My pantry is currently stocked with four different flours, three sugars, and all the ingredients needed to bake a cake/muffin/doughnut/you get the idea. I have very little ‘real food’ on hand because I don’t cook, but I love to bake. While I can follow a recipe with the best of them, I’ve always wondered why my cookies call for cake flour, and why these biscuits call for self-rising flour. What is the difference? Without getting too boring and science-y, here’s the quick and easy explanation on which flour you should use in your next recipe, and why.
So, bottom line, the varying factors of these flours are protein content and gluten content. The higher the protein, the more gluten, the denser your bake.
All-purpose flour, like the name suggests, can be used for a plethora of bakes. It’s probably what you have in your pantry right now, and it’s the one-stop-shop of flours. With a moderate 11% protein content, this flour can be used to make high-rising yeast breads, flaky pie crusts, and chewy or crunchy cookies. Try: hamburger buns, sugar cookies
Moving in the opposite direction, cake flour has a lower protein content, about 9%. Cake flour is used for all of those pretty pastries and delicate bakes with a finer texture and lighter crumb. Don’t have any on hand? You can make your own! Just sift together 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 14 tablespoons all-purpose flour. And then sift, and sift again, and then again, and then sift a few more times. Cake flour! Best for: angel food cake, cookies
Whole wheat flour is on the heavier side. With a protein content of about 14%, whole grain or whole wheat flour will produce a rich, dark bake with a strong rise. Use it in those hearty bran muffins or a healthier version of waffles. I used it to make dog treats, which were a hit!
So, there yah have it. Flour can be quite technical, but I hope this simplifies the choices a bit. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read up on it here: