What is Bread Flour?
You’ve seen it on the grocery store shelf many times, but have you ever wondered what makes bread flour so special? Or why it’s so much better than all-purpose or cake flour for making bread? All home bakers know, different flours product different results, so let’s take a closer look at bread flour and why it’s just what you need for making that crusty loaf.
What is Bread Flour?
Bread flour is a high-gluten flour comprised of 99.8% hard-wheat, and a minimal amount of malt barley to enhance the yeast activity. It has a protein content of 11-13% and plenty of vitamin C, which works to improve the gluten elastic of the flour.
How to Cook with Bread Flour
Bread flour is the go-to option when you prefer a chewier result. The high levels of protein mean high levels of gluten, which is the key to bread’s telltale texture. In fact, it is called “bread flour” simply because most bread recipes require a higher level of gluten in order to achieve the desired texture.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a substance present in cereal grains, namely wheat, which creates the elastic texture that we see in dough. When you can pull the dough, and it stretches, that is thanks to the gluten content. Gluten itself is simply a collection of protein that helps food maintain its shape.
Bread Flour Substitutions
While bread flour yields a much chewier crust or bread, it is possible to substitute all-purpose flour for similar results. When doing so, the ratio should be kept at 1:1. Conversely, you can feel free to use bread flour in recipes that call for all-purpose flour - but expect a little lift, especially in roll and loaf recipes.
Health Benefits of Bread Flour
There are a few key health benefits associated with high-gluten flour such as bread flour. One of the primary benefits is that bread flour is rich in folic acid, which supports brain function and assists the body by processing energy. Bread flour provides 34-50% of the recommended amount of daily folic acid.
How to Store Bread Flour
If stored properly, bread flour can have a shelf life of at least a year. It is acceptable to keep bread flour at room temperature, but to prolong its use, store it in an airtight container or sealable bag. A few other tips include:
Place the flour in the freezer for at least 48 hours to kill any weevils or insect eggs that may be present.
Transfer to an airtight container ASAP.
Store in a dry place away from direct sunlight.
If stored in the freezer, bread flour can remain good for several years (although it is suggested to use it within one year).
So long as the flour looks and smells okay, then it is likely still good. Toss out if the quality of the flour diminishes.
Bread Flour Recipes
The best recipes for bread flour are those that require high protein levels to improve the texture of the breads. Common recipes include:
You can of course experiment with putting bread flour in all kinds of recipes that don’t traditionally contain a lot of gluten - but be prepared for some interesting results!