All-purpose flour is universal flour that can be a substitute for almost any other kind of flour you need.
Most of us usually have all-purpose flour at home and mix it with other ingredients to get pastry flour or bread flour. But what to do when you’re out of all-purpose flour? Can you make it at home?
Luckily, there is a way to make all-purpose flour at home and we’ll explain how to do it.
What is All-Purpose Flour?
We cannot imagine baking without this versatile type of flour. All-purpose flour is milled from hard red wheat. Sometimes it’s made of a blend of soft and hard types of wheat, usually in a 20:80 ratio.
All-purpose flour has a medium level of protein – 10-12% (11.7% to be exact). The protein level in flour is determined by the type of wheat flour used to make it. If all-purpose flour is made from hard red wheat only, it could be higher in protein, up to 13%. If a blend of kinds of wheat is used, the flour will be lower in protein – 8-10%.
The protein level is important for gluten formation. If your flour is rich in proteins, more gluten is formed. That means the dough you’re making will have a strong structure and elasticity.
All-purpose flour is usually enriched with vitamins and minerals. Flour enrichment is a process during which flour is sprayed with important nutrients. These nutrients add the nutritional value that’s lost due to bran and germ removal.
This type of flour can be bleached or unbleached. Bleached all-purpose flour has a bright white color, it’s soft and silky, and it has a lower protein level (8%). Unbleached all-purpose flour has an off-white color, it has a bit of a rough texture, and it’s higher in protein (approximately 11%).
All-purpose flour is not the same as self-rising flour. To be precise, self-rising flour is a mixture of all-purpose flour, a raising agent, and salt. If you’re using plain all-purpose flour, you’ll have to add a leavening agent to get a rise, and that can be yeast, baking soda, or baking powder.
All-purpose flour is suitable for almost all baked goods and it’s also used in cooking for thickening gravies and sauces.
Tip: Don’t get confused if you see the label “plain flour” on a packet of flour when looking for all-purpose flour. They are the same thing.
What Can You Make From All-Purpose Flour?
If your recipe doesn’t specify what kind of flour to use or it just says “use 2 cups of flour”, using all-purpose flour would be a reasonable guess.
All-purpose flour can be used pretty much in everything. You can use it when cooking if you want to thicken your gravies, sauces, or soups. You can add it to your stews or dishes with meat and vegetables to thicken them as well.
You can also make all kinds of baked goods: different kinds of bread, pizza dough, pie crusts, biscuits, pancakes, sweet and savory rolls, sandwich bread, etc.
Keep in mind one thing. Bleached all-purpose flour has a lower protein level and will give the best results when used in pie crusts, waffles, pancakes, and cookies. It’s suitable for cakes too if you mix it with some cornstarch. Unbleached all-purpose flour is great for muffins, biscuits, biscottis, and some sorts of cakes.
All-purpose flour will perform very well in most recipes.
How Can You Make All-Purpose Flour at Home?
All-purpose flour is the most commonly purchased kind of flour, but if you’re currently out of it, you can make it on your own. Yes, that’s right, you can make all-purpose flour at home.
To get homemade all-purpose flour you’ll need whole grain berries, a grain mill (coffee grinder or food processor will do just fine if you don’t have a grain mill), a fine sieve, and 3 medium size bowls.
Put your whole grain berries in a grain mill and grind them to the finest texture. Sift it once. Then sift it again (two times in total). Voila! Your all-purpose flour is ready.
Bread flour is similar to all-purpose flour but it’s higher in protein and gluten. You can safely substitute all or half the amount of all-purpose flour the recipe requires with bread flour. Make sure you don’t over-knead it. The more you knead, the more gluten will develop!
You can use cake or pastry flour in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for all-purpose flour. Any of these two types of flour will be a great substitute for all-purpose flour, although they are softer and contain less protein. Use them for all kinds of baked goods except bread!
Substitute For All-Purpose Flour
As mentioned, you can grind whole grain berries or, depending on the recipe, you can use different kinds of flours as a substitute for all-purpose flour.
Here are the exact amounts:
|Whole grain berriesGrain mill (coffee grinder or food processor)Sieve3 medium-size bowls||When ground, 1 cup of whole-grain berries will give you ¾ cups of all-purpose flour and ¼ cup of germ/bran.|
|Bread flour||Use it in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.|
|Cake flour||Use it in a 1:1 ratio|
|Pastry flour||Use it in a 1:1 ratio|
Tip: Don’t over-knead or over-mix bread flour when using it as a substitute for all-purpose flour. Also, don’t use cake/pastry flour for bread making.
Can You Mix All-Purpose Flour With Other Flours?
You can mix all kinds of flour as long as they are safe to use individually.
We already said that you can use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, but you can mix them as well. You can mix both bleached or unbleached all-purpose flour with bread flour. Your mixture will be a bit lower in protein but still perfectly good for baking a loaf of bread or pizza crust.
If you mix all-purpose flour and cake flour, you’ll get pastry flour.
However, be mindful of the quantities. You can use a 1:1 ratio (1 cup of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of cake flour) or a 2:1 ratio (2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of cake flour).
Mixing all-purpose flour and cornstarch or arrowroot will make excellent cake flour. Measure a cup of all-purpose flour. Remove two tablespoons of flour and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot. Sift and use!
The Best Way to Store All-Purpose Flour
All-purpose flour will be well preserved in airtight containers just like most finely milled flours. Use a plastic or glass airtight container with a solid lid or a plastic ziplock bag. Both of them will keep air, bugs, and dirt away from your flour. Keep your airtight container in a cold and dark place, such as a pantry or basement.
If you don’t bake so often, you can prolong your flour’s shelf life by putting it in a freezer. Put your all-purpose flour in an airtight container or plastic ziplock bag. Containers and plastic bags will keep the freshness of your flour, but they will also keep the smells away (that is important because flour can absorb odors).
In a freezer, your flour will be fresh for up to two years. When using frozen all-purpose flour, make sure it’s at room temperature before you start baking. For the best results, all the ingredients you are using should be at room temperature.
Tip: Don’t store your flour in a paper bag from a grocery store. It could easily get wet or contaminated by dirt or bugs.