The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why Use All Purpose Flour??

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Why Use All Purpose Flour??

I have a question for everyone.  Why do some recipes call for all purpose flour?  Isn't bread flour superior for all bread making?  I know what the difference is between AP and BF, but just don't understand why some recipes, such as the one below from JH calls for AP.  I used to think that it was used in recipes for people that don't have access to BF.  Now that I am seeing recipes from guys such as JH call for AP, I don't get it.

40% Rye Bread with Caraway
From Jeff Hamelman's-Bread

Rye Sour

  • 360 g Medium Rye Flour
  • 360 g Water
  • 20 g Sourdough Starter

Final Dough

  • 545 g King Arthur All Purpose Flour
  • 260 g Water
  • 740 g (all of the above) Rye Sour
  • 1 Tsp. Instant Yeast
  • 15 g Salt
  • 15 g Caraway Seeds

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

AP flour produces different results than bread flour and sometimes those are desired effects for a specific bread.  For instance, AP flour in a dinner roll will produce a more tender roll than will bread flour.  At the risk of over-generalizing, European bakers produce breads with flours that are (mostly) lower in protein and gluten than the AP flours that U.S. and Canadian bakers routinely use.  And they turn out some marvelous breads with those not-even-close-to-bread-flour-protein-level flours that they use.

So, even though a product is named bread flour, it does not rule out using other flours for bread.  The more important thing is to understand how each type of flour will perform in a particular circumstance.  The knowledgeable baker can then select the flour(s) that will produce the kind of bread s/he desires.

Paul

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

No wonder they picked you to teach bread making!  I've started to really like low protein soft white wheat berries that are so low in protein the Bosch Lady said you can't make bread from that - but French baggies just love that flour and it is whole wheat when ground at home and not sifted.  Just bought some kamut berries for the same reason - less protein than spelt.  It is great to be able to mix your own flours for the bread situation at hand.  Never knew it made so much difference but it sure does. 

Had enough rain yet?  What did your get 7-8" from Issac?  all the way up in MO!  We only get 7" a year in Phoenix!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

But don't put me on a pedestal, please.  I'm not comfortable with heights!  

I'd love to hear more about your soft wheat and baguettes; maybe a side-by-side comparison of the same formula with AP or bread flour?  

We had some absolutely lovely rain, even though it did dampen the Labor Day weekend.  It started here around 11:00 a.m. on Friday and didn't stop until late in the day on Saturday.  Depending on whose rain gauge you check, quantities around here ranged from 2.5 to 5 inches.  That's the first significant rainfall that we have had since May, I think.  Although a few teaser showers have drifted through, our summer has been virtually rain-free.  This rain, although far too late to help the corn crop locally, was desperately needed and much welcomed.  Intensity ranged from a soft drizzle to moderate showers, which meant that there was time for the soil to absorb much of the rain instead of it sheeting off into streams.  I'm not usually thrilled to hear my sump pump kick in but it sounded downright musical when it finally came on.  Feeling the soil squelch under my feet when I went out to pick up Saturday's paper was a pretty good thing, too.

Paul

sandydog's picture
sandydog

Not everyone has the same version of JH's Bread book.

On page 145 of my copy (Beginning of the Levain Chapter) JH gives an explanation of his recommended flour choice for hearth breads.

Enjoy (If you have that version)

Brian

sandydog's picture
sandydog

I use JH's recipe on page 194, for 40% Caraway Rye - It looks a bit different to the one you quote in that:

It uses High Gluten flour - For the white portion, and

His sourdough (83%) appears to have a different hydration level to yours (100%)

My current "Bread" book was purchased in 2011 so may have been amended so as to be different to yours.

Brian

 

Home Baker's picture
Home Baker

King Arthur's all purpose flour is about as strong as typical bread flours. If I couldn't use KA brand AP in a Hamelman formula that specified AP, I'd first try substituting Gold Medal's Better for Bread in place of it. 

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

Exactly what I do.

Thanks, Home Baker

Note: this applies to *USA* brand flours

Home Baker's picture
Home Baker

You're most welcome, subfuscpersona. 

It's probably also worth noting that since Hamelman works for King Arthur Flour Company it would only be natural that when he specifies an all purpose flour he most likely intends that brand. If another author were to spec AP flour in a recipe where I didn't expect it I'd have to mix some cake flour and/or corn starch into the KA AP/B4B. I never buy all purpose flour other than King Arthur anymore and I now find KA AP by itself is too strong for making nice, soft, crumbly cookies — I prefer using unbleached pastry flour for those.

When did my bread making obsession tun me into a flour snob, I wonder?

[Edited to reflect comment by LindyD, below. I should have checked my copy of Bread before posting, as this now edited comment is clearly, regretably, off-topic.]

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Thanks all.  Now I know!  I read an article somewhere that bread flour was best for artisan breads and AP was best for quick breads.  I took that article too seriously, not realizing that AP has some atributes that would be good for some artisan breads as well.  My por AP flour took a back seat in the pantry.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

The formula posted by the OP is not Mr. Hamelman's.  I first purchased Bread in 2008 (and a second copy in 2009).   The measurements presented throughout the book are "U.S.," "metric" and "home."  There is no listing for grams, nor does the book call for all purpose flour in any formula.  A visit to Amazon and a search through the current edition shows that hasn't changed (but hopefully he will include grams in his forthcoming revision). 

As Brian notes, the caraway rye requires high gluten flour; the sourdough build lists whole-rye flour, not medium rye, at 83% hydration.  The dough is fermented a total of two hours, then baked.

Page 36 of Bread  presents a good explanation of protein levels in spring and winter wheats, which may help answer the OP's original question:  The use of winter wheat, which has a protein level of 11 to 12 percent, is considered best for hearth breads built with preferments and undergoing a long, slow fermentation.  AP flour falls into that protein level range.

Flour milled from hard red spring wheat produces protein levels generally above 12% to 14%.  These are stronger flours, typicalled labeled as bread and high gluten flour.   They also produce a tougher crust and crumb and are not recommended for most hand shaped breads described above.  

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Lindy you are correct.  This wasn't taken from his book but rather hastily copied and pasted from another member on this site who claimed it was JH's recipe.  I was mainly trying to make the point that even the masters use AP sometimes, and wondering why that was.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The "metric" list is in kilograms and converting to smaller grams is only a simple as moving a decimal over.  Also I often take the %  and use  like grams tacking on a zero.  It works.  Works real well.  So how can you say recipes are not listed in grams?  The math is easy.  (unlike oz)