The protein content of flour varies between the type and can even vary within the same type between brands. Unfortunately the answer is not always perfectly clear how much of that protein is coming from gluten as opposed to other sources that get added into the mix, but hopefully this guide will help you find the best flour possible for washing!
General Flour Types
Cake and pastry flour: 7–9% protein – Avoid this entirely for washing flour.
All-purpose flour: 10–12% protein – This can be used, but some brands work better than others depending on where the protein is coming from. Read more info below.
Bread flour: 12–16% protein – Fine-grain, unbleached, white varieties are optimal for making seitan. Bread flour is designed to have higher amounts of gluten which is why just about any brand should be a safe bet, though some still may have more than others. Find recommended brands below.
Whole wheat flour: 13-16% protein – This one is a gamble because despite its high protein content, the bran can disrupt gluten formation. Learn more about this below.
Some brands like King Arthur tell you the percent of protein from gluten right on the front of the bag, but with most you have to take a look at the nutritional information on the package. If it’s displayed as “10 grams of protein per 100 grams of flour,” the protein content is 10%.
However, most nutritional information is displayed as something other than “per 100 grams,” and you’ll need to do a little math. As you’ll see on the label image, this flour has 4 grams of protein per 30-gram serving of flour. To calculate the protein percentage, multiply 4 by the number 100 and divide that by 30 (see the example below).
4 g protein per 30 g flour
4 × 100 = 400
400 / 30 = 13.33
This flour has a protein content of 13.33%.
You can use the same formula to determine the percentage of protein in flour:
(x) grams of protein per (y) grams of flour
(x) x 100 = (z)
(z) / (y) = % of protein content in the flour
Other Things to Keep in Mind
While calculating protein is easy enough—and in many cases is enough—to determine if your flour will work, there are other factors at play which can affect your results.
On most flour labels you will find the ingredient “Malted Barley Flour.” What you won’t find is the percentage of the mix that this flour takes up, and while it is a contributor to the overall protein content of your bag of flour, it will not contribute to the ball of gluten that you are left with after washing. This is why some brands of all purpose flour work better than others, even if they all calculate to 10% or higher protein content.
As stated above, bread flour is designed to have higher amounts of protein in the form of gluten which gives bread that “rise” during baking. It is also typically fine-grained which makes it easier to wash. For those reasons just about any brand of bread flour should be a safe bet, though some will still have more gluten protein than others.
Wheat and Whole Grain Flours
Wheat flour ranks highest on the list for protein content, but not for washing. This is because despite the amount of protein, the bran part of the grain can make it difficult for the gluten to form. In some of the worst cases, it can cause the gluten to completely fall apart during washing to the point it all washes away. (It’s a good idea to wash over a large bowl or pot to save your starch – and save your pipes!)
On the flip side, the high protein can yield an even larger amount of gluten. Some have had great luck grinding their own wheat berries into flour, with reports that it takes less time washing for the gluten to form an even stronger bond. If you’re looking to experiment, happen to have a bag of unused wheat flour laying around, or simply prefer working with whole wheat varieties, the pre-packaged finer-grained varieties tend to have the best results.
If you prefer not to take a gamble and have the access, here are a few brands that have been recommended:
- King Arthur White Bread Flour, U.S. (The King Arthur all purpose also works well, just slightly less yield.)
- Signature Select White Bread Flour, U.S.
- McDougalls Strong White Bread Flour, UK
- Waitrose’s Own Strong White Bread Flour, UK
- BioBio Dinkelmehl (Spelt Flour), Germany
Have a different brand that works great for you? Please share it in the comments and I’ll be happy to add it to the list!
Photo by Klaus Nielsen from Pexels