The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

why so many bread recipes with AP flour?

laura seim's picture
laura seim

why so many bread recipes with AP flour?

Hi, I'm new here. I love this website, it has help me come such a long ways with my bread making. I have been under the impression that you must use "bread" flour to make good bread because of the higher protein content, for better gluten and better texture. That's what I've been after, a good texture (nice soft and stretchy bread). However I see so many recipes with beautiful pictures of breads made with AP flour, why? These breads were obviously made by very talented bakers and they are practically all calling for AP flour??! So why so many bread recipes made with AP? What does it do to the bread that is better than bread flour?

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

KA makes an AP flour that is well suited to bread baking because of the higher protein content and so I often use it for my bread baking..the 'Bread' Flour also is great and I like using it to, especially for the some pizza's and breads with nuts, seeds, breads that require a stronger flour.  Regular store AP flour is not the same protein content.  When you see a formula/recipe refering to AP flour for the bread..it means an AP flour with a higher protein content for bread baking.

Sylvia

BettyR's picture
BettyR

I use AP flour because I live in a rural community and the small grocery stores here don't carry bread flour. But then again if they did it would probably cost too much and I still wouldn't buy it.

I purchase a 25 pound bag of AP flour at the local farmer's market for $6.50...that comes out to $1.30 per 5 pound bag. It makes up a fairly large portion of our diet since I go through one 25 pound bag a month. So I would not be willing to pay more for bread flour since everyone is happy with the food that I make with the AP flour.

CosmicChuck's picture
CosmicChuck

Welcome to the Fresh Loaf Laura!

As for the AP flour, I have seen a lot of people recently discussing that using it makes for a more crisp and/or crackly crust than from using bread flour alone. I have no problem, though, producing a nice crackly crust whether using bread flour or AP flour, so I don't know that using one or the other makes that much of a difference. I think you're seeing a lot of recipes that are reflecting people experimenting with this theory.

And as mentioned above, there are recipes where the higher levels of gluten in bread flour are necessary. Most of the time this will be with higher hydration doughs like pizza dough or rustic baguettes. There are also recipes, like french bread, where you would use AP for a more tender crumb.

Overall, the answer to your question might be that people use different types of flour for variations in texture and that you can make an excellent loaf of bread with almost any type of good quality flour. Either way, technique and patience will give you better results than choice of flour alone.

Hope this helps and have fun baking!

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

Not all all-purpose flours are the same. I tried First Street all-purpose flour to make French bread. It came out awful. It was hard, dense, and porous. I only use it to make pastries, pies, cookies, and batters.

King Arthur all-purpose flour is different. The bread came out fluffy, crispy, slightly chewy with large irregular holes.

wally's picture
wally

Laura,

Both terms are misleading, because neither exists in true flour taxonomy.  They are, in essense, marketing terms, not flour descriptors. 

SylviaH's recommedation is on target: King Arthur's All Purpose flour is a wonderful flour for breads and especially hearth breads and has a protein content of 11.7%, which produces a thin, crisp crust along with a soft crumb.  (Commercially it's marketed as Sir Galahad, and it's what KA uses to produce their hearth breads that are sold through their store).  Ironically, their "Bread" flour has a higher protein content that puts it at the low end of high-gluten flour.  It's better used for bagels than bread.

Unless you have a good grasp of protein content and the like, stick with Sylvia's advice. You can also, if you search this website, finds lot of other good 'bread' flours that produce great products.

Larry

jaywillie's picture
jaywillie

I think it's simply because recipe developers don't want to scare anybody off, so they make it easier. Most people have AP flour on hand and may not have bread flour on hand. 

If you learn the differences between bread and AP flour, you will know how they impact the final result. I could say they were more or less interchangeable, but sometimes one or the other is absolutely necessary. It might come down to personal preference at times.

I like King Arthur flours (and I prefer their bread flour over their AP flour because I like a solid chew), and their availabilty in bigger groceries nationwide is a big plus for them. But KA is not the end-all and be-all of flours. (Seems like there is a lot of KA cheerleading in the comments above, but KA is not a necessary precurser to great bread.) I'm fortunate to live in an area where I have access to a variety of flours, many even local, so I try different things just for fun and education.

jaywillie

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Laura,

Both Jeffrey Hamelman and Dan DiMuzio address protein levels of wheat in their books.

