Pyler says: Why home flours differ from commercial flours

by E.J. Pyler and L.A. Gorton
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From Chapter 8: Formulating — Starting Formulas

Millers prepare flour to exacting needs and offer a myriad of choices for commercial bakery use. They work in close collaboration with their customers to produce the protein profile and starch qualities preferred.

Among the problems of adapting home recipes for commercial use is flour style. Home bakers have a much more limited palette of flours than commercial bakers do, although the number of different flour types has grown with the advent of the home bread machine. Still, the formulator seeking inspiration from home recipes will need to “translate” the home kitchen’s flour into commercial styles.

All-purpose flour

Home baking recipes typically call for “all-purpose flour.” Millers blend such flours, also called “family flour,” to allow successful home preparation of a wide range of baked foods — from bread to pies to cakes to tarts and cookies — with the same bag of flour. The flour is made from a combination of hard and soft wheat, with hard winter wheat the primary component, milled to a short patent grade. All-purpose flour is blended to be slightly weaker than bread flour, ranging from 9 to 12% protein, and offered in bleached, unbleached and organic versions. In the US, no single standard exists for all-purpose flour, other than the general Standard of Identity for flour published in the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 137.105).

Hensperger (2004) observed that all-purpose flour is blended from an approximate composition of 80% hard wheat and 20% soft. Brands of all-purpose flour vary in different regions, with that sold in Southern states containing a higher percentage of soft wheat, while in the Northern, Midwestern and Western states, a higher percentage of hard wheat is used (Hoseney et al. 1988).

To substitute for all-purpose flour, Figoni (2008) recommended a 60:40 blend of bread and cake flours; however, she noted that commercial flours specifically milled for bread, cake, pastry and cookie applications perform better in such uses than any all-purpose flour.

Infrequently, a home recipe will refer to “brownie flour.” This term lacks specific definition but appears to be another name for all-purpose flour.



Figoni, P. 2008. How Baking Works, 2nd ed. Wiley: Hobeken, NJ.

Hensperger, B. 2004. The Bread Bible. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, CA.

Hoseney, R.C., Wade, P., and Finley, J.W. 1988. Soft wheat products. In: Wheat: Chemistry and Technology, Vol. II. Y. Pomeranz, ed. AACC: St. Paul, MN.

More on this topic can be found in “Baking Science & Technology, 4th ed., Vol. II,” Page 169, by E.J. Pyler and L.A. Gorton. Details are in our store.

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