When baking it may seem confusing when there are so many different types of flour. You may think that you can swap one for another. But is it possible?
And is pastry flour the same as cake flour? We’ll take a look at them both and find out if they are the same.
What Is Pastry Flour?
Pastry flour is made by milling either soft red or soft white wheat. It has low absorption and in the hierarchy of flours sits between bread flour and cake flour.
This flour is used to make things such as laminated dough e.g. croissants, Danish pastries, and puff pastry. It’s also used for pie crust, cookies, crackers, pancakes, waffles and wafers.
Designed especially for making sweet baked goods, pastry flour is a low protein flour. This ensures that the texture is tender or flaky as desired.
The protein content of pastry flour is between 8-10%. This is less than in all purpose flour whose protein content is 10-12%.
While the protein content of pastry flour will vary from one brand to another it generally has a lower protein content than all purpose flour.
Uses Of Pastry Flour
Pastry flour is ideal for making pie crusts as the low protein content allows for a light and airy dough.
It is also used for making laminated dough such as you would use to make croissants which are the ultimate light and flaky pastry.
You can also use pastry flour for making cookies, pancakes and waffles. As it is finely milled it produces a crispy and light texture to your baking which makes it perfect for all pastries and sweet baked goods.
The low protein content of pastry flour makes a dough that is soft and fine without being crumbly.
It also creates a softer and more tender texture as there is less elasticity in the dough from the lower gluten content.
This makes it perfect for things like donuts, muffins, biscuits and especially pie dough which you want to be light and airy not chewy.
Pastry flour is used with baking soda or baking powder as a leavening agent and not yeast due to the low protein content.
Pastry flour may also be labeled cookie flour as it is also perfect for making cookies and other light baked goods.
A flour with higher protein content will have larger amounts of gluten and this is what makes your baked goods more chewy.
What Is Cake Flour?
Cake flour has an even lower protein content than pastry flour with around 5-8% protein. This means there is less gluten in the flour which allows for a finer and softer texture.
This flour is milled from soft wheat and is classed as extra fine allowing it to absorb more liquid.
When making a cake this increases the ability of the batter to rise and creates a light and fluffy texture in your baking.
Its fine texture also allows fat to be distributed evenly in your cake batter which should prevent clumps of butter forming in it.
Cake flour should not be substituted for other flours such as all purpose flour due to its low protein content.
All purpose flour has a protein content of 10-12% which is much higher, so the two are not interchangeable.
However you can create a substitute for cake flour by mixing it with some cornstarch which will simulate the lower protein content.
The cornstarch prevents some of the gluten formation in the all purpose flour.
Pastry Flour Vs Cake Flour
As we have seen there is a difference between pastry flour and cake flour in their protein content.
Although both are soft flours, compared to bread flour which is a hard flour, the difference between the gluten formation means they can not be used interchangeably.
Because the job of gluten is like an elastic holding the dough together, if cake flour is used instead of pastry flour the baked goods will fall apart due to poor structure.
However cake flour is perfect for the light structure needed in a cake.
Cake flour is frequently bleached and this further weakens the protein structure within it. This results in a flour that is much more delicate.
Pastry flour has more protein than cake flour so the increased gluten formation that occurs in pastry flour would not give a light and fluffy texture to your cakes.
Pastry Flour Or Cake Flour Substitute
If you find that you are without pastry flour what can you use instead? As we have seen, using cake flour on its own would not give you the results that you want.
The finer cake flour with lower protein content would make your pastry crumble and fall apart.
However, there are combinations of flour that you can use to make a suitable pastry or cake flour.
One method to make a substitute pastry flour is to use half a cup of all purpose flour and half a cup of cake flour for every cup of pastry flour that your recipe calls for.
This is one of the more reliable methods of pastry flour substitution, but the result cannot be guaranteed to be the same as if you had used 100% genuine pastry flour.
If you don’t have cake flour you can mix one cup of pastry flour with a not quite full cup of all purpose flour and add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch.
When using substitutes for either pastry flour or cake flour it is important to remember that the resulting texture may not be the same as if you were using 100% cake or pastry flour.
So, we have seen that although pastry flour and cake flour are both soft flours they have different protein content.
This makes them react differently in recipes and creates differing textures. For this reason pastry flour is not the same as cake flour.
We hope you have enjoyed our guide to pastry and cake flour.
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