Flour
Cooking Knowledge, Non Recipes

How the internet lies to you about German flour

4 comments

I often specify all-purpose or strong bread flour in my recipes. But unless you’re living in Europe, you shouldn’t substitute them with their American equivalent. American wheat is not the same plant as European wheat.

What a German would classify as strong bread flour, an American would classify as pastry flour. Around 60 % of the wheat production in America is the hard red wheat variety which has a higher gluten content than the soft wheat variety which is popular in Europe.

The more gluten is in your dough, the stronger it is. Doughs with high gluten content are ideal for baking the soft and fluffy loaves of bread which are popular in North America because they are able to hold a lot more air than low-gluten doughs.

Wheat Plant
German soft wheat is a different plant than the American variety.

Soft wheat flour, on the other hand, has a lower protein content and is therefore much better suited for pastries, cakes, and cookies. Just think of shortcrust pastry. German all-purpose flour and white bread flour are perfect for that. With their low protein content, you will get a flaky and buttery crust that doesn’t feel doughy at all. Hard-wheat flours are just too strong for that.

How German flours are classified

American flours are generally classified by their gluten content while German flours are classified by their ash content. The ash content is the amount of minerals that remain after the flour has been combusted. Therefore, it isn’t possible to give you an accurate substitution chart.

The most common wheat flours used in German cuisine are:

Flour type Name Gluten content
405All-purpose flour8.66 %
550White Bread Flour7.52 %
1050 Regular Bread Flour8.74 %
Whole wheatWhole Wheat Flour8.30 %

This is data from the Technical University of Munich, which measured the gluten content in all types of flour, grains, and beers available in Germany. Ironically, German type 550 flour, which I usually refer to as strong bread flour on my blog, is the wheat flour with the lowest gluten content.

Why you shouldn’t trust anything you read on the internet without doing a fact check

The research for this article showed me one more time, how important it is to always be skeptical about what you believe. Way too often we just repeat what has been told to us about a million times without ever checking the facts ourselves. There is so much misinformation out on the internet so that you should never trust anyone without doing a fact check yourself.

I don’t want to blame anyone but just look at some of the information given on the internet about German and American flour equivalents:

No, German “high gluten” flour (type 1050) contains on average 8.74 % gluten.

No, German type 550 flour contains on average 7.52 % gluten.

No, German type 550 flour hast the lowest gluten content of all German flours.

Well, respect for these trustworthy resources….

Ok, that’s enough of my little rant. Let’s get back on track and look at some data for American flours from the North American Millers’ Association:

NameGluten content
Cake or pastry flour7-9 %
All-purpose flour8-11 %
Bread flour12-14 %
Whole wheat flourcomparable to bread flour

As you can see, whenever you’re trying to replicate one of my recipes you should use American cake or pastry flour. For German flours, the amount of gluten in all of them is about the same, between 7-9 grams. You still won’t have the same product because American wheat is a different cultivar than European wheat. But with American cake flour, you can hardly go wrong.

Resources:

Types of Flour

Wie viel Gluten ist wirklich drin?

4 Comments

  1. Hello Tim.
    It seems the Internet has replaced the good old fashioned encyclopedia, with one huge differance ,the encyclopedia verifies its facts before it distributes it.

    This is a concerning fact as the world population will lose itself on being able to continue not knowing fact from fiction and making decisions that will affect you and me, the perfect example is the current USA election where mass media and hight tech silicon valley took and controlled the results.

    Your blog is such a welcome read, intelligance prevails!

    Harold

    Just wondering why the flour mills in Germany are not correcting the onfo on the internet with a follow up on facts!

    • Thanks, Harold.

      it was quite amusing to see that all the english language blogs just copied from each other. There’s a government document (in German) available where they determined the gluten content of foods as a guideline for people suffering from gluten sensitivity. I wonder how no one came up with the idea to use that as a reference. It’s a 10 minute google search.

      I agree with you that it can be very challenging to distinguish between facts and fiction. Especially because almost anyone can produce fake news, pictures or even videos nowadays. Disinformation has always existed but not in this extreme form where anyone has the tools to manipulate others. In the end, it’s always important to look behind the author and sponsor of a news article. What are their goals? What do they want to achieve? That makes things often appear in a different light. – Tim

  2. I remember checking the protein content while I was living in Germany trying to find an equivalent to the bread we use for pizza in Italy. I found one with 11gr of protein and that gave great results. I’m wondering if by using gluten as an equivalence measure we are missing out. What is the most important component for German bread? Now I’m living in Canada and trying to find an equivalent to German bread. Ironically pizza flour is not hard to find here but German flour on the other hand, I’m still learning where they differ and on which factor should I focus. Gluten; protein; wheat type? I’m trying to make good old fashioned saatenbrot

    • Hi Tiziana,
      Canadian wheat flour is sold as a premium flour in Germany because it has such a high protein/gluten content. Most German flour is not as high in protein. I would focus on sourcing wheat flour that is unbleached and that is grown locally from a miller that you can trust. I don’t know about the situation in Canada but I always buy my flour from small local mills in organic quality, if possible. I am not that bothered about the protein content. The flour usually performs very well even though my organic white wheat flour only has 10 gr of protein.

      I think your main focus should be to purchase flour that has been grown locally and that gives bread a beautiful yellowish-appearance. The protein number is not all that important. For German-type breads it might be beneficial to use softer flours (made from soft wheat) rather than harder flours made from hard wheat. I hope this info helps a little. While the flour is an improtant ingredient, I think the best flour you can use is the one grown locally – Tim

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.