Q & A: Pastry flour vs. Bread flour

Kristin had a great question regarding pastry flour, which reminded me that I frequently recommend it for different cooking projects, but have never explained what it was!

“My question is, what is the difference between pastry flour and regular wheat flour? Can you get a pastry flour consistency if you grind your own flour?”

The difference actually lies not in how you grind it, but in what wheat berry you use.

Regular whole wheat flour is ground from hard wheat berries. This has a higher protein (and gluten) content. This makes a more elastic dough that will rise well with sourdough and yeasted breads. If you want to grind flour for making bread, then look specifically for berries that say “hard” wheat berries.

On the other hand, pastry flour is made with from “soft” wheat berries. They have a lower protein (and gluten) content and lends itself to more tender quick breads, desserts, pancakes, and soda bread. The higher gluten found in hard wheat flour would make these products more tough.

I like to have to have both on hand.

Different varieties of wheat can have higher and lower protein and gluten content, so how much hard and soft berries contains will vary.

For the curious, here are a few other common flours.

All purpose flour is a mix of hard and soft wheat flours. It’s a kind of “in between” choice that can work semi well for bread or pastry baking.

Cake flour is a very low gluten flour (obviously white, bleached and finely milled as well). This produces a light and airy cake.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have durum or semolina flour which is very high in protein and made from the endosperm of durum wheat. The high protein content is why it holds together so well when you are making pasta (a traditional use for it).

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. Kirstin says

    Thank you Kimi, that cleared it up! I’ll have to check my regular grocery store and see if they have the soft wheat berries…I think they have hard. Otherwise I’ll hit the whole foods.

  2. Kelly the Kitchen Kop says

    Hi Kimi,

    Just a tip: I usually purchase my wheat berries (to grind myself) through our food co-op – they are much less expensive.

    Also, do you have an e-mail address so I could ask you an off-topic question? I couldn’t find it on your site – would you e-mail me at kellythekitchenkop@charter.net?


  3. Susanna says

    Hi Kimi,
    Is there an explanation somewhere on your blog (or anywhere on the internet that you’re aware of) that gives guidance on how fine/coarse to grind the different wheat berries? I’m having so much trouble getting my soft white wheat to be the correct texture for baked goods, and I think it’s because I don’t know what to set my Nutrimill at. Any suggestions? I had to throw out a batch of biscuits b/c as soon as I added the flour to the coconut oil, i just had paste, rather than the proper consistency. And other similar problems w/ the soft wheat berries. Thanks for any help you have to offer (and don’t worry if you don’t have an answer.)

  4. says

    wow, i was just reading another one of your recipes and googled ‘bread flour vs. pastry flour’ i’m so glad you come up in the top 3 returns on google, you are one of the first websites i always use for a reference, thanks!!

  5. Suria Stavish says

    I want to know if I can use pastry flour with whole wheat flour to make bread and what is the ratio? I have whole wheat pastry flour and white pasry flour also.

  6. jacob wright says

    Gluten is just wheat protein so you shouldn’t say “This has a higher protein (and gluten) content.” because they are the same thing

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