I know nothing about bread making and I'm a novice. I've got a new recipe that I really want to try, but it calls for bread flour and doesn't mention the bread flour strength.

I have strong bread flour, is that what they meant? If not, will that work anyway? Is there some way of converting strong bread flour to make it weaker?

"Strong flour" and "Bread flour" generally mean the same thing -- lots of gluten, so the dough can stretch and incorporate lots of bubbles.

Not all bread demands high-gluten flour, but the traditional airy loaf of Western Europe and most of the USA does.

If what you're making is bread of that kind, "strong bread flour" is what you want.

If you're making a cake or a sauce, things will probably be fine -- try it. It might not be perfect but it won't be a disaster. It's worth having some less strong flour (often labelled as "plain flour") in your store cupboard.

• You never want to use "strong" bread flour to make cake.
– Jay
Commented May 14, 2013 at 15:49
• @Jay You do if the cake is made with an enriched dough. Commented May 14, 2013 at 20:13
• @J.A.I.L. I can think of maybe one or two cakes that would be in that category--there is a reason "cake flour" with very low protein levels is a market category. Commented May 14, 2013 at 23:25
• @SAJ14SAJ Last week I saw a "home-use" package of flour labelled "cake strong flour". It was the first time I've seen one, but I'm glad the manufacturers are distinguishing those two types. Commented May 15, 2013 at 6:16

The strenth of a flour is given by its W value. This value is the area under the curve measured in an Alveograph.

In this other link (check table IX, you can see typical flour uses depending on their strenth. Bread flour varies between W=160 and W=310. Your flour is probably in the 250-310 group (strong bread flour). This flour is intended for longer fermentation times, or doughs intensivelly keaded with machines. There is another group: the strong flours (not bread flours) intended for doughs enriched with lots of greases/oils or sugar, or really really long fermentation times. Those flours are usually not suitable for bread making, not mainly because of their W value, but because their P/L value (yes, check the first link again) is not close to 1. P/L=1 indicates the dough can be somehow easily shaped, and it will somehow remain with that shape.

So yes: you can perfectly use a strong bread flour for making bread. It might be a bit chewy if you compare it with non strong bread flour, but it depends on the recipe.

• Given that consumer flours are not generally labelled with their W value--or maybe they are and I just never noticed--how can a home cook apply this information? In the US, where nutrition labelling laws require listing protein content, we can infer "strength" from protein content, since they are correlated... how is this W value more helpful? Commented May 14, 2013 at 23:24
• @SAJ14SAJ Knowing there's something called W value is quite helpful, even if you can't read its value in flour packages. Where I live it's neither printed in consumer flours (often neither in "industrial" packages). But if you ask the manufacturers they are usually willing to give that data. Commented May 15, 2013 at 6:07
• W is directly proportional to flour strenth. Protein percentage is related, but not necessarily directly correlated: not all proteins are glutenin and gliadin, not all flours have the same ratio of them, and flour can have other components that make them stronger of weaker (such as ascorbic acid). Commented May 15, 2013 at 6:10

If it calls for bread flour then they mean strong flour. The US for example doesn't use the word strong, bread flour is the term, and they both mean flour with enriched gluten content. The gluten content on flour varies, you can compare them by looking at protein content, as that is what gluten is, the higher the protein level the more gluten there is.

If you want to weaken strong flour you'd simply add plain flour, just make sure it comes out to the same weight or volume. One thing to keep in mind is the amount of water you add, as if you reduce the gluten content it won't require as much water.

Without seeing your recipe I can't be certain, but it sounds like strong flour is what you want. There is such a thing as extra-strong flour but I've never used it.