Substituting one flour for another in baked goods can be tricky; one-for one substitutions rarely work well. Amanda Nieves of Phoenix, Arizona, recently called Milk Street Radio to ask about using bread in place of all-purpose.
We tried using bread flour in several baked good recipes, including yellow cake and sugar cookies, but didn’t have success. The cake had a dense, gummy texture and the cookies lacked crispness.
There are important differences between wheat flours related to the proteins that form gluten when combined with water. The more protein a flour has, the chewier the final product. So bread flour—roughly 12 to 14 percent protein—is ideal for crusty loaves and pizza crusts, while pastry flour—7 percent—is better for delicate pastries.
All-purpose flours fall in the middle and are the safest bet for most baking. When making substitutions, we prefer to use flours that add flavor, such as rye, buckwheat and almond flours. We add extra dimension and earthiness to classic chocolate chip cookies by using nearly equal parts all-purpose flour and dark rye flour.
In our tangerine-almond cake with bay-citrus syrup, we use a high proportion of almond flour to all-purpose flour for deep, nutty flavor and extra-moist texture. When making your own substitutions, we suggest starting by replacing 20 percent of the all-purpose flour with an alternative.