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Plain Flour vs All-Purpose Flour: What’s the Difference?

Ever find yourself staring at the baking aisle, wondering about the difference between plain and all-purpose flour? We’ve been there.

Plain flour is the go-to for most. It’s essential in baking. All-purpose flour? It’s America’s favorite. Both seem the same, right? Wrong.

Here’s the scoop. Plain flour does wonders for cakes and cookies. All-purpose flour? It’s versatile. You’ll see it in everything from bread to thickening sauces.

We once swapped them in a recipe. The cake? A disaster. Lesson learned.

Key takeaway: knowing your flours can save your baking day. And who doesn’t want to be a baking superhero?

What is Plain Flour?

Plain flour is a must-have in many kitchens.

It’s made from wheat grains that have had the bran and germ removed, resulting in a fine texture.

Plus, its neutral flavor makes it ideal for baking.

Cakes, biscuits, and pastries? No problem.

Plain flour’s low protein content creates a tender crumb and limits gluten formation when mixed with liquid.

So, it’s perfect for delicate baked goods.

Plus, plain flour can thicken sauces and gravies.

It absorbs moisture and creates a smooth consistency.

Furthermore, its versatility makes it a great all-purpose ingredient.

From cookies to muffins to pies, plain flour is a great base for various treats.

What is All-Purpose Flour?

All-purpose flour is truly versatile.

The name says it all.

It’s a mix of hard and soft wheat flours, providing a balanced protein content.

This makes it perfect for baking cakes and breads – no need for separate flours.

The texture it provides is ideal for baking and helps things rise nicely.

Plus, its gluten formation capability gives structure and prevents pastries from being too dense or crumbly.

It even has a neutral flavor, so it works for both sweet and savory recipes.

Plus, you can find it in almost any grocery store.

This makes it a great option for home bakers and professionals alike.

Additionally, all-purpose flour can also be used as a thickening agent for sauces, gravies, and soups.

It’s a pantry staple because of its versatility.

Differences Between Plain Flour and All-Purpose Flour

Composition and Processing

Comparing plain flour to all-purpose flour? It’s essential to consider composition and processing.

Plain flour is made of soft wheat, with low protein content, giving it a finer texture and less gluten.

This type is ideal for cakes, pastries, and biscuits.

All-purpose flour is a mix of hard and soft wheat, with higher protein content.

This makes it great for a range of baked goods like bread, cookies, and pizza dough.

Processing wise, both types of flour have similar steps, like milling and sifting.

Yet, all-purpose flour may get extra processes like bleaching or enrichment.

The difference in composition and gluten content can change the outcome of a recipe.

So, pick the right type of flour for the desired result.

Protein Content

Protein content is key when it comes to plain flour and all-purpose flour.

It decides the texture, consistency, and structure of baked goods.

All-purpose flour has higher protein content, making it ideal for bread-making.

Whereas plain flour has lower protein content, making it perfect for cakes and pastries.

Protein also affects how much gluten is formed during kneading and baking.

This affects the chewiness and density of the baked good.

So, for a baker, understanding protein content is essential.

In addition, there are other differences between plain flour and all-purpose flour.

Plain flour usually has a protein content of 9-10%, which works for sponges and cookies.

All-purpose flour has a higher protein range of 10-12%.

This higher protein content gives it more strength during kneading and shaping, making it great for bread-making or recipes that require a strong dough structure.

By considering the protein content, bakers can pick the right flour for their needs.

Knowing how protein affects baking leads to better results.

So, next time you reach for the flour, consider how its protein content affects your culinary creations.

Gluten Formation

Gluten formation is necessary.

Proteins, glutenin, and gliadin mix with water and are mixed vigorously.

This gives dough elasticity and helps it rise when baking.

Without gluten, baked goods would be dense and lack structure.

The mixing aligns proteins and creates a network of strands.

This traps air bubbles during fermentation, making goods light and airy.

The protein network also adds strength and stability.

Dough can hold shape during rising and baking.

Flours have different protein content.

Bread flour has higher protein than all-purpose flour, resulting in a stronger protein network and chewier texture.

Cake flour has less protein, creating a delicate crumb.

Using the right flour is key.

All-purpose flour is versatile.

It is suitable for recipes that require moderate gluten development.

For bread or chewy goods, use bread flour.

Texture and Baked Goods

Texture is key when baking.

To get different textures, you can use different types of flour.

Plain and all-purpose flour are popular choices, but they each have their own unique textures.

Plain flour, also called cake flour or pastry flour, has a lower protein content.

