Pastry Flour is a low-protein flour that makes exceptionally light and tender pastries.
While working as a pastry chef and baker over the last decade, I’ve used pastry flour for treats like pie dough, ultra-light cookies, and muffins. It can be used in most items leavened with baking powder or baking soda.
In this line of work you quickly learn how the protein (or gluten) content of flour directly affects the density and texture of a product. Finding flours that have a protein content close to that of pastry flour is key to substituting it.
Fortunately, this flour is fairly easy to replace. Here are 3 simple options that any baker can use. As pastry flour tends to have a high price tag, some substitutions might end up costing you less, too.
The 3 Best Substitutions for Pastry Flour
1. Blend Cake Flour and All-Purpose Flour
If you happen to have cake flour on hand, or if it’s the only low-gluten flour you can find, this blend makes an excellent substitute for pastry flour.
Since cake flour’s protein content (5-8%) is slightly lower than that of pastry flour, and all-purpose flour’s is slightly higher, this mix comes close to the protein content of pastry flour.
Cake flour is also the most lightweight of wheat flours, so it balances out the density of all-purpose flour beautifully. Use this blend for any recipe that calls for pastry flour.
To use, combine 50% cake flour and 50% all-purpose flour. Use the blend at a 1:1 ratio for pastry flour.
Pro Tip: Measure flours by weight, not by volume for more accurate proportions. For recipes that only have volume-based measurements, scoop flour into your measuring cup with a spoon so it doesn’t get packed in while measuring.
2. Mix All-Purpose Flour With Cornstarch
This is another replacement that comes close to pastry flour’s low protein content. The cornstarch serves as a sort of filler that’s light in weight and doesn’t contribute any additional gluten.
Try this mix for pie dough, tart dough, and cookies. Due to the cornstarch, I’d avoid using it for muffins, as it might create unwanted gumminess.
For every 1 cup of pastry flour, substitute with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch plus ⅞ cup of all-purpose flour.
This can be easily measured out by placing the cornstarch in your 1-cup measure first, then filling it up the rest of the way with all-purpose flour.
Pro Tip: This can also serve as a 1:1 substitute for cake flour in a pinch.
3. Use 100% All-Purpose Flour
Surprisingly, all-purpose flour can stand in as a pastry flour substitute in almost any recipe. Since its protein content is only slightly higher than that of pastry flour, the difference in taste and texture will be minimal.
Your end result may be slightly denser than if you had baked with pastry flour. That being said, your baked goods that use this substitute will still taste wonderful and be enjoyable to eat.
All-purpose flour is an ideal replacement for recipes that can withstand an increase in density. These would include muffins, quick breads, cookies, and pie dough.
To use all-purpose flour as a substitute, simply substitute 1:1 for pastry flour.
Pro Tip: Be extra careful not to overmix any batters or doughs you’re making with 100% all-purpose flour, as this can overwork the gluten and make them tough.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the easiest substitute for pastry flour?
Simply use all-purpose flour at a 1:1 ratio to substitute pastry flour. Avoid overmixing.
Can I use bread flour in place of pastry flour?
No, avoid using bread flour in place of pastry flour. It will make your baked goods too chewy and dense, due to its high protein (gluten) content.
Is pastry flour the same as cake flour?
No, cake flour is white in color and has the lowest protein content of 5-8%. Pastry flour is creamy colored and has a slightly higher protein content of 8-10%.