Like a warm bowl of soup on a rainy day or an ice cream cone in the summer, freshly baked bread is another nostalgic, comforting recipe you can enjoy at any time of the year (or day). The ingredients are fairly simple and you don't even need to use bread flour, either.
Although bread flour will give you the best, chewy texture, it's definitely not a must-have when it comes to baking bread. Especially if you don't have miles of empty kitchen space, storing multiple flour varieties can be challenging.
Instead, you can stock up on all-purpose flour and a small bag of vital wheat gluten. When combined, these ingredients make the perfect bread flour substitute. Plus, they'll allow you to save up your precious pantry real estate.
All-Purpose Flour vs. Bread Flour
As if the science of baking weren't confusing enough, all-purpose flour and bread flour aren't actually the same thing. The main difference between the two lies in the protein content, according to Shena Jaramillo, RD.
Bread flour is generally higher in protein and produces more gluten, she says. A type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley, gluten helps give dough more elasticity and it helps foods keep their shape and texture, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
So, when you use bread flour, the elasticity of the dough increases as you knead, thanks to the gluten. Bread flours generally have about 2 percent more protein than most all-purpose flour varieties, Jaramillo explains. The gluten will not only help the bread keep its shape but will give a crisp feel to the final product.
"A bread flour will create a chewier texture in breads due to increased gluten production," Jaramillo says. "Bread flour can actually also be used for pizza dough and other non-bread items to create the chewier consistency."
Aside from the differences in protein content, all-purpose flour and bread flour are generally the same when it comes to nutritional composition. All-purpose flour may be slightly higher in fat content than bread flour but only by about a gram per quarter cup.
All-Purpose Flour and Bread Flour Brands to Buy
Converting All-Purpose Flour to Bread Flour
There are no set rules when it comes to converting all-purpose flour to bread flour, Jaramillo says. All-purpose flour can be used in place of bread flour with exactly the same measurements. However, you may see some textural differences when your bread is baked.
To recreate the chewiness you usually get with bread flour, Jaramillo recommends using a product called vital wheat protein or vital wheat gluten. Essentially, this product is the same protein you find in bread flour but isolated.
So, adding wheat protein to all-purpose flour will create similar results in your baked goods. All you need to do is add a tablespoon or two per cup of all-purpose flour. Depending on your desired texture, you can add more or less wheat protein to the dough.
You can evenly swap all-purpose flour for bread flour recipes, however, the texture of your bread may be less chewy. If possible, add in a tablespoon or two of vital wheat protein to your all-purpose flour to re-create the texture of standard bread flour.