Can different brands of flour change my recipe significantly?
Are all flours created equal?
Starting from the climate where the wheat is grown, to the way the flours are milled will determine the type of flour. Because of that, each country’s wheat can be quite different and the very same recipe with wheat from different locations can therefore yield a very different product.
For example, flours grown in colder climates ( great northern plains and Canada) produce a “strong spring wheat” which are high in gluten and make great yeast breads.
Flours grown in climates where the ground never freezes to a depth of greater than 10 inches are called “soft winter wheat” and due to their lower gluten content are ideal for cakes.
All-purpose flour is a combination of hard and soft wheat. Often all purpose flour comes in a wide variation in its protein content from brand to brand. It may also vary in its strength depending on where one lives.
Cake flour is a winter wheat soft flour that in some countries is also bleached. This type of flour is lower in gluten and higher in starch than bread flour. The bleaching of the cake flour also reduces the gluten (although in Israel no flour is bleached). Cake flours are lowest in protein, but highest in starch since they need to form a delicate framework for a light and airy cake.
Bread flour is higher gluten flour and is perfect for breads that need the strongest framework. This framework needs to be strong enough to hold carbon dioxide as it is produced slowly by the yeast. The dough needs enough stretch power (without tearing) for the accumulating gases and to keep it held high.
How does this work?
Flour is made up of 2 protiens that form " gluten" (from the Latin word for ‘glue’) better said, a protein composite, of two proteins ,( Glutenin and Gliadin). As long as the flour is dry, the two proteins will not interact. But just add some liquid like water or milk and the two proteins latch onto the liquid and latch onto each other to forms elastic sheets called “gluten”. Gluten is part of the structure of the bread or cake.
Different types of flour contain different amounts of gluten. This is listed on the side of the bag of flour under "protien" content. A flour with a high protein or gluten content will absorb the liquid at a different rate than flour with a low gluten content (i.e. cake flour).
Not only will the batters be different (looser or thicker), but the resulting baked product will be altered accordingly.