Sunday, October 30, 2011

An explanation of the different types of flour available, and which type is right for your particular baking needs. By John D. Lee

So I stumbled upon this article. In which I am so glad, because I know that I'm not an "expert" at everything. I have always wondered-- what is the break down of all these other flours on the shelf. Some are pretty self explanatory, but I still wonder about what the big deal is when I may run out of a flour, and substitute an unbleached flour when I know I should be using a cake flour or vise versa. We have all done it at one time or another. Let's see what John writes about this issue......

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that cake flour is good for cake, and bread flour is good for…wait for it…Bread! But why, and why do some all purpose flours seem to make great bread, and others turn out disappointing loaves, and what the heck is self raising flour anyways?

The primary difference between different types of flour are the quantity of the wheat germ and bran that are milled with the flour, and the type of wheat used for the flour, and the relative protein content of that wheat.

Whole wheat flour is simply wheat that has been milled into flour with some, or all, of the germ and bran still attached.

Additionally, different varieties of wheat contain different amounts of protein, and the more protein is contained in the flour, the higher gluten it has.

Gluten are the strands of amino acid proteins that bind together in a bread dough after the mixture of water, and the creation of longer and stronger chains of gluten through mechanical mixing (kneading). The higher the protein content, the more gluten can be developed. These chains of gluten are important for bread, as they are what allow the dough to capture the created gasses during the cooking and leavening processes, and expand from dense to light. High gluten is not considered an asset when making pastries, pie crusts, biscuits etc, as the gluten can make these tough and chewy.

The protein contents are approximately:

Cake flour:7-8%
Southern all purpose flour:7.5-9.5%
Northern all purpose flour:11-12%
Bread flour:12-13%

There is a difference between all purpose flour from the southern climates, and that from more northern climates, and the more northerly grown the wheat, the higher the gluten content. This can explain why an all purpose flour bought in Wisconsin makes a great bread, and an all purpose flour bought in Alabama doesn't.

Whole wheat flour is high in protein, but the protein from the germ and bran is not well turned into gluten, and as such, whole wheat breads tend to be heavier, but more flavorful then white flour breads. Rye bread contains very little gluten, and as such 100% rye breads are very dense.

Cake flour is a low gluten flour that has also been chemically altered slightly for better use in cake baking.

Self raising flour is generally all purpose flour that has had baking powder mixed in, and do not require any additional baking powder to be added when making biscuits, pancakes or muffins.

So, if you are making bread, use a northern all purpose, or bread flour, and if making pastry, use a southern all purpose, cake or pastry flour. Always look for flour labeled unbleached, as it tastes better, and store whole wheat flour in the fridge or freezer.

The reason that you spend so much time kneading when making a breads dough, is to create lots of these strong gluten chains, and if you under knead, your bread will generally fail to rise well.

Don’t worry too much about it all though, as most of the time, using whatever flour you have on hand will work out just fine, and you should never not bake that apple pie, just because you only have bread flour on hand. Bake those cookies; make that bread, and enjoy the aroma of home baking; it's always appreciated.

Personally after reading this article-- I would highly recommend to stick with whatever type of flour your recipe calls for, even when it means going out to the store to buy more. The substitution is fairly reliable, but this is definitely a “substitute at your own risk” sort of thing. Different flours have different protein (gluten) contents and different weights, and different flours can result in dramatically different results in different recipes. With all purpose flour having about 11% protein content, while cake flour has 6-8%. Some recipes need that low protein content to remain tender and light (like Angel Food cake) and some cakes are flexible enough to use the substitution, but knowing that all purpose flour is so much “stronger” than cake flour-- should help you decide when you can substitute and when you may not want to.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Always Praying for A Cure ~

October is such an exciting month, especially with all the hype of Football & Fall Festivities. But through all the hype, excitement we must take the time to celebrate the survivors, and remember & honor those who lost this battle. Football fans are in the pink this month because the NFL is getting on board with Breast Cancer Awareness along with the players, coaches, cheerleaders – even the officials – are sporting something pink on their uniforms. This month, pink ribbons will be displayed around our country, adorning jackets and public spaces alike. A sign of solidarity, these ribbons remind us of our commitment to preventing and treating breast cancer, and to supporting those courageously battling this disease. Countless Americans will participate in events to raise awareness alongside survivors and their families, working together to support research that will save lives.
We have come far in recent decades in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of breast cancer. Still, this year, hundreds of thousands of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and too many will be lost. African-American women bear a particularly large burden, experiencing higher death rates from breast cancer than other racial or ethnic groups in the United States.

There are many ways you can help & contribute to the cause during the next few weeks. I will be making some mini 'Pink' cupcakes for Kay Jewelers on the 24th to hand out samples for the staff & guests who pass by in support!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October is National Dessert & Apple Month!

I love the month of October in the South! We have beautiful Fall like weather. I especially love being able to change up the wardrobe a bit with all the accessories of scarves, jeans, blouses, and furry boots. Then there's Oktoberfest in Helen, apple picking and hiking through the mountains during the day without having to worry about sweating through your clothes, or taking a drive down to Savannah for a few days to see the true beauty of this city during all the Fall festivities, not to mention the pumpkin carving parties, and dressing up for Halloween-- but then there's all the BAKING that comes with this month! I don't know about you but I love anything Apple & Spice!  Wheather it's a apple pie, caramel candied apples, drinking apple cinnamon tea, or even better-- eating a melt-in-your-mouth apple cinnamon CUPCAKE.

Candied Apples & Apple Pie were childhood favorites of mine, and I knew the only way I would be happy with it as a cupcake was if I could really taste the combination of crisp streusel crumbs, tart apples, and the buttery caramel drizzle made from scratch. ~elc's~ Apple Cinnamon Streusel cupcakes smell just as good as a pie baking in the oven. Just imagine filling an apple pie with all the granny smith apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, and brown sugar. While I chop the apples up really fine and cook all this down over the stove; the cinnamon cupcakes are baking in the oven, after I have pulled them out, and they have cooled, I cut out the centers and fill the cupcakes with the apple filling. Nope. I can't buy the apple fillings that are in a can which you see in the grocery store. Yuck!  The taste of high fructose corn syrup & aluminum is not what I'm going for.  After I have filled each and every cupcake, I frost with a cinnamon cream cheese and top with the streusel crumbs & caramel drizzle with a slice of granny smith apple as the garnish. This cupcake is my personal Fall favorite and I hope everyone who trys it loves it as much as I do!