Brain Food 101: Gluten in All-Purpose Flour

FlourBags

So, let’s talk flour.  The last time we talked about it, I focused on the different types of wheat flour.  Today, we’re focusing on one type in particular: all-purpose flour.

All-purpose flour typically contains between 9 and 11% gluten, depending on the brand and the region where you are purchasing the flour. Gluten, as you may know, is a combination of two proteins which, when mixed with moisture, form a network and support structure for baked goods.  The more gluten a flour contains, the more moisture is absorbed by the dry ingredients, and the less a baked good will spread.

The question is, does using all-purpose flour from one end of the gluten range or the other really affect the outcome when you are testing baking recipes?

I bought three bags of all-purpose flour and got to testing.

KAFlour Collage jpg

Highest Gluten Level: King Arthur Flour

To determine the amount of gluten in each type of flour, I divided the amount of protein per serving by the serving size.  This may not be a 100% accurate percentage, but it gives us a good idea of the relative gluten amounts between flours.

A bag of unbleached all-purpose flour from King Arthur Flour has 4 grams of protein per 30 gram serving, so the flour is 13.3% protein, which we are going to assume is largely gluten. Note that this falls well above the typical 9-11% range for all-purpose flours.

WegmansFlour Collage jpg

The In-Between Gluten Level: Wegman’s Flour

With 3 grams of protein in a 31 gram serving, the unbleached all-purpose flour from Wegman’s comes in at 9.7% protein.

WhiteLily Collage jpg

Lowest Gluten Level: White Lily Flour

I unfortunately couldn’t find an unbleached flour to represent the lowest gluten level, so I can’t fully control for that variable. This White Lily all-purpose flour has only 6.7% protein, which is much lower than the typical all-purpose flour.

AllCookies Collage jpg

The Results

I made three batches of chocolate chip cookie dough, weighing out the ingredients to make sure all three doughs were consistent.  I covered them all and stuck them in the fridge for an hour, then baked three cookies from each batch on a single cookie sheet.  This way, I knew that the weight or temperature of the cookie sheet wouldn’t affect my results.

In the end, there wasn’t much of a difference between the cookies. The cookies made with White Lily flour, the ones with the least amount of gluten and therefore the stickiest dough, took a few more minutes to bake.  Other than that, the final cookies were largely the same, with similar textures and densities.

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed.  After all my research, I was expecting a much bigger difference between the cookies.  I do plan to do another test or two, perhaps with a different type of baked good (a quick bread, for instance), to make sure this wasn’t a fluke.  But I suspect it wasn’t, and that the results are accurate.  I’ll be sure to update you if I retest!

Moral of the Story

It seems as though the amount of gluten in all-purpose flour won’t make a huge difference in your baking.  At the most, you’ll have to increase or decrease the baking time, which is one of the reasons most recipes will give you a time range to follow, rather than a precise time.

What food science questions do you want answered?

Comments

    • Julie says

      I did! Though I find these experiments to be kinda fun, so it wasn’t a bad way to spend a morning! Glad you found it helpful!

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