What is all-purpose flour in the UK?
It is typical of the difference between the two countries that the US has developed different names for certain foods, and flour is no exception. All-purpose flour is ‘Plain flour’ in the UK. Self-rising is called self-raising. Also, there is Indian plain flour, which is called maida. You can buy Maida from online Indian groceries in the USA as well as the UK.
On the subject of Indian flour, if you want to cook with wholemeal flour, get some Indian wholemeal flour, known as ‘Atta’; it is much more refined than the regular wholemeal flour in both the US and the UK. All-purpose flour is an American term, not British. Or if it is, it’s an American term that’s been imported here.
In most British shops, you will find two main types of flour.
- Plain four with no raising agent in it, for such items as pancake batter, thickening agent for soups or gravies, etc.
- Self-raising flour that has baking powder added to it to enable baked goods to rise, such as cakes, etc.
- “All-Purpose Flour” is the US equivalent of what we know in the UK to be “Plain Flour.”
Did you know that you can turn your plain flour into the self-raising variety by adding baking soda? You just need to add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda per cup of flour.
The sheer number of options is not an industry ploy to get you to spend more money. Although all-purpose flour will work in your recipes most of the time, switching to one of the more specific varieties can produce a higher quality baked product. Take bread flour, which, as the name suggests, is meant to be used to make bread; even Paul Hollywood suggests using it instead of all-purpose flour. But what exactly is this about this ingredient that makes it better, and how is it used? Stay tuned to find out all that and more.
What is bread flour?
Flour has been around for over 30,000 years (via History of Bread ), but bread flour only came onto the scene a few hundred years ago. According to Bakerpedia, the initial origins of this variety can be traced back to the United Kingdom in 1886. However, it was not patented until 1902 in Boston by Joseph Lee.
If this wasn’t obvious enough, bread flour does its best work when used to make bread products, but more specifically, Webstaurant Store says it was designed for ‘leavened bread’. It is referred to as strong flour in the UK or sometimes as durum wheat flour because it is milled from durum spring wheat (via King Arthur Bread). This variety of the pantry staple is wide in protein which, in turn, it makes it rich in gluten, also known as the substance that gives bread dough structure and texture to the final product.
Is all-purpose flour the same as plain flour?
Yes. Plain flour is known in places like Australia. All-purpose flour is known in places like the USA and the Philippines. So when you are reading recipes, you can translate this one as is. Note that some people will also try to tell you that all-purpose is good for bread, biscuits, cookies, etc. All-purpose is not that all-purpose.
Hence, it is better termed “plain” flour. Use bread flour for bread (hard wheat flour with a higher protein content); use cake flour for some biscuits or cookies (lower protein content).
Note also that self-raising flour, which is common in Australia, is unheard of in other parts of the world. So don’t mistake self-raising flour for plain or all-purpose flour.
You will get quite a different result. But you can make your own self-raising flour. Approximately 15 grams of baking powder (yes, powder, not baking soda) to 300 grams of plain (all-purpose) flour Depending on the recipe, add a pinch of salt if it is quite a sweet cake.
Flours come in many varieties, but the most commonly used is usually wheat flour.
This comes in different varieties:
Bread flour, sometimes called strong flour, has a higher protein content (~12–14%) and is ideal for bread, pizza, and similar preparations.
Cake flour, also called top flour or weak flour sometimes, has a low protein content (~8–9%) and is ideal for cakes, cookies, and pastry.
Plain or all-purpose flour is somewhat in between with its protein content (9–11%) and is usually suited for many preparations, including some bread and some pastries, and many other uses in the kitchen.
Then, of course, there is semolina, which is flour from durum wheat used to make pasta (like spaghetti). There are also other types of specialized flours as well.
What is plain flour used for?
I assume you don’t mean potato, rice, or cornflour, but you are referring to wheat flour. The plain flour is used for making anything that you do not want to “rise”—that is, become fluffy—like most bread and almost all cakes.
If it is all you’ve got, you can make it into self-raising flour by adding a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (“baking powder”). The other thing it is useful for is thickening some gravies or soups: a small amount is mixed into a cream with cold water, then dribbled into the hot liquid and stirred, which thickens the mixture within a minute or so.
I’m assuming you mean what is generally referred to as “general-purpose flour”. It’s wheat flour that is kind of Goldilocks… not too high nor too low in gluten.
Professional chefs often use “hard wheat flour” (high gluten) or “soft wheat flour” (low gluten) for whatever they are doing. But home chefs tend to use general-purpose stuff. And in home recipes, it’s used in all kinds of stuff—bread, thickening soups, crepes, and cookies.
“Self-rising flour” is the same thing, but with added baking powder. It’s not so popular these days. If you want non-wheat flour, GF flours like Namaste mimic what general-purpose flour does, but without the wheat. I find it works about one-to-one, so I use my old recipes from Joy of Cooking.
What is the difference between “strong flour” and “plain flour”?
Strong flour is a flour with a higher protein content. So-called plain or all-purpose flour has a lower protein content and is therefore not suitable for a wide range of baked products that need protein, most importantly bread and bread rolls. In other words, it is not all-purpose at all.
The reason why there is flour with different protein content is due to (1) quality and (2) sifting. Low-quality flour already has a lower protein content than high-quality flour.
Bakeries rely on a stable supply of flour that behaves consistently. They cannot maintain a production schedule if the properties of the flour change all the time. For this reason, mills mix different flours to obtain a flour that has a consistent protein content.
Also, when the grain is milled, certain parts, such as the bran and endosperm, are removed to obtain white flour. The flour goes through several stages of sifting.
