All-purpose flour has a 10-12% protein content and is made from a blend of hard and soft wheat flours. It can be bleached or unbleached which are interchangeable. However, Southern brands of bleached all-purpose flour have a lower protein content (8%) as they are made from a soft winter wheat. All-purpose flour can vary in its protein content not only by brand but also regionally. The same brand can have different protein contents depending on what area of the country in the United States you are buying it. Good for making cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries.
Flour is sometimes labeled pre-sifted. This means that the flour was sifted before packaging but it compacts during shipping and handling and therefore is no longer sifted by the time you get it home. So if your recipe calls for sifted flour make sure you sift it again. (If your recipe calls for 1 cup sifted flour this means you sift the flour before measuring. However, if the recipe calls for 1 cup flour, sifted this means you sift the flour after measuring.) Sifting flour removes lumps and aerates it so that when liquid is added the dry ingredients will be fully moistened.
Proper measuring of your flour is important, as too much flour will result in a tough and/or heavy baked good. When measuring flour spoon your flour into a measuring cup and then level off the cup with a knife. Do not pack it down. As stated above, flour gets compacted in the bag during shipping, so scooping your flour right out of the bag using your measuring cup will result in too much flour.
Flour, when packaged, has about a 14% moisture content. When stored, however, its moisture content will vary. In general, the longer flour is stored the more moisture it loses. This is why on a dry day using old flour your pastry will require more water than on a wet day using new flour.
Cake flour has a 6-8% protein content and is made from soft wheat flour. It is chlorinated to further break down the strength of the gluten and is smooth and velvety in texture. Good for making cakes (especially white cakes and biscuits) and cookies where a tender and delicate texture is desired. To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour. Make your own - one cup sifted cake flour can be substituted with 3/4 cup (84 grams) sifted bleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch.
Pastry flour is similar to cake flour, although it has not been chlorinated, with an 8-10% protein content and is made from soft wheat flour. It is soft and ivory in color. Can find it in health food stores or through mail order catalogs. To make two cups of pastry flour, combine 1 1/3 cups (185 grams) all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup (90 grams) cake flour. Good for making pastry, pies and cookies.
Self-Rising flour has 8-9% protein and contains flour plus baking powder and salt. I do not use this type of flour because I prefer to add my own baking powder and salt. Also, if the flour is stored too long the baking powder will lose some of its strength and your baked goods will not rise properly. If you want to make your own Self-Rising Flour:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
Pinch of salt.
Bread flour is a high-gluten flour that has very small amounts of malted barley flour and vitamin C or potassium bromate added. The barley flour helps the yeast work, and the other additive increases the elasticity of the gluten and its ability to retain gas as the dough rises and bakes. Bread flour is called for in many bread and pizza crust recipes where you want the loftiness or chewiness that the extra gluten provides. It is especially useful as a component in rye, barley and other mixed-grain breads, where the added lift of the bread flour is necessary to boost the other grains.
It has a 12-14% protein content.
The Yankee Chef™
..........It's Just That Simple!