purpose flour is ordinarily made from softer winter wheat, with a protein content of around 9 per cent; something like French T55.  It may or not be be blended according to the the source and strain of the wheat, the miller's intentions and so on.  Bread flour, by contrast, is ordinarily made from stronger spring wheat (here, ususally red wheat at 13 per cent).  But, and it's a big one, it depends on where you are, the mill, the miller, and so on.  All Cabernets are not the same.


If you're serious about baking, I'd suggest you steer clear of supermarket flours (excepting King Arthur) and bulk barns.  Instead, try to find a bakery supplier.  If they're on the ball, they'll know the origin, protein content, ash percentage, best before dates and so on.


Much ink has been expended on flours, but it's really a trial and error situation.


CJ

marlnock's picture
marlnock

I have a feeling that the 'All purpose' flour in America and the 'Plain flour' we have in Aus aren't exactly the same.

I think our plain flour might have less gluten, possibly.

This is my issue when using some recipes that call for 'All purpose' flour. Usually, i just use some Lauke Wallaby bread flour instead.

Cheers for all the info

copyu's picture
copyu

I've used plenty of Oz plain flour and it always said (still says!) on the pack: "Protein: 10g (per 100g serving") which means it's 10%—if you trust the people who approve the labels!


It's quite possible that, as mrfrost says, that it's a 'rounded' number...it might vary from 9.7 to 10.3%, say...the typical 'Oz attitude' may be: "She'll be right, mate!"


I don't think it makes that big a difference in the decimals...Oz plain flour always worked OK-ish for me in pizzas, dampers and such, but I wouldn't use it now, by itself, for serious bread baking. (I'd probably mix the plain flour with some decent bread flour and save some money that way)


You've got to remember the difference between 10% and 12% protein is: the second is 20%, and not 2% stronger. [But you knew that anyway, I'm sure...]


Cheers,


copyu


 


 


 

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

The definition of all-purpose flour varies widely in North America, depending on the region in which the grain is grown and the flour milled.  In the US south, for example, ap flour is much softer (less gluten) than it is in the north, and certainly not as strong as in Canada (climate!).  I've used so-termed plain (and strong) flour in England, Ireland and Spain, and it certainly does not perform the same as what we see in N Am.  Nothing wrong with that, but you do have to be aware of the difference.


The trick is to try and determine the gluten content.  North American ap flours generally run between 9 and 10 percent protein.  Hard, or bread, flours generally between 12 and 13. High gluten flours, such as that used for NY style bagels, usually have a protein content of around 15 per cent, although bread flour can be made stronger by the addition of vital wheat gluten (basically refined wheat protein). French T55 is ordinarily about 9.5 per cent, while Italian Tipo 00 pizza flour is a bit less, 9 or so, although Molino Caputo definitely will not tell you that.


The problem with flour, worldwide, with some exceptions (King Arthur, for example) is that these figures are not on the bags.  Come to that, neither is a mill date or best before date.  This will change as bakers become more knowledgable, discerning and demading, as it should be.


My basic rule of thumb goes like this: if you want bread with more "tooth," chewier, use bread flour; if you want a softer crumb, either use ap flour or a 50/50 mix.  It's an experimental exercise in the region where you bake.  This is not a bad thing.


Good luck.


CJ

marlnock's picture
marlnock

I like the idea of having to experiment with the flours based on your region- it sounds like more of a challenge and more unique.

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

As another baker from downunder, I have to differ with some of the info provided, doubtless in good faith, by copyu. My experience over a couple of years and a few hundred loaves of sourdough bread is that our 'plain flour' (which is only roughly equivalent to the American AP flour) is fine for "serious bread"! I've used it many times in all sorts of bread formulae.


As has been pointed out, it differs from 'bread flour' in that it is a bit lower in protein/gluten - generally speaking. In keeping with CanuckJim's observations, the effect that has on the finished product is that the crumb tends to be slightly softer and spongier than in breads made with 'bread flour', but in some cases that is actually preferable IMO. Some of the most open crumbs I've managed have been achieved using plain flour. A quality plain flour is certainly not inferior to bread flour - it is just a bit different. The differences are not necessarily just to do with protein/gluten content, either. The variety of wheat, region in which its grown, seasonal factors and - probably most importantly from what I've read - the way the grain is milled are all significant elements.


