All-Purpose Flour is obviously the most well known and used flour. There is no leavening agent added (unlike self-rising flour) and it has a moderate protein content. The reason protein content is important when determining what kind of flour to use in relation to texture is because the protein creates gluten when mixed or kneaded in the dough. The higher the gluten content the more chew there will be to the baked good.
Bread Flour has the highest protein content of any of the flour we will talk about here. In a previous post I developed a recipe for Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Bread flour was used here to create more chew due to more gluten. You can substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour cup for cup. Just remember the texture will be more chewy than with all-purpose flour.
Cake Flour has the lowest protein content which is why it is most commonly used in cakes. Cake flour produces the tender crumb we desire in cakes. Because of the low protein content, cake flour also weighs less than all-purpose flour. When substituting cake flour for all-purpose flour add 2 tbsp per cup.
Pastry Flour has less protein content than all-purpose flour but more than cake flour. It is used for pastries that require more gluten to
Self Rising Flour is nothing more than all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt already mixed in. I once used self rising flour in my cookies because I purchased it by accident and could not figure out why my cookies tasted so salty. After researching I learned that the salt was already in the flour and I had added salt as I normally would to the batter. I really never use self-rising flour in any recipe because I like to control the amounts of leavening and salt in my recipes. But for your information 1 cup of self rising flour has about 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt already mixed in. With this knowledge you can make adjustments as needed. You can also use this knowledge to make your own self-rising flour if a recipe calls for it and you only have all-purpose.
Whole Wheat Flour is flour that still has the bran and germ in it, as opposed the white flour that has been refined and the bran and germ removed. These parts of the flour have more nutrients which is why a lot of people prefer to use them over white flour. In baking, if you want to substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose subtract 2 tbsp per cup. You should also know that whole wheat flour has a more rough texture than that of soft white flour due the bran. This is why a lot of people do not prefer it. I often use half white flour and half whole wheat if I am wanting to up the nutritious factor instead of all whole wheat because of the texture. Though I don’t know the science behind this, I also notice that cookies with at least some whole wheat flour in them do not get as flat as those with only white flour. This is also a reason I often use half whole wheat, to get a taller cookie.