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Your Guide To All-Purpose Flour, Bread Flour, and Bread Mixes

Have you ever baked bread?

You need to combine bread flour with other ingredients like salt, sugar, bread improvers, yeast, and water for a good loaf. The other option is to use a Bread Mix, which is a bread flour that has everything already combined in the proper proportions and only requires the addition of yeast and water.


But are they the same thing? And what if a recipe calls for bread flour, but you only have all-purpose flour? What’s the difference between bread flour, bread mix, and all-purpose flour?

Here’s the answer to all your questions!


Can I Use Bread Flour Instead Of All-Purpose


Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, but it can be used in place of all-purpose flour and vice versa. However, keep in mind that the higher protein content of bread flour may result in a dry dough or batter, so you may need to add water.


Don't panic if your recipe calls for bread flour, but you only have all-purpose flour on hand. You can substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour one-to-one, but your loaf of yeast bread will have a less chewy texture and will likely not rise as much as a loaf baked with high-gluten flour.  


Instead, make your bread flour substitute by combining all-purpose flour with vital wheat gluten, an isolated form of the flour protein. Take one teaspoon of flour out of a cup and replace it with a teaspoon of vital wheat gluten.


The Difference Between Bread Flour And All-Purpose Flour


The primary distinction between bread flour and all-purpose flour is one of protein. Bread flour, available in white and whole wheat varieties, has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, typically ranging from 11 to 13 percent. It's called "bread flour" because most bread requires a higher protein content to produce a large amount of gluten.


A nice loaf of bread will require the addition of other components such as salt, sugar, bread improvers, yeast, and water. The other option is to use a Bread Mix, which is a bread flour that has everything fully combined in the exact proportions and just requires the addition of yeast and water. It already has the salt, improver, and sugar, if desired. 


Standard AP flour is white flour, which means the wheat grains (fun fact: they’re called wheatberries) have been removed from their bran and germ during the milling and grinding process, leaving only the starchy endosperm. That means most AP flours have a longer shelf life since the oils in the germ cause it to go rancid.


Unfortunately, it's less nutritious, and it loses its natural wheaty taste. The advantage of all-purpose flour is that it’s incredibly versatile and predictable.  During processing, the protein level of AP flours is standardized at between 9 and 11 percent, depending on the brand and kind of wheat used.


Gluten provides structure to baked items; the more gluten, the "stronger" the wheat. AP has a moderate protein level, making it suitable for most baked items such as cookies, muffins, and pie crust. Its ability to work effectively in a variety of recipes is what makes it all-purpose!


Can I Substitute Bread Flour For All-Purpose Flour In Cookies?


You might be able to.  Depending on the cookie recipe, you can use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. Simply switching the two types of flour can result in a chewier, cake-like cookie rather than a crisp, snappy one. Our advice is to research the specific type of cookie you’re trying to make, so you know what to do for the best results.


Can I Use All-Purpose Flour Instead Of Bread Flour In A Bread Machine?


Yes! All-purpose flour has a 9% to 12% gluten content, while bread flour’s gluten content falls in the 10% to 13% range.  Even if your all-purpose flour lacks gluten, you can still use it in the bread machine. Again, the worst that will happen is that your bread will not rise as much as it would with bread flour.


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