Where There's a Whisk... | Flour Types
How many times have you gone to bake something delicious only to notice at the last minute that the recipe calls for cake flour, and all you’ve got in the kitchen is all-purpose? So you’re standing in your kitchen Googling “difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour” on your phone, getting more and more frustrated, until you decide to #kanyeshrug your way through the whole thing, use what you’ve got, and hope for the best.
It’s happened to me—more than a few times, believe me. But once you know the difference between a few basic types of flour, you can avoid the stress and make magic with what you’ve got.
So, will the type of flour actually matter once everything is said and baked?
The answer is yes, actually, it will. To make a long story short, the true difference comes from how much protein is in the flour. The more protein, the more gluten. The more gluten, the denser and chewier your baked goods will be. For light and airy cakes, use a flour with very little protein. For dense chewy structure—for bread, for example—use a flour with a lot of protein.
- Bread Flour: 14–16 percent protein
- All-Purpose Flour: 10–12 percent protein
- Pastry Flour: 9 percent protein
- Cake Flour: 7–8 percent protein
But here's the good news! A few types of flour can be made in your own kitchen using the all-purpose flour you already have. Keep scrolling to see which ones and how to make them.
Self-rising flour is a type of all-purpose flour that already contains both salt and a leavening agent such as baking powder. Like an independent woman, self-rising flour doesn't need your help. Use it in place of all-purpose flour by reducing the amount of salt and baking powder the recipe calls for.
Foods made using cake flour are usually tender and more delicate. If you realize you don’t have any cake flour, measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour, then remove 2 tablespoons of flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons of corn starch. Sift well!
Bread flour can be found in most grocery stores, but if you're anything like me, you would rather die than make another trip to the store. No worries! Substitute all-purpose flour by adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten for every cup of flour.
Pastry flour is finer than all-purpose flour. In addition to pastries (duh!) this flour can be used for crackers, cakes, and cookies. To create pastry flour out of all-purpose flour, sift together 1 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour and 2/3 cups of cake flour. That should make about two cups of pastry flour!
Happy baking, everybody!