The Fresh Loaf

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How to convert recipes using US flour to UK-type flours

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cfmuirhead's picture

How to convert recipes using US flour to UK-type flours

So many recipes on this blog and in many of my bread books use US-type flours, quite obviously,  But I am in England and baking using US recipes does not always seem to work well, probably due to the flour.  Does anyone know the equivalence between what is US All-purpose flour and our British flours, for example?   We have Bread Flour and Plain Flour.  I think our plain would be similar to US pastry.  But I think our Bread flour is lower in protein content than the US AP flour.  We also have Canadian Bread Flour, with higher protein content that our Bread Flour, but perhaps not as high as US High Gluten.  I am wondering whether there is a easy way to increase protein/gluten content of one flour to approximate that of another.

Even more confusing is Wholemeal/wholewheat; we have both 'normal' wholewheat and bread wholewheat flours.  Do the US recipes use the same wholemeal flour say for muffin (where we would use normal wholemeal) and also for bread-making?  

Anyone can throw some light on this confusing floury matter?    And, oes this protein content really, really matter?

rockfish42's picture

The hydration might need to be messed around with to convert most recipes, River Cottage had a recipe for sourdough bread that had a hydration around 60% with strong bread flour that I would've guessed was higher hydration by watching the program.

Kuret's picture

I live in Sweden so this might not be !00% correct but if I have followed discussions here closely enough then it should be.

When I visited the UK recently I decided to check out the nutritional info on the different flour types avalible there to compare them with the flour types avialible in sweden and this is what I found out.

Plain flour 10% protein - this is similar to the weaker us AP flours but not as weak as pastry flour wich according to the ingredient companion for ABAP is 8-9% protein. This flour is weaker than KA all purpose.

Strong flour ~12% protein - similar to US bread flour, Hamelman recommends a bread flour with protein content of 11 to 12% so I suppose that your comparison with weak AP is faulty, this flour is stronger than KA all purpose but weaker than their bread flour.

Very Strong Flour ~14% protein - I picked up a bag of this and from what I can gather this is roughly equalient to high protein flour, KA has a product named sir lancelot wich has 14,2% protein, the bag I have states 13,9% protein probably difficult to notice in a dough.

I have however not used any american or UK flour so therefore I can only give you comparisons of protein content. However with modern milling and requirements for product consistency I suspect that when it comes to non organic, non WW flour higher protein means stronger flour.

smaxson's picture

I have read that the EU has a different standard method for measuring wheat flour protein than is common in the US (and probably Canada too). There are many many differences between flours, such as particle size and shape, ash content and starch damage from different milling methods common on the two continents, etc., but the EU method of determining protein apparently fairly consistently provides slightly lower numbers than the US method. Because of other differences between flours, you always have to make adjustments. My emphatically non-expert advice is simply to aim for close percentages, understanding that the EU flours will probably register a bit under the numbers for US flours and go from there, just as you would have to do in the US comparing KA vs Gold Medal vs Pillsbury vs Guido and so on. The example I saw--where I don't recall--is that 11.5% protein EU (France) was about 12.5% protein by the US method, but there were very important differences in ash, etc., etc., so there was no exact direct comparison of standard EU and US flours for bread making considerations. The precise comparison was not a linear correction or "always add 1%" or anything simple like that, but you can estimate by adding up to about 10% of the reported EU percentage for suitable US flour percentage, and subtracting maybe 10% of the reported percentage going US to EU.

And, maybe what I read was stuff and nonsense--perhaps we have some experts out there who have direct knowledge of this.

So, to match an EU 11.5% flour you might try a US flour from 11.5% to 12.5% (Hamelmann recommends 11-12%, so you would probably get a better match to a 11.5% French flour with a 12% US flour, etc.), give or take a bit depending on availability, to come as close to matching the EU flour as the ash content and other milling variables allow. This is where the (expensive) specialty flours come into the US market, and KA is a major source of these, where you pay a premium to match all the variables of a standard EU flour (say a French bread flour). EU flours are usually higher in ash than North American flours, for instance, at least in the supermarket available flours.

In either case, higher percentage is stronger flour. Lower is weaker flour for bread purposes. I suspect some of the soft southern wheats from the US are lower than any of the EU pastry flours due to variety of wheat, climate, etc. (biscuit flours).

Get close to the desired percentage to match an European or North American recipe and make some bread! Adjust from there. Enjoy.