All-purpose flour might be your go-to recipe, but as you start baking more complex recipes, you’ll need to expand your flour horizons. Pastry flour is a great place to start!
What is pastry flour?
Pastry flour is a low-protein flour that’s designed to produce lighter, more tender pastries and baked goods than all-purpose flour.
All-purpose flour typically has a protein content around 11 percent. In contrast, cake flour’s protein content is around 7-8 percent. Pastry flour falls in the middle with a protein content around 9 percent.
Plain pastry flour is usually easiest to find, but whole wheat pastry flour is also available. While pastry flour falls in between all-purpose and cake flours, whole wheat pastry flour falls in between regular whole wheat and all-purpose flour, delivering whole grains with a softer texture in the finished baked goods.
How to use pastry flour
Pasty flour is a great choice for many baked goods, including cakes, cookies and muffins — just to name a few. The lower protein content of pastry flour strikes just the right balance of providing good structure (so your goodies don’t fall apart) and tenderness. It will consistently produce a lighter and more tender finished product than all-purpose flour, but with a little more strength than cake flour.
However, cake flour can be a better choice for cakes with an extremely light texture (such as angel food cake) or a melt-in-your-mouth crumb (like pound cake). Cake flour may be a better choice in those recipes, but pastry flour is an excellent option for most non-bread baked goods.
Pastry flour is usually not a good choice for bread recipes, which typically benefit from the elasticity of a higher protein flour, such as bread flour.
How to substitute pastry flour
Using pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour
You can typically replace all-purpose flour with pastry flour with a 1:1 ratio. That means you can exchange it for all-purpose flour the next time you bake up a batch of delicious muffins, cookies or cake to see how the results compare to the original recipe.
Using all-purpose flour instead of pastry flour
If your recipe calls for pastry flour but you don’t have any, don’t worry. You can make a substitute by whisking together 1 cup of all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons (or 14 tablespoons of all-purpose flour) with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. This mixture will have a lower protein content than straight all-purpose flour, producing more tender baked goods that are very similar to what pastry flour itself would produce.
Using cake flour instead of pastry flour
If you don’t have any pastry flour but you happen to have cake flour, you can substitute for pastry flour by adding an extra 2 tablespoons of cake flour to your recipe.