If you’ve ever wondered if all-purpose flour is the same thing as plain flour, if bread flour is okay to use in a recipe, or why you need cake flour, we’re answering your questions!
Is plain flour all-purpose flour? Which flours do you use for which baked goods? We’ve got you covered.
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When you’re baking, it’s important to use the right kind of flour. Different recipes call for different flours–but how do you know which is the right flour to use?
There are many different types of flour available on the market, and it can be confusing to know which one to choose when you’re perusing the flour section of your local grocery stores.
We’re going to look at the different types and answer the most common questions asked by home bakers.
For instance, is plain flour all-purpose flour? What should you use self-rising flour for? When is it best to use bread flour? When can you substitute one for the other?
Keep reading to find out!
Different Types of Flour
There are several types of wheat flour available on the market. The main difference between each includes variations in protein levels and texture, which impacts the outcome of your baked goods.
Some examples of different flours include:
- Bread flour, which has a higher protein content and is typically used for yeast bread dough
- Pastry flour, with a lower protein content that is often used in delicate pastries and pies
- Self-rising flour (known in some parts of the world as self-raising flour), which has added leavening agent, such as baking powder, and is commonly used in a variety of quick breads and biscuits.
- All-purpose flour, which is the same thing as plain flour. This type of white flour can be used in a wide range of baking recipes, hence the name, “all-purpose.”
It is important to note that there are also non-wheat flours, such as almond flour or coconut flour.
These are made from ground nuts and can be used as a gluten-free flour in baking recipes. These flours have a different texture and flavor than wheat flour.
Most of the baking recipes we share here use all-purpose flour, and we typically specify that in the ingredients list.
If you come across baking recipes elsewhere that don’t specify the type of flour, but merely calls for “flour,” you can generally use plain flour or all-purpose flour for the recipe.
Let’s look into the various common types of flour in a bit more detail.
All-Purpose Flour (AKA Plain Flour)
All-purpose flour is made from wheat that has been milled and refined, with the bran and germ removed. It can be used in a wide range of baking recipes, making it a versatile option.
This type of plain flour is used a lot for recipes for bread, cakes, cookies, and pie crusts.
We use it in Scottish shortbread cookies, stroopwafel cake, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and more!
All-purpose flour typically has a protein content of 10-12%.
Remember, all-purpose flour is also called plain flour. So if your recipe calls for either name, it’s the same product.
Self-rising flour has added baking powder, usually about 1 ½ teaspoon per cup of flour. It is commonly used in quick bread and biscuits.
It’s important to note that self-rising flour cannot be used as a direct substitute for all-purpose flour in recipes. This is because the added leavening can change the texture and outcome of your baked goods.
When using self-rising flour, you typically won’t add more raising agents, since that’s already included in the flour.
It typically has a protein content of 8-9%.
Self-Rising flour is commonly used in recipes for pancakes, muffins, and southern-style biscuits.
We use it when making Biscoff muffins, golden syrup cake, quick cinnamon rolls, baked turkey and dumplings, and more.
Did you know your can make your own self-rising flour? All you have to do is add 1 ½ teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt for every cup of all-purpose flour.
Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, usually around 12-14%. This high protein content helps bread rise better and gives it a chewy texture.
Bread flour is commonly used in recipes for yeast breads, like sandwich bread, dinner rolls, and pizza dough.
It can also be used in other baked goods like bagels and soft pretzels.
However, in some cases, if you don’t have bread flour on hand, you can substitute all-purpose flour (we do this with our crescent rolls and dinner rolls with no problem!).
Cake flour has a very low protein content, usually around 7-9%. Lower protein flours are often used in delicate baked goods like cakes, muffins, and cookies for a tender texture.
Because of its low protein content, cake flour cannot be used as a direct substitute for all-purpose or bread flour in recipes.
However, you can make your own cake flour by mixing 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with every cup of all-purpose flour.
Pastry flour has a protein content between all-purpose and cake flour, usually around 9-10%. It’s commonly used in pie crusts, biscuits, muffins, and scones for a flaky texture.
Pastry flour can also be used as a substitute for all-purpose flour in some recipes, though it may result in a slightly more tender texture.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour is made from the entire wheat kernel, including the bran and germ.
It has a nutty flavor and high protein content, usually around 14%. Whole wheat flour can be used in bread, muffins, cookies, and more for a heartier texture.
Remember that whole wheat flour often requires more liquid in recipes and can result in a denser texture.
So if you’re using it as a substitute for all-purpose flour, try increasing the liquid by about 1-2 tablespoons per cup of whole wheat flour used.
Soft Wheat Flour vs. Hard Wheat Flour
Soft wheat flour has more starch and less gluten than hard wheat flour. Soft wheat flour is most often packaged as cake flour or pastry flour, and it provides a tender, finer texture.
Hard wheat flour is a high-gluten flour, which promotes a more elastic texture. Semolina flour and durum wheat flour are examples of this, which are commonly used in pizza ad pasta.
All-purpose flour is made from a combination of hard and soft wheat, which is why it is considered favorable for a variety of uses.
Is All-Purpose Flour the Same Thing as Plain Flour?
In summary, all-purpose flour, also called plain flour, can be used in a wide range of baking recipes and has a protein content of 10-12%.
It’s the most commonly used type of flour, and the best flour to keep on hand for general baking.
For best results, all-purpose flour should be stored in a cool and dry place, like a pantry or cupboard.
It’s also a good idea to transfer the flour into an airtight container to keep out moisture and potential pests.
Stored properly, all-purpose flour will stay fresh for up to one year.
So the next time you’re baking, remember that all-purpose flour, also known as plain flour, is a versatile option for your recipes. But don’t be afraid to experiment with other types of flour to add some variety to your baking adventures.
Also, don’t forget to check the expiration date before using it in your baking recipes!
Need help measuring? Check out our guides to half of 3/4 cup, half of 1/4 cup, and half of 1/3 cup!