If you're working on a recipe that calls for bread flour and you don't have any on hand, save yourself a trip to the store and a few bucks, by using an equal amount of all-purpose flour as a substitute. Understandably, people are often hesitant to make baking substitutions, fearful that the end result won't be the same, but the differences are not earth shattering. You can be pretty confident that things will come out as they should. So, why spend money on a "special" ingredient if you don't have to?
Watch Now: A No-Stress Guide to Flour Substitutes
What You'll Need
As for ingredients, all you'll need is some all-purpose flour. Simply replace the bread flour called for in your recipe with an equal amount of all-purpose flour, and proceed as usual. If this seems too easy to be true, you are probably wondering about the different qualities of bread flour vs. all-purpose flour.
The Difference Between Bread Flour and All-Purpose Flour
It's all about the protein. All-purpose flour has between eight and 11 percent protein, while bread flour contains between 12 to 14 percent. That extra protein in bread flour results in a slightly higher rise, but you'll still get a good rise with all-purpose flour. Bread flour also produces more gluten. This makes bread just a bit denser and chewier.
If you're trying a recipe for the first time, and you don't have the bread flour that's called for, save some money by making the recipe with all-purpose flour. If you decide that the recipe is a keeper, then you can decide if it's worth investing in some bread flour for future batches. Who knows? You might just decide that you’re perfectly happy with the way the recipe turns out with the all-purpose flour. Some brands of bread flour can cost a dollar or more than all-purpose flour, so if you think you can get by without it, you may just want to skip it and save some money.
For a fair side-by-side comparison of bread flour and all-purpose flour, be sure to measure your flour properly. If you measure your flour the wrong way (as many people do), you could end up adding significantly more flour to the recipe than the author intended, and that'll give you dense, dry baked goods, no matter what type of flour you use.
Substitutes for Other Specialty Flours
Here are some substitutes for specialty flours that you might not have in your pantry (or that you may not be able to buy in your country):
Don’t feel that you have to go to the trouble, and expense, of stocking 10 different types of flour just because you like to bake. If a recipe calls for a type of flour that you don’t have in your pantry, there’s probably a substitute for it. Die-hard bakers and professionals will probably tell you there’s absolutely no substitute for the particular type of flour called for in a recipe, but in reality, the difference between one type of flour and another is so subtle, most people can't even tell the difference. So, just use what you have, and enjoy the tasty results. You'll save yourself some pantry space, and the hassle of trying to use up all of those extra bags of flour before they go rancid or attract bugs.
Make sure you're storing your flour the right way, so you get maximum shelf life out of the flours that you do decide to buy (specialty or otherwise).
Bittman, Mark. How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition) 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011.
Greenstein, George. Secrets of a Jewish Baker Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World. Rodale. 2013.
Raymond, Insa. “Youth Become Food Scientists Exploring Gluten: The Secret Ingredient of Baking.” Michigan State University.