All-purpose flour is the workhorse of baking, but what about those other kinds, like pastry and cake flour? Ever wonder about the difference? It’s primarily about the protein. When protein and water combine they produce gluten, the glue of baking. Different flours have more or less protein, depending on their end use. Choosing flour with the right protein content will help your baked goods achieve the best possible texture.
When baking, always follow the recipe as written. Rather than substituting one flour type for another, look for a recipe that calls for the appropriate flour.
Bread Flour: At around 12 percent protein, this high-gluten flour gives a structured, chewy texture to breads.
All-Purpose Flour: About 10 percent protein.
Pastry Flour: About 8 percent protein – soft enough to keep your piecrust light and delicate, but strong enough to hold those flakey layers together.
Cake Flour: With only 6 percent protein, it gives cakes a super-tender crumb.
To get the recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.
Basic Pastry Flour Pie Crust
It may be made with pastry flour, but this crust is an all-purpose gem…and just in time for summer fruit season!
Makes one 9-inch pie crust
1¼ cups pastry flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
3 to 4 tablespoons very cold water
- In a food processor, pulse the flour with the salt. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until coarse crumbs form, about 5 seconds. Pulse in cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes, or refrigerate about an hour.
For a rustic tart: free-form tarts are simple, beautiful and a lot easier than a traditional pie. On a sheet of parchment, roll the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick round. Slide the parchment onto a baking sheet. Leaving a 2 ½-inch border, cover the dough with a single layer of ripe summer fruit (such as sliced strawberries, peaches and pitted, halved cherries). Lift and fold the dough edges over the fruit to form a rim. Brush the rim of the dough with egg wash (egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk or water) and sprinkle the top of the crust and the fruit liberally with sugar. Bake at 375°F. until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling, about 45 minutes.
For pie in a glass: For a real no-nonsense approach to pie, roll out the dough as above, then cut out using cookie cutters. Brush with water or egg whites, sprinkle with sugar and bake the pie crust cookies at 375°F. until light golden, about 20 minutes. Garnish a cup of your favorite pie filling (or even just some fresh berries tossed with sugar) with a couple of the cookies and top with whipped cream or ice cream.
Special Fork is a recipe website for your smartphone and PC that solves the daily dinnertime dilemma: what to cook now! Our bloggers blog Monday through Friday to give you cooking inspiration. Check out our recipe database for quick ideas that take no more than 30 minutes of prep time. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.