Bread Flour Basics

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Spoiler alert: Bread flour is a type of flour specifically meant to bake different types of …wait for it… bread. We all know that bread is a crucial part of favorite breakfasts worldwide. Therefore, it’s only fitting that we bake with the best. Feeling like you don’t know enough about this essential flour? We’ve got you covered. 

What is Bread Flour?

Bread flour is milled from hard red spring wheat. It has a high protein content ranging between 12 to 14 % and works best with yeast bread. This flour is a protein champion, having the highest protein content among all flours. [If you’re curious, cake flour has the lowest.]

The protein tidbit is more than just fascinating trivia. High levels of protein play a crucial role in bread making. They produce more gluten which gives the bread elasticity, helping it rise and maintain its structure. Gluten ensures that the bread has a light and chewy texture. So, when preparing the dough, you must knead it well to ensure that more gluten is produced to give an airy and chewy texture. More protein equals more gluten equals better bread!


Is Bread Flour the Same as Plain Flour?

Nope.  Plain flour, also referred to as all-purpose flour, is not the same. The key difference with bread flour is the amount of protein present.

Remember, bread flour, which can be white or whole wheat, has a higher protein content than any other type of flour. Plain flour protein content ranges between 11-12%. So when you substitute bread flour for all-purpose, you should expect your dough to be slightly wetter due to the lower protein content. The chew and structure will be somewhat different. We’re not saying that’s a bad thing, but just know what you’re getting into.

What is Strong Flour and is it Different from Bread Flour?

Strong flour is a type of flour made from hard wheat grains. Instead of processing, it is made by grinding wheat grains. Like bread flour, strong flour also has a high protein content; therefore, you must knead it properly to get more gluten. It is suitable for baked goods that require high protein content, including bagels, bread, pretzels, and pasta. 

In terms of taste, the two kinds of flour are the same.

A flour by any other name…

Just to keep things interesting, here is another tidbit for you. In the United Kingdom, bread flour is also referred to as strong flour or hard flour.

How is Bread Flour Different from Other Types of Flour?

This flour is different from other types of flour as it is milled from hard red wheat and has a high protein content. Thus, it’s best for baked goods that require high gluten content. Compared to cake or pastry flour made from soft winter wheat and finely milled, bread flour is made from hard wheat and has a coarse appearance.

Is Bread Flour Self-Rising?

No. Self-rising flour is made by mixing all-purpose flour with a leavening agent and salt. Bread flour is milled from hard wheat and has a high protein content making it ideal for baking yeast and sourdough bread. It is not, however, self-rising.

The Dramatic History of Bread Flour 

Joseph Lee, an African-American inventor, discovered this essential flour. He later patented his discovery in 1902 in Boston. Some might argue that it was already around by 1902 because in the 1880s, UK miler Richard Smith had learned how to separate wheat germ and flour, cook the wheat germ by itself and then add it back into the flour. Smith called his invention Hovis flour

Photo: National Inventors Hall of Fame

By the 1920s, the now-familiar brand Gold Medal was producing its own “High Protein Flour.”

Disclaimer: We know, not especially dramatic, but still fairly juicy as far as flour history goes. 

Well-Known Brands of Bread Flour

There is certainly no shortage of options when it comes to this popular type of flour. We’ve narrowed it down to the top nine  brands to try in your next bread or bagel recipe.

1. King Arthur

This brand has amazing  flours. Their bread flour is 100% organic, non-GMO, and unbleached. The protein content in their bread flour is unrivaled as it averages at 12.7 %, ensuring that your baked goods will have a consistent rise, chewy texture, and perfect structure.  It is best for baking yeast bread, bagels, and rolls.

It is kosher certified and comes in various sizes, with the 2 pound package being a customer favorite.  

2. Gold Medal

Gold Medal brand is popular among bakers for its quality. Its flour comes in cute packaging but it’s more than just a pretty face. This flour has a high protein content that produces more gluten for your yeast bread, rolls, and pizza crusts.

3. Bob’s Red Mill

Bob’s Red Mill flours are a favorite of avid bakers. This is because of their high quality, being milled from America’s top-quality wheat. Bob’s Red Mill Bread flour is among the top out there because of the high protein content.

Bob’s Red Mill bread flour is kosher certified, non-GMO, and perfect for vegans as it does not have eggs, dairy or honey. It’s also enriched, unbleached, and unbromated.

