by Michelle Lane
Most of us are going to be baking for the next two months, so I thought we might talk abut flour today. Sound mundane? It's actually rather complex. Did you ever wonder why those recipes in magazines specify to use unbleached, all purpose, cake flour, bread flour, pastry flour, self-rising flour, stone ground flour, etc.? etc...? It boggles the home chef's mind!
Most supermarkets carry steel-ground flour, meaning it is crushed with huge, high speed steel rollers. The heat that is generated with these machines strips away the wheat germ and destroys valuable vitamins.
Stone-ground flour is produced by grinding the grain between two slowly moving stones. This crushes the grain without generating the heat that destroys the wheat germ. In an area like ours, you'll need to go to a health food store to get stone-ground flour.
Wheat is the most common source of flour used in cooking. It contains gluten which acts as a sort of band-aid meshing all of the gases that make mixtures (dough, batter) rise as they bake. All-purpose flour is made from a blend of high and low gluten wheat. It has a fine texture and contains neither germ (the sprouting part) or bran (the outer shell).
Too many flours yet? Are your allergies getting to you? Just wait.
Bread Flour is an unbleached, specifically formulated, high gluten blend of 99.8% hard wheat flour. It's ideal for yeast breads.
Whole-Wheat Flour contains the wheat germ, which means it also has a higher fiber, nutritional, and fat content. You need to store this in the refrigerator as the fat content can cause it to become rancid.
Cake/Pastry Flour is a very fine textured soft wheat flour with a high starch content. Obviously this makes tender "cakes" and "pastries" (talent for the obvious here).
Self-Rising Flour is an all-purpose flour to which baking powder and salt have been added. You can use it as a substitute for all-purpose flour in yeast breads by leaving out the salt, or in quick breads by leaving out the baking powder and salt.
There are more but these are the most use, and let's face it - I've already got a headache just talking about it! If the Allegra gets me through, we will take later!