Bread, cake, AP …. what does it all mean? With the variety of flour that is available on the market, it is easy to be confused. When you then add in the wealth of overseas recipes that seems to call for a particular kind of flour, it makes for one major headache before you have even turned on the oven!
In Australia, there are 3 main types of flour available:
- Plain/White (aka All Purpose, AP) Flour – this is your stock standard flour that you sees in the shops. It is what most recipes calls for. Generally this will contain ~10% protein.
- Bread Flour – Not to confused with “Bread Mixes”, these are pure flour that contains more of the gluten components that gives bread that stretchy feel and rise. This contains ~11.5%+ protein. This is generally used for breads, pizzas, rolls and anything that needs that resistance to tearing. This is made from a harder variety of wheat than white flour.
- Cake/Pastry Flour – These are special low protein flours that do not contain as much gluten. This is milled from a soft kind of wheat. Due to the low gluten level, it is used in cakes and products that need to be soft and crumbly. It generally contains <9% of protein. This is milled from a breed of wheat that are inherently softer. In fact if you put a bit of plain flour next to cake/pastry flour, you will find that cake/pastry flour will look more like baby powder than the plain flour.
(Note in America you can buy Cake or Pastry flour in the shops, one has been bleached to absorb more water in a recipe. However in Australia it tends to denote just low protein flour in general.)Where's that cake flour when you need it?!
On the internet, it is a common advice to add some cornflour to all purpose flour to substitute for cake/pastry flour. But remember, all different types of flour are milled from different TYPES of wheat with its own characteristics. Substitution will get an approximation of the desired result, but its not a long term strategy.
This is a good experiment to do. Take your favourite cake recipe that calls for cake flour. Use cake/pastry flour for one batch and use plain flour + cornflour flour for the other batch. Don’t change anything else. If you compare the end results side by side, you will find that there will be a texture difference. In fact, depending on personal preference, you may choose to alter your recipe permanently!
PS am happy to take any left over cake as part of this experiment. 😉
Majority of the wheat flour in Australia will fall into one of the above categories. Any other terminology are likely to be a description of how and where the wheat has been processed.