If you’re wondering what unbromated flour is, it simply does not contain potassium bromate (an oxidizing agent that enhances flour strength and rise), making it safer and healthier.

Artisan Bread Flour 5 Pounds 1-Pack

4. Pillsbury

This flour is milled from high-quality hard wheat. It is soft and easy to bake with. The high protein content in this flour makes it ideal for making rolls, pizza crust, yeast, and sourdough bread. The ingredients include niacin, thiamin, wheat flour, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, and mononitrate. This product is also kosher certified. Finally, you don’t have to search the web for the perfect recipe if you are a beginner; check the back of the flour’s packaging  to get started. 

5. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s all-purpose is a triple crown winner: it is unbleached, enriched, and has a high protein content. Each cup of this flour contains 4 grams of protein which is about 13.3%, which is fine for making high-quality breads. Despite it being an all-purpose flour, you will have an easy time baking bread with it as the gluten content in this flour is enough to provide consistency and airy bubbles that give it a perfect rise and structure.

6. Dakota Maid

Dakota Maid’s entry in the field is made entirely from hard red spring wheat. It is a great choice for baking any bread. The high protein content in this bread flour gives your dough strength and consistency, which in turn yields quality loaves of bread.

This flour is enriched, unbleached, and unbromated. However, it contains traces of ascorbic acid to enhance the quality of your bread.

7. White Lily

White Lily is a brand that has won the hearts of many bakers with various baking flours. Their unbleached flour is popular among bakers for its quality and high protein content. It is milled from hard wheat and best for making rolls, pizza crust, yeast bread, and any other recipe that requires high protein content.

White Lily Unbleached Bread Flour, 5 Pound

This flour is enriched, unbromated, and kosher certified. It is available in 2 lb and 5 lb packages.

8. Robin Hood

Robin Hood’s flour comes in two types, bleached and unbleached. Both are milled from hard red spring wheat and have high protein content. The only difference is that white flour is treated using chlorine gas, stripped of germ and bran.

Robin Hood’s white flour has iron, ascorbic acid, niacin, thiamine, folic acid, amylase, xylanase, and riboflavin.

On the other hand, Robin Hood’s whole wheat flour is not treated; it retains the bran and germ. Other ingredients found in this flour include ascorbic acid, L-cysteine, amylase, and xylanase.

Robin Hood Best For Bread Homestyle White Flour 5kg

9. Costco

Costco is a business center where you can find practically anything you want, from groceries, household goods, medicine, electronics, or computers. Ardent Mills Harvest Bread Flour is popular among shoppers because of its high protein content. The flour is milled from hard red spring wheat. It is an excellent choice whether you use your hands or a bread machine to knead.

Costco’s store brand flour is enriched, bleached, and kosher certified. It is perfect for making yeast breast, hard & soft rolls, pizza crust, and pan bread.

How is Bread Flour Made?

Don’t panic if you don’t have this type of specialty flour in your pantry, as it is easy to make your own. You will just need all-purpose flour and vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten is a finely milled powder that you is fairly readily available. 

To make your own, take one cup of all-purpose flour, remove about 1 ½ teaspoon, and substitute it with vital wheat gluten. Whisk it to ensure it blends well. That’s all there is to it!

What Does it Taste Like?

It is not advisable to taste raw flour as it could have serious consequences if there is bacteria present But, if you were to taste raw bread flour, you would find that it does not have a taste. Frankly, it’s not much to look at either: It has an off-white appearance, and compared to other finely milled flour, it has a coarse feel and is denser.

Rest assured that when baked, this flour will not disappoint. Goods baked with it have a light and chewy texture and, like most baked goods develops its flavor during baking.

If you bake your bread and the final results have a floury taste, try again, but this time, make sure to add sufficient water when kneading the dough. Also, be gentle when kneading to retain as much CO2 as possible. This will allow your bread to cook evenly, and the raw flour flavor will be eliminated.

What Does Bread Flour Smell Like?

When fresh, this flour has a neutral odor, or sometimes it will have a nutty smell. If your flour has gone bad, you can easily identify it as it has a rancid, musty, or sour smell. It may also be discolored.  Most of these types of flours go bad when they are exposed to water or moisture. So make sure to store your flour properly. Alternatively, you can put it in an airtight container and place it in the freezer to extend its shelf life.

smelling bread flour

How to Make Bread Flour

If you have run out of flour and you must bake, don’t worry; your pantry has everything you need to make it yourself.

