The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

meaning of "strong flour"

jvafis's picture
jvafis

meaning of "strong flour"

I just picked up Dan Lepard's "The Handmade Loaf" in which many recipes specify a "strong flour.." In his discussion of flour he doesn't make any reference to this. Does he mean a high protein flour, like a bread flour, or is that just a British way of saying all-purpose wheat flour?

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,

I am from the UK, and lecture in Bakery at Newcastle College.

I would not describe our plain flour as equivalent to US All-Purpose flour.   We just don't have that grade of flour over here, for the homebaker.   UK Plain Flour is milled from domestic wheat which is too weak to be considered ideal for breadmaking.

That means that our plain flour is actually the same as soft flour.

So if you work with mainstream British flour, the only safe grade to use for breadmaking is Strong flour.   You can mix some plain into the strong, but, generally, all plain flour will not make good bread.   It is definitely NOT the equivalent of US All Purpose, simply because of climate difference.   UK wheat is less than ideal for breadmaking as a result.   However, there are areas of the US which have a climate totally ideal for producing great breadmaking flours; thus seeking out strong flour is not so much of an issue!

Hope this helps to clarify a little

BW

Andy

meab2206's picture
meab2206

I thought I would reply to this posting of yours and ask my question as you sound like an expert and from the UK.

I have a US recipe for a banana bread which I would like to try and it states "unbleached all-purpose flour".

Is that wholemeal strong flour - or what? 

I look forward to your reply.

Mary B.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Mary,

The substitute flour in this recipe would be Plain White Flour.   I assume the recipe uses Baking Powder, so your recipe is, technically, a cake.

Best wishes

Andy

meab2206's picture
meab2206

Hello Andy

Many thanks for that answer.  Just one further question if I may.

The recipe uses Baking Soda - am I right in thinking that this is different from baking powder?

I'm not an expert cook but I thought I read something somewhere.

Mary B.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Mary,

Baking Soda is Sodium Bicarbonate, which is the part of the Baking Powder which releases Carbon Dioxide gas.

Baking Powder contains Sodium Bicarbonate, an acidulant and a filler such as Starch, or wheatflour

Best wishes

Andy

Patf's picture
Patf

So where does the strong breadflour come from that we use in the UK? Brands such as Allinsons, Marriage, Hovis, Dove Farm etc.

I'm in France at the moment  where the local wheat produces a low-gluten flour.

But originally come from your area, ananda, where I was always able to have a good choice of strong bread flours.

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Strong flour (even in italian this term is used with the same acception) means high-gluten flour, that doesn't mean high-protein flour or spelt and kamut flours would fall in the  category (and they don't, it's quite the opposite).

It's necessary to bear very long fermentations, geenerally because the dough calls for a lot of fats and/or sugars.

Generally strong flours are milled from hard wheat.

Elka's picture
Elka

The EZ answer... "Strong Flour" = "Bread Flour"
American flours and British equivalents:
Cake and pastry flour = soft flour
All-purpose flour = plain flour
Bread flour = strong flour, hard flour
Self-rising flour = self-raising flour
Whole-wheat flour = wholemeal flour 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Patf,

You can get good quality strong bread flour grown inthe UK right now.

Hovis and Sainsburys boast, and rightly so in many ways, that they use 100% British wheat in their bread.

British wheat has made up an increasing proportion of the grist used to make bread in this country for several decades, going right back to the early 1960s and the introduction of the Chorleywood Bread Process.

Please note my comment refers to Plain flour, which is SOFT British Wheat.   However, go to England's Bread Basket in East Anglia, and the wheat grown to contract for firms such as Hovis and Sainsburys is pretty strong; indeed the strains of wheat are based on those grown in Canada.   They are produced very intensively, so much chemical treatment, unfortunately, but the quality is pretty good considering our climate.

Historically?....Britain was an Empire once, and utterly reliant on its colonies for food...so the finest quality wheat was brought across the Atlantic Ocean from North America, of course.   And, interestingly, that is the route of the difference between the French, and their pride in using their own flour to produce bread, and the UK, where bread producers [I'm reluctant to say bakers!] have realized there are economies and political capital to be made from using domestically-produced wheat.   The wheel turns full circle; perhaps?

Marriage and Doves produce largely organic flour...imported from Germany to mix in with some domestic.   Allinson, Hovis etc use wheat sourced on the world market, but increasingly UK.   BUT, never, ever forget: wheat is a world-produced and TRADED commodity.   Nico, your finest ciabatta flour is most likely sourced from wheat grown in Australia.   Wheat from Kazakstahn makes fantastic bread.   French wheat has particular characteristics, etc., etc.

Major player is CLIMATE.   The short hot and dry summer following a hard winter, typified by North America, makes for a hard wheat, high in desireable proteins glutenin and gliadin.

