I think we’ve all been there… you stir together a batch of cupcakes, or banana bread, or cookies, and bite into them only to find they are tough, dense, or dry. I’ve even had this happen to recipes I’ve made dozens of times before with no problems – so what gives?
There are two main reasons this might happen:
1. Too Much Flour: If you measure your flour straight from the bag with a measuring cup (like most of us do) you could be scooping as much as 30% more flour than the recipe calls for. As cliche as it sounds, baking is a science, and requires a little more precision than other kinds of cooking. One of the biggest variables in baking is the person making the recipe, which is why standardized measuring is important to produce the same fluffy cupcakes every time.
2. Over Mixing: Many recipes say to add the flour at the end, and mix until just combined. The reason? Flour contains gluten – long, elastic bands of protein – which can make loaves of bread chewy and pasta dough stretchy. In a lot of baking gluten is a good thing (in gluten-free flour blends, gums and starches are added to replace the binding qualities of gluten), but for delicate cakes and cookies, over mixing can make those treats go from tender to tough. The thing is, different types of flour contain different amounts of gluten, along with other varying qualities… if your recipe calls for cake flour, bread flour simply will not do!
It’s FAK Friday (Feeding my Appetite for Knowledge) and this week I want to go over some flour basics. First, I want to talk about how to measure flour properly and accurately, and then I’ll discuss what the different types of flour are, and why they matter. I’ll go over a variety of wheat flours, as well as some non-wheat and gluten-free flours. As always, I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible, but if you notice any errors in the information below please leave me a comment at the bottom of the page!
There are many different varieties of flour, from different grades of wheat flour all the way to cornmeal, rice flour, and gluten-free blends. Here I want to talk about wheat flours, and what the difference is between cake flour, bread flour, all purpose four, etc.. While I’m at it I’ll try to touch briefly on other types of flour, as well.
Cake Flour –
Wheat flour is the only type of flour with enough gluten to make standard yeast breads. There are plenty of other types of flour out there, though, including a wide variety of gluten-free blends.