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How do I adjust bread-machine bread when using all-purpose flour instead of bread flour?

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I am a beginner when it comes to bread, and for expedience I make almost all of my bread using a bread machine. I've always used bread flour, followed the proportions specified in the instructions, measuring by volume (overfill then level off), and gotten acceptable results.

Due to global events, for the last three months bread flour has become nearly impossible to get where I live. I've now gone through all my supply, with one lonely cup or so taunting me from its canister. So now I must switch to all-purpose flour.

In my first loaf I made a straight substitution (per Cooks Illustrated) in a French bread, i.e. a bread that didn't also involve other flour types like rye. The loaf was okay but it felt a little under-developed. (I don't know how to describe this, sorry.) I read somewhere (don't remember where) that when using all-purpose flour instead of bread flour the dough will be a little too wet and I need to add "a little more" flour. I've heard everything from a teaspoon per cup to a tablespoon per cup. I don't have a good sense of how to judge this by look/feel.

Is there any more-specific wisdom I can apply, or do I need to keep trying different adjustments and keep notes so I can work it out for myself?

Why should this post be closed?

2 comments

I myself quite honestly had no idea there even was such a thing as a specific "bread flour". Bread mixes, yes, but not a specific type of flour. You may want to edit the title to make this a little more clear. ‭aCVn‭ 4 months ago

Thanks @aCVn, done. I didn't know bread flour was a special thing until I got a bread machine (years ago now). Before that, bread came from the store, always. :-) ‭Monica Cellio‭ 4 months ago

2 answers

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The major (I say major - that's a relative term) difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour is the gluten and protein content; bread flour has more of both. In practical terms, this means that bread flour rises slightly more and that dough made with bread flour is more coherent and less prone to falling apart.

Realistically, you can just straight substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour if you don't have any of the latter. You mention that you've got a little bread flour left over, which you can just mix into the all-purpose. Beyond that, if you really want to make up for it, you can:

  • Add a small (and I mean small - no more than 10% extra, at most) amount more yeast to compensate for the lower rise;
  • Add a likewise small amount of something like xanthan gum to compensate for the lower gluten - this will help bind the dough, but again you don't need much.

If you don't have more yeast and have never heard of xanthan gum... just use the all-purpose and don't worry about it.

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I add a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten per cup of AP flour, when I need to boost the protein content. Most of the time, however, AP is perfectly sufficient. AP is often about 12% gluten, bread flour can approach 15%. I think you can comfortably skip it for a bread machine.

eta. Are you shaping, folding, stretching, otherwise manipulating your dough by hand, or allowing the bread maching to knead for you? Some of the folding techniques are less physically active than kneading, but do a nice job of allowing the gluten chains to form.

2 comments

Thanks. I'm letting the bread machine do all the kneading. ‭Monica Cellio‭ 4 months ago

a technique I use is to let the flour and water sit together for about 3 hours, so the flour absorbs the liquid without trying to rise. This process, autolysis, means the yeast doesn't need to travel far to find food, and the gluten strands are already forming when the yeast is added. ‭Sleifar‭ 4 months ago

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