I have a recipe for molasses cookies that calls for 3 parts regular flour to 1 part pastry flour for the flour component. It mentions that you can use whole wheat flour instead of pastry flour if necessary.

Would pastry flour be better? What purpose does it serve?

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    you can add some cornstarch to AP flour to lower its protein content as a substitute – Recep Jul 14 '10 at 9:50

No, you don't.

Pastry flour is usually low in protein/gluten compared to A/P or bread flour. It may also be more finely ground. Both help in achieving a light, delicate texture when baking cakes, cookies, biscuits, etc.

But it's not necessary. Especially if they're asking for a 3/1 mix, you probably won't even notice the difference. Just be careful not to over-mix the dough: this encourages gluten formation and forces out air, thus resulting in tougher, denser cookies. Letting the dough rest in the fridge or freezer for 20 minutes prior to baking can help avoid this as well.

Alternately, substitute oat flour (grind some oatmeal in a blender / spice mill if you don't have any) - it has no gluten, and will add a pleasant, nutty flavor to the cookies.

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Pastry flour is a lower protein flour than the regular flour. From here

the protein content of any given type of flour determines how tender, strong, elastic, stretchy, pliable, etc., the dough is that you make with it, and also the texture of the finished bread, waffle, cookie, croissant, etc.

So basically using regular flour rather than using the pastry flour might mean that your cookies will be denser.

If you don't have pastry flour you can always google substitutes. That what I do if I don't have something. I saved money by not buying another flour by just adding cornstarch to the regular flour I already had.

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