Can you use bread flour for cookies? That's a question many of us have undoubtedly asked ourselves when a craving for a fresh chocolate chip cookie hits, there's no all-purpose flour in the pantry and a grocery store run just won't be possible.
The good news is that bread flour can substitute for all-purpose flour — depending on your cookie recipe. Simply swapping out the two types of flour, as is, can result in a chewier, more cake-like cookie rather than a crisp, snappy one. So, for the best result, you should look up tried and tested cookie recipes using whichever brand of bread flour you have on hand.
Bread Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour
Not all wheat flour is created equal. There are numerous different types of flour, including whole-wheat flour, enriched flour, all-purpose flour, bread flour, pastry flour, self-rising flour and cake flour. According to Kansas State University, different types of wheat are milled to make these different types of flour.
Both hard and soft types of wheat are used to make flour. There are three different components to a single kernel of wheat, North Carolina State University says. The outer layer, bran, contains a high amount of fiber. The middle layer, or endosperm, contains carbohydrates, protein and some B vitamins. And the inner part, or germ, provides more B vitamins, unsaturated fats, antioxidants, phytonutrients and trace minerals.
Bread flour typically contains a mix of hard wheats that are high in protein. All-purpose flour is milled from hard wheats or a blend of hard and soft wheats. For example, with the King Arthur Flour brand, their bread flour contains hard spring wheat, whereas their all-purpose flour contains hard winter wheat. The main difference between the two flours is protein content: The bread flour is 12.7 percent protein, compared to 11.7 percent for their all-purpose flour.
Bob's Red Mill, another flour brand, also says that their bread flour has a higher protein content than their all-purpose flour. The higher protein content in bread flour allows loaves of bread to rise and maintain their shape; the lower protein in all-purpose flour creates "shorter" baked goods, so it's ideal for cookies, brownies and such.
The Flour Nutrients
So, what are the nutrients in bread flour vs. all-purpose flour? It varies from brand to brand, but the USDA offers standard reference listings on both types of flour.
One cup of white, bleached, enriched all-purpose flour provides 455 calories, almost 13 grams of protein, over 1 gram of fat and over 95 grams of carbohydrate, including less than 1 gram of sugar and over 3 grams of fiber.
One cup of white, enriched bread flour provides 495 calories, including over 16 grams of protein, over 2 grams of fat and over 99 grams of carbohydrate, including less than 1 gram of sugar and over 3 grams of fiber.
Read more: Whole-Grain Bread vs. White Bread
Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
The differences in bread flour vs. all-purpose flour for gluten-free mixes, again, depend on the brand. The ingredients vary, as does protein content and the recommended amount of liquid to add to each bake. The good news is that gluten-free bread flour substitutes can create loaves that taste remarkably similar to the "real thing" made with wheat.
Bob's Red Mill Homemade Wonderful Gluten-Free Bread Mix contains whole-grain sorghum flour, potato starch, cornstarch, pea protein powder, tapioca flour, sugar, xanthan gum, sea salt and guar gum. One serving, listed as a 28-gram slice, provides 100 calories, 3 grams of protein and 21 grams of carbohydrate, including 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of sugar.
Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour contains garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, whole grain sorghum flour and fava bean flour. One quarter-cup serving provides 120 calories, 3 grams of protein and 25 grams of carbohydrate, including 4 grams of fiber.
Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour contains cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, potato starch and xanthan gum. One quarter-cup serving provides 120 calories, 2 grams of protein and 26 grams of carbohydrate, including 1 gram of sugar.
Cup4Cup Multigrain Bread Mix contains whole oat flour, golden flaxseed, millet flour, sorghum flour, buckwheat flour, teff flour, tapioca flour, cane sugar, xanthan gum and salt. One serving, listed as 28 grams, provides 100 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbohydrate, including 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of sugar.
Using Bread Flour for Cookies
Michigan State University warns that using bread flour for cookies may result in dense, chewy treats. If that isn't your goal, do a quick search specifically for crispy cookies made using bread flour. Following these directions should lead you to success.
The Portland Community College website offers various tips and tricks for achieving your ideal cookie texture:
- The fats you use in your recipe (butter, margarine, vegetable oil or coconut oil, for example) will determine how much your cookies spread out on the baking sheet.
- The amount of fat also plays into shape. A recipe with more fat will produce flatter, more crispy cookies; less fat leads to "puffier" cookies.
- The type of flour used also affects the shape and density of the cookies.
- Baking powder and baking soda are leavening agents — cookies need these in order to rise.
- A recipe with white sugar will make a crispier cookie, compared with a recipe that uses brown sugar or honey.
- Eggs promote puffiness in cookies.
- Egg yolks help moistness, while egg whites make cookies drier.
- USDA: "National Nutrient Database: Wheat Flour, White, All-purpose, Enriched, Bleached"
- USDA: "National Nutrient Database: Wheat Flour, White, Bread, Enriched"
- Kansas State University: "Why Are There So Many Types of Flour and What Are Their Different Uses?"
- North Carolina State University: "Whole Grains vs. Enriched Grains / Flour 101"
- King Arthur Flour: "How to Substitute Bread Flour for All-Purpose Flour"
- Bob's Red Mill: "What’s the Difference Between Bread Flour vs. All Purpose Flour?"
- Bob's Red Mill: "Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix"
- Bob's Red Mill: "Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour"
- Cup4Cup: "Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour"
- Cup4Cup: "Cup4Cup Multigrain Bread Mix"
- Michigan State University: "Be a Knowledgeable Baker When Using Cake, Pastry or Bread Flour"
- Portland Community College: "How to Get the Texture You Want in Your Cookies"
- Harvard Health: "Eating Too Much Added Sugar Increases the Risk of Dying With Heart Disease"