If this is your first time making bread, you might think all flour is the same, but it’s not.
Bakers typically use wheat to make flour because it has the right proteins to make the dough rise properly. Wheat flour is easy to work with and gives baked goods a nice texture. High protein dough is more stretchy and chewy, which is good for bread.
Flour is usually made by grinding grains into powder, but some flours come from vegetables, nuts, and seeds. There are many types of baking flour, so it’s essential to use the right one for each recipe. This information will help you understand the different types of flour and how they are important for making bread.
Bread flour is an unbleached type of flour that makes the best bread. It is made with mostly hard wheat and has more protein (10-15%) than other flours. This extra protein makes the dough strong and elastic, helping the bread rise better and stay in shape. Bread flour can absorb more liquid than other flours, so it holds its shape and rises, making lighter and chewier bread. Bread flour is sometimes also called bread machine bread flour. If you use good yeast with bread flour, you will get great bread!
Unless the recipe says otherwise, you should always use “bread flour” in your bread maker for white bread recipes.
Bread flour Substitution
If you don’t have bread flour, you can make your own bread flour by adding ½ tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
You can buy vital wheat gluten on Amazon, in health food stores, or in some supermarkets.
You can use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour in recipes, but you need to add extra water because of the extra protein.
All-purpose flour is the best for baking because it can be used for many recipes. It is made from a mix of different wheat types, making it suitable for making bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, and pie crusts. All-purpose flour has a medium amount of protein (8-12%), which makes it strong enough for bread and soft sufficient for pastries.
There are two types of all-purpose flour: bleached and unbleached. You can use them both for most recipes, but unbleached is better for rustic bread, while bleached is better for cakes and pastries.
Special flours like cake and bread flour may give slightly better results, but most people can’t tell the difference.
You should NOT use cake flour or self-rising flour in your bread maker.
Differences between bread flour and all-purpose flour
While all-purpose and bread flour are similar, they have some differences. Mixing them up won’t ruin your baked goods, but it might affect your recipe slightly. If your recipe doesn’t specify which flour to use, you can try both and see which works better. Bread flour is good for a tighter texture and holds its shape well, while all-purpose flour is slightly more tender and has a more open texture. Some people prefer bread flour because they think it has a higher success rate, while others like all-purpose flour because it can be used in more ways.
Substituting one for the other might affect the dough’s consistency and the bread’s structure, but you can still make a great loaf with either.
Pay attention to the amount of gluten contained in the flour
When you make bread dough, gluten helps it stick together and have an elastic consistency. Bread flour has more gluten, 13% (10-15%), than all-purpose flour, 11% (8-12%), but can be used interchangeably. Gluten levels can vary between brands, which affects how much flour you use and how the dough turns out. Finding the right combination of ingredients that works for you may take some experimentation, but don’t worry! High-quality all-purpose flour can also make delicious bread.
Determining the amount of gluten in the flour
To find out how much gluten is in flour, check the label on the bag. If it says 12 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving, the protein content is 12%. Flour with lots of protein has more gluten, and flour with less protein has less gluten.
What happens when the gluten content is low?
If you use all-purpose flour with low protein content, your bread won’t rise as much, but it’s still suitable for making cookies and cakes. If you don’t use flour with enough protein, your bread might get small when it cools. It will be denser and crumbly instead of fluffy.
What happens when the protein level is too high?
Bread made with flour that has more protein (called high gluten levels) will be chewier, rise higher and be more stable; it will hold its shape and be less dense. The protein makes the dough strong, which helps it rise and bake well. This makes the bread have a different texture. You can make your bread less chewy or more airy by balancing the amount of water, yeast, and fat in your recipe.
Whole wheat flour
You can use whole wheat flour in your bread maker on the “Whole Wheat” setting. This flour has more nutrients than all-purpose or bread flour and gives baked goods a nutty flavour and dense texture. Although it has more protein than other flours, it does not make bread rise as high because it contains the entire wheat kernel. The bran in the flour has sharp edges that can cut the gluten strands in the dough, which makes the bread less able to rise.
Varieties of wheat berries available
There are two types of wheat berries, red and white. They can be either hard or soft, depending on when they are planted. Whole wheat flour usually comes from red wheat, while white whole wheat flour comes from milder white wheat. “winter” and “spring” terms tell when the wheat was sown. Typically, colder northern areas plant spring wheat, while warmer southern regions plant winter wheat.
White whole wheat
White whole wheat is a type of flour that comes from white spring wheat. It is light in colour and tastes mild. It is great for bakers who don’t want to use red whole wheat with a stronger taste and colour. You can easily find white whole wheat flour, and it tastes familiar.
Even though some recipes use all-purpose or bread flour, it’s possible to make good bread with 100% white whole wheat flour.
Red whole wheat flour
Red whole wheat flour is made from red wheat, which has more fibre. You can make whole wheat sandwich bread or add it to your baked goods.
To start, replace 25% of the flour in your recipe with red whole wheat flour and then increase it if you like it.
Substituting whole wheat flour for white (bread or all-purpose) flour
Using whole wheat flour doesn’t always require a particular recipe. You can swap white whole wheat for regular white flour in many of your favourite recipes. Red whole wheat flour can also be used in most recipes for all-purpose or bread flour. However, I recommend using bread flour rather than all-purpose for the remaining to ensure you have developed enough gluten.
Adjust your liquids
If you add whole wheat flour, you might need more liquid. After mixing for 10-20 minutes, check the consistency of the dough by following the instructions in “Check the dough ball.”
