Flour is the main ingredient in many delicious baked goods and has been for about 30,000 years, according to the Scientific American. The key to a great finished product is following the proportions in the recipe and selecting ingredients that get the job done. There are many flours lining the shelves of the grocery stores, from bread flour to pastry to all-purpose and more. When it comes to making bread, the choices are confusing. Which is best after all, all-purpose vs. bread flour?
What is flour?
Everybody knows flour is the white fluffy stuff you use to make baked goods, but not everyone knows how flour gets that way. Flour starts out its life as grains of wheat. Once harvested the grains or seeds are pulverized. Bleached flours are bleached for whiteness, which once was highly favored, but is not used as much now as the unbleached variety. Whole-wheat flours are ground with the outer bran layer in tact. Whole-wheat flours are coarser and not suitable for finer baked products with a delicate crumb. Whole-wheat flours offer fiber and a nutty taste that is commonly used together with white flours.
What is all-purpose flour?
All-purpose flour is commonly thought of as the flour that can be used in any recipe. This is partially true. All-purpose flour is made of the inner part of the wheat called the endosperm. All-purpose flour differs from other types of flours due to the medium balance of protein and starch, according to How Stuff Works. This allows the flour to be suitable for most applications but not necessarily the ideal choice in some cases, like bread baking for example. All-purpose flour is great for cookies, biscuits, muffins and quick breads.
What is bread flour?
The key to great yeast breads is a crunchy crust and a moist but chewy interior. The ingredient that makes this possible is gluten, a protein found in all flour but especially bread flour. These breads are best when a bread flour is used rather than an all-purpose flour. The ratio of protein to carbohydrates in bread flour is much greater than all-purpose flour contains. About 10 to 13 percent of flour is gluten protein. The protein in bread flour provides structure, strength and texture.
Why is gluten so important?
Bread needs three key ingredients, starch, enzymes and yeast to become bread, states Bake Info. Starch stores the food or sugars that the yeast needs to ferment. Enzymes are proteins, which speed up the process that turns the starch into sugars, which feed the yeast. The yeast reacts by fermenting, creating carbon dioxide-the spongy, holey loft in bread-and alcohol. The starches also interact with the gluten, causing it to release water that is absorbed by the starches, plumping them up and making the gluten firmer, which gives the bread it's structure. This process is why using bread flour with the right amount of gluten is so important.