The more it is sifted, the less protein will remain. The sifted-out rougher flour may then be used to prop up some other flour to have a higher protein content to be sold to bakeries.
Some low-protein flour is therefore leftover and then sold cheaply in supermarkets, mostly to consumers because bakeries don’t usually use it.
The most noticeable impact of low protein content is that a dough made from low protein flour will not as easily ferment as dough made from strong flour. This means if you try to make bread from low protein flour, the loaf will not rise well.
Lower protein flour is mostly used for pastries where rising isn’t as important.
In Europe, most countries have a classification system that indicates protein content. The classification is usually based on the weight of ash left when a certain amount of flour is burned in a furnace. In France, a flour of type 45 means that 450 milligrams of mineral ash were left when burning 100 g of flour.
All–purpose flour means plain flour in the UK. It is more refined than wholemeal and less refined than Indian plain flour, known as maida. In Germany, the closest would be Type 405, which means a remainder of 405 milligrams of mineral ash in 100 g of flour. Types 45 and 405 are low-protein flours only suitable for pastries but not for bread.
In the United States, those might be sold as all-purpose flour. Type 1050 would be a strong flour. Also known as all–purpose flour, cake flour, cream flour, this flour is low in gluten and protein. This is perfect for making biscuits and pastry – where a crumbly texture is needed, this is the one! Plain flour is also used for pancakes, crumbles, shortcrust pastry etc.
It is commonly used for cakes, pastries and biscuits. When used in cakes it is combined with a raising agent such as baking powder or bicarbonate of soda. It is also used in quick breads like soda bread, producing a more densely textured loaf.
How to bake with bread flour
Along with loaves of bread (yes, that includes sourdough!), bread flour is great for pizza dough, pretzels, rolls, and bagels and can even take your chocolate chip cookies to the next level. The best kind of flour to use is called for in a recipe, but if you’re making one of the treats listed above and don’t see anything specified, you can just as easily use bread flour, although there are a few. Things you need to know to make sure everything goes smoothly.
There’s no need to adjust the requested amount, though The New York Times explains that the higher protein content in bread flour can make the dough a bit dry.
It’s also essential to make sure you knead your dough sufficiently when using bread flour, as this is where the gluten strands form that will ultimately give your baked bread a desirable texture (via Webstaurant Store ).
How do bakers flour and bread flour different?
The amount of gluten (or protein) each has. Bakers flour makes for a fluffier, lighter batter, while bread flour would make for a denser product. Think about the difference between an angel cake and a pizza crust; that’s the difference between those flours.
This Kiwi website Flour Types- BakeInfo (Baking Industry Research Trust) says that baker’s flour (a term not used in the USA) is medium to strong flour used for bread making.
Bread flour is a high protein and hence high gluten (and thus strong flour) used for bread making. So, I guess they are pretty similar but you would have to compare the protein content on each brand to be sure.
I apologize if you are aware of this already, but two proteins in flour form gluten when the flour is hydrated (ie you add water) and especially when you knead the dough.
Gluten holds the bread up when it rises, pushed by CO2 gas given off by the yeast. Because of its structural strength, gluten also impacts a chewy texture. So, baked products like cookies and cake use low gluten flour (called cake or pastry flour in the USA).
All-Purpose flour is in the middle with protein and will make OK cookies and bread, but not the best. If you want traditional artisan bread, go for a high protein bread flour. Bagels are meant to be chewy and are made from high gluten flour, even more, protein-rich than conventional bread flour.
Four All-Purpose Flour Alternatives
One of the most commonly used types of flour is the all–purpose flour or plain flour (also known as pastry flour or cream flour). So, the answer to the question; is all–purpose flour the same as plain flour, is a resounding yes there is no difference!
To substitute self–rising for all–purpose flour, look for recipes that use baking powder: about ½ teaspoon per cup of flour, minimum. … Self–rising flour will work just fine in recipes using about 1/2 teaspoon (and up to 1 teaspoon*) baking powder per cup of flour.
All–purpose flour, also known as refined flour or simply flour, is made from wheat grains after removing the brown covering. It is then milled, refined and bleached. It is very common in Indian cuisine specially for various many Indian breads.
- Chickpea Flour. Relatively new to American households, chickpea flour (also called garbanzo bean flour or besan in Indian kitchens) is arguably one of my favorite ingredients.
- Rice Flour.
- Almond Flour.
- Buckwheat Flour.
- Buckwheat Flour Flapjacks.
Here’s how to make your bread flour at home.
You don’t need to go to a speciality grocery store to buy a bag of bread flour; it can usually find at your local market. However, if you do find yourself looking at a shelf with limited options, there are a few things you can do if you have your heart set on baking a loaf of bread.
Her shopping list for this is surprisingly short. It only includes all-purpose flour and vital wheat gluten, which Kitchen describes as a ‘superpower flour’ (although it’s not technically flour) that’s high in gluten and low starch content.
Baking has become a trendy hobby lately, with so many people turning to the activity that has caused a significant shortage of flour. Thankfully, that seems to be a thing of the past (or is it?), so if you couldn’t try whipping up a cake, cookie, or loaf of bread, now might finally be the time to try.
Hopefully, a trip down the baking isolate at your local grocery store will (hopefully) have everything you need. However, you may find yourself with some questions, especially when choosing a bag of flour. Who knew that there are so many types? There’s all-purpose flour, which is the one we’re most familiar with, but also bread, cake, and yeast, to name a few. Some speciality supermarkets even carry cricket flour, but that’s a story for another day.
All-purpose flour UK and the USA