The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine help please. White vs Bread flour??

CMCVOL's picture

Tartine help please. White vs Bread flour??

Ok, now I'm having a hard time differentiating white flour vs bread flour vs Robertson's "bread flour" ( half white and half whole wheat)  mixture that he used for his starter. I assumed white flour was AP flour but now I'm all confused. His Country Bread calls for white flour. His Baguettes recipe...bread flour. 

Thanks for any and all clarification!!!

OldLoaf's picture

They are just different types of flours with different protein or bran content.  If you are in the US:

  • White flour (All Purpose or AP) is about 11% protein
  • Bread flour (BF) is about 13% protein
  • Whole Wheat (WW) is about 14% protein (plus more bran)

They each have different results when used.  AP tends to make a softer bread but is weaker.  BF makes a stronger bread but can make the crust and crumb chewier.  WW adds flavor from from the bran as well as structure.

His starter flour (what he called bread flour) is just a mix of BF and WW for use with the starter.

The baguette recipe calls for a combo of AP and BF.

Every author does things their own way, but somewhere in the book they usually tell you what type of flour they typically use.  Some only use bread flour for most recipes, some only AP, some a mix of different flours.  Generally, if it  just says "flour" they are referring to AP flour.  Otherwise they typically specify Bread Flour (or High Protein or Strong  flour), or Whole Wheat, Spelt, Rye, etc.

Hope this helps.....Jeff


David R's picture
David R

Regardless of Robertson's status among bakers, his decision to use the term "bread flour" to mean something other than what it already meant (published all over the place and printed on millions of flour bags), is nothing but a stupid beginner mistake on his part. His editor should be ashamed, as should Robertson himself.

alfanso's picture

Unfortunately, you are now relegating Mr. Hamelman into that same "stupid beginner" category.  His Bread book is filled, page after page, with formulas that call for "Bread Flour".  What he likely means, is that after having been an integral part of King Arthur for decades, he is referencing a white flour akin to the protein content of KA AP at 11.8%, which is higher than most AP flours.  Mr. Hamelman elsewhere refers to a high gluten flour, known to many of us as "bread flour", as "High Gluten Flour"

Looking at the formulas in FWSY, Mr. Forkish refers to "White Flour", although he details what is meant by that in his intro pages.

There apparently has always been a disconnect between ingredients & methodology and words used to describe them, and the nomenclature of the field.  Which renders naming conventions inconsistent across bakers and regions as well as countries.

I refer to Sourdough as Levain, Slap and Folds as French Folds and Stretch and Folds as Letter Folds.  You would be hard put to find a single person on TFL that has seen my blog posts, as apparently you also have, who would refer to even little old me as a "stupid beginner".

David R's picture
David R

Among the words on which you said that you differ from others, there is obvious widespread disagreement about the proper use of each of them. Some of the words are not even well established in English, and tend to be treated (or mistreated 🙂) as foreign terms.

"Bread flour" is different; suppose that I wrote a book about auto repair, and decided to define "radiator" as "any part of the car that heats up when the engine runs". It is not a false definition, since those parts do obviously radiate heat; but the word already has a definition that's widely published, well known, and very likely to be confusing. In Hamelman's case, when he worked for KAF, "bread flour" was the name of a very familiar product prominently available on the company website!

I don't claim they're beginners in baking, but certainly it was a mistake worthy of a raw beginner at writing.

lesbru's picture

Robertson uses the term bread flour, as do many people, for strong, high protein flour. On p45 of Tartine bread, just for the starter, he gives half white, half WW bread flour, but notes  that AP would also work.  Bread flour is the flour he's assuming. As he says, on p47, he's encouraging you to think like a baker. If he wants something else, he says so. For example, on p114, in his WW recipe, he specifies AP flour to go with the mainly WW flour. This does not constitute a mistake, either in baking or in writing.