You Say Farine, I Say Flour

If you’ve ever tried to bake from a French cookbook, you know you’ve got two challenges: First, finding a metric measuring cup. Second, dealing with the difference between French and American flour (ours is higher in gluten and protein).

American flour is classified by use (bread, cake), while European flour is usually classified by ash content. “The number indicates the amount of ash that is left after the flour has been incinerated in a lab,” says chef Rupert Spies of Cornell University. What’s more, “region, humidity, and temperature all play a role,” says John Kraus of The French Pastry School in Chicago. In other words, flour, like wine, reflects terroir.

So can you bake a croissant with American flour? Yes. Substitute the same amount of the type indicated below. Le Cordon Bleu chef Herve Chabert’s says often chefs blend different American flours—usually bread and pastry flour—for better results.

AMERICAN: Cake & Pastry
APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 45

AMERICAN: All-Purpose & Bread
APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 55

AMERICAN: High Gluten
APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 65

AMERICAN: Light Whole Wheat
APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 80

AMERICAN: Whole Wheat
APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 110

AMERICAN: Dark Whole Wheat
APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 150