In America, it was quite easy. You went into the grocery story, you picked up a bag of flour, you took it home and you did whatever you wanted with it. It was the flour called for in every recipe known to man: all-purpose flour. And it would make sense that this multipurpose, good for everything flour is readily available.
So you move to Germany and you go shopping and you find Weizenmehl and you think – ah, flour is flour, right. This must be all-purpose flour. And you bake with it and you cook with it and most of the time things turn out okay…but sometimes things just go horribly wrong. And you start to wonder if it’s you or the flour.
The good news is, it’s not just you! And to be honest, some people have probably lived in Germany for years and never determined that there is any difference. If you’re using flour for very few things in the kitchen, it probably will never have an impact on your life. But if you bake bread, cakes, muffins, cupcakes or other yummy flour-based products, you are eventually going to run into complications.
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The Flour Predicament
There are many types of flour here and the majority of them poorly describe what they are to be used for.
- Type 405 is pastry flour, best for cakes, pastries, pie crusts and other lighter baked goods. It is typically made from soft wheat and has a gluten content of 8-10%. This is what you usually find readily available in German grocery stores.
- Type 550 is what Americans consider all-purpose flour. It is typically used in breads, cookies, biscuits, muffins, and croissants (although you can also use 405 for cookies, biscuits & muffins as well). It is made from a combination of soft and hard wheats, and has a gluten content of 9-11%. It is relatively easy to find in chain grocery stores like Rewe.
- Type 812 is bread flour and produces foods with a chewier texture than all-purpose flour. It also gives bread the proper elasticity and strength needed to rise properly and maintain its shape while baking. It is made from hard wheat and has a gluten content of 11-13%. I have yet to find this in a normal store in Germany but you can buy gluten by the kilo which is the important aspect of this flour. You can make your own bread flour by adding one tablespoon of wheat gluten to every cup of all-purpose flour. Always mix the flour and gluten together before adding to your recipe.
- Type 1050 is often referred to as “first clear” flour in the US, used for heavier rolls and breads, and is great for sourdough starters. It is high extraction flour, with more bran and wheat germ in it, and is overall a more dense, hearty flour. It is made from hard wheat and has a gluten content of 13-14.5%. This is one of the more difficult flours to find, but try dm — they actually have a very extensive collection of flours at very reasonable prices (far better than what I paid at Rewe).
Now if you’re wondering if these numbers actually stand for something, they do! The higher the number on the package, the more ash (and usually other minerals and fiber) you will find in the flour because more of the wheat corns have been ground up into the flour. A 1050 wheat is no less fine than the 405. These numbers are calculated based on the amount of ash (measured in milligrams) obtained from 100 grams of the dry mass of the flour.
Of course that is not the only kind of flour you’ll find over here. There are also whole wheat flours (Vollkornmehl) (usually type 1600) and rye (Roggen) and sunflower and so on. Type 1150 is the general number you will find on rye flour and is considered a medium or dark rye flour, which is ideal for making a typical loaf of rye bread. But you may sometimes find additional types: lower numbers would produce a lighter rye bread or roll, and something up to type 1800 (Roggen-Vollkornmehl) would give a wholegrain rye bread like Pumpernickel. As you get into the higher numbers, you will often find the recipes indicating you should mix several types of flour to get the best results.
There are also spelt flours available here (Dinkel). Dinkel type 630 is sometimes substituted for type 405 Wiezenmehl and will make great breads. But you have to be careful not to over-knead it due to its high gluten content. It’s usually best to combine it with other flours. Dinkel Vollkornmehl is equivalent to whole spelt flour.
More often than not, a regular 405 Weizenmehl is going to be sufficient when you’re covering Schniztel in flour before the egg and bread crumb coatings, and certainly if you’re planning to bake. But when you start expanding into baking your own bread (especially artisan breads) and getting serious about making pizza dough at home, you’ll want to start expanding more into the world of flours in Germany.
