Flour 101

Photo courtesy of My Recipes

Baking is a science and unlike cooking, you can’t get away with adding core ingredients like baking soda, salt and eggs until you think it tastes ultra yummy. So let’s talk flour – something I know you’ll be using this holiday season to bake up your most sought after cookies and deliciously dangerous (in a good way) cakes.

Ultimately, all flours are made from wheat, but the exception of how they bake comes from the protein content. The amount of protein in flour results in how much gluten is formed which is what helps create the structure and texture of your baked good; i.e. chewy, moist or airy. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to remember that less protein equals less gluten (this is the type of flour you’d typically use for cake) and vice versa (higher protein-filled flours are typically used for bread).

Estimated Protein Content of Different Flours
Bread Flour 14 – 16%
All-Purpose Flour 10 – 12%
Pastry Flour 9%
Cake Flour 7-8%

I know you’ve probably had to tackle the question about substituting flours in recipes and I must admit, it can be kind of tricky. For me, I can tell you that I’ve substituted pastry for cake flour before in my Peanut Butter{scotch} Blondies and it turned out as yummy and with the same texture, but I purposely purchased a pastry flour who’s content was a tad lower than 9%. Yes, protein content can vary slightly by the brand you buy, so check out the labels to get a better understanding of your ingredients.

Unfortunately, some flours can be much more expensive like cake and pastry flours and in that case, I would recommend using this formula to make your own cake/pastry flour at home.

1 cup all-purpose flour – 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons of cornstarch = 1 cup cake/pastry flour

Make sure to sift the ingredients together to ensure the corn starch is distributed evenly throughout the flour.

So I hope that explanation of flours helps and if anything, I think the formula for at-home cake/pastry flour was definitely worth the read. Happy baking!

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  1. [...] Unlike bread, cake only uses gluten for structure, so only a small amount is needed. To achieve a spongy cake, use a flour that is low in protein like cake flour or add cornstarch to your all-purpose flour to hinder the formation of gluten. To find a recipe for creating your own cake flour at home, click here. [...]

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