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So... Since the lock-down everybody turned baker (can't understand why, since there is plenty of bread in the shops) and I can't find bread flour anymore.

Is there a way to use plain flour instead?

I have 1.5kg of strong flour left, can I mix it with plain flour and get decent results?

  • can't understand why, since there is plenty of bread in the shops probably because one does not know how many people sneezed, coughed or touched their bread and everyone is extra cautious. – WoJ Mar 24 at 16:26
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    @WoJ that's a valid point, although here the bread is sold in bags. – algiogia Mar 24 at 16:55
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    @algiogia For me at least, it's out of desire, not necessity. I always want to cook more often than I do, so now that I'm home so much I have a lot more cooking time. – Justin Mar 24 at 17:01
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    As someone who mainly baked in school a good twenty years ago, I wasn’t aware there even is such a thing as ‘bread flour’. Recipes always just called for regular wheat flour (assuming we’re not talking rye, spelt, barley or some other form of flour, of course), and it always worked fine for me (to the extent that any sort of cooking or baking ever worked ‘fine’ for me, that is). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 24 at 18:35
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    @algiogia re " ... plenty of bread in the shops ..." -> Maybe in your shops. I'm half a world away (edge of the empire, first to see the sun). Our full lockdown started 22 hours ago. For the last week flour has not been available. Bread is available in the mornings but is gone by afternoon. | [I managed to buy 20 kg of strong flour from a baker who was shutting down for 4 weeks :-) ]. – Russell McMahon Mar 26 at 9:35
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You don't need bread flour to make decent bread, plain flour doesn't generally have as much gluten content but it has enough to make bread that's perfectly fine. You won't get the same texture as with bread flour, it won't be as elastic a result.

Gluten is a protein, strong flour has more protein in it than plain flour, but there isn't always that much difference between the two. It depends on the brand. In my cupboard my plain flour has 10g of protein and my strong 12.5g, that's not that much more. In the past I've had plain flour with a lot less, like 6g, so your plain flour may have more gluten than you think.

If your plain is a little weak you can use your strong flour to bulk up the gluten content, a 30/70 mix will give a small boost and a 50/50 mix more so. But, remember if plain is all you have you can still make bread. You may want to reduce your hydration a bit with lower protein, and give it a longer proving time to develop the gluten you have.

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    25% more protein is rather significant, but I still agree with your answer. +1 – Bloodgain Mar 24 at 2:39
  • Thanks. I checked my flour and the all-purpose has 9.9g to 10.2g of protein. I'll try and "reinforce" it with a bit of strong flour. – algiogia Mar 24 at 11:24
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    This depends totally on where you are in the world. In the UK plain flour is pretty weak, but in Canada, for example, plain all-purpose flour is typically about 13% protein and works great for bread. Everyone's flour is a bit different. – J... Mar 24 at 20:16
  • I'm in the UK and my plain flour is often relatively high in protein @J... . It varies a lot from brand to brand. – GdD Mar 24 at 21:20
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    @GdD Sure, but high protein plain flour is something you really have to go looking for, if you just grab any random plain flour it's odd on that it's going to be quite soft. Lived in the UK myself for half a decade. It's like night and day the difference. Canadian flour is zero effort - just throw a dart at the flour shelf and amazing bread happens. – J... Mar 24 at 22:10
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I agree with @GdD's answer, and it should be the main answer, but I wanted to throw in another bit of advice.

If you find that your all purpose flour does not give you the results that you want, look for vital wheat gluten. It's less likely that people will be hoarding that. Adding a bit of wheat gluten should make AP flour act much more like bread flour. This is the trick bakers use for modern whole wheat and rye breads, as they contain much less gluten per weight. In fact, wheat gluten is used frequently by low-carb bakers to create bread-like products without adding the starch of flour.

You can find recipes online to work from, but the recommended amount seems to be 1 tablespoon for every 2 cups (about 9 oz / 256 grams) of flour. If you want to use a recipe you have and are particular, you can calculate how much protein is in the amount of flour in your recipe and add 1/4 as much (of the protein, not the flour!) vital wheat gluten by weight. You may want to decrease the amount of flour by the same amount -- 1 tablespoon or whatever you calculated -- to maintain your hydration level.

https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/5867-vital-wheat-gluten

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    I really didn't know they sell gluten as an "add-on". Thank you for the advice! – algiogia Mar 24 at 8:51
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"Bread flour" (or actually the wheat cultivar used for it) is a North American invention that has spread also to Great Britain. In most other countries, home bakers are not even aware of the existence of bread flour, and bake bread with the equivalent of all-purpose flour.

You can use all purpose flour almost all your bread recipes without any change. Only the highest hydrations (85% upward) will give you structural trouble. If all you have had until now was bread made with bread flour, the new texture will be unusual, but if you approach it with openmindedness, you will soon get used to it.

If you either have too strong an averse reaction to bread that is similar, but not exactly the way you like it, or want to try new things, I suggest that you simply go for European or Near East bread recipes and make those. There is a huge variety of breads to be found there, and most of them are traditionally made without bread flour. Just make sure to not use recipes that American bakers have modified to use bread flour. You might have to (or enjoy to!) branching out to breads made with flours from other plants too, not just wheat. Beside the variety, it seems that the less common grains don't disappear from the supermarket shelf as quickly in a hamster run.

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    While I won't argue with your premise that "bread flour" is not common outside the US and UK, I'm not sure I agree that bakers in other countries are using flour equivalent to the soft-wheat-based AP flour that Americans use. For example, the popular "00" flour used for pasta and pizza dough is higher protein than US AP flour. Likewise, most AP flours in the US are bleached, further reducing their protein content, and some brands -- i.e. White Lily -- are desired specifically because they are particularly "soft" flours. I would bet that many non-US flours fall between US AP and bread flour. – Bloodgain Mar 25 at 3:37
  • Sorry to disagree but in Italy we know very well the difference between the different kind of flours. Bakers don't use "all-purpose" flour to make bread. They use strong flour. And even stronger (Manitoba) to make things like croissant. – algiogia Mar 25 at 9:25
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    @algiogia I said "most", not "all" European countries. I had heard about Italy having strong flours for home bakers, but in Germany, France, the Balkans and Russia, home bakers don't have strong flour (or know about it), and I have not heard of it being widespread in other places in Europe. – rumtscho Mar 25 at 17:02
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By "plain" I assume you mean AP (all-purpose) flour. There are many great bread recipes that use AP flour. There will be less gluten development with AP than with bread flour, so you may want to knead a bit longer depending on your recipe, but it should come out fine in any case.

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    The OP isn't asking for a recipe, I'm sure they have one, you haven't addressed the question, which is whether you can use plain flour to make bread. – GdD Mar 23 at 19:50
  • Recipe requests are off topic on this site, if you thought that it was asking for one you should have voted to close. – GdD Mar 23 at 21:18
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    I'm not sure the typical ranges for protein content for plain flour (UK term) and AP flour (US term) are exactly the same, so while the conclusion of your first paragraph may be correct, the assumption at the start may not be – Chris H Mar 23 at 21:41
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Making bread is fun and easy, if you have kids, it is a good life skill to show them how to make some.

Yes you can use regular flour, I use regular unbleached flour.

If you have yeast, then you can make simple no knead bread; most recipes I've seen use 3 cups of flour, yeast, salt and water.

If you do not have yeast, then you can start to make a sourdough starter.

(disclaimer, I don't have an link with that site, they were the top answer from google).

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Yes, plain flour (or mixed) will work. The resulting loaf will probably not store well, it will become very hard. No problem when eaten fresh.

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