I knew there was some difference but didn’t know exactly what the numbers were all about! Thanks for clarifying 😉
You are becoming a “Cullenary Expert”….
Your mom was a pretty good cook in her own time.
Interesting….just made my first loaf of rye bread (without the wheat gluten, which i didn’t have, and turned out surprisingly well, though more like a dense, chewy muffin)…..thanks for the explanations – makes a lot more sense now:)
THANK YOU! I was always wondering this! Now it all makes sense… 🙂
this really was so useful. I do alot of baking while in Germany and have spent way too much time in stores trying to noodle this out. Finally this one is solved. got the leavening issues sorted and look forward to greater success in June.
Thank you Thank you! Friends and I have been struggling with our baking and I think this will really help!
Who would have thought that something as simple as flour could cause so much chaos in the kitchen, right? 😉 Glad I could help out!!
lol Germans tend to make almost everything more complicated than it needs to be. Part of our nature I guess.
No they don’t! They raise it to a level a little higher than other people are used to!
So true… 🙂
Hello Tiffany, its my first week in Germany and the thought of going grocery shopping is giving me chills . Today I went to buy wheat flour for making chappathis (indian flat bread) and bought home Weizenmehl 405( courtsey googletranslate, they dont take cooking serious enough to give specific numbers :P) , but the texture is similar to the all purpose flour we get in India .I dnt think there is 1050 or 1600 in the shops nearby ,so can u please tell what wheat gluten is and hw to use it ? may be its german too
Thank you for summarizing this! This is great and exactly what I needed! Until I moved to Germany, I never knew that buying flour could be so complicated. 🙂
Crazy right? It still makes me wonder some days. But I’m starting to get more adventurous with the flour here which is a good thing. Now if only I could get baking German bread right 😉
You helped me a lot with all this … good luck with your mission! I love German Bread, being German there is no better Bread in the world other than ours there… The northern countries, no doubt are great at this too! Cheers and many thanks indeed!
I can’t thank you enough for this post! I’m an American living in The Netherlands and live 10 mins from the german border. I shop there all the time because they have a better selection of baking items..the bread here has frustrated me to no end. In the netherlands they only sell bread flour with the yeast already in it! I have been searching for 5 years on where to get my own..I am now armed with a list and will be shopping in germany this weekend for bread flour 🙂
Glad I could help!
I find it a bit funny that you travel to Germany to shop at the grocery store, because we used to do the same in Holland as well. Brown sugar for example is something you can’t get here. And although I can make my own, it’s just not so much fun. 🙂
Will deliver to Europe and do large quantities as do https://www.britishcornershop.co.uk/?gclid=CO7KwLKLydECFQkq0wodQvYJLQ
I’m in Germany and have regular deliveries !
Hi, I am Saylee from India.i am interested in buying German flour type 550 for baking purpose.can you guide me where i can get type 550 German flour in india.
I’m just now posting a thank you…I finally headed into Germany and went to Kaufland armed with my list of numbers..lol I was able to get spelt,my beloved bread flour and rye..I can’t thank you enough!!!
Glad you found everything you needed, Sonya! We used to have a Kaufland nearby when we lived near Darmstadt. They usually have a great selection! Thanks for saying thanks!! I’m so glad I could help. 🙂
I keep forgetting to ask but is there a german version of White Whole Wheat Flour? i cant find it in the netherlands as of yet and wasnt sure if there was a version in germany.
Type 1050 should be what you are looking for. It’s considered “light” wheat flour. Hope that helps! 🙂
Good brief introduction of flours in Germany.
Recently we are working on receips of bread maker, feeling challenge now.
You really seem to be quite good at comparing german and american flour. 😀
It’s funny how you know everything about this, while I (as a german) never noticed (or maybe I just ignored it 😛 ) there was a number on the flour packet. Now I feel so educated. So all-purpose flour is just type 550? Is it really totally regardless of wether you’re using Weizen-,Dinkel- or Roggenmehl?
