Most people have heard of plain or self raising flour– but some bakers may have not heard of strong bread flour.
What is strong flour and what is it used for?
Strong Bread Flour is Higher in Protein
Strong bread flour is another name for bread flour. The main difference between strong bread flour and other types of flour is its protein content. Strong bread flour is made from “hard” wheat varieties and has more protein, from 12 to 14 percent. This creates more rise and structural support in the dough, allowing the final product to lift and hold shape. It also creates a chewier texture and more browning in the crust.
For comparison, plain flour typically contains only 10 to 12 percent protein, resulting in lighter textures, which is ideal for cookies, cakes and other baking products that don’t need to expand and rise.
Strong Bread Flour in Baking
The protein in flour corresponds with the amount of gluten that is formed when mixed with water. Bread dough requires kneading, which not only mixes the ingredients together, but also combines the proteins in the flour (glutenin and gliadin) to form gluten.
Gluten creates an elastic and stretchy structure, giving bread its chewy quality. It also results in the characteristic holes in bread (think baguettes or ciabattas).
The gluten is what gives bread its structure, making it “stronger”. The higher protein content in strong bread flour is what gives bread its airiness, chewiness and texture. While plain flours can also be used to make bread, strong bread flour will always have better bread results.
Flours with lower amounts of protein will have less structure when baked, resulting in a lighter or more crumbly product, such as cakes and cookies. Dedicated cake and pastry flour has even less protein than plain flour, creating even more fluffy and tender textures.
Recipes that require strong bread flour depend on its high protein content. Substitutions for strong flour will need to have comparable levels of protein, such as spelt flour or wholemeal flour. Still, they are not perfectly interchangeable since the protein content will still differ.
When Should I Use Strong Bread Flour and When Should I Use Plain Flour?
Which flour you should use depends on what you have available and what you want to make. Ideally, you should always use the specific flour called for in the recipe. Strong bread flour can be used for making a white bloomer or sourdough loaf, or baking chewier food such as pretzels or bagels.
Plain flour should be used for baking food that has a lighter, tender, or flaky texture such as cakes or pie crusts.
You can see why it’s important to choose the right type of flour – you wouldn’t want to eat toast that is as soft as cake, or pizza crust that crumbles like a cookie.
Every flour is different. Strong bread flour is a great addition to any pantry for those wanting to experiment with texture in their baking results.
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