The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread vs. all-purpose flour

Figaro79's picture

Bread vs. all-purpose flour

I've been baking bread for almost 60 years and I still can't tell the difference between bread baked with bread flour and bread baked with all-purpose. Am I the only one who sees no discernable difference?

GermanFoodie's picture

a very great difference in outcome for most breads I make. That said, bread flours in Europe, for example, have a lower gluten content than what is sold in the US. All-purpose flour renders a more crumbly loaf.

cranbo's picture

AP and bread flours behave very different in texture/crumb and loaf height, although a lot depends on the quality of your flour. For example, you will get noticeably different results using King Arthur AP flour (which has a higher protein level) vs. generic all-purpose flour. 


FoodHacker's picture

I normally get King Arthur AP as well as bread flours but I recently got the Gold Medal brand bread flour, I have used both types making Pullman bread or Pain de Mei and to be honest I really can't tell much of a difference in texture either ..... maybe the difference would be noticed more when making artisan style breads?

flournwater's picture

No, Figaro, you're not the only one.  Although I must admit that there is some difference in the finished bread, I often use AP flour with excellent results and most people with whom I share it don't detect any difference.  That said, every flour (even the same brand of the same flour) can vary enough to make a difference from one production cycle to another.  Unless I'm baking something for competition, I don't concern myself with the flour as much as I do about how the dough is handled.

Chuck's picture

The term "bread" flour has been foisted on north america by the marketeers. I don't know who gets paid a dollar whenever somebody uses "bread flour" to bake "bread" must be that somebody does, but it's certainly not me:-)

Remember the term was not invented by bakers and does not bear any significant relation to baking bread. Its effect is on the process of making the bread - it has no effect at all on flavor, and typically much of its possible effect on texture is negated by the compensations it makes possible in the process. It would probably be more common-sensical to call it "strong flour" rather than "bread flour"; my understanding is that's in fact typical in the U.K.

Because there's so much gluten, "bread flour" is more forgiving. Or to say the same thing less politely: with "bread flour" a complete neophyte can do everything wrong and still have a good chance of turning out a decent loaf. For more experiened bakers, "bread flour" has its place, but is seldom their default choice of flours. The higher gluten content of "bread" flour can be useful when making bagels (extra chewy) or pizzas (extra stretchy). It's also useful for making regular bread come together with fewer Stretch&Fold cycles. It's "too high" in gluten for many kinds of bread though, resulting in breads that are more "chewy" than intended. For most bread baking, something called "all purpose" flour usually works better.


flournwater's picture

Excellent explanation ... 

Thanks Chuck.  You're real good at making things clear.