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Anyone who’s ever bought a bread machine will most likely come across this situation: Should I use all-purpose flour or bread flour? Most bread machine recipes will call for bread flour. But can I use all-purpose flour instead?
The short answer is: it depends.
What is bread flour and should I use it?
To make a high-quality bread, you need to use a flour with a sufficient protein (gluten) content. Protein is responsible for helping bread retain their shape as they rise and create a lighter, airier, fluffier bread. If you don’t have enough protein, your bread will become dense and flat.
A flour that contains 12-14% protein is considered the optimal choice. Yet most all-purpose flours in America contain a protein content of only 9–11%. That’s why most recipe books tell you to use bread flour because they contain more protein (12–14%).
Bread flour is basically a flour that works better for baking bread, mainly because it has a higher protein content. Since most bread machine recipes are based on bread flour, we would recommend using it to ensure you get good results.
What about all-purpose flour for bread machines?
However, you may be able to find all-purpose flours with higher protein content, in which case it’s perfectly fine to use all-purpose flours instead. For example, in Canada the Canadian Grain Commission specifies that flour must have a protein content of 12-13%. So you would be able to use Canadian all-purpose flour when the recipe calls for bread flour.
Bottom line: Use bread flour OR high protein (12-14%) all-purpose flour.
What about gluten-free flour for bread machines?
For various health reasons, many people follow a gluten-free diet. You can use gluten-free flour in a bread machine too (and it’s best to find a machine that handles gluten-free dough well).
As you already know, gluten protein is required to help bread achieve its desired texture and shape. But if you remove gluten from the equation, you’ll get undesired results every time. To counter this, additive ingredients are used in gluten-free flour. These are typically xanthan gum, guar gum, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), corn starch, or eggs. According to Celiac.com, these ingredients are considered safe, but we urge you to consult with your doctor or specialist with any questions and concerns.
What’s the best bread flour?
If you can’t find high protein all-purpose flour, then you might be in the search for a good bread flour. But which ones will produce a good result with bread machines? The following is a list of the highest rated bread flours for bread machines.
1) Great River Organic Milling – Organic Whole Wheat Bread Flour
First we’re going to take a look at Great River Organic Milling. The brand makes a whole line of organic whole wheat, rye, and soy flours. Their farm is located in the upper Mississippi River and they really pride themselves in producing chemical fertilizer-free, pesticide-free crops. They use natural granite millstones to ground their flour, which produces a thin, flat flake that enhances the quality, taste, and texture of the flour. Based on quality and nutritional value, their organic whole wheat bread flour is a great product. With this flour and a bread machine, you can make your own organic bread while saving money. Tip: the whole grain cycle works best.
2) Pamela’s – Bread Mix (Gluten-free, Wheat-free, Non-dairy)
If you’re looking for a gluten-free bread flour, Pamela’s is a great choice. This product is made from a combination of sorghum flour, tapioca flour, white rice flour, sweet rice flour, and brown rice flour. Gluten-free flours are usually made with a blend of different flours. You can read the full ingredient list on Pamela’s Products. One ingredient we want to point out is xanthan gum which, as we explained above, is one of the ingredients typically used in gluten-free flours to give bread the same texture and shape as regular flour would. It functions like gluten.
Pamela is the woman behind the sole-ownership company. She’s been making gluten-free products since 1988. Her goal is that anyone with food allergies can still enjoy delicious food.
3) Hodgson Mill – Best For Bread Flour
The Hodgson Mill “Best For Bread Flour” is a high-protein flour and therefore great for baking bread, as its name suggests. It’s made from a hard spring wheat which is naturally high in protein and gives homemade bread a great texture and volume. The wheat is unbleached and enriched with niacin, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, and folic acid. It is non GMO. The flour is rated well for usage in a bread machine as well as without.
4) Bob’s Red Mill – Gluten-Free Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix
Finally, Bob’s Red Mill is another great choice of gluten-free flours. It works with both bread machines and conventional ovens. It doesn’t have that gluten-free taste and you get a fluffy bread. If we look at the ingredients list we can see why. First of all, it’s blended with garbanzo flour, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, fava flour, and potato flour. It also has potato starch, corn starch, xanthan gum, and guar gum which enhance the texture and shape of bread. You can read the ingredients list on the Bob’s Red Mill site. Just like Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix, this flour is wheat-free and dairy-free.
We hope we helped you sort out the differences between all-purpose and bread flour. To summarize, we would suggest you use bread flours because their higher protein content will result in a more desirable bread texture. If you want some suggestions of what to buy, the ones listed above are great choices of bread flours and gluten-free bread flours. Happy baking!