Let’s talk flour today. It’s a pantry staple that you pull out to make everything from cookies to gravy, but there are some simple things you can do to make it perform for you consistently, like measuring it correctly and using the right variety for your recipe. For example, have you ever made the same cookie recipe twice and had it turn out completely different? One time the cookies are light and fluffy and another time they are dense and flat? This is a common problem with a simple remedy.
Here’s how to properly measure flour:
1. Stir flour with a knife or measuring cup before extracting what you need. A few quick turns will loosen the flour.
2. Instead of digging into your flour with a measuring cup, ladel flour into your measuring cup with a spoon to fill it. (Again, this adds more air and keeps you from compacting the flour with the force of your scoop.)
3. Overfill the measuring cup, then level it off.
You’ll find that this small tip will give you much more consistency with your food, especially in baking. For even more precise results, use a food scale to measure your flour. One cup of flour should weigh about 4.25 ounces. (If you have a food scale, try this experiment: scoop out a cup of flour and compare its weight to a properly measured cup. The scooped cup can weigh up to an entire ounce more!)
Now let’s talk about the different types of flour and how they are best used:
All-Purpose Flour – Made from a blend of hard and soft wheat, this flour is your pantry staple. There are two varieties, bleached and unbleached. Bleached is best for cookies, pie crusts, pancakes, and muffins. Unbleached is best for breads and pastries. If a recipe doesn’t specify a type of flour, this is your best bet.
Bread Flour – This flour is higher in gluten because it is made from a hard, high-protein wheat. Obviously it is great for breads, but it also adds an extra chewiness to cookies, so I often use it in mine.
Cake Flour – Soft, fine, and high in starch, cake flour is best for recipes with a high sugar content. It can hold its rise better and won’t collapse. It’s not necessary for cake and muffin recipes, but you might experiment with it to notice the difference.
Buckwheat Flour – This gluten-free flour is a great substitute for those with special diets. It has a slightly nutty flavor and is high in nutrients.
Self-Rising Flour – This flour has salt and baking powder already mixed in and works wonderfully for biscuits, cobblers, and quick breads, but is not good for yeast breads.
Pastry Flour – This flour is somewhere between a cake flour and an all-purpose flour. It works best for pie crusts, cookies, brownies, and quick breads, offering a nice, flakey texture.
Do you have any other questions about flour? Let me know!