Be a knowledgeable baker when using cake, pastry or bread flour

Successfully baking with cake, pastry or bread flour takes an understanding of the various types of wheat, their protein and gluten properties.

Creating delicate fine pastries, scrumptious cake or crusty, chewy breads is often dependent on the type of flour you select. Though all types of white flour are made from wheat, there are different varieties of wheat which are refined or milled into different types of white flour. Let’s look at cake flour, pastry flour and bread flour to understand their differences.

To make dough you mix accurate parts of flour and water. Flour contains protein from the grains of wheat. When the protein and water combine, they create gluten which provides the elasticity and holds the dough together. The amount of protein in the flour is really the key to understanding which type of flour you should select. Flour made with hard wheat has higher protein content and more gluten, creating a more robust baked good. Soft wheat has less protein and less gluten, resulting in a lighter more fine textured food.

Cake flour is finely ground soft wheat. Cake flour is also chlorinated which helps the flour to hold more liquid, producing less gluten. When baking with cake flour, the resulting product will be soft and moist, perfect for cakes or delicate pastries. A low-cost alternative to buying cake flour is to make your own. One cup of cake flour is equal to 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Pastry flour is very similar to cake flour but has slightly higher protein content. The extra protein helps to create more texture and is often the flour of choice for pastry chefs. Pastry flour is more expensive and can be more difficult to find at your neighborhood grocery store. An alternative to purchasing pastry flour is to combine ¾ cup all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup cake flour, to make one cup pastry flour.

Bread flour is made from hard wheat and the higher gluten content creates volume and a chewier product desirable for loaves of breads and pizza crusts. Bread dough is not recommended for cakes and cookies due to the higher gluten content, because the baked goods will be tough. Bread dough may be more expensive than regular or all-purpose flour. If you have been satisfied with the taste and texture of your bread when using all‑purpose flour, there may not be reason to change.

As delicious as an occasional piece of pie, cake or even warm crusty bread can taste, it is important to control your daily calorie intake to manage your weight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends limiting the consumption of foods that contain refined grains that contain solid fats, added sugars and sodium. Be mindful of every bite.

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