All-purpose flour is a staple ingredient found in almost every kitchen pantry, but have you ever stopped to wonder what exactly it is and why it’s so versatile?
Well, let’s dive in and discover what sets all-purpose flour apart from other types of flour!
What is all-purpose flour?
All-purpose flour (also called “white flour” or “plain flour”) is a popular flour that is commonly used in a wide variety of recipes, from bread to cakes and everything in between.
It’s made from a blend of both soft (low gluten) and hard wheat (high gluten) grains that have the outer layers of the wheat kernel removed. This process results in a flour that is finer in texture and has a more uniform consistency than whole wheat flour.
Commercially, all-purpose flour is made by milling large quantities of wheat grains in industrial mills. The wheat is cleaned, tempered, and ground into flour using large roller mills that crush and grind the grains. The flour is then sifted through a series of sieves to remove any impurities and create a nice uniform texture. There are bleached and unbleached varieties of all-purpose flour.
What’s the difference between all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour?
The main difference between all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour is how they are processed. All-purpose flour is usually made from refined (enriched) wheat that only includes the endosperm of the wheat kernel (the starchy carbohydrate part), with the bran and germ removed.
This results in a flour that is lighter in color, texture, and flavor and lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared to whole-wheat flour, which includes the “whole” wheat kernel.
Here’s a guide for when to use all-purpose flour vs whole wheat flour.
Benefits of all-purpose flour
All-purpose flour is the swiss army knife of flours, as it can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Its neutral flavor and fine texture make it easy to work with in baking.
All-purpose flour has a protein content of around 10-12%, which is lower than bread flour but higher than cake flour. This moderate protein content makes it suitable for a wide variety of baked goods, from delicate cakes to chewy cookies and tender biscuits.
All-purpose nutrition facts
|Flour (¼ cup)||Calories||Carbs||Fiber||Sugar||Fat||Protein||Glycemic Index|
|All-purpose flour||120||24 g||1 g||0 g||0.5 g||4 g||85|
|Whole-wheat flour||140||27 g||5 g||0 g||0.5 g||6 g||59-84|
How to bake and cook with all-purpose flour
My biggest tip when baking with all-purpose flour is to measure accurately! Too much flour can result in dry and crumbly baked goods, while too little can cause them to be too moist and dense.
For best results, measure your flour accurately using a kitchen scale. If measuring by cup, use the “spoon and level method”: use a spoon to lightly scoop the flour into the measuring cup (do not pack it down). Then use a straight edge (like the back of a knife) to level off the top of the cup, removing any excess flour.
All-purpose flour requires the addition of leavening agents such as baking powder or baking soda, which makes it a good choice for recipes that don’t rely solely on yeast for rising, such as artisanal bread and pizza dough. Instead, it’s best for making quick breads, cookies, and cakes.
When it comes to cooking, all-purpose flour can also be used for a variety of purposes such as thickening sauces, making roux for soups and stews, coating foods before frying or sautéing, and as a base for homemade pasta and gnocchi.
Popular all-purpose flour baked goods and dishes
All-purpose flour can be used for many things (as its name implies). Here are some popular choices:
- White bread and sourdough
- Cakes (layer cakes, sheet cakes, and bundt cakes)
- Pancakes and waffles
- Pizza crust
- Fried chicken or fish coating
- Homemade pasta and gnocchi
- Bechamel sauce and other cream-based sauces
- Gravy and roux-based sauces
- Quiche crust
How to make all-purpose flour at home
All-purpose flour can be made at home by following these simple steps:
- Start by selecting high-quality all-purpose (white) wheat berries.
- Rinse the wheat berries and let them dry completely.
- Once the wheat berries are dry, grind them into flour using a grain mill or food processor. If you are using a food processor, grind the wheat berries in small batches until you have the desired amount of flour.
- Once you have ground all of the wheat berries, sift the flour to remove any larger pieces or debris that may have been missed during the grinding process.
How to store all-purpose flour
All-purpose flour has a long shelf life, which means you can keep it on hand for 6-8 months without worrying about it going bad. This makes it a great pantry staple for impromptu baking sessions!
To store all-purpose flour, whether store-bought or homemade, use an airtight container and keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Homemade flour should be labeled with the date of preparation and used within a few weeks or stored in the freezer for longer storage.
What are the best substitutes for all-purpose flour?
If you don’t have any all-purpose flour on hand, the best substitute is a mix of bread flour (high protein) and cake flour (low protein).
By mixing the two, you get a flour blend that has a higher protein content than cake flour, which helps with structure and rising, but not as high as bread flour, which can make baked goods too dense. This combination creates a happy medium close to all-purpose flour that works well in a wide variety of recipes, from cakes to breads to cookies.
You can use a 50/50 mix or customize the ratio of bread flour to cake flour depending on the recipe you’re making!
For a healthier option, sub whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, or gluten-free all-purpose flour.
Yes, plain flour and all-purpose flour are the same thing. They both refer to a type of flour that is made from a blend of hard and soft wheat and can be used for a variety of baking purposes.
No, self-rising flour already contains baking powder and salt, while all-purpose flour does not. Self-rising flour is typically used for making biscuits, cakes, and other baked goods that require leavening agents.
When a specific flour like whole wheat or coconut isn’t named, more often than not people mean all-purpose flour. AP flour also goes by “plain flour” and “white flour.”