All-Purpose Flour vs Plain Flour

It’s the classic battle: all-purpose flour vs plain flour. What’s the difference? Is all-purpose flour and plain flour the same thing? This guide will help you understand flour a little better and see what flour is best for cooking and baking.

A measuring spoon full of whole wheat pastry flour hovers over a bowl with more of it.

Ready to learn the differences between plain flour and all-purpose flour? Get ready to understand each, why they’re here, and the best flour to use for different baking recipes.

Do you find yourself wondering what the difference is between all-purpose and plain flour? We know that baking a delicious cake or bread requires specific ingredients, but when you read a recipe that calls for one, but the store offers another, it can be really confusing!

It’s not all that easy to tell the difference between these two types of flour.

It’s time to end the confusion! Here, we’ll compare all-purpose and plain flour, providing critical information to help guide your culinary decisions.

What is All-Purpose Flour?

Flour is a powdery substance created from grinding grains, roots, nuts, or even seeds. When it comes to wheat flour, this general purpose flour is a go-to favorite.

You can use bleached or unbleached ap flour in a variety of recipes and cooking methods.

  • Versatile — It’s made from a combination of hard and soft wheat berries, and because it is so versatile, it is the most commonly used flour. It’s perfect for using to make quick breads.
  • Best Texture — All-purpose flour is highly refined, giving it a finer texture and making it suitable for light, airy pastries and cakes or breads with a thick and chewy texture.
  • Protein — This flour also has a lower protein content, making it great for recipes where a tender crumb is desired. It is essential for making pizza dough and other types of yeast dough.
A closeup of a blackberry muffin with a bite taken out. It is sitting on another muffin. There are blackberries and more muffins around it.
A delicious muffin made with all-purpose flour.

What is Plain Flour?

All-purpose flour is referred to as plain flour in Australia and the UK. It’s a standard general purpose white flour that is a go-to for most baking.

Plain flour, also known as all-purpose flour, is made from milled wheat grains. It does not contain added ingredients like leavening agents, which is why it is commonly referred to as “all-purpose” or “plain”.

You can use plain flour in baking recipes that require general purpose flour, such as cakes, cookies, bread, and pies. Because of its light and airy texture, plain flour is also an excellent choice for creating batters for deep-frying, as well as creating thick gravies and sauces.

Different Types of Flours

There are so many different types of flours, it can be confusing to know which ones to use. It’s all about the type of wheat berries used and the milling process. Here’s a quick and easy guide to help:

  1. All-Purpose Flour: This is a versatile flour with a moderate protein content, typically 9-12%. It’s suitable for a wide range of recipes, including bread, cakes, cookies, and pastries.
  2. Bread Flour: With a higher protein content, around 12-14%, this strong flour is ideal for yeast-based bread recipes. It provides the necessary strength and structure for a good rise and chewy texture in bread. Bread flour is an excellent choice for pizza dough because the higher protein content helps create a sturdy and elastic dough that can be stretched and shaped easily.
  3. Cake Flour: Cake flour has the lowest protein content, about 6-8%. It’s perfect for delicate cakes and pastries, creating a tender and soft crumb in baked goods.
  4. Pastry Flour: Falling in between all-purpose and cake flour, pastry flour has a protein content of around 9-10%. It’s great for making flaky pastries, pie crusts, and cookies.
  5. Whole Wheat Flour: This flour is milled from the entire wheat kernel, making it higher in fiber and nutrients. It’s best for recipes like whole wheat bread and muffins, but it can be denser than all-purpose or bread flour.
  6. Self-Rising Flour: Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour with added leavening agents, such as baking powder and salt. It’s convenient for recipes like biscuits and pancakes, as it eliminates the need for separate leavening ingredients.

When to Use All-Purpose Flour

All-purpose flour is one of the most versatile types of flour available. You can use it in a variety of recipes.

It is a common flour used for baking muffins and cakes, as well as for bread and other baked goods.

It’s also suitable for thickening sauces and homemade gravy. Use it as a coating for fried foods such as fried tofu.

Pouring flour into a white bowl.

Flour Tips

  • A higher protein flour fluctuates water absorbancy by as much as 20%. This can alter the texture of a recipe, and it’s why it’s essential to use the right kind of flour for your recipe.
  • Gluten adds strength (making it great for bread), but it’s not good for tender baked goods.
  • Kneading helps develop protein (gluten) for recipes such as these vegan dinner rolls.
  • Handle dough gingerly (stirring less) to prevent gluten development in tender baked goods such as these vegan scones.
  • You can substitute whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose flour to increase the fiber content without changing the texture of your baked goods.
  • Flour settles as it sits, so always sift it before you measure it. I recommend spooning sifted flour into a measuring cup and using a butter knife to level it off.
A hand holds a flour mixture, pouring it into a bowl with wet ingredients.

Savory All-Purpose Flour Recipes

You can use this common, general purpose flour in the kitchen:

Flour is being poured into a mixing bowl with a whipped peanut butter mixture.

Using All-Purpose Flour in Baking

Now that we know the difference between plain flour and all-purpose flour, it’s time to start baking! Here are some favorite dessert recipes that use all-purpose flour:

Now that you know the difference between all-purpose and plain flour, you can tackle any baking challenge!

Use all-purpose flour or plain flour for everyday baking, desserts, savory sauces, and bread. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to make the right flour choice for any of your baking needs.

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