What Is the Difference Between Baking with Unbleached and Bleached Flour?
Out of all the types of grains and flours available in the baking aisle, you're probably familiar with the most common: all-purpose flour. But upon closer inspection, you might realize that the bag of flour you are holding says bleached or unbleached flour. The bags look the same and they both have all-purpose baking flour on the label, but are they interchangeable? The short answer is yes, they are, so you can go ahead and keep making those chocolate chip cookies you're craving. To really understand the difference between bleached flour and unbleached flour, however, we went ahead and broke down the details for you.
Bleached vs. Unbleached Flour
Bleached and unbleached flour are both milled flours, the difference is just how they're produced. All milled flour will bleach, or turn white, on its own when allowed to stand exposed to air (unbleached flour). Because this takes time, bleaching agents such as chlorine dioxide and benzoyl peroxide are added to the flour. The resulting bleached flour is more white in color and has a slightly softer texture. If you're buying unbleached flour, it's just skipped the step of the added chemicals and is naturally aged after milling. Unbleached flour will have more of an off-white or yellow tint that fades into lighter white color as it's exposed to oxygen.
Can You Substitute Unbleached Flour for Bleached Flour?
Bleached flour and unbleached flour can be used interchangeably in recipes. However, baked goods made with bleached flour contain proteins that have been altered, which helps in forming gluten bonds when baking. For example, the more glutinous your bread dough is (from using bleached flour), the easier it will be to handle because it's less sticky. The result will also have more volume and texture, whereas a loaf made with unbleached flour might be a bit denser. Those with a sensitive palate may also be able to taste a slight difference if bleached flour is used (due to the chemicals added), but otherwise, the flavor will turn out the same.