What is Pastry Flour? When to Use It and How to Substitute It?
The culinary world has no shortage on the variety of flours available for baking. And while all-purpose flour can cater to almost all recipes, you will realize that in order to master the art of baking, you need more than just all-purpose flour.
One of the flours that you can start playing around with, to increase your prowess as a baker, is pastry flour. However, before you can start working with it, you need much information about its uses and such. And we are here to help you get started!
What is Pastry Flour?
Typically, pastry flour is used to create delicate, soft-baked items that are very weightless and airy. The protein content in pastry flour is as low as 8.5% to 9.5%. Also, in comparison to most flours, pastry flour does not absorb as much liquid.
The main difference between others and pastry flour is obviously its protein content. As we know, the amount of protein present in a type of flour regulates the amount of gluten that the flour will produce. The texture and structure of the baked item will differ based on the amount of gluten the flour generates.
In short, the lower the amount of protein, the less the gluten will be produced which will give the baked item a lighter texture. Hence, goods made with pastry flour are unlike goods made from all-purpose or bread flour that produce goods of denser texture and structure.
When to Use Pastry Flour?
If your plan is to make delicate desserts or baked items, pastry flour is the way to go. You may use it to bake cakes, pie crusts, pastries, pound cakes, pancakes, and even cookies and muffins. As long as you understand that pastry flour will give you only light and airy goods, you are good to go. Just make sure to use it in appropriate and suitable recipes.
What is Whole Wheat Pastry Flour?
Flour that is produced by milling whole wheat-berries is usually known as whole wheat flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is nothing different but has a lower protein content.
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The protein content is determined by the type of wheat-berry used. Soft wheat berries will produce flour will low protein content. So, in order to make whole wheat pastry flour, the type of wheat-berry used is obtained from soft spring wheat. The ordinary whole wheat flour is made from hard winter wheat berries, so, its protein content is high. And as we mentioned earlier, this is what brings the difference between the flours.
Again, as the berry used is soft, it has less amount of protein and thus less amount of gluten. Hence, whole wheat pastry flour can be used for the same baked goods made from pastry flour itself.
How to Make Pastry Flour?
Pastry flour can be bought from stores as it is easily available for baking purposes. However, if you are in a situation where you cannot find it at hand, you can simply make pastry flour with ingredients you already have at home.
- Unbleached all-purpose flour
Note: the all-purpose flour used does not have to be unbleached. In fact, you can use any type of all-purpose flour. However, we recommend steering clear of whole wheat as it will not give you the results you are looking for.
- Take the all-purpose flour and measure out the amount you need in 1 cups to maintain a standard quantity. Put this into a bowl of suitable size.
- From this, take away 2 tablespoons of flour for every cup of flour you put in the bowl. Whatever is left, after the subtraction, is what we will be using.
- Now, to the flour in the bowl, add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to replace every 2 tablespoons of flour you took away.
- Next, you will have to whisk the two together until they are well-incorporated. This should take at least 3 minutes. You may consider sifting them together as an alternative and easier method.
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Now, you have your very own homemade pastry flour at hand. Store this in glass containers or zip lock bags. One thing that you should keep in mind is that it will never be exactly like the actual fine pastry flour. It is more of a substitute than the flour itself. The cake or cookie, whatever you are baking, will not be as soft or airy as it would have been if pastry flour had been used. But they will still taste pretty fantastic, that much we can assure you.
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Pastry Flour Substitute
As we mentioned before, pastry flour is easily accessible to all as almost all stores keep them in stock. Nevertheless, at times when it is unavailable, it will be better to opt for a substitute that will give you close results and will also be simple to obtain.
One such alternative is a mixture of all-purpose flour and cake flour. The best part is, it is super easy to make, requires very little effort and delivers surprisingly close results. All you have to do is grab a mixing bowl and add ½ cup of all-purpose flour and another ½ cup of cake flour to it. While these measurements would give you roughly the same results, for more accurate ones, create a blend that contains 3/8 cup all-purpose flour and 5/8 cup cake flour.
Just like before, you could either whisk them until fully combined or choose to sift them using a sifter or sieve. A combination of these two will ensure that the mixture has almost the same amount of protein as the usual pastry flour. This means the texture and structure of the baked items will be similar to goods baked with pastry flour.
Pastry Flour vs. Bread Flour
Goods made from pastry flour and bread flour are miles apart from one another. Till now, you should have a good idea of how pastry flour works. However, to get a better idea, it may be helpful to know the differences between bread flour and pastry flour. It will also further help you grasp the ideas on how different flours are for different purposes and when and where to use them.
Starting with pastry flour, we already know it has a protein content of 8.5% to 9.5%. Since it produces less gluten, the goods are fluffier, more delicate and crumbly. It is made from soft wheat-berries and the flour absorbs less amount of liquid.
Bread flour, on the other hand, has a protein content of 14% to16%, so, high amount of gluten is produced by it. It is milled from hard wheat-berries. As a result, baked products are heavier and denser. Also, they are more elastic due to vitamin C or potassium bromate present in the bread flour.
In addition, bread flour contains malt barley to aid yeast activity, so, bread flour is mostly used to bake goods that need to rise with the help of yeast – croissant and sourdough being two examples.
Now you know how the two are different from one another and when and where to use them.
A Frequently Asked Question: Is Pastry Flour the Same as Cake Flour?
While it may seem that cake flour and pastry flour are synonymous to one another, we must clarify that they are almost identical but definitely not the same. It can be easily considered to be a pastry flour substitute except the baked good is likely to be even more soft and delicate as it has a protein content of about 7% to 8.5%. This is partly because it is made from soft wheat and partly because the flour has been bleached, meaning the protein is much weaker in cake flour.
Cake flour is more suited for cakes that will literally melt in your mouth such as chiffon or angel food cakes. Also, any cake recipe that calls for a heavy amount of sugar or liquid, cake flour will be an excellent choice to incorporate into that recipe. This is because the protein molecules in bleached flours are able to bear more than their weight.
However, one thing about both these flours is that they both retain structure once baked but still give you fine pastry or cake that is crumbly and tender.
That is all you needed to know about pastry flour and its substitutes. Hopefully, now you can start experimenting with it in the kitchen to become an expert at its use!