I decided that after six months of breadbaking, I'm ready to check flours. Up until now, I just bought the bread flour in the local shop (ok, the local shop is out of breadflour and yeast, because of covid, so the sourdough is a real saver now:)). Google tells me the most important difference between flour is the protein content. High protein for bread, low protein for cakes and in-between of all-purpose. Now this is a bit strange for me already, since I guess there are three important proteins that are in the flour: gliadin, glutenin and amylase, so this seems a bit generic, but the sources seem to imply that protein content is equivalent to how much gluten will form.

So I checked the labels of the local brand I use and was very surprised that the all-purpose flour (9.8 g) had in fact higher protein content than the bread flour (8.6 g). This would mean that the all-purpose would make a stronger dough (testing in progress). This might be a local phenomenon (Hungary), but it is more likely I'm not understanding something.

Some of the texts mention how fine the milling is, but I couldn't find any definitive answer to how the fineness of the milling would alter the properties of the dough. I also think the ash content of the bread flour is higher, but it is not exactly clear to me from the labels.

A translation of the table on the labels:

  • energy
  • fat
  • of which saturated fat
  • carbohydrates
  • of which sugar
  • dietary fibers
  • protein
  • salt

Could somebody clear this up for me? How can the bread flour protein content be higher than the all-purpose? Is milling fineness important (I'm not sure I could tell the difference between the too, so it can't be extreme)?

  • the bread flour in NL is stronger than the AP, as far as I could find. – Luciano Apr 24 '20 at 14:14
  • maybe I should look around other manufacturers' bread flours here and see if this is a trend or not – fbence Apr 24 '20 at 18:38
  • Found another company in Hungary, they make 9.8% protein for both AP and bread. Another one said their bread flour is exactly like the AP with a little bit more bran (didn't find any specifics there). – fbence Apr 24 '20 at 18:47

I would just say that you are translating the terms too literally. In the USA, it is typicall to sell flour made from hard spring wheat under the name "bread flour", because people there traditionally enjoy bread made from it. In other countries, people have different expectations of their bread, and hard spring wheat was probably not even available prior to globalization. So it is logical that companies there formulate flour to produce the locally preferred bread texture, and sell it under a term which literally means "bread flour". This is a very common linguistic/cultural phenomenon - in different parts of the world, the local term for "cheese" without further qualifiers means a very different style of cheese.

I have never been in Hungary, but on the Balkans, traditionally, there is a preference for soft, fluffy, white bread. So I wouldn't be surprised if this Hungarian company has formulated their bread flour to produce something in that direction.

  • You are probably quite right about different tastes, now that I think about it. But then if I read the label and see protein content, that will be very closely approximating the amount of gluten forming (well, I mean not in grams, but relatively to each other between flours)? What about the fineness of the milling, what is the effect of that? – fbence Apr 24 '20 at 13:45
  • This is news to me; the bread flour I've bought in the US definitely has more protein! – Cascabel Apr 24 '20 at 13:59
  • @Cascabel I now wonder about your comment - what part of my answer implies that bread flour in the US doesn't have more protein? – rumtscho Apr 24 '20 at 14:06
  • Maybe they're thinking that the US also "traditionally" prefers fluffy white bread rather than denser bread. – The Photon Apr 24 '20 at 18:13
  • I understood you as saying that the bread flour in the US has the same property (low protein) as described in the OP, so what they're seeing makes sense. But given the last paragraph I now see how you meant it, sorry. – Cascabel Apr 24 '20 at 20:12

Flour is no to equal to flour. White flour (European white not USA bleached) is generic name for various types of flour. I will jump straight to protein content in flour.

Amount of protein dictate how "strong" the flour is. Or how high hydrated it can be therefore how much the gluten and dough will be resistant to spreading without disruption. W is the "strength" of the flour. It's calculated from the dough on how well it's resistant do spreading, tearing and plastic. It is therefore related to gluten content (and protein) but is kind of estimation based on final product (dough)

9-10,5% protein = W90/130
10-11% protein = W130/200
10,5-11,5% protein = W170/200
12-12,5% protein = W220/240
13% protein =W300/310
13,5-15% protein = W340/400

Now, the "real" amount of protein is calculated by measuring amount of nitrogen and then multiplying by some factor (Kjeldahl method). That's why the real is in quotations.

If you look into italian flours you will notice that their W (strength) is tied to type of milling.
Tipo 00: minimum content of protein 9%
Tipo 0: minimum content of protein 11%
Tipo 1: minimum content of protein 12%
Tipo 2: minimum content of protein 12%
Integrale: minimum content of protein 12%

Which can also me misleading at it's calculated based on ash from 100g of flour. So tipo 00 can have 9% but also 12% of gluten. So it's also measured post factum of milling.

Now as you noticed minimum is 9%. So where the 8,6% came from? IMHO two reasons:

  • calculations - for all flour that are very fine milled it's around 8,6 but due to mathematics and norms it get rounded to 9. Why is 9,8% not rounded to 10? Because that would fall well into W130/W200 type. Which might not deserve the name of "All-Purpose"
  • moisture content - based on this almost all other calculations are based on. So All-Purpose flour is made from grain with different MC than bread flour therefore their protein content in final, packed product is different.

I've made some additional explanation in the comment (I don't knowy why it was deleted) that finesse of milling lower the amount of proteins because it lower the amount of milling brans.

  • Now I got utterly confused: what does milling have to do with protein content? Shouldn't the protein content be the same, no matter how well I grind the endosperm? What is the W and waht is MC? – fbence Apr 24 '20 at 13:40
  • 2
    Please edit and clarify your answer. It looks like good info but it's a little confusing. What does "Flour is no to equal to flour" mean, e.g. – myklbykl Apr 24 '20 at 17:13

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