Years ago I bought a cookbook called “The Flour is Different” hoping that it would help explain why following a German Recipe with American ingredients would give such different results. It’s a good cookbook, but it doesn’t really clarify the differences. Is German Flour different? I did a little more digging. Turns out “the flour is different” is more than just an expression. In Germany there are quite a few different flour types on the grocery shelves. To make it more confusing for the American baker, they are labeled with a number, and not the terms we are familiar with, like All-Purpose Flour or Bread Flour.
Hopefully this will clarify some of the differences.
Is German Flour Different?
Here in the US, wheat flour dominates the shelves. And mostly you will see bleached or unbleached All-Purpose. In Germany, there is plenty of Wheat Four, called Weizenmehl, but then the break down goes by numbers.
What do the Numbers Mean?
The number on the flour, for example Type 405, refers to how refined the Flour is. They arrive at the number is an interesting way. Let’s see if this makes sense.
When 100 grams of a particular flour are burned, you are left with a certain amount of Ash, reflecting the mineral content of the flour. The more refined the flour, the less germ, bran, and endosperm bits are in the flour, so the LOWER the number of particles of ash.
If the flour is very refined, like an American CAKE flour, you have an ash content of .405% … on Germany, this refined cake flour is called Weizenmehl 405. (Make sense?)
So a flour that would be used for wheat breads or light rye breads would be less refined, and have an ash content of .805% and is called Weizenmehl 805.
Rye Flour uses the same principal. The higher the number, the darker the Rye Flour.
Spelt flour (Dinkelmehl) is commonly used in Germany. It is fine, so it makes a delicate crumb, but has a high gluten content, so it’s good for breads. Generally Dinkelmehl is mixed with Weizenmehl when making breads or cakes.
German Flour Numbers Chart
I’ve added substitutions where possible.
Wheat Flour or Weizenmehl-
Weizenmehl Type 405- Pastry Flour
Closest to Pastry Flour. It has a low gluten content (8%-10%) and is good for baking biscuits, muffins, cookies or pie crusts.
Weizenmehl Type 550- All Purpose Flour
Closest equivalent is All-Purpose flour. It has a 9-11% gluten content. It’s good for most baking, but not GREAT for most baking. Meaning, yes, you can make bread with it, but it won’t have that same chew or crust… and cake won’t be as tender as you like.
Weizenmehl Type 812- Bread Flour
Closest to American bread flour. Because it has a gluten content of 11-13%, it gives Bread the structure it needs. It’s used for lighter colored breads and combined for light rye breads.
Weizenmehl Type 1050- High Gluten Flour
This high gluten flour gives “elasticity” to breads and baked goods that need some stretch, like Pizza Dough. It’s also combined with Rye flour to make darker breads.
Weizenmehl Type 1600- White Whole Wheat
Weizenmehl Type 1700- Whole Wheat Flour
Type 1600 is a whole grain flour made from the whole grain including the bran and the germ. It’s loaded with flavor and nutrition… and can be dense when baked. Usually it is mixed with other Wheat or Rye Flour to make the Dark breads we love.
Rye Flour or Roggenmehl-
Roggenmehl 815 and 960-
Good for light rye breads
ROggenmehl 1150- Standard Rye Flour
Rye flour good for sourdough. Most like the common Rye flour on the shelves in the US.
Rye flour good for darker sourdough breads
Roggenmehl 1740- Pumpernickel Flour
Pure dark rye flour made from the whole grain including bran and germ. Used for Pumpernickel.
Dinkelmehl 630- White Spelt Flour
Spelt flour used for baking. Generally is combined with other flours. German recipe books will give you the measurements.
Time for Some Baking
Hopefully this helps to clarify some of the differences, and if you see a specific flour listed in a German Recipe you will be able to make the substitution.
Ready to practice? Here is a great Brötchen Recipe from My German Table–> Brötchen