• For those with wings fly to your dreams

    All the pretty flours: Wheat

    The flour aisle at Berkeley bowl west
    As Engineered Cupcake(EC) gets up and going,  using the right ingredients for the right good consistently is very important.  And in the baked good world the foundation is the flour: whether it be wheat, corn, or nut.  Protein, moisture absorption, coarseness, these are all things that must be accounted for when baking.

    In this first in a series about flours, I'll be talking about wheat flours, as it the most common flour I use. The main difference in all these flours: gluten/protein. As Wikipedia puts so well "Gluten, a protein composite, gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture." Gluten is developed more by kneading and moisture content in a recipe. Sometimes you want a chewy texture, pan pizza for example, and sometimes you want lighter  like chiffon cake, flaky like biscuits. This is why there are so many types of flour in many grocers these days.

    1. Cake Flour - No, it's not some marketing term, there really is a reason why sometimes you need cake flour. It's the low protein content. For chiffon cakes and most cake recipes that
      came from a Japanese cookbook I use cake flour.  I keep Swans Down in stock for EC, it has the lowest protein amount at 7%.  SoftasSilk is okay, but my best chiffon cakes are always made with Swans Down.  For some traditional Southern cakes (classic yellow butter, red velvet, some chocolate) I use Pastry because I'm aiming for a slightly denser cake.
      Nota bene: In regards to unbleached cake flour, with respect to chiffon cakes don't bother the protein content is too high at 10% by weight  (and yes I tried it, ended up with an American sponge cake, close but no cigar) I've used it in scones and it was fine.
      Bonus tip - It's great for making gravies! 
    2. Self Rising - Used to be, this was only sold in the homeland: Dixie. Many Southern cooks swear by a certain brand self rising for biscuits. That being said it's a softer flour and it has baking soda and baking powder. An
      infrequently used flour in my house I prefer White Lily unbleached for pancakes, shortcakes, biscuits, and scones. White Lily is hard to find out here and Gold Medal makes a decent one. I've yet to see self rising flour in bulk bins but I wouldn't recommend it because of the added baking powder. It's essential that Self Rising flour is kept air tight or the baking powder/soda will become inert. If you don't have self-rising flour you can use 1 C all-purpose flour + 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder + ½ teaspoon salt
      bonus tip: In the South this is sometimes known as biscuit or soft flour. This is confusing to some because in UK English, "soft flour" is cake or pastry. 
    3. All Purpose - good ol' plain flour. If you see a recipe that just says "flour" and has baking soda/powder and salt it's likely AP. If you make cake with it let it rest and spoon it into the measuring cup (or weigh it).  I also find that in breading things for frying or baking, AP works best. 
    4. Pastry Flour - This is basically my "All purpose" flour, with a decent amount of protein at 8-10%, slightly finer texture they sell it at the bulk bins for a little more than $1/lb. Unbleached pastry flour is the stock for Engineered Cupcake
    5. Bread Flour - much higher protein levels so it produces more gluten when you knead it. The high the protein the more chewy the texture, flour targeted for bread machines makes amazing pizza and bread sticks. I don't own a bread maker, yet I find it takes less hand
      kneading so I buy  bread  flour when I find  a good deal. King Arthur and Gold Medal make good ones.
      bonus tip:  Y'know when I said most cake recipes from Japan. Well here's the exception, straight from Nagasaki, home of my dearly departed Obaasan, I give you kasutera!  Japanese pound cake. Always use bread or AP flour for kasutera. 
    6. Whole Wheat Flour -  I'm very a particular about what recipes I use it for.  Bran muffins, Banana/pumpkin/etc. breads, Apple cake, and bread recipes are where I usually use whole wheat flour. In my humble opinion I prefer to use unbleached flour than whole wheat flour in most cupcakes because it gives a better texture. I have yet to have a recipe that I used 100%
      whole wheat flour, I use ratios from 30-75% whole wheat to "AP/Pastry/Bread" flour depending on the recipe. It's kinda like cornmeal, but that's another post.  King Arthur makes some really great quality whole wheat flour. If you do buy 100% whole wheat flour, I suggest storing it a cool place. If you have a deep freezer you can store it there. I keep mine in the pantry with the good weather here but back in Dixie it stayed in my fridge. Bring to room temperature before beginning a recipe.
      soapbox: I see so many people adding whole wheat flour to be "healthier", it adds a little more fiber but about the same with other nutrients and it's course so substitute accordingly. 

    As I was writing this I realized the diversity in wheat flours, didn't even get into stone ground, bleached vs. unbleached, etc. So more to come in a later post. For a much more visual definition of the gluten/flour relationship you need to watch Good Eats, yes it's a need. The other Georgia/California science nerd, Alton Brown, is one of my culinary heroes. Episodes of note:

    • Three chips for Sister Marsha
    • Pie in every Pocket
    • Flat is beautiful
    • The Dough also rises


    Patrick weseman said...

    I learned something. Thanks


    About me

    I'm a 20-something Southern girl living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've been working in the wild and wacky world of non-profit green construction in one way or the other for over 3 years. I'm also the owner of Oakland's own Engineered Cupcake.