DIY Bread Flour Hack!
This is a handy little tip I learnt during the 2020 lockdown, in fact I write this mid-isolation! There seem to have been the strangest of items in short supply.....toilet roll, tinned tomatoes, long grain rice, pasta and bread flour!
I have a romanticised notion of families baking bread together now that we have more time on our hands, but I suspect that along with the twenty something packs of loo roll that some people have squirrelled away, there we will find the strong flour missing from the supermarket shelves, only to be rediscovered and binned in the great cupboard clearout of 2026!
We do occasionally throw some ingredients into the bread maker and optimistically hope for the best, we aren't often disappointed, and the smell of freshly baked bread is hard to beat and does nothing for our waistlines. What we use bread flour for mainly in our house, is making pizza dough. This is a great weekend treat that suits all tastes from Clara's bright yellow, full tin of sweetcorn based pizza, to my all things vegetable, with homemade vegan mozzarella cheese. We make a great easy tomato sauce, recipe here, and the mozzarella recipe you can find here.
When we started to run low on bread flour I started to consider how we could substitute it. Thinking back to my Home Economics days at high school, I remember learning that the difference between ordinary flour and bread flour was the gluten content. Gluten is a wheat protein that when worked in the dough, becomes really quite stretchy and rubbery. It's this robust stretch that holds the bubbles of gas created by the yeast to allow the dough to rise, and not collapse as it would with normal flour.
So all we needed to do was to increase the gluten content of the flour and the job's a good un. Here's where the crafty bit comes in. I have sacks of Vital Wheat Gluten that I use to make my Seitanic meatlike creations! This is the wheat protein that has been washed from flour, resulting in a creamy white powder that raises eyebrows at work as it gets delivered by the box load every few months. It's easy enough to get hold of online, but Holland & Barrett sell it now instore. All you need to to is to raise the gluten content of your average bag of plain flour and bingo - you have bread flour!
The ratio that seems to work is 125g of plain flour, to 5g of Vital Wheat Gluten. Now, although I was a whizz at Home Economics, and hung on every word of my Home Ec teacher, maths is a completely different story. I'm sure there must be a formula to make a nice round kilo of flour as an end product, but that is way beyond my mathematical prowess, so you will have to make do with the method of 1kg plain flour to 40g of Vital Wheat Gluten
So if you are lucky enough to have some of this clever little cheap as chips powder left over from your seitanic creations, and are struggling to get hold of the elusive bread flour, give it a whirl!