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Bread Flour Versus All Purpose Flour

Many people use  all purpose flour in bread making instead of bread flour.  I started wondering what the difference is.  It turns out that the difference is gluten.

Gluten is a type of protein found in flour.  More gluten in the flour makes the bread slightly heavier, but more importantly it makes it stronger.  That means that as the yeast ferments the bread will hold the carbon dioxide and rise.  If it’s not strong then the carbon dioxide will escape and the bread won’t rise as high.

Bread flour has more gluten than all purpose flour.   However the amount of gluten in particular brands of flour varies.  In general, all purpose flour has a gluten content of 9% to 12%.  Bread flour typically has a gluten range of 10% to 13%.    Note the overlapping areas.

If you’re using all purpose flour in your bread machine and it works for you, that’s great.  It may be that your brand of flour is in the upper, and perhaps overlapping,  range of the gluten levels.

Here’s more information on flour:

Flour

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28 comments

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  1. Alan English

    Can wheat free, gluten free flour with correct amount of guar gum and other essential ingridients be used in a bread machine?

    1. Marsha Perry

      Hi Alan ~ That should be fine. You’ll need different recipes to make sure that you get the proportions right, but other than that there should be no problem.

  2. Deborah A O'Neill

    I read on another site that using 1 tsp of wheat gluten per cup of all purpose or wheat flour is okay. Bread flour is pretty expensive where I live and I don’t have a Costco conveniently located. Does this measurement sound right to you? Also, I wanted to tell you that I LOVE your website. I’ve copied down many of your recipes. I do have the new Zojiruishi and am thrilled with it. It really is the “cadillac” of bread machines and worth every penny!

    1. Marsha Perry

      Deborah, Thanks so much for the kind words about my site. And I’m so happy that you like your Zojirushi. I adore mine!!!

      I’ve read that adding one tablespoon of of gluten to one cup of regular whole wheat flour will make it better for bread machines. I’ve never tried it myself though. If you try this please let us know how it works.

      1. Wayne Carpenter

        In our area (Nebraska), there is a noticeable difference in price between general purpose and bread flour. I have always used a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten per cup of gp flour for bread. Also, if the flour is a little older or otherwise less reactive, I add a teaspoon of baking soda to the batch. I also use nothing but Zojiruishi – just got the ‘mini’ version as we are moving into a 5th wheel camper for some full time adventures.

        1. Marsha Perry

          Wayne, Thanks for flour hints. And best wishes for life in the fifth wheel! What a great way to see the country!

  3. Karen Vartan

    My regular Costco went for a period without having their normal bread flour, in its place was Chapati. The nutritional anaylsis (protein) was impressive; it is also high in gluten so it can be stretched til very thin. I have been experimenting with it in my bread machine. I mix it about 50/50 with bread flour. It imparts some bitterness so I have been changing the ratios of sugar and yeast . Has anyone used Chapati flour to make a loaf of bread instead of more traditional flat breads?

  4. Brenda

    I actually prefer all purpose flour on some bread machine recipes if I want a lighter bread, and as someone already said, bread flour is more expensive. Still experimenting with either of the two and I have even tried making gluten free bread which uses a totally different kind of flour.

  5. honeydeb

    Newbie here, family baker. I feel bread flour is smoother texture. Wondering if corn starch or eggs might improve protein ratio or lift when I run out and use APF…

    1. Marsha Perry

      I haven’t done it myself, but I’ve heard that adding vital wheat gluten to all purpose flour does the trick. Add one half to one teaspoon per cup of APF. If you do try this let me know how it goes.

  6. Neal

    would like a response as to when the bread is rising before the cook cycle (the last 60 minutes). The dough rises very nicely, and just after the cook cycle starts, the top of the bread slowly falls a little. What does this mean?

    1. Marsha Perry

      Neal – How did the bread look at the end? I sometimes get something I call “The Big Valley”. If that’s what happened these tips may help.

  7. Diana

    So Im confused….aren’t we striving for a lighter bread? If gluten in higher in bread flour and makes for a heavier bread, then why not use AP? I think I misunderstand here lol

    1. Marsha Perry

      I think I may go back and tweak the article because it does sound confusing. The gluten also helps to make the bread stronger, not just heavier. This allows the bread to rise higher and better.

  8. Geri

    what can you do if there is only all purpose flour available?

    1. Marsha Perry

      Hi Geri – I haven’t done it myself, but I’ve heard that adding vital wheat gluten to all purpose flour does the trick. Add one half to one teaspoon per cup of APF. If you do try this let me know how it goes.

  9. Bonnie

    At anytime after the initial dough is taken from the bread machine, do you let the dough rise again? Or just use it straight from the bread machine?

    I have to make dough at home and bring it to a school to finish the pizza. Can I freeze it?

    1. Marsha Perry

      Hi Bonnie, You’ll need to look at the individual recipes to see about how to handle the dough after the it comes out of the machine. I know of people that have frozen dough, but I haven’t done it myself. It’s on my to-do list though. I’ll blog about it when I’ve done it.

  10. Louise

    Can I make bread without a bread machine with bread machine
    flour?

    1. Marsha Perry

      I would think that would work. If you try it please let us know how it works out.

      1. Cindy

        Yes, better for bread flour will work in any bread recipe and make it stellar!

  11. Mark Gustely

    I have an older Zojirushi bread machine and want to make corn bread, mine only has basic, mixed, wheat, but no cake. what can i do for the proper setting?

    1. Marsha Perry

      Mark, Thanks so much for writing. Do you have the model number of your Zo? I did a quick search on the Internet and couldn’t find anything that matches its description.

  12. Martha

    Fasting and not supposed to eat bread with levening agents in it. Does anyone know what types of bread that would be?

  13. Sheila

    I made yeast rolls with bread flour but they turned out heavy like buiscits
    What did I do wrong
    I’ve made them in bread machine with all purpose and they were lighter but I still would like a soft outer crust

    1. Marsha Perry

      Why don’t you give this butter bun recipe a try and see how it goes. I’ve had great results with it.

  14. Cal

    Absolutely love your site, and so glad I found it. I too love my Zo… i’ve had others over the years (my first was a Hitachi that made really good vertical loaves, but when it died I went through a real ordeal to find something decent… and then I found my Zo).

    Nice to see a site that’s both dedicated to bread machine usage and in many cases the Zo line of breadmakers themselves. I like mine so much I purchased a second pan and set of blades so I can batch loads one behind the other. You need to give it a little time to cool down between loaves (so you don’t overhead during the mix and rise, or potentially kill off the yeast), but it gives me more flexibility. The added bonus is that you can be mixing one batch of dough for manual loaf forming, and while working that loaf into shape, you can have a second batch of dough being prepared.

    1. Marsha Perry

      Cal, What a great idea bout having a second pan and blades! There have been times when I sure could have used that.

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