If you recently bought a bread machine, you probably have many questions regarding the recipes, techniques, and ingredients you can use. One of the most common questions refers to the type of flour you can use for bread machine baking.
While the abundance of flour varieties may confuse you, you’ll be glad to know that you can actually use regular (all-purpose) flour for most recipes including baking in a bread machine. The texture will be slightly different depending on which type of flour you use, but other than that, you won’t notice any major differences.
What is the Recommended Flour for Bread Machine Bread?
Flour is the basis of all baked goods so quality flour is a priority. But there are so many types: all-purpose flour, bread flour, cake and pastry flour, whole-wheat flour, self-rising flour…and the list goes on. This can be rather overwhelming if you’re not familiar with these types of flour and their distinctions.
There is no fixed rule regarding which type of flour you must use in a bread maker. However, the crucial factor here is the protein level in the flour you’re using.
The more protein a flour contains, the more gluten will be produced. And gluten is essential for producing a high-quality loaf of bread, the kind that professional bakers make. The gluten present in the flour combines with water and causes the dough to rise which results in elastic and airy bread.
That is why bread flour is typically the recommended variety for bread machine baking. It contains the highest protein level (12%-14%).
You can substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour, which is a well-known type of flour. We’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
If you want to use regular flour to make bread instead of bread flour, you may need to add a bit more of it because it contains a lower level of gluten. If you’re mindful of that, your loaf of bread will turn out just fine.
Take a look at the table below to see the protein levels in different types of flour.
|Type of Flour
|Cake and pastry flour
|Whole wheat flour
Different recipes call for different types of flour so it is best to stick to the instructions if you don’t want to risk it. However, if you’re substituting one flour for another, make sure that you properly adjust the proportions as different types of flour behave differently.
Most bread machines come with a set of recipes along with the manual so you can use that a reference. But you can also experiment and combine various types of flour until you find the combination you like.
A word of caution!
Bleached flour is available in most stores and it is commonly used by many. However, your recipe book may omit the fact that flour treated with bleach, chlorine or potassium bromate is considered to pose a health risk.
Learn more about bleached flour to be certain exactly what you’re putting into your bread.
What is the Difference Between Bleached and Unbleached Flour?
Bleached flour is refined/treated with chemical agents to improve its quality. These chemical agents, which change the texture of the flour, are used to speed up the aging process. Bleaching agents include potassium bromate, benzoyl peroxide, azodicarbonamide, calcium peroxide, and chlorine dioxide.
Unbleached flour ages naturally which usually takes more time. It is not refined meaning that the bran and germ of wheat grain have not been removed. Unbleached flour is recognizable due to its denser grain, a slightly different color, and a different texture.
Both types of flour contain the same levels of fat, protein, fiber, and carbs. But unbleached and whole-wheat flour is often richer in certain nutrients including vitamin E. Some recipes specifically call for unbleached flour due to its texture.
Bleached flour does help produce a lighter loaf of bread but the presence of the chemical agents is often linked to various diseases. This is why bleached flour is banned in the EU and many other countries including Canada and Brazil. It is still used throughout the United States though.
You can learn more about bleached and unbleached flour here.
Are Bread Machine Flour and All-Purpose Flour the Same?
Everyone who owns a bread maker has probably wondered what’s the difference between bread machine flour and all-purpose flour.
Manufacturers have developed flour labeled as “bread machine flour” but there really doesn’t seem to be any major difference between the two. It is usually just bread flour. In fact, the terms “bread flour” and “bread machine flour” are often used to denote the same type of flour.
So what is the difference between bread (machine) flour and all-purpose flour?
All-purpose flour, as the name suggests, can be used pretty much for anything you’re baking. This is what you may know as regular flour and it’s present in almost every household.
It’s no surprise that this is the most widely used flour. Basically, you can use it as a substitute for any other flour and your baked goods will turn out great (with a perhaps slightly different texture).
All-purpose flour contains a moderate level of protein and it is, therefore, perfect for those who don’t want to buy several different types of flour for various purposes. All-purpose or regular flour is white, processed flour which means that the bran and the germ from the wheat have been removed.
Because the germ is removed, all-purpose flour can be kept in your pantry for a long time without going bad. Unfortunately, many nutrients are also removed in the process.
Due to its moderate level of protein, all-purpose flour is used for baking cookies, pie crust, muffins, etc.
The main difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour is the protein level. As we previously mentioned, bread flour contains more protein and thus helps produce bread with the desired texture.
Unlike all-purpose flour, bread flour cannot be used in place of cake flour, for example. Biscuits, scones, cakes, and similar sweet baked goods require flour with a lower protein level. Pastry flour would, therefore, be the ideal choice in this case. However, if you don’t have any, then all-purpose flour will do.
Tip: Bread flour can be used if you wish to achieve that chewier taste such as in pizza dough. Similarly, you should not use it in baked goods that are meant to be more light and airy.
Can You Substitute Whole-Wheat Flour for Bread Flour?
The answer is yes, you can. After all, all flour is made from wheat, the difference is how they are processed. Actually, bread flour can sometimes be whole wheat or white.
However, if you do substitute whole wheat flour for bread flour, the result will be different. Whole wheat flour is denser as the bran and the germ of the wheat grain have not been removed. This means that whole wheat flour is richer in nutrients when compared to other types of flour.
However, the downside of using whole wheat flour is that your loaf won’t be as light and airy as usual. If you’ve taken a look at the table above, you’ve noticed that whole wheat flour does have a high protein level. But the bran present in the flour cuts the gluten strands preventing it to bind with water and other ingredients. The result is a very dense bread.
The best solution is to combine white flour with whole wheat flour (in about 3:1 ratio) to get the desired level of gluten. This will allow you to use whole wheat flour and still manage to achieve that light and airy effect in your baked goods.
Many people dislike using whole wheat flour due to its rough texture. Again, combining it with white flour will soften the flavor.
Tip: To get the desired result, you can also buy gluten separately and add it to the dough. Another solution would be to reduce the large particles by sifting the flour before adding it to the bread machine.
What About Self-Rising Flour?
The name says it all. Self-rising flour requires no leaving agents to be used as it already contains baking powder. It also contains salt so it’s pretty much ready to be used right away. This can be a time saver.
However, if you are using self-rising flour to bake cookies, for example, then you should not add any more salt as your cookies will turn out to be too salty.
Using self-rising flour is a bit tricky because you can’t control the amounts of leavening agents. It can be either too little or too much for your recipe so you have to add/adjust the proportions.
If you don’t want to risk it, you should use all-purpose flour.
Tip: You can also make your own self-rising flour at home by adding the baking powder and salt.
You can definitely use regular or all-purpose flour in your bread machine. Since it contains a moderate level of protein, it can be used for most of your baked goods regardless of whether it’s bread or cookies. However, if you wish to achieve a certain taste, lightness or density, it would be best if you use the type of flour recommended precisely for that purpose.