This makes it great for delicate and tender baked goods, like cakes and pastries.

These have a light, fluffy crumb and melt in your mouth.

This flour also gives pie dough a tender crust.

All-purpose flour has a higher protein content.

This makes breads denser and chewier and cookies slightly chewy.

They also keep their shape better with mix-ins, like chocolate chips or dried fruits.

When deciding between plain and all-purpose flour, think about the desired texture and personal preference.

Both flours can create delicious baked goods.

Similarities Between Plain Flour and All-Purpose Flour

Plain flour and all-purpose flour have a few things in common.

Both are made from wheat and contain starch and protein.

This means you can substitute either one in recipes with no notable difference.

Both types of flour have a moderate protein content, perfect for making cakes, cookies, pastries, bread, and even thickening sauces or gravies.

Plus, no added leavening agents offer more flexibility with the texture of the finished product.

Both plain flour and all-purpose flour can be found in most grocery stores, so you don’t need to go on a hunt for a special type of flour.

However, there are some differences.

Plain flour has less protein, making it great for fragile baking like cakes.

All-purpose flour has slightly more gluten-forming proteins, making it ideal for bread-making.

Recommended Uses for Plain Flour and All-Purpose Flour

Plain flour and all-purpose flour may look similar, but they have slight differences.

Plain flour has less protein, so it’s perfect for cakes and pastries.

All-purpose flour has more protein, so it’s great for breads and pizza doughs.

For cakes and pastries, use plain flour.

It creates a light and tender texture.

Plus, you’ll get delicious crumbs that melt in your mouth.

All-purpose flour is ideal for making breads, pizza doughs, pancakes, and sauces.

It has extra protein which forms gluten and gives breads chewiness.

Plus, it absorbs moisture well, making it great for thickening sauces.

Conversion and Substitution Tips

When cooking with plain flour or all-purpose flour, conversion and substitution tips are key.

Follow them to switch between the two types of flour without affecting the final result.

Remember that all-purpose flour has more protein than plain flour.

If you need to use all-purpose flour in a recipe that calls for plain flour, reduce the liquid slightly.

Or, if you’re using plain flour in a recipe for all-purpose flour, add a small amount of cornstarch or baking powder.

The texture of baked goods can also differ when one type of flour is substituted for another.

Plain flour usually leads to a crumbly texture, while all-purpose flour gives structure and chewiness.

So consider these characteristics when selecting which flour to use.

Bear in mind that these tips may not always produce identical results.

That’s because the characteristics of each type of flour can vary due to factors like brand, protein content, and milling process.

Try experimenting and adjust as needed.

By following the guidelines for converting and substituting between plain flour and all-purpose flour, you can confidently make various recipes.

You’ll be able to bake cakes and make bread without any culinary mishaps.


With such similar names, it can be hard to decide between plain flour and all-purpose flour, and the answer may depend on your needs and preferences.

Plain flour is a basic ingredient that comes from wheat through milling and sifting processes.

This type of flour creates heavy-textured loaves of bread with heavier crumbs.

On the other hand, all-purpose flour is made from soft wheat and attends to different baking needs as it is able to achieve lighter textures in cookies, cakes, and pastries due to its higher protein level.

All-purpose flour also contains additives including malted barley flour which serves as a yeast food.

When it comes down to making your decision between plain or all-purpose flours, pay attention to elevation if you are baking with yeast doughs – recipes at high elevations will require less of a rising agent than recipes at sea level for best results.

In the end, no matter what type of baking you’ll be doing there’s always an option in either plain or all-purpose flours – so get creative.

It never hurts to try something new in the kitchen.

Plain Flour vs All-Purpose Flour: What’s the Difference?

Andrew Gray
Want to understand the distinctions between plain flour and all-purpose flour? Join us as we unravel the differences in their composition and culinary applications.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course This vs That
Servings 1 Serving


  • Plain Flour
  • All-Purpose Flour


  • Choose between plain flour and all-purpose flour based on your recipe requirements and desired outcome.
  • Follow your recipe’s instructions and use the selected flour accordingly.
  • Measure the appropriate amount of flour needed for your recipe, ensuring accuracy.
  • Incorporate the flour into your mixture, gradually adding and mixing until well combined.
  • Continue with the remaining steps of your recipe, knowing that the choice of plain flour or all-purpose flour will contribute to the texture and consistency of your final dish.
  • Enjoy the delicious results and explore the versatility of both plain flour and all-purpose flour in various recipes.
Keyword Plain Flour vs All-Purpose Flour
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