Why The Protein Content Of Flour Is So Important

The protein content of the flour you use directly relates to the gluten content needed for your baked goods. Gluten refers to a group of proteins that bond to each other, forming a web-like network that provides structural support to your dough. The gluten family includes hundreds of unique proteins, but two are particularly important in baking: gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin impacts a dough’s expansibility, that is, how much it will rise, while glutenin is responsible for its elasticity and tensile strength (via ScienceDirect). Together, these proteins have a profound effect on the size, shape, and texture of your baked goods.

As you might have figured out by now, the protein content printed on your bag of flour is really telling you the gluten content. As Epicurious notes, higher levels of protein in your flour will make for a more elastic dough with a strong gluten structure. This is ideal for making sturdy-but-airy loaves of bread, which is why “bread flour” has a higher protein content (typically 12 to 14%) than all-purpose flour (9 to 12%). On the other end of the spectrum, low-protein flours are great for treats with a lighter structure, like cakes and pastries.

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