Difference between Bread Flour and All-Purpose Flour

Published on January 11, 2017

Many people think that when a recipe calls for flour, it means all-purpose flour. Many of us do not know, however, there are actually different types of flour used in baking. Two of the most commonly confused types are bread flour and all-purpose flour. Can we use all-purpose flour when bread flour is not available? Will they have the same effect? The difference between the two will be discussed in this article.


Bread Flour vs All-Purpose Flour

Bread flour is a type of flour that made from hard wheat. Its high protein (12-14%) and gluten content is best for yeasted baking. The high amount of gluten in bread flour makes the dough supple and elastic, resulting in a heavy, dense and chewy crumb. Although it is commonly used for yeasted baked goods, bread flour can be used for non-bread products like cookies and fruit cakes or any baked good that needs a structured or firm crumb.

Bread flour can be used as a replacement for all-purpose flour but the result will not be the same. In cookie recipes, for example, bread flour will cause the cookies to be chewy and not crispy.

all-purpose flour

On the other hand, all-purpose flour is made from a combination of soft and hard wheat. It has about 10-12% protein content. Because of its gluten level, this flour can be used for almost everything (hence, the name “all-purpose”): cakes, biscuits, cookies, pizza crust, and even sauce.

All-purpose flour, or “plain” flour in some countries, is widely available in stores. It is important to note, however, that using a specific type of flour indicated in a recipe (e.g. bread flour, cake flour, whole wheat, etc.) will deliver a different and better result than just using plain flour.

Bread Flour vs All-Purpose Flour

What, then, is the difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour?

Bread flour is specifically formulated for yeasted baking, while all-purpose flour can be used for any baking or cooking recipe. Bread flour has a protein content of 12-14% while all-purpose flour has 10-12% protein level.

Additionally, bread flour is made from hard wheat, so the end product will be chewy, dense, firm and structured. All-purpose flour, on the other hand, is a combination of soft and hard wheat, which results in a soft crumb.

Comparison Chart

Bread FlourAll-Purpose Flour
Has about 12-14% protein content which means high glutenHas about 10-12% protein content
Results in a denser and more structured crumbOften results in softer crumb
Originally made for yeasted bakingCan be used for almost all baking or cooking recipes
Made from hard wheatA combination of hard and soft wheat