You will need the following ingredients

  •         All-purpose flour
  •         Vital wheat gluten

For every cup of all-purpose flour, remove 1 ½ teaspoon and replace it with 1 ½ teaspoon of vital wheat gluten. Then mix the flour using a blender to give you a perfect blend of homemade bread flour.

Bread Flour Substitutes

If you want to make bagels and your recipe calls for bread flour but all you have is all-purpose, don’t worry. Although all-purpose flour has a slightly lower protein content, it can be used as a substitute. However, you should expect your bagels to have a somewhat chewier texture, and since the gluten is lesser, your bagels won’t rise as much as when baked with bread flour.

How do I convert all-purpose flour to bread flour?

Very simple, you just need to replace 1 ½ teaspoon of all-purpose flour with the same amount of vital wheat gluten.

different types of flour

Different Types of Bread Flour

Let’s explore the different types of this versatile flour and their particular uses.

Malted Bread Flour

Malted bread flour is milled from organic hard red winter wheat specifically designed for artisan bakers.

Some brands selling malted flour include Central Milling Organic Bread flour, Giusto’s Vita-Grain All-Natural Artisan Malted unbleached bread flour, and scratch diastatic malt powder.

Sourdough Bread Flour

If you want to bake the perfect sourdough bread, you need sustainable ingredients and sourdough flour. The best part about baking sourdough bread is that you can use just about any flour made from wheat—however, note that each flour will have varying results.

If you are a beginner, you may want to start with strong white bread flour because it has an average liquid absorption rate, delicate texture, and high protein content. All these features make it easy to knead and shape your dough to produce gluten, allowing your sourdough bread to have a nice rise. Other sourdough flour includes rye flour, buckwheat flour, einkorn flour, spelt flour, and emmer flour.

Organic Bread Flour

Organic bread flour is milled from high protein wheat and is 100% organic. This flour is best for making yeast bread, rolls, pizza crusts, and artisan bread. Some of the brands selling this flour include King Arthur and Great River Organic.

Naan Bread Flour

Naan bread is a specialty in Indian culture. Naan flour is composed of stone-ground wheat flour mixed with white flour mixed.

Durum Bread Flour

Durum flour is made from hard spring wheat and has high protein content. However, the amount of gluten in this flour is such that it is not as elastic as bread flour; thus, when you use durum flour to bake bread, expect it to be denser like a cake. It is primarily used to make pasta.

Ezekiel Bread Flour

Ezekiel bread flour is made from sprouted grains. It is whole grain in that most of its nutrients are retained in the flour. It is quite healthy as it helps boost the absorption of vital minerals such as iron, vitamin C, zinc, folate, and magnesium.

It’s more digestible as the sprouting facilitates the conversion of starch into sugars. Sprouting also ensures that you are getting the maximum amount of protein in your body. Sprouted grains increase the level of antioxidants in your flour, which are great inflammation inhibitors.

Despite being a healthy choice, Ezekial has a lot of carbs, making it a health risk for people with diabetes and a less than optimal choice for those looking to lose weight. It also has a high level of gluten, so people with celiac disease should steer clear. Finally, it’s a bit pricier.

Gluten-Free Bread Flour

This flour type is ideal for people sensitive to gluten and those with celiac disease. Several brands sell gluten-free flour, including Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur.

Rye Bread Flour

Rye bread flour is made by milling rye grain. It is best used to bake yeast bread and flatbreads. The bread varies in color from white to dark brown and they take on a round shape.

This flour has less starch and protein (8.0 -17.7) but high fiber and sugars. Some recipes require rye flour and wheat flour in a 50:50 ratio when baking rye bread. Some popular brands selling rye flour include King Arthur, Bob’s Red Mill, Great River, and Herbaila.

rye bread flour

Cornbread Flour

Cornbread flour is made when the corn kernel is ground into a fine powder. This flour is rich in protein, fiber, minerals (iron, potassium, and magnesium), and starch. It is yellow and has an earthy yet sweet taste. It is mainly used in bread, pancakes, pastries, and waffles.

Wholemeal Bread Flour

Milling wholegrains makes a rough wholemeal bread flour to retain the bran and germ. The flour has a brown color and has more fiber and protein. It also has plenty of vitamins and minerals. It is primarily used to bake soda bread.

Summing Up

This winning flour is essential for every pantry, especially those who can’t go a week without having a slice of fresh-baked bread. We hope this guide has been helpful in your baking journey!