Substitute some of the liquid with orange juice to make the bread less harsh. While it doesn’t lend any flavour, orange juice tempers whole wheat’s potentially more robust flavour.
Try the best ratio of whole wheat and bread flour
If you don’t like the taste of 100% whole wheat bread, you can use a mixture of whole wheat and bread flour to make a healthier and lighter loaf of bread. Finding the right flour ratio is important to make the bread taste good.
25% Whole wheat
To make light-coloured bread, start using 25% whole wheat flour. Suppose you like how it turns out initially. In that case, you can gradually increase whole wheat flour until you find your favourite balance.
50% Whole wheat
You don’t need to change your recipe if you use white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour. The result should be similar to the original. But if you use red whole wheat flour, add 1/2 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten for every cup of whole wheat flour to make it lighter.
100% Whole wheat
Making bread with 100% or a high percentage (more than 50%) of whole-wheat flour will be shorter and denser than white bread flour because there is less gluten-forming protein. To adjust the dough consistency, add 2 more teaspoons of liquid for every cup of whole-wheat flour and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before kneading. Most of the bread makers’ “Whole Wheat” setting. already do this.
Make it lighter
Vital Wheat Gluten can help make whole wheat bread better. Adding it can make the bread lighter and chewier and stop it from falling apart when baked. If you use 100% or a high percentage (more than 50%) of whole wheat flour, add half a tablespoon of Vital Wheat Gluten to each cup of flour to make a taller loaf. If the bread is still not tall enough, add a little more until you get what you want. It’s optional, but I suggest adding it for a fluffy loaf.
Storing whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour comes from the entire wheat kernel, so it can go bad if not stored properly. So it’s best to keep it in the fridge or freezer. Let it come to room temperature before using it in recipes. If you don’t, your dough will take longer to rise. The flour should smell and taste like wheat, not musty or stale.
Vital wheat gluten (also called Gluten flour or Wheat gluten or Pure protein)
This flour is beneficial when using low-gluten flour. It helps to make the bread lighter and more elastic and keeps its structure and shape without making it tough to eat. Vital wheat gluten is powdered wheat flour containing over 70% protein. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starches are removed, leaving only the protein (gluten) behind.
Adding gluten flour
To make your bread stronger and better, you can add a small amount of “vital wheat gluten.” This will make it more protein-filled, improve the texture, and enhance the bread volume. It’s essential to do this if you’re using 25% of the total flour that doesn’t have a lot of gluten, like all-purpose, whole wheat, rye, cornmeal, soy, or oatmeal.
- For hard rolls or dense bread such as French, Italian, raisin, or dark bread, including rye, add about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten for every cup of low-gluten flour.
- For yeast-raised sweet goods, pretzels or crackers, add 1 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten for every cup of low- or no-gluten flour.
- Bagels and pizza dough will also be better if you use high-gluten flour.
This will produce a taller loaf. However, if your bread is still too short, increase by adding an extra teaspoon of vital wheat gluten until you get the desired results (and write down the amounts you’re using!).
It’s important to remember two things when choosing flour for baking:
- Quality – Get the best quality flour you can find. Many companies use chemicals to whiten flour. Some don’t.
- Protein Content – Each type of flour has a specific protein content. The higher the protein, the stronger the flour. Using suitable flour for your recipe is essential, with a protein content that matches. Some brands have inconsistent protein levels, leading to inconsistent baking results. Using flour with consistent protein levels is the key to getting the best and most consistent baking results at home.
How to make minor adjustments to the dough
If the recipe tells you to use a specific flour, it’s because the recipe was made to work best with that flour. The recipe creators ensured the flour’s protein level matched the amount of liquid needed, which made the dough rise ideally. However, you can experiment with different types of flour, like whole wheat or rye, to get different flavours and textures. The main ingredients in bread are water, flour, and yeast, and the ratio of wheat flour should stay the same. But sometimes, there are exceptions and you may need to make minor adjustments to the dough.
You might have to try different flour brands until you find the perfect one to make good bread. Even if two flours look the same, they can differ based on how they were grown, stored, etc. You may have to adjust your recipe slightly and consider the weather when using different flour brands.
Check the consistency of the dough
Follow the recipe for how much flour to use, but check the dough after mixing for 10-20 minutes to ensure it’s not too dry or wet. This is important to avoid unexpected results.
Avoid adding freezing flour to the liquid when baking, as it could compromise yeast activity. Before baking, remove the flour from the freezer to keep it at room temperature. If you need to know the temperature of the flour, use a thermometer to check.
For best results, you must carefully measure the flour. Too much flour will make the bread dry and heavy, while too little will make it spread instead of rising.
What are the basic ingredients to make basic bread?
The basic ingredients to make bread are like instruments in an orchestra; each one does a specific job and gives a unique flavour to the bread. The right amount of each ingredient is essential to get the best taste. When you bake bread, a reaction happens to make a final masterpiece.
Excellent bread is as good as the ingredients that go into it. The basics for bread are simple: liquid like water or milk, fat like butter or oil, flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Bread can taste better using additional ingredients, different grains and flours. There are also quite a few bread improvers that you can add to your home-baked bread, depending on what quality you are trying to improve.
I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to step into the kitchen and prepare delicious meals to eat with a handful of close friends.
Have you made a Fast2eat Recipe? I love seeing your take on my recipe!