Joined Jul 27, 2011
Can you help me to understand when to use all purpose vs pastry flours? For instance - which for scones, muffins, etc.

Where's the best resource for learning about the chemistry of baking without getting overly technical and glazy eyed about it?

(New here, looks like a great site!)
Joined Jul 27, 2011
Is there a resource that is more in depth rather than surface, "you can make this with this" kind of stuff. Like, why would you use ap vs whole wheat vs bread vs pastry - what do each of them offer and what would happen if you chose one over the other for certain things. (I think bread is more self-explanatory but it's been years since I've made bread and am more interested in non-yeasty things right now.)

Joined Feb 13, 2008
There are some decent web sites, but during the Great Computer and Software Swap of 2011, mistakes were made, addresses were lost.  You're still stuck with Teh Google. 

More, to answer your question as worded the source would have to go through nearly every possible baked good individually. 

That said, if you're asking about when cake and whole wheat flours are appropriate, you're at a very basic level indeed and don't really need much depth. 

"Harder" flours have more glutens than "softer."  A gluten is a type of protein which can be stretched at room temperatures.  Stretching them changes their qualities somewhat and "develops" them.  Glutens develop structure with manipulation, but too much makes for problems.  A harder flour is better able to withstand more and more vigorous manipulation. 

A dough with more well-developed glutens yields a more structured product.  Less gluten, more tender product. 

Hardness depends mostly on the type of wheat, its season, and location, and not manipulation by the miller.

There are a lot of different kinds of flours, but three are most prevalent.  Bread flour aka "Better For Bread" is harder than All Purpose (AP).  AP is harder than cake flour.  

In the old days, the amount of gluten in a given type of flour used to be very regional.  Southern flours were considerably softer than northern.  That's still true to some extent, especially with local mills.  A few national mills also have their own particular style.  King Arthur flours are stronger than most.  Sometimes you still have to make adjustments.  Knowing what and how is case by case and a matter of experience.  I don't think you'll find a really complete discussion anywhere.

A lot of beginning bakers believe that "better for bread," which is harder than all purupose (AP) is, in fact, better for bread.  If you have just about any problem with bread, and ask for advice on just about any website which is not a bread specialty site, you'll almost always be advised to switch from whatever you're using to bread flour.  However, unless you machine knead for a very, very long time or in a food processor, or your AP is of the soft, southern persuasion -- bread flour usually isn't the best choice. 

Most skilled US home bakers making "artisanal" loaves use AP flour.  Europeans tend to use softer flour than Americans, so hard, American bread flour is seldom the best type for European type breads.  There's an awful lot of overlap between "artisanal" and European. 

On the other hand, if you're going for a straight white bread, and using a food processor to mix and knead, or you walk away from your stand mixer and just it run for a while... bread flour or strong AP is probably best.

AP flours -- including softer APs -- work very well for pie and tart crusts.  But pie and tart crusts are really more about how than what.  It's hard to do much damage by going with a soft or too hard flour.  But it's very easy to mess them up completely by cutting the fat too small, over mixing, not resting, too much water, or...  That's because they don't (or shouldn't) get enough mixing to develop the glutens to any extent. 

I'm not going to give advice about puff pastry other than buy it pre-made.  The best flour choice for most pastry work is AP, especially a soft AP.  Remember what I said about European breads -- the same is true for European pastries.

Very tender products like cakes, biscuits, waffles and pancakes are made with cake flour or a mix of cake and AP.  To the extent they're different at all, so called "southern" style biscuits are relatively tender solely because of the softness of the flour.    I mix cake and AP 50/50 as my basic white flour for biscuits, waffles, pancakes, etc.; about the same hardness which Bisquick has.  Like pie crusts, biscuits don't get handled very much either.  But they do get a lot of hydration, and that's enough for different hardnesses to effect the outcome.

The same 50/50 AP/cake is good for pastries.  So is straight AP, even a strong AP like King Arthur.  With most non-cake pastries, it's more how than what. Cakes are almost always better made with... wait for it... cake flour.

More stuff left in the flour (as with whole wheat) gives more taste.  Whole wheat flours tend to be very hard, but tend not to take structure well.  People who use whole wheat and similar flours usually use them for reasons -- like health -- and not to get the best quality result.  There are a considerable number of exceptions, though.

Hope this helps,

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