Recipes call for All Purpose, but I'm wondering if using bread flour
is better. I use bread flour for my banana quick breads and it turns
out better than using AP.
However, these shortbread recipes do call for chilling the dough, and
rolling it out...unlike banana bread.
Vox...anything on this?
I think the term "bread" is what is muddying the waters here. Also there is
no real consistency in AP flour. You many have a very high protein AP flour
that is higher in protein than some bread flours. If there is a
consistency, it would be within a line of products from the same
Personally, I find that AP flour is good for quick breads. These are
products that are more like cakes than traditional yeast leavened bread.
However, if your bread flour gives you the result that you like, that's all
Cookies may benefit from higher protein flour. It all depends on what
characteristics you like. For short bread cookies, the higher protein flour
would make them stronger. For soft, moist cookies, a lower protein flour
would be better. I say give it a try.
Shortbread and banana bread are totally different animals. Shortbread isn't
a "bread", not in the sense of a quick bread or a yeasted bread, anyway.
It's a cookie.
My experience has been that actually, pastry flour works best - i.e.
something with very low protein. High-protein flours (like bread flour)
tend to make them too firm. In Scotland they're usually made with somewhat
If you don't have pastry flour readily available, I'd use AP instead of
bread flour. However, again, AP is one of those terms that covers an
enormous spectrum of protein contents, and varies both regionally and from
brand to brand. Low-protein Southern USA AP flours would probably be best.
I'll put in a plug for reading Shirley Corriher's wonderful section on
flour in _Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed_ You should be
able to find it in your library. Along with McGee she's a wonderful
food science writer.
I was finding that my scone recipe was coming up really wet, and for a
moment was perplexed. Then I realized that I'd switched flour, and
deduced that clearly the bulk organic unbleached AP I used for the last
two batches was lower protein than the King Arthur AP I'd previously
been using. Shirley does a great job of laying out the information, in
part explaining why it is some recipes "don't work". For example a
biscuit recipe written by a southern cook using the low protein AP,
10.5 % Martha White, when made with a 12% Pillsbury or Gold Medal AP,
will produce a dried up dough because of the absorption differences.
Anyway, I think her book is very useful and well worth reading. I've
had it out of the libaray so many times, it's finally gone onto my
holiday wish list this year.
When making bread, biscuits, and scones, and pie pastry I don't use a set
measure of liquid. I only add what is needed to make a proper dough. I
agree that Chorriher's book is a good read ( I own a copy), it is very hard
to know what the percentage of gluten forming proteins is in any given brand
of flour. Therefore, on a practical note it is important to realize that
you don't have to add all the liquid specified in a recipe, but only the
amount to make the consistency of dough you want.