Pastry flour is a low-gluten flour typically made from soft winter wheats. You can get white or whole grain, bleached or unbleached.
“Pastry flour has properties intermediate between those of all-purpose and cake flours. It is usually milled from soft wheat for pastry-making, but can be used for cookies, cakes, crackers and similar products. It differs from hard wheat flour in that it has a finer texture and lighter consistency. Protein varies from 8-9 percent.” What’s the Difference??? Whole Grains vs. Enriched Grains. North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association. 2019. Accessed January 2021 at https://homegrown.extension.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Wheat-Info-Handout_NCSGGA.pdf
Pastry flour may not always be easy to find:
“Pastry flour is very similar to cake flour but has slightly higher protein content. The extra protein helps to create more texture and is often the flour of choice for pastry chefs. Pastry flour is more expensive and can be more difficult to find at your neighborhood grocery store.” Rellinger, Diane. Be a knowledgeable baker when using cake, pastry or bread flour. Michigan State University Extension. 18 May 2012. Accessed January 2021 at https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/be_a_knowledgeable_baker_when_using_cake_pastry_or_bread_flour
In terms of protein content, which is what causes gluten develop to develop in doughs, pastry flour is between cake flour and all-purpose flour.
You will see varying protein content range estimates for pastry flour, such as:
- 7 to 9%;
- 8 to 9%
- 8 to 10%;
- 9 to 10%.
The reason for the different ranges is that the protein content will vary by maker of the flour.
Essentially, you want a lower-gluten flour if possible.
Julia Child wrote,
“.. just the fact that regular all-purpose flour is high in gluten means that the dough becomes stiff, rubbery, and recalcitrant when rolled repeatedly. Flour with a low gluten content, which is the kind the French use, is very easy to handle. Low-gluten flour is called pastry flour in this country [Ed: USA] and is made from soft wheat… and is not to be confused with cake flour. When you make a mixture of ⅔ pastry flour and ⅓ all-purpose flour, you will have a blend that almost resembles French flour and that is perfect for making puff pastry…. NOTE: Since this book was first published [Ed: in 1960], we have found that a combination of 1 part plain bleached cake flour to every 3 parts all-purpose flour makes an excellent [pastry flour.]”  Child, Julia. The French Chef Cookbook. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1998. Pp 89-90.
|↑1||What’s the Difference??? Whole Grains vs. Enriched Grains. North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association. 2019. Accessed January 2021 at https://homegrown.extension.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Wheat-Info-Handout_NCSGGA.pdf|
|↑2||Rellinger, Diane. Be a knowledgeable baker when using cake, pastry or bread flour. Michigan State University Extension. 18 May 2012. Accessed January 2021 at https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/be_a_knowledgeable_baker_when_using_cake_pastry_or_bread_flour|
|↑3||Child, Julia. The French Chef Cookbook. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1998. Pp 89-90.|