Finding recipes that come from different countries can often leave people confused as to what the ingredients are. Seeing a strange flour in a recipe’s ingredients list will likely leave you scratching your head and wondering if you can use the flour you own for the same purpose.
Either of these flours can be used in the same way. They’re pretty similar to each other.
All-purpose flour and plain flour are just different names for the same thing. All-purpose is widely used in the US whilst plain is used primarily in the UK and Australia. Neither of these flours has any kind of raising agent like in self-rising flour.
Unless you’re specifically needing bread flour, cake flour, or self-rising flour, you will easily be able to get away with using all-purpose or plain flour interchangeably.
There are some small differences in these two flours due to them being made in different countries and likely milled from different wheat, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. These differences primarily include gluten content and hardness.
What Are Common Types Of Flour And The Differences Between Them?
There are different flours you’ll want to use depending on what you’re making. These flours often contain different amounts of gluten, have varying levels of coarseness, and some contain rising agents.
The flour you’d use for making cookies is drastically different from what you’d want to make bread with, so it’s important that you know the differences and when to use each one.
As the name ‘all-purpose’ suggests, it can be used for nearly all purposes, but it doesn’t do a great job at making all things. This is why plain flour is arguably a better name to describe what kind of purposes it’s for.
This flour has no specific purpose so it’s used to make many different things. Some people just use it for everything that they bake and get good results.
If you don’t have specific flours for the food you’re making you can still substitute them for all-purpose/plain flour, but the results won’t be the same.
Self-rising flour is one that contains added baking powder so a baked good can rise on its own in the oven.
This kind of flour is most commonly used in simple cake recipes so you can get that light texture you associate with a good cake.
If you don’t have any self-rising flour, you can make your own by following Nigella Lawson’s recipe. Simply sift together 2 teaspoons of baking powder for every 150g of all-purpose/plain flour.
If you’re wanting to make a lot of flaky and tender pastry, you should opt for pastry flour next time you’re going to make it.
This flour has a protein content in between that of cake flour and all-purpose/plain and therefore contains the perfect amount of gluten to hold itself together whilst still having the texture you associate with good pastry.
Pastry flour can be made at home by combining amounts of low protein flour with slightly higher protein flour.
Using cake flour for making very light goods is ideal for getting the best texture possible. This flour contains the lowest protein content of all flours and therefore creates minimal gluten when mixing.
Cake flour combined with a rising agent gives you beautifully light and fluffy baked goods with ease.
Cake flour can also be mixed with other higher protein flours like all-purpose/plain flour to make something similar to pastry flour.
Strong Bread Flour
As you might have guessed, strong bread flour is ideal for making good bread. This is because it contains a high protein content and can build a good gluten network in the dough.
Bread flour often comes with a protein content around 12-13%, which is great for getting a good crumb in bread.
Trying to make bread with lower protein flours will leave you with a more close-textured and dense crumb.
Type 00 is a staple Italian flour that’s commonly used for making great pizzas and pasta. This is made from very hard wheat and often contains a protein content somewhere between bread flour and all-purpose/plain flour.
The ’00” name means that this flour has been milled to the finest texture possible. This is great for getting pastry dough extremely thin or making light pizza with a delicate, thin, and crispy crust.
You can substitute bread flour or all-purpose/plain flour for this but the result won’t be as impressive.