Also, you've got to factor in that there are multiple brands of 'plain flour' available in Australia.


Organic plain flours, in particular, behave - and taste - differently from, say 'Wheatfields' brand (which is still pretty good as an all-round flour, especially for the price). This can be partly explained by the rather perplexing fact that some organic 'plain flours' are much higher in protein than convention would have it. eg: Woolworths Macro line of organic plain flour is a VERY high 15% in protein! That's higher than my regular organic biodynamic bread flour (Eden Valley - superb product, by the way), which comes in at only 11.7%!


While the "she'll be right' theory is quaint, then, it is not backed up by the evidence. That is, it is not correct that protein content is rounded off to a near-enough-is-good-enough 10% on all Oz 'plain flours'. Check the packets of the brands I've mentioned for confirmation! A pity, cos I like that theory. OTOH, from a baking perspective, it's preferable that we're more accurate than that.


Cheers!
Ross

copyu's picture
copyu

...from 'Woolies'?


Heheheh! I've been away from 'home' too long! You wouldn't happen to have the 'ash content' report, I suppose? That would be really interesting for many TFLers!


It seems you DO believe the Aussie labelling. I would have done, until I read your post. I'm still laughing, but clever enough to forget about Aussie flour, from now on. My current stock is getting close to the use-by date, anyway...


Now, I think I prefer the 'perfectionism' of the Japanese millers who produce over 30 varieties of flour blends...from US and Canadian wheat...and NONE of them are called "PLAIN FLOUR"...but we know what they mean when they print the 'tanpaku' [protein] levels...and they can (generally) be trusted


Cheers,


copyu   

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

There's no reason not to. You're welcome to keep on laughing if you like, though. No accounting for some folks' sense of humour. Whatever, I don't know where you got your idea that all Oz plain flours come with a fallacious 10% protein count, but it's not the case. Perhaps you're going on a data base of two flour brands, or something?


Let me ask you directly: on what basis do you
(a) make your 10% claim, and
(b) contend that the protein and other specs on Oz flour packets are massively inaccurate?


I've never come across either contention until now, and neither equate with my experience baking with multiple brands of flour - around 8 spring immediately to mind. Genuinely curious to know where these claims of yours derive from.


As a born and bread Aussie, I would dismiss that 'she'll be right' stuff as dated myth...may have still been half-accurate as a generalisation a couple of decades ago, perhaps, but now it's about as relevant and outdated as the blonde-haired blue-eyed Aussie lifesaver stereotype and the notion of meat pies and tomato sauce being the hallmark of the national cuisine. Times are a-changin' - and have changed! Stereotypes persist, but the reality makes a mockery of them (almost always the case with stereotypes, which are reductive and simplistic categorisations at best that dumb down public perception, and often function to reinforce prejudice).


In fact, IMO, this place is ridiculously OVERregulated these days (pity that didn't extend to some of the things that actually matter, though - like mandatory labelling of GM content on all food products). Since companies are legally obligated to put ingredients and nutrition breakdowns on food labels, I see no reason why protein content on flour should be wildly inaccurate, as you claim. As Mr Frost points out above, measures like these are rounded off, and therefore not scientifically accurate to several decimal places, but I am bemused by your assertion that Aust label measures are loose approximations. No looser than anywhere else, surely?


The organic flour from Woolies with the high protein content I referred to behaves like high protein flour - absorbs more water, produces stronger structured crumb. It's weird for a 'plain flour' to have such high protein content, but there ya go. There are stranger things twixt heaven and earth.


As, I believe, is the case in the UK and the States, ash mass is not included as a standard measure in the flour packet labelling here, so can't address that query.


Why do you think yourself 'clever' in avoiding Australian flours 'from now on'? It seems you are suggesting Oz flours are not up to producing high quality breads. Globally acclaimed bakers like D. Chirico in St Kilda, Melbourne would not agree, and neither would acknowledged sourdough expert and artisan bread pioneer John Downes.


On a personal level, I'm certainly very happy with the eating quality of the artisan breads I'm making using local organic flours - and having spent a year in Germany getting to know what quality bread is all about, and 20 years thereafter in quest of bread as good which only ended when I discovered what was possible as a home baker of SD bread, my knowledge and taste in bread is not unsophisticated.


