Difference Between AP Flour and Bread Flour

Difference Between AP Flour and Bread Flour

Flour is one of the most popular ingredients in bread baking and other baked goods. Artisan bread flour is a specific type used for particular recipes. However, due to its wide varieties, there are times that AP Flour or all purpose flour can be mistaken as wheat flour.

By understanding the differences, you can determine the right flour to use for your baked goods. Read our guide and choose the best pastry flour for your next recipe!

What Is Flour?

Flour is made by grinding grain into a fine powder, which can then be used to create various baked good recipes. You can use this to make cookies, cakes, tortillas, muffins and bread.

It’s best to note that no flour is built the same. Some are better than others. For instance, grain flours, like whole wheat flour, have different protein content that influences gluten development, which is essential in the rise and texture of baked items.

In fact, other flours don’t come from grains at all and come from different nuts, vegetables, and seeds. For instance, coconut flour literally comes from dried, ground coconut meat. There are also other four variations, like pastry flour and cake flour, among others.

However, despite the fact that there are many different flours, the two most common baking flours that are usually confused are bread flour and all-purpose flour. While they are very similar, the two have distinct differences that are necessary to note, especially when baking bread.

Though that may sound cautionary, mixing the two won’t necessarily ruin your bread—it will only slightly affect its quality.

All purpose flour, rolling pin, and wheat on wooden table

What is AP Flour or All Purpose Flour?

As its name suggests, AP flour is designed for all-purpose use. It can be used to bake bread, cookies, and cakes. Bleached flour, like all-purpose flour, usually contains less protein than unbleached flour due to the bleaching process, which affects its function in baking.

While bread flour contains higher protein content than AP flour, all-purpose flour does have some protein. This allows the flour to stay firm and hold its form while still giving cakes the perfect texture.

With some adjustments, you can adjust AP flour to bake bread. It is specifically good for particular types of bread, like Irish soda bread. Whether you want organic AP flour or regular, all-purpose flour is the go-to flour when baking. While speciality flour like bread flour and cake flour may deliver a better result than all-purpose flour, the differences are subtle and hardly noticeable to those who love to eat baked goods!

What Is Bread Flour?

When it was first made, bread flour was meant to be used with yeast to create perfect baked goods, especially bread. Bread flour has more protein, which helps form more gluten and makes bread rise better. Whole wheat flour also has more protein than all-purpose flour, improving gluten formation and texture in bread.

Due to its higher protein content, bread flour absorbs more liquid, helping it hold its shape well and rise upwards rather than spreading out. This makes bread flour very strong and ideal for baking different types of bread.

The high gluten in bread flour makes the dough more stretchy, leading to bread that is lighter and chewier instead of dense and crumbly.

Can I Substitute Bread Flour and All Purpose Flour?

If you are wondering if you can substitute bread flour with all-purpose flour, the answer is yes. However, you must note that the results may not be exactly the same. Nevertheless, it will not ruin your baked goods, and you can still get good results — just different quality.

You can use all-purpose flour in different bread recipes that need a tender, fluffy texture, like no-knead focaccia and cinnamon rolls. Whether you are making muffins, pancakes, cookies or bread, it typically depends on the results you want.

Though it is possible to substitute the two, note that the flour specifically made for a particular recipe will always deliver the best result. For instance, if you are baking bread, the bread flour will yield the best outcome.

Bear in mind that certain baking recipes are created with particular flour in mind. Due to this, the flour tends to work the best during the baking process.

A person shaping bread dough on a kitchen counter

The Difference Between Bread Flour vs All Purpose Flour

The main differences between bread flour and all-purpose flour are the protein and gluten content. Bread flour has more protein and gluten, which makes it perfect for airy, chewy bread that needs time to rise.

All-purpose flour has less protein, which makes it better for cookies and cakes that don’t need a lot of rising. The following are the main differences:

  • Bread flour has a higher protein content (around 13%), giving dough more stability, form, and rise, helping it lift and hold its shape.
  • All-purpose flour has less protein, resulting in lighter, shorter breads, which is ideal for cookies, cakes, and more.
  • All-purpose flour has less gluten compared to bread flour.
  • The higher gluten content in bread flour makes it perfect for airy, chewy bread, rather than dense bread.
  • Whole grain flours have different impacts on gluten development and texture because of their varying protein content.

When To Use Bread Flour

Bread flour is perfect for recipes where you want a chewy or stretchy texture. This includes bread, pizza dough, soft pretzels, breadsticks, pita bread, and focaccia.

When To Use All Purpose Flour

All-purpose flour is best for making soft, versatile baked goods rather than chewy ones. Use it for muffins, cakes, biscuits, pie crusts, and banana bread.

A Chart of the Difference Between All Purpose Flour and Bread Flour

Final Thoughts

Knowing the difference between AP flour and bread flour is valuable. This way, you can get the best baking result you always wanted.

Always remember that your flour choice can make a difference in your baking result, so choose wisely based on the recipe you are making. To help you with that, consider checking out our comprehensive guide in Eat Think Be Merry.

Here, you can get a comprehensive guide for more food recipes, other guides, and food locations to enjoy your culinary journey. Visit our website today!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is AP flour good for bread?

Yes, AP flour can be used for bread, but bread flour is better. Bread flour has more protein, which helps make the bread chewier and rise better. For the best results, use bread flour, but AP flour will work in a pinch.

Does bread flour have more protein than AP flour?

Bread flour contains higher protein levels than all-purpose flour. This extra protein helps make bread chewier and gives it a better rise.

Is Bread Flour More Expensive than AP Flour?

Bread flour is usually more pricey than all purpose flour. Bread flour tends to have better baking qualities for those who love to bake fresh bread at home. If you love your bread chewy or airy, the bread flour is worth the extra cost. 

How To: Know The Difference Between Bread Flour and All-Purpose Flour