What is all-purpose flour?

ALL-purpose flour, as it says on the tin/bag, is flour that can be used in the majority of recipes, from baking to thickening.

All-purpose flour is a US term – but what should you be looking out for if a recipe calls for this in the UK?

What is all-purpose flour in the UK?

All-purpose flour means plain flour in the UK.

It is white flour without any raising agent, and is the flour most often used.

It is more refined than wholemeal and less refined than Indian plain flour, known as Maida.

All-purpose or plain flour contains less gluten than bread flour, so forms a less strong, stretchy dough.

It is milled from a combination of hard and soft wheat, and bleached white.

Nutrients such as thiamine, niacin, iron and riboflavin, are added back to all-purpose flour after milling.

This process is called fortifying, and is used for breakfast cereals and bread too.

All-purpose flour contains a moderate amount of protein, around ten to twelve per cent.

Some people call all-purpose flour occident flour, with Occident referring to the countries of the Western Hemisphere – but all-purpose flour is used all around the world.

What can I use instead of all-purpose flour?

What to substitute for all-purpose flour depends on what you are cooking.

To thicken a soup, casserole or stew you could pretty much get away with any flour substitute.

This might be a wholemeal flour, a more refined flour such as Maida, or any of the non-wheat flours like cornflour, rice flour or potato flour.

For making a roux for white or béchamel sauce it would be best to go for a white, refined flour, such as Maida or cornflour.

All-purpose flour can be substituted with wholemeal flour for baking pastries, cakes and biscuits.

If you want to minimise the brown colour or wholesome flavour you can sieve the wholemeal flour to take some of the bits out.

This will leave you with flour closer to the all-purpose flour you were seeking.

Wholemeal flour will result in a heavier cake than all-purpose flour.

If you're aiming for a lighter cake, substitute all-purpose flour with cake flour.

Cake flour is a very refined, bleached flour used for baking super-light sponges.

All-purpose flour can also be replaced by gluten-free flours for baking.

Remember, you will need to adjust measurements when using gluten-free flour in place of all-purpose flour.

You may also need to add a binding agent such as guar-gum or xanthan gum to this flour.

All-purpose flour can be replaced by bread flour if you are making a recipe that could tolerate a strong flour.

This would work for pizza bases or cinnamon buns for example, they will just taste and feel a little more bready.

Can I replace self-raising flour with plain flour in a recipe?

As we've explained, plain flour is all-purpose so if you don't have any self-raising flour for a recipe you can use plain instead.

Instead you just need to add a raising agent.

So if you're using plain flour instead of self-raising add 2 teaspoons of baking powder for each 150g/6oz/1 cup of plain flour.

You will need to sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl before using, to make sure the baking powder is thoroughly distributed.

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