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Jan 19, 2012 12:26 PM

What Is All-Purpose Flour Good For?

I used to disdain the differences between types of flours. But as I got more interested in good baking, and became more concerned about not wasting ingredients (=money), I am forced to admit that you do need to use the proper flour for different kinds of baking.

So, there is bread flour for bread baking. Pastry flour for pastry-making. Cake flour for cake-making. The great Shirley Corriher uses self-rising flour for biscuits. And so on.

What is AP flour good for? What's left? Thickening gravies, I guess, but does that justify buying a 5 pound bag?

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  1. AP flour is good for all the things you've listed. It may not be your specific preference, but it's a great 'go-to' for people who don't want to buy 10 different 5 pound bags of various flours.

    thickening agent
    coating for frying
    pastries name it.

    1. I use AP for everything. I am an excellent baker and have been at it for 40 years. I cannot see enough difference between the performance of different protein levels in flour to justify owning all of them. I do see some difference with cake flour in cakes, but I don't like the flavor and texture of cakes made with cake flour. I make great, chewy bagels with AP. If I did large-scale artisan baking, I would differentiate - but I don't and I'm good with AP.

      1. I think the name 'all purpose' says it pretty plainly. I do think some AP flours are better than others (I really have come to like Robin Hood flour a lot) but every one I've used, for a variety of purposes, has done the job well. There may be certain things I'd want to use cake flour for if I can (my brownies, for one) but if I don't have cake flour on hand, I use the AP and it's not a big deal.

        The difference between AP and the specialty flours just isn't great enough to worry about.

        3 Replies
        1. re: The Professor

          I don't agree with you. I'm not here to get into arguments, but protein content is a huge deal in baking. In your opinion, it's not enough to worry about, but in my opinion, it's something to take into account.

          1. re: gothamette

            Take into account, yes. But I certainly don't stress over it.
            The Robin Hood AP flour I use seems to perform as well as any 'bread' flour I've tried. Maybe because it is 100% winter wheat, I don't know.
            In any case, I do keep a jar of wheat gluten handy in case I need to beef up the protein content for certain breads.

            1. re: The Professor

              In fact, DH sought out bread flour when we resurrected the old bread machine and for the first (and second) times, his bread didn't rise. At all. It never did that with the AP flour. He's now too disheartened to make more. I could never get my favorite recipe to rise nearly enough unless I added gluten to the mix.

        2. I'm firmly in the mindset of "it's not the instrument, it's the musician." I use all-purpose flour for just about everything. Nobody has ever spit out any of my creations and then questioned whether or not I used the correct flour. I get that there are advantages to it all, but don't personally think that it matters enough for me to have three, four, or five different flour jars.

          3 Replies
          1. re: GutGrease

            But different flours ARE different instruments. Protein content, type of wheat - different instruments.

            1. re: GutGrease

              As a violinist, i can say that is only true to a certain point. A crap instrument is really difficult to play. And there are subtle, but important differences, even in great instruments. Also, sometimes a wooden flute is preferred to a silver flute. When I rock out, I pick up my Zeta and plug it in (and turn it up to 11). Different instruments for different applications.

              1. re: wyogal

                I'm not a musician, but worked as an industrial (biomedical) photographer for 36 years and yes, it's the eye of the user but the instrument does make a difference.

            2. It's good for (wait for it now) ... all purposes!