Healthy holiday baking: Part 3, healthy cookies and cakes and pie crust flours

Baking season is upon us. Fresh baked breads, muffins, quick breads, cookies, cakes, and pies can be a highlight of holiday gatherings. This three part series of articles that will assist in making your holiday baking easier and healthier!

Those flaky pie crust, light pastries, and delicate cakes and cookies are melt in your mouth delicious. They are generally made with self-rising flour, cake flour or pastry flour. These flours contains 7-9 percent protein, which is low compared to all purpose and bread flour. This flour also absorbs less liquid in recipes and this helps create that delicate texture.

  • Self-rising is lightly milled and is best in soft baked goods such as a delicate cookies and cakes. It has added baking powder and salt. Using self-rising flour can save steps in a recipe, but it is also hard to control the amount of salt and baking powder. 
  • Cake flour is milled to a very fine texture creating moist, tender, high-rising cakes. Cake flour is perfect for angel food cakes.
  • Pastry flour is an extra soft milled flour. Pastry flour is best used in pie crusts and biscuit recipes where you cut into the flour. Pastry flour does not absorb the water in the butter and ensures a flaky crust or that delicate cookie. 

White whole wheat pastry or cake flour is a healthier alternative, but it can be harder to find.  White whole wheat pastry and cake flour contains the wheat germ, B vitamins and antioxidants. White whole wheat pastry flour or cake flour can be substituted for white cake and pastry flour. Sometimes, white whole wheat cake and pastry flours are hard to find. A good substitution when making pie crust, delicate cakes and cookies is 1 cup whole white whole wheat flour minus 2 tablespoons, and then add in 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Self-rising, cake and pastry flour should not be used in yeast breads because they all have a lower protein content. For tips on how to incorporate more whole wheat flour into baking checkout this website.

Other articles in this Michigan State University Extension series:

  • Healthy holiday baking: Part 1, health yeast bread flours and leavening agents
  • Healthy holiday baking: Part 2, healthy muffins and quick bread fours 

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