The numbers are regardless of the type (Weizen, Dinkel, etc) but generally you’ll find Dinkel & Roggen as a type 1150.
I honestly might never have noticed it if I hadn’t ended up with flat banana bread time after time. For many items, it makes little difference. But some baked goods just need the all purpose flour.
Thank you for this! I am not american but I have some american recipes I’d like to try and American flour just doesn’t make sense to me (all purpose flour is supposed to be T 550? T 530 is way more versatile! But apparently you don’t even use that…aaah cultural differences.)
I have family that lives in USA and everytime they come visit they buy a lot of flour here. They say the flour is incomparable.
So thank you very much for this!
Is there a German equivalent to self rising flour?
Hi Joe, I haven’t seen self-rising flour in Germany but it’s easy to make yourself. It’s just flour with baking powder and salt added.
I was planning to make roti/ chapati by using wheat flour type 405, should I try this or wait for the comment as i dont want to waste it…. can anyone guide me here so i can open the packet,
Thank you so much!
My husband and I go Germany a lot because we close to the border in the Netherlands.
We have spend many times in store trying to figure it out, still leaving empty handed.
Not this time! 🙂
Hi Tiffany, My wife and I fell in love with a Swiss Brown Bread on a recent anniversary trip to Europe. From the recipes I have found, it requires “Ruchmehl”, which one site approximated as being like German 1050 flour mixed with some whole wheat. Have you used Ruchmehl, or heard of a way to approximate it in the US? (I am, btw, nothing like a master baker…I make the occasional loaf). Is german 1050 flour available here? Thanks for any help you can offer!
Great artical and very helpful. I am a Canadian living in Germany and not having much luck with things like brownies or sugar/butter cookies. They always come out more like cake. I tried omitting the baking powder but still the same results. I’m using the 405 flour.
Hi. I want to ask which flour we should use for frying items like fried chicken or Indian fried samosas as I use 405 type for frying purpose but my items turn out to be soggy after few minutes. I will be very thankful to you for your reply and help.
You could try 550 instead? It’s usually a bit more similar to all-purpose flour. I also like to add a bit panko/breadcrumbs mix after an egg coating if doing fried chicken or schnitzel.
Why is it not possible to use Pininterst to safe this very useful write up/blog? Or perhaps I didn’t see the option? Linkd in us soooo outdated 😁😁
Thank you so much for this article,
I live in the Netherlands near the German border and I buy albert heijn wheat flour and patentbloem in the Netherlands and I buy type 405 flour in Germany. I have not had much luck with american cake recipes that ask for all purpose flour, because my cakes turn out way flatter or the texture looks different than the pictures from the recipes. I thought it could be my flour,because I do not have those problems with Dutch cake recipes. I am Dutch and never used American all purpose flour before so I have nothing to compare it too. So in your opinion German typ 550 flour works exactly the same as american all purpose flour? Have you made a cake recipe you used to make in America with all purpose flour and now tried it with type 550? Did it turn out exactly the same? If so, what is your favorite 550 brand and ill head out to Germany today to buy some.
x hallo can some one tell me which type is whole grain flour
It’s so funny that Americans find buying flour complicated when it tells you exactly what’s in the package – not what to use it for.
I have exactly the opposite problem (after having moved to the US 5 years ago; I am Austrian): I have difficulties buying the right flour here, because I don’t really know what I am buying. The bag usually just tells me what *most people* are using it for…which is usually not what *I* want to use it for. No information about how coarse or fine the flower is, or how much germ or bran it contains. Interesting how different cultures approach buying food in very different ways.
And there is also the Italian flour “00” or “0” for pizza dough. I didn’t know that beforehand, but Italians always insist on the types 0 or 00 for pizza and I tried it myself. You can get this in good supermarkets as “pizza flour”, but it can also be ordered from Amazon. ☺️