AMERICAN-EUROPEAN FLOUR “TRANSLATION” – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

(Hier geht’s zur deutschen Version dieses Posts)

When I moved to Maine, I didn’t think too much about differences between German and American flours.

All-purpose flour was, obviously, your Average Joe among flours. Bread flour was meant for breads. Duh! And whole wheat and rye flours? Stupid question! Exactly the same as German “Vollkornweizen” and “Roggenmehl”.

But then I saw something called “Cake Flour” at Hannaford’s. Hm…. a special flour for cake baking, why that? Then there was “White Whole Wheat” – really, white? My chemical alert siren went off! Was it bleached and bromated like some of the flour brands in the baking aisle? (Don’t worry, it’s a special kind of albino winter wheat.)

I started wondering about different flour types only after I tried to bake “Brötchen” – German everyday rolls. Thanks to Peter Reinhart’s “Bread Baker’s Apprentice” I already knew the merits of slow fermentation, and that steam was needed to create a good crust.

German Everyday Rolls

But, though my German Brötchen were not bad, something, somehow, was not right. The crumb was totally different from what I was used to in Germany. Not loose and fluffy that you could easily pull it out, but chewier, with larger pores, more like French bread.

After a while it dawned on me that US-wheat has much more protein than European wheat species. The flour contains significantly more gluten, so that the dough has a more stable structure, and breads rise higher. My German-American rolls were suffering from hyper-glutenism!

For a fluffy crumb you need the right kind of flour

In The Fresh Loaf forum for hobby bakers I read later that many Americans, interested in baking German Brötchen, were utterly puzzled by this problem.

During a visit in Germany, my friend Ingrid asked me to bake those baguettes I had raved about on the phone. I went to her supermarket’s baking aisle, and – found myself as clueless as before in Maine!

Never having baked any breads in Germany (only cakes and Christmas cookies), I could only imagine that the German all-purpose flour, Weizenmehl Type 405, probably wouldn’t be the right thing. I knew Vollkornweizen (whole wheat). But all those other flour types – Type 550, 1050, 1700 – what about them?

I had not the slightest idea, and the descriptions on the packages didn’t much to enlighten me, either. The type numbers refer to ash content, not protein. If you incinerate your flour – this is what you would be left with (along with a barking dog, crazed by the smoke alarm.)

After serious consideration I decided on Type 1050 – it had to have more gluten than softie flour 405, but surely less than the highest numbered flour, Type 1700, whole wheat. I didn’t realize that a medium type, like 1050, would just be sifted, with some of the bran removed, and a bit lighter.

So, what happened? My Pains a l’Ancienne turned out much healthier than planned – after all, they contained a good portion of bran. But even though they were flatter and darker than they should have been, they tasted very good. And my friend Ingrid was happy.

With wheat type 1050 my rustic baguettes were more rustic than planned

WHEAT – Approximate Equivalents between US and European flours

US FlourDFIAT% Protein
Cake
glatt
6-8
Pastry
40545004808-9
Whole
Wheat
Pastry
doppelt
griffig
8-9
All-Purpose
55055070010-12
Bread 55055, 65
170012
Substitute
(see below*)
81265, 80
170011-13
Substitute
(see below**)
10501102160013-14.5
Whole Wheat 1600
Vollkornmehl
150Vollkornmehl13
White Whole13
High-Gluten14
High-Extraction/
First Clear
10501102160016
Graham Flour/
Wheat Meal
1800
Weizenschrot
Weizenschrot13
Unfortunately, I can’t format the table for perfect reading on a cellphone

*) Substitute: 77% Bread Flour + 23% Whole Wheat

**) Substitute: 57% Bread Flour + 43% Whole Wheat

In Austria there is also another differentiation: the “Griffigkeit” of the flour – how the flour particles feel like when you rub them between your fingers: griffiges Mehl (Dunst and Feingriess) is coarser than flour, but finer than semolina. Doppelgriffiges Mehl (= Dunst) is especially used for fine pastry, pasta and strudel. It has a high content of bran I would substitute with whole wheat pastry flour or a mixture of pastry/whole wheat pastry. Glattes Mehl, smooth flour, is the equivalent of cake flour.

Spelt Flour and White Whole Wheat, and albino variety that has no European equivalent

SPELT – US-Equivalents of German and Austrian Flours

US FlourDAT
White Spelt Type 630Type 630
(High Extraction)
Substitute:
57% White Spelt
+ 43% Whole Spelt
Type 1050Type 1050
Whole Spelt Type 1600/
Dinkel-
vollkorn
mehl
Dinkel-
vollkorn
mehl

France and Italy don’t have sifted, lighter, spelt flour types.

Whole spelt you may find in supermarkets with very good selection or in natural food stores. White spelt you can to mail order from specialty stores. In Germany both are more readily available, also high-extraction spelt (no equivalent in the US, but you can substitute a mixture, see above).

RYE – US-Equivalents of German, French and Austrian Flours

US FlourDFAT
White Rye Type 81570R/500
Substitute:
82% White Rye
+ 18% Whole Rye
Type 997heller
R/960
Substitute:
66% White Rye
+ 34% Whole Rye
Type 1150130R/960
Medium RyeType 1370
Whole RyeType 1800
Roggen-
vollkornmehl
170Roggen-
vollkornmehl
Pumpernickel
Rye Meal
Roggen-
schrot,
fein
Cracked Rye
Rye Chops
Roggen-
schrot,
grob

Most American supermarkets carry only whole rye flour – if they offer it at all. White rye and medium rye can be ordered from online baking stores (like King Arthur Flour or New York Bakers here in the Northeast). For the lighter medium rye types you can substitute a mixture (see above).

Medium ground rye meal aka pumpernickel flour is sometimes available in natural food stores and can be mail-ordered. For coarser rye chops/cracked rye there is only DIY (if you own a grain mill.)

American and German medium rye flours

Ancient grains, like Einkorn, Emmer and Kamut, recently made a comeback in the US. In my new home state Maine a real grain renaissance has happened, vigorously supported by the Maine Grain Alliance and their annual Kneading Conference.

This post – originally published in 2012 – has been updated, completely re-written. and the tables formatted for better visibility.

6 thoughts on “AMERICAN-EUROPEAN FLOUR “TRANSLATION” – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

      1. This is his best. And I love all the stories of the heritage wheat’s in Italy and great German breads also.
        Hey, he’ll eat them right? haha My brother in law says there are never too many books…only too few bookshelves! I concur.

        Like

  1. Hi Karin, What a thorough description for anyone trying to bake an equivalent to something they were familiar with in Germany and Austria. Because of restricted travels, this is the first time in years that we won’t be traveling to both countries this fall. Your top photo brings back fond memories of the rolls I would enjoy each morning with some delicious cheese during our time spent there.

    Liked by 1 person

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