Wheat is usually labeled.  For bread bakers, there's hard red winter or hard red spring wheats.  Hard red winter wheat contains 10-15% protein.   Hard red spring wheat contains 12-18% protein.

A flour with a protein level between 11.5 to 12% is preferred for artisan breads because it has "a good balance of strength and extensibility, tolerance to long mixing, and tolerance to long fermentation."  [DiMuzio]  A good, unbleached and unbromated all purpose flour will fall within that percentage.  The protein level should appear on the bag, or be available from the manufacturer.

Hamelman writes that the higher gluten flours (12-18% protein) will not support long fermentations and the dough will flatten and lose structure.    

So, you'll get great bread using a hard winter red wheat flour with a protein level between 11.5 to 12%.  I don't know about other brands, but I do know that King Arthur Flour's AP label consistently contains 11.7% protein.  Consistency is important.

Now, if you are baking a bread with a lot of heavy grain, or a rye bread, you will need a higher gluten flour because rye doesn't have much gluten forming properties, and the heavy grains need a stronger flour to lift them.   But that's another topic...

KAF bread flour contains 12.7% protein and is milled from hard red spring wheat.  The high gluten KAF Sir Lancelot brand (14.2% protein) is also milled from hard spring wheat and is terrific for bagels.

Since most good bread books will define the type of flour to be used, it's called "bread flour" in the formuals.  If a higher protein flour is required, it will be called "high gluten" flour.   In the end, it's all about the protein level.

Hope this makes sense.

laura seim's picture
laura seim

Wow, I didn't expect to get so many great answers so fast! You guys are all great! I appreciate all this information. I got everything I needed to know. On to bread baking! I'm going to be making my first pizza crust tonight :)

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi laura seim,

Given the advice you have already received from Lindy and Larry and others, I see you are already in good hands.

However, if you want to make pizza first I just wanted to point something out about Mediterranean wheats from countries such as Italy and France.   The flours from these countries are not generally regarded as strong [high gluten].   Relating to Lindy's comments about protein levels, these flours would typically be around 10.5% protein.   North American wheats produce flour of much greater gluten potential than do Italian/French flours.   A pizza base should be easy to roll out and toss to achieve a thin piece of dough.   High gluten flour will resist this requirement of extensibility, whereas the softer Italian wheats will not.

Best wishes

Andy

laura seim's picture
laura seim

Thanks so much for the tip! I never thought about the difference in flour from one country to another. The pizza crust recipe I used came from weekendbakery.com. It turned out pretty good. I don't have a pizza peel and the dough was unbelievably sticky so the only issue was the excessive amount of flour on the bottom of the crust! I was so worried I wouldn't be able to get my pizza off my pan onto my baking stone I put a generous amount of flour underneath the dough. It didn't seem like much at the time though. I have had authentic Italian pizza and the sauce is so different than that of the typical American pizza, and I must say (not to toot my own horn) I was pretty pleased with my sauce :) it brought the whole thing together! Next time I will try making the dough with AP flour with the slightly lower protein content (the recipe called for bread flour, so that's what I used).

Thanks for all the help, and wonderful tips!

isand66's picture
isand66

Buy parchment paper!  I use it for almost all of my bread and pizza baking.  You don't need to put any flour on the bottom of the dough and you don't have to worry about it sticking.

You can buy 00 flour from KAF or some other mail order places.  This is a very low protein flour which is what is used in Italy for all pizza making.  The only thing is that this flour is best for ovens that can go to 600 degrees or higher.  If using in your home oven you should mix 50% AP or bread flour with the 00 flour (KAF Italian Style, Capputo brand).

Good luck.

laura seim's picture
laura seim

Hi isand66,

Never thought of parchment paper! That's an awesome idea! I will see about finding that 00 flour, I'll have to mix it because I only have a crummy home oven :( that won't go higher than 550 degrees.

Thanks so much for tips!!

isand66's picture
isand66

Laura, you are most welcome.

You can check out my blog at www.mookielovesbread.wordpress.com to see my posts on pizza if you are interested.

I set up my oven an interesting way based on a tip I found on someone elses blog that works great.

Good luck and happy baking!