Just as Nico says [and Durum wheat typifies this] high protein wheat is easy to grow in the maritime climates of Europe; but high protein is not the same as "strong" flour.

I hope this makes some sense

Best wishes

Andy

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Daisy: 00 is a milling grade of  soft wheat, not durum wheat.

Just like most soft wheat flours 00 doesn't have the slightest taste, hence it has no place in my kitchen. Durum wheat will yield a yellow or yellowish crumb, depending on the amount of liquid used (mine tends more to white because I use a 80% hydratation, mostly milk).

Durum wheat flour is unmistakenly yellow, except the "flour" proper (it's the finest grind) type that tends more to amber than to yellow. Flours like that stem from durum wheat cultivated in northern italy, that I find fit only for the wastebasket. Durum must be toasted by the sun, thus it's always better choosing a southern italy brand -of course in the context of italian flours.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A,

Look at this thread with great contribution from Nico:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/17308/semolina-durum-bread-and-sourdough-seed-bread

BW

Andy

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A,

Why don't you buy some Gilchesters Semolina, mail order?

That way you can support grain processing which involves consumption of the wholegrain, rather than milling certain grains in specific ways, then potentially wasting the rest, or, hiving it off for animal feed?

Just a thought.

BW

Andy

Patf's picture
Patf

Thanks for the explanation Andy.

I remember asking a baker in Gateshead where his flour came from, and he said it was made from a strong english/canadian wheat. So perhaps the East Anglian type.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A,

Maise is gluten free; semolina is a by-product from milling wheat to white flour.

Best wishes

Andy

meab2206's picture
meab2206

Hello Andy

I'm not sure if I successfully submitted this first time around or not so I'm sending it again, sorry if you receive it twice.

The recipe uses Baking Soda - am I right in thinking that this is different from Baking Powder?

I'm not an expert cook but I thought I had read something somewhere.

Mary B.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Baking soda and baking powder are not identical.

Baking soda reacts with acids to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide, which provides leavening. Baking soda depends on acidic ingredients such as applesauce or lemon juice for the acid it needs.

Baking powder contains baking soda. Baking powder also contains an acid to react with the baking soda, to make the bubbles of carbon dioxide. Double-acting baking powder contains two acids, one to react at room temperature and one to react at higher temperatures. This provides more leavening because the bubbles don't all escape while you are still mixing things together. Some aren't formed until the batter or dough is baking in the oven. Think of it as a chemical oven spring.

Sometimes both baking powder and baking soda are used, if there is excessive acidity in the ingredients that would otherwise make the baked good taste too tart.

jmbwphoto's picture
jmbwphoto

hi - i have a cookie recipe (from britain) that says to use strong white bread flour in it. do you think all purpose would work well or should i buy unbleached bread flour?

i live in the u.s.

thx!

jvafis's picture
jvafis

I would say that AP flour would work just fine. There is no equivalent, apparently, in the UK to our AP flour. Their alternative to AP is much lower in protein than ours. 

Good luck.

AmericanCupcake's picture
AmericanCupcake

LOVE the Great British Baking Show!! But as an American Home Baker, I'm constantly trying to figure out the American Equivalents of the ingredients cited on the show. I would love to try some of Mary and Paul's recipes! 

American Cake Flour vs. American All Purpose Flour

if you want light cakes with velvety crumbs, use Cake Flour for your cakes and cupcakes. The Pros primarily use Cake Flour. Most Cake recipes will work with AP Flour - but the cake may be denser or crumbier than you want. AP Flour is good for muffins as they tend to be heavier in texture than cakes.

 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

In the UK the only suitable flour for bread is strong bread flour. This will be bread flour in the US. Because flour is strong in North America then you can get away with AP flour which falls somewhere between the UK strong bread flour and plain flour. So US AP flour lends itself to both. Strong enough to make bread but not too strong that it won't turn out a good cake either. In the UK our plain flour will be too weak for bread and will only be good for cakes.

So when, in the Great British Bake Off, they're making bread then you can use an AP or bread flour.

When they're making cakes you can use cake flour and get away with an AP flour too (although AP will be stronger then our plain flour).

UK: Plain Flour (for cakes) - Strong Bread Flour (for bread)

US: Cake Flour (for cakes) - AP flour (lends itself to either) - Bread Flour (for bread)

So as you can see that US AP flour falls in-between. There's no such equivalent in the UK except, I suppose, if you mix bread and plain flour.

Manymonstersmom's picture
Manymonstersmom

Thank you for explaining those differences!  My mom and i were wondering and researching and just becoming slightly more confused with all that we were reading.  

Elka's picture
Elka

The EZ answer... "Strong Flour" = "Bread Flour"
American flours and British equivalents:
Cake and pastry flour = soft flour
All-purpose flour = plain flour
Bread flour = strong flour, hard flour
Self-rising flour = self-raising flour
Whole-wheat flour = wholemeal flour