The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread flour

Royall Clark's picture
Royall Clark

Bread flour

I hope this isn't too basic of a question to post. I've been baking and using the recipes from all over the web and from several books. That said I wonder why some breads call for "bread flour" and other "AP". A couple of weeks ago I bought my fist 50# sack of flour. It was a bread flour "Power Flour" from Pendleton Flour Mills. I brought the cost of my bread down a bit as it was $.55 a pound that way. This is the cheapest I've been able to buy BF. (got to remember this is Hawaii!) The only other inexpensive way to buy flour is to give up on trying to find 50# sacks of unbleached AP flour. Everywhere I ask, they only carry bleached flour. Shipping here is out of the question. So the thrust of the question I have is this... Can I use BF exclusively for all my bread baking? What are the drawbacks? Why even use AP for bread?

I know, lots of questions! Hope someone can shed some light on this for me!



seki's picture

It depends on the flours you're comparing to each other, as each one (even different batches of the same one!) differs from the next. In general, however, bread flour has a higher protein content than AP flour. The higher protein allows you to make a chewier bread, or it can be used in combination with a lower-strength flour to make it more manageable.

Stronger flour can be a nuisance to certain types of bread, in that it is usually less extensible, and tends to contract back on itself. This can make shaping certain breads a pain, and can also affect bread volume.

In general, it's not going to make the difference between an edible and inedible loaf. So, if you're recipe calls for one, and you only have access to the other, go for it!

jackie9999's picture

Can I use BF exclusively for all my bread baking?

I use bread flour for everything..unless I want the end product to be light and fluffy (i.e. waffles, pancakes etc). I'm lucky that I found a source for unbleached in my local Bulk Barn's not cheap, but it's the only place I can get it.  Here in Canada our 'national' brand, Robin Hood/Five Roses, does not make an unbleached BF. I don't know why, it would seem to me it's more trouble to bleach than not.  After I contacted them and found out what they bleach with, AZODICARBONAMIDE, I googled it and switched to unbleached. To my way of thinking, if you're baking your own bread, you're looking for a healthier alternative to grocery store why bleach it? I suppose that's one of lifes unanswered questions...

008cats's picture

Hi! I am in Canada and am also limited to the options you've listed...some comments I have based on similar experimenting:

1. I've read on this site that Robin Hood's "Best for Breads" is unbleached (tho not labelled as such) - is this the one that uses azodicarbonamide?

2. The Bulk Barn is my main haunt for flours, tho I have noticed on their website both their UAP and bread flour contain the same protein 12% - I've been using the AP but have been wondering if the BF would be more shapeable (more tacky, less sticky).

3. I am currently experimenting with Robin Hood's UAP, as it lists the protein as 13.33% Early results make dough seem better for handling, but I am still experimenting to see if my rising time can correct for the loss of big holes that has come along with it (still a few variables to sort out).

Any thoughts?

jackie9999's picture

Robin Hood's "Best for Breads" is bleached. I read conflicting reports so I called them. A very helpful fellow looked up the information for me. I won't use it now.

I use the Bulk Barn unbleached bread flour and am very happy with the results.  Lately I've been mixing with about 25% of their organic spelt and I really like the flavour. With just the bread flour I was getting very nice oven spring. Now I'm adding the spelt it's a little denser.

shekay's picture

I live in Victoria and the only bread flour I can find is Robin hood and flour from Bulk Barn. On their website it said the bread flour is unbleached but in the store it just said bread flour. This is my first time using Bulk Barn's bread flour but during the mixing stage, I have a weird feeling of the hand feel. It didnt give me the strong gluten hand feel like the AP white flour. Instead, its kinda like whole wheat flour. Can anyone tell me am I getting the right flour? Does it look normal like the bread flour you got from bulk barn? Thanks.


LindyD's picture

While I'm not familiar with Pendleton Flour Mills products, generally bread flour is milled from spring wheat, which provides higher gluten and protein (13-15 percent),  AP flour is generally milled from winter wheat, which has lower protein (11-12 percent).

According to Hamelman's Bread, hearth breads benefit from winter wheat; doughs made with the higher protein spring wheat tend to flatten and lose structure because the flour doesn't support the preferments and long fermentation times as well as flour milled from winter wheat.

On the other hand, if you're making a seeded bread or one with lots of added grains, the higher protein flour helps support the dough structure.  He also notes it's beneficial with pan breads because of the increased volume.

I had always used KAF bread flour, which is milled from hard red spring wheat (12.7% protein) because it costs less in my area than KAF AP flour (milled from hard red winter wheat, 11.7% protein).  Over the past year I've started using the KAP AP flour and even a 50-50 mix of the two, because I was curious.  

I found the AP flour produced a slightly softer crumb.  I guess I could blame the spring wheat for a few breads that were "height challenged," but I've also had some mighty fine looking loaves made with bread flour, so the screwups were mine, not the flour.

My daughter and USMC SIL spent four years at Kaneohe Bay and during my visits, I experienced serious sticker shock at some of the food prices on the Islands.  I recall a box of Wheaties going for $8!

So, if the price is right, the flour unbleached and unbromated, and you like the results, that's all that really counts.

Chausiubao's picture

you're better off doing some experimenting, if you can find a consistent flour that gets you the dough that you're going for don't let yourself get tied down by the categories "bread flour" or "AP Flour".

Dare to step away from what other people say!


Royall Clark's picture
Royall Clark

Thanks to all for your input. I guess it was pretty much summed up by Chausiubao, Just work with it and understand it. I've still got a lot of this flour so it will have to get used up! I did forget to mention that this flour has 13.6% protein. So it is a strong flour. I'm going to try it with the 1.2.3. sourdough recipe tonight. I've been working up 3 different SD's and want to give it a go.

One other question (rather than start yet another post) is:

My starter is fed 1.1.1 (swf). Is this called 100% hydration?

Thanks for the help.


mrfrost's picture

Yes, that is 100% hydration.

mredwood's picture

I use it a lot I like it but for the artisan breads. Pancakes not so much. Check the web site and it will give you the protein content. I think it is closer to 14.5, I could be wrong. Mix some AP with it and it will be easier to work with.


mrfrost's picture

Power flour is 13.5% protein.

Patf's picture

I used to know someone who made her bread from the cheapest flour she could find, and reckoned it came out fine. This is in France where the wheat is soft  and low in gluten, a cheap 1k bag costs about 50 centimes.

So I tried it once, and it came out ok, but dried out very quickly.

Newfieguy's picture

Great post everyone.  If you grind your own flour and I buy hard winter wheat grain from a bakery.  If I grind it up I get good old WW flour.  This is really going to be a bone basic question but technically, what the heck am I getting here?

Is there such a thing as a WW AP flour, is there a WW Bread Flour?  When I grind up the grain it is absolutely heavenly how the bread comes out tasting but technically what am I baking with here?




Thanks all!

mrfrost's picture

For it to be considered bread flour, some would say it would need to be made with (all) hard spring wheat, which can run a couple points higher in protein(than winter wheat).