Ian

laura seim's picture
laura seim

Hi Ian,

I went to your site but the pizza link took me directly to someone else's site. Where do I find your posts and how you set up your oven? I would love to check it out but got lost in cyber space :(

Thanks so much for your input!

isand66's picture
isand66

that is my other blog it took you to I hope!

Use this link and it will take you to my other blog directly to the Pizza recipe and method I was talking about.

http://mookielovesbread.wordpress.com/category/pizza/

Let me know what you think here or on the other blog.

I hope you enjoy it.

Ian

laura seim's picture
laura seim

I made it to right spot with your help, it looks great, going to give it a try next weekend for sure. Putting the pizza stone under broiler is a great idea! Love the site (and kitty!)

isand66's picture
isand66

Glad you like it and I can't wait to hear how yours comes out.  

Be sure to let us know how you do.

sonia101's picture
sonia101

I just made sourdough pizzas last night using bread flour, wish I had of read this before I made them! Fingers crossed they turn out alright, tho I'm sure they will still be better than store bought pizzas LOL...I'll try them with oo next time tho :)

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

Get some reusable parchment.  It's not paper, it's a teflon film.  Good for up to 500F, reusable virtually forever - I have some Super Parchment (available on Amazon and other sources) which is nearly 2 years old now and while it definitely looks "well used", it has not cracked or frayed and is every bit as nonstick as the day I bought it.

There is another version called "Pan Pal" which I am also using, available from webstaurantstore.com, costs about half as much.  The half sheet sizes are slightly smaller than the Super Parchment, but it also comes in full sheet sizes.  I bought the full sheet sizes to cut a piece to exactly fit my baking stone as the Super Parchment was narrower than the stone and limited the size/shape of my pizza.  I have also cut out pieces to use in my cake pans.  I use it for cookies, breads, cakes, basically all my baked goods.  I tend to pull it out when using it on the stone after the first few minutes simply because it isn't necessary to leave it in once the bread (or pizza crust) has set up and I feel this extends the life of the film.

These types of teflon pan liners should never be folded (roll, hang, or lay flat for storage).  You cannot use a knife on them (well you can't use a knife on ANY type of parchment without cutting it up).  They CAN be cut to size, unlike silicon baking liners.  They are EASILY cleaned - just wipe with a damp rag.  I wipe my liners between batches of cookie dough with a dry rag to remove crumbs.  Edges should not hang over the sides of your pan or stone (again, cut to size).  I'm told you shouldn't soak them in a sink full of water, I don't know why, but it really isn't necessary anyway as they wipe clean with a damp sponge or cloth anyway.  500F is the top operating temp.  These pan liners will never get soggy and tear when used with a wet dough or if left with dough on them to rise.  I quit using parchment paper in part because of the fact that it gets soggy at times.

SuperParchment is thinner and more flexible than the PanPal type.  When you lift a corner from the stone (I use the paddle to do this) it cools quickly and you can pull it out using your bare fingers (slide the paddle between the pizza and the liner, then pull the liner out).  However it is more prone to accidental creasing than the PanPal stuff because of its lighter weight and greater flexibility.  It is available only in the one size, which is likely to be several inches thinner than your baking stone.

PanPal liners come in half sheet sizes which are slightly smaller than the Super Parchment and full sheet sizes.  It also comes in a 54' roll (though I doubt that is of much interest to most of us, LOL!)  It is 6ml thick, significantly heavier duty than the Super Parchment and hence likely to last longer (haven't had it long enough to verify).  It does not seem to stain as easily.  Because it is thicker, it is stiffer, and less prone to accidental creasing.  It does not cool off as quickly as SuperParchment when in the oven so if you are planning to remove it you must use a potholder to grab hold of it.  It cools rapidly out of the oven however so will not present a burning hazard once removed from the oven. The full sheet size may be cut to give you full coverage of large baking stones. PanPal costs about half as much as SuperParchment (comparing webstaurantstore.com prices to Amazon.com prices).

I love the stuff.

laura seim's picture
laura seim

Dear Zen,

This is exactly why I joined this site, for bits of info like this that I probably would have NEVER thought of on my own because I never knew stuff like this existed! Thank you so much for all that information! I'm going to go look it up right now and get some prices. I'm so excited about all this because it will help with my pizzas so much!

Have a great rest of the week!