All-purpose flour is a blend of hand and soft wheat flours. Each of these flours is ideal for specific tasks. Hard wheat (sometimes called baker's) flour is perfect for bread making because of its high gluten content, a substance that provides structure for the expanding dough.
Soft wheat (also called pastry) flour is the better choice for baked goods, that do not need to rely upon a high gluten content - most biscuits, pastries, and cakes, for example.
When you use all-purpose flour for bread making, your bread lacks sufficient gluten. When you use all-purpose flour for most cakes and other delicate baked goods, their texture will be tough because of too much gluten. All-purpose flour is not without advantages. It is adequate for the needs of the average home baker. Unlike hard and soft wheat flours, all-purpose flour is available in every grocery store. Mainly for that reason, many cookbooks automatically specify it for all their baking recipes. And all-purpose flour is equal or superior to hard and soft wheat flours for making certain baked goods, notably popovers.
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