The Difference Between Pastry & Bread Flour

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When a recipe calls for pastry flour or bread flour, use this type of flour for the best results in the final product. This is because flours vary in their composition and the way in which they react when combined with ingredients. Different types of flours are better suited for some applications than others.

Protein Content

  • Flours vary in how much protein they contain. In a flour-based dough, the protein forms a structure called gluten that determines the overall texture and elasticity of the baked good. Pastry flour is only about eight to 10 percent protein by weight, depending on the brand. Bread flour, on the other hand, is anywhere from 12 to 16 percent protein, depending on the brand. Therefore, pastry flour forms far less gluten than bread flour does.

Type of Wheat

  • Pastry flour is made mostly from soft wheat, which has a thin and soft kernel. Whole wheat flour is made from hard wheat, which has a much thicker and firmer kernel. The kernel contains much of the protein, so soft wheat has a lower ratio of protein to starch than hard wheat. Soft wheat is generally grown in the southern portions of the United States and hard wheat is grown in the north, so southern all-purpose flours generally have less protein than northern all-purpose flours.

Uses

  • Pastry flour is typically used in applications that require a light, tender and crumbly result. It is ideal for making quick breads, pastries, biscuits, pie crusts, brownies and cookies. Bread flour, as its name suggests, is generally well-suited for yeast breads. This is because the gluten that develops in the dough gives the yeast more structure and elasticity in which to expand the dough.

Substitutions

  • Whenever possible, use pastry flour in recipes that specify its use and bread flour in recipes that specify its use. If these flours are not available, all-purpose flour makes an adequate substitute because its gluten content is between pastry and bread flour. Subtract one tablespoon of flour from each cup the recipe calls for to use all-purpose flour in place of pastry flour. Another way to recreate pastry flour is to mix together two parts all-purpose flour and one part cake flour. When using all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, add a couple extra tablespoons of flour per cup or, if you have it, a couple tablespoons of wheat gluten.

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