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Out of Bread Flour? There’s a Substitute for That

If you’ve ever rolled up your sleeves to bake bread only to find that you’re all out of bread flour, we feel your pain. Here’s the good news. You can still carry on with everything from a sourdough loaf to cinnamon rolls without any bread flour. Looking for the best bread flour substitute? The ideal swap is simpler than you think.

What Is Bread Flour?

The main difference between bread flour and other types of flour is protein content. Flour’s protein gives it the power to make dough strong and to help the bread rise. Bread flour’s high protein content ranges from about 12 to 14 percent, meaning it’s great for recipes that need sturdy dough and texture, plus lots of stretchy gluten production.

The protein in bread flour also absorbs more liquid than in other flours, which makes dough stiff and solid. It’s the ideal choice for any bread that uses yeast for leavening, and for giving loaves, buns, pizza dough and beyond height, strength and elasticity.

What’s the Best Bread Flour Substitute?

For a basically seamless bread flour substitution, just swap in all-purpose flour 1:1. While your dessert, pizza crust, bread or other yummy project may come out a smidge less chewy, you’ll barely notice a difference. If you’re making loaves of bread, all-purpose flour may cause the top of the bread to mushroom over the pan a bit instead of rising straight up. But it’ll still taste essentially the same and have similar height. The crumb (aka those tiny holes in slices of bread) will be practically identical, too.

The Difference Between Bread Flour and All-Purpose Flour

All-purpose flour is meant to be just that: all-purpose. Its protein content is typically between 10 and 12 percent. While AP flour is super versatile and has no true substitute, bread flour is the better choice for recipes that specifically call for it (duh) and any baking projects that would benefit from extra-sturdy dough, like English muffins.

Cake flour is on the other end of the spectrum, with a protein range of 6 to 8 percent. This results in a tender, fluffy, crumby light mouthfeel and texture in more delicate treats like cupcakes, meaning it likely wouldn’t give the results you’re looking for if you used it in place of bread flour.

How to Store Flour

Do you have a bag of flour currently rolled up in your pantry? Same. But it turns out that’s not the best way to extend its shelf life. The USDA considers flour shelf-stable and non-perishable. While refined flours (white flours like bread, AP, cake and self-rising) will stay at peak quality for anywhere from one to two years, air, heat and light exposure will speed up its expiration over time.

Any type of refined flour is better off in an airtight container stored somewhere cool and dark. Use a container with an airtight seal, made of an opaque material that protects against light, like plastic or stainless steel. If you can’t remember how long the flour has been sitting on your shelf, you may want to freeze it for two days to kill any potential weevils (those tiny, pesky pantry bugs) or eggs in the bag before transferring it to a container. You’ll know flour has gone bad if it smells off or sour.

Whole-grain flours can oxidize even faster because they contain more natural oils, so always keep those in the fridge for up to six months or in the freezer for up to a year.