Perhaps you need to try, say, Eden Valley biodynamic orgainc flours, or Laucke, or Kiala, to name a few. Have you seen the gorgeous breads Brisbane-based Shiao-Ping turns out? You might also find it instructive to revisit her conclusions on how the expensive T55 flour she had posted out from France compared with her usual local brands...

copyu's picture
copyu

You've just re-defined what everyone else calls 'Plain Flour' or 'All-Purpose' flour or 'Regular' flour...


I've never seen or even heard of a flour as strong as 15% protein. (Maybe I should get out more...?) If I saw it, I would not look at it and say, "Geez, that's a pretty strong 'Plain Flour'." No-one else with their head screwed on correctly would say that, either, I'm sure!


I can buy "Super Yacht" bread flour, at about 13.8% protein...that's my limit as to what I've ever seen or used. That's REALLY STRONG flour and I wouldn't need that very often, I reckon...there are very strong flours available at 13.5%, 13.2% and even 12.8% that everyone, world-wide, would call "Bread Flour"...


You just said there are 'Plain Flours' running at 15% protein...simple fact is they AREN'T 'plain flours' by any definition I can find...they're too bloody strong!


'Ordinary' flours, here, say they're good for French bread, pound cake, tempura, yady-yada...they still fit into the general definition of "plain flour" or "All-Purpose" flour...they run from 10%- 11.5% protein at the TOP END, most of the time


If you go over 12% protein, you're skating on really thin ice if you want to convince anyone that it's NOT a seriously strong "bread flour". It's AT LEAST 20% stronger than what most people are going to get when they buy average supermarket P-F or APF...


Do the 'labels' matter? Probably not...


Does consistency and communication matter? I think so...I have nothing to add, except to say that you should re-read my earlier posts on this topic. I spoke the commonly-accepted truth—no more and no less...I can link to many articles, if need be, to make the point, but why waste the time?


Best,


copyu

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I didn't redefine anything! I merely pointed out that Woolies Macro brand of organic 'plain flour' lists the protein content as 15%. I didn't call it 'plain flour' - Woolworths did! Maybe you should write to them and point out the errors of their ways. Do I need to point out that I commented on the protein content being unusually high for 'plain flour'. I do know what 'plain flour' is - I've been baking with it for several hundred loaves over 2 years! Anyway, essentially, I don't think we have much disagreement on what constitutes 'plain flour' - it is your incorrect assertions about labelling inaccuracies and the quality of Oz flour that were my main issues, and I note that you have neatly sidestepped these.


eg: You failed to answer my queries (a) and (b), which I set out so conveniently for you. Interesting. Suggests you have zero basis for the stuff you were claiming. As I thought...a case of a little knowledge being dangerous, mayhap?


Best to make sure of your facts before you mouth off. You've been caught out and evidently don't like it. Don't shoot me - I'm only the messenger!

Floydm's picture
Floydm

C'mon guys... both of you... please keep it civil.  

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Men!


Karin

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Now Karin...


Are you implying that men like to fight?  Are you?  I dare you to say that!  C'mon, I dare you!   :>)


 


SteveB


www.breadcetera.com


 


P.S. - To all... no one says that we as bakers need to fall in line with the flour companies' marketing strategy of describing flours by 'end use'.  It makes absolutely no sense and I've always refused to do it. 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

:)

marlnock's picture
marlnock

Good to see some robust discussion- it leads me to another newbie question-


Is all the protein included in the percentage on the side of the packet actually gluten?  Or is some of it not useful for forming structure?


Cheers

copyu's picture
copyu

...those who KNOW what they are talking about and those who THINK they know what they are talking about...but they are, almost invariably, the same man...it's all due to genetics!


"Man Number Two" is the one who is smart enough to shut his mouth when a woman says he should...


(I think that's so...but then again, I could be wrong...)


;-)


 

copyu's picture
copyu

Since no-one else has chipped-in...hardly any of the protein would be 'gluten' until after the addition of liquid and the start of mixing the dough


The 'protein' measure gives an idea of how much gluten can form. The main ones of interest are probably 'glutenin' and 'gliadin'...


Cheers,


copyu

knud's picture
knud

Hej


This web-site might help


http://www.practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/pages/flour


take care


Knud