December 11th, 2006

On the subject of flour

Please Note:

I AM NOT AT THE MARKET NEXT SATURDAY 16TH. HOLIDAYING IN HAMBURG. I WILL BE BACK WITH MANY MANY CHOCOLATES N’ CAKES ON SATURDAY 23RD!

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This week’s entry is about flour.

Flour is the pillar of cakes & also the thickener of creams such as Crème Pâtissière. The most common flour you’d see at the supermarket is made from wheat. But flour can also be made from maize/ corn, barley, rye, rice, chestnut, chickpea, buckwheat. For pastry baking, the wheat kind is mostly used. – Never substitute the type of flour & expect the same recipe to work, as different flour types produce different amount of gluten.
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Without sounding atall scientific (which I’m not so clued up on anyway), I must write about the importance of gluten. It is responsible of the quality of your cake’s turnout.

– The protein in the flour turns in to gluten when you add the ‘liquids’. During oven baking, the whisked egg whites would rise the cake, & the gluten from the flour would become the pillar to keep the cake in that risen shape. The correct amount of oven-heat would make this pillar solid & the cake will not deflate when it comes out.
– One in every 1000 to 1500 people (in UK) have gluten intolerance known as coeliac/ celiac disease. It is an auto-immune disease, when the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. Symptoms can be mild to severe, usually bloating, nausea, hair loss, depression, bowel problems, & even infertility. – Since I have started this stall I have come across so many customers looking for gluten-free cakes. The only gluten-free cake is the ‘Moist Flourless Chocolate Cake’ made with just chocolate, eggs, sugar & orange liquer. And even that, I make sure I point out to them that I cook with flour in the same kitchen & that there may be traces of flour in it. Just like what a packet might say about nuts! The thought of people getting ill over my stuff is ruinous…

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Do: always sift the flour – even if the packet says ready-sifted. It not only removes clogged up balls of flour (which will remain as flour balls in your baked cakes), importantly, it introduces ‘air’ in to the flour. It’ll be quicker to mix in the flour & successfully too. Some recipes might ask you to sift twice.
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Do: always measure flour after sifting.
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Do: store flour on a cool, dry, shelf in its bag or in an airtight container. Apparently, damp & warm conditions would invite little insects called ‘confused flour beetles’ & ‘red beetles’ to hatch in it. (As one of my Kid’s friend says, that’s just ‘yucky yuck’). So, never mix new flour with old. White flour generally keep well for 6 to 9 months.

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Do: mix the flour using the ‘folding’ technique; rotate the bowl with your left hand, dig your spatula to the bottom & lift it up in big movements, like you are cutting the mixture from the bottom. Keep rotating & cutting & stop when the white flour dissapears.

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Don’t: over-mix your cake dough – unless the recipe tells you to. Over-mixing would stregthen the gluten structure. You’d end up with a tough & dense sponge where the gluten had squashed the bubbles.

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Last Saturday:

… was a struggle. Every stall holder I’ve talked to was complaining about how there hadn’t been many spending customers. We realized that maybe it’s because it’s a run up to Christmas & people are holding on to their purse until the party season kick starts (hopefully from next Saturday please!). – Although the chocolate truffles (currently doing five types) goes down really well nowadays, & it got sold out quite quickly. I think it is because of the chocolate boxes I started using (pictured below), which costs £1.10 per box. It has a faux canvas texture, & the box is rigid. It’s a type of box you might want to keep, & it goes well with the ‘chocolate = luxury’ theory. – Before these boxes, I have been using self-assembly flat pack boxes made out of white glossy card which cost around 42 pence per box. Huge difference in cost I know, but the difference in quality is so crystal clear, I’ll never go back to those flimsy cheapo flat packs. I’m so happy I found these boxes, it makes me want to roll more truffles…!

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chocolate_box.jpg

7 Comments »

  1. just chanced upon your blog.. great instructions!

    I’ve got a question though: You mentioned that we must weigh the flour after sifting it. Should the weight of the flour be the same as that required by the recipe, even if the recipe does not mention that we need to sift the flour?

    Thanks a lot!

    Comment by Cheryl - July 15, 2007 2:30 am

  2. Thanks Cheryl!
    On the sifting front, flour tends to pack while standing in a package, so it’s always a good idea to sift it before measuring its weight. The quantity of the sifted flour should be the same as what is said in a recipe. – Even if a recipe had not mentioned to sift ‘em, I would still try to do it regardless, to remove any clogged up balls of flour & to aerate it. Hope this helps!

    Comment by tamami - July 15, 2007 1:46 pm

  3. Thanks! That really helps! ;) Will try that next time!

    Comment by Cheryl - July 17, 2007 11:53 am

  4. pleasure! ;-)

    Comment by tamami - July 17, 2007 3:38 pm

  5. Tamami,
    Just came across your blog tonight, it’s great!
    A quick question for you in relation to flour – we had dinner in a friend’s house last night and she made chocolate brownies. They were tasty but I couldn’t help but notice a taste of flour coming through. The same thing happened me a few months ago when I made a pear & chocolate pudding. Do you have any idea why this happens?

    Comment by Aoiffe - January 24, 2009 9:16 pm

  6. Hello Aoiffe,
    Re your question: I have to say I don’t know the answer to it… But here is my stab-in-the-dark answer anyhow:
    – Maybe you/ your friend didn’t sift it?
    – Maybe you/ your friend didn’t fold in the flour until it is thoroughly mixed in to the wet-ingredients?
    – Or maybe you over-mixed it so it formed too much gluten?
    – Did you use soft white wheat flour which is most suited to cake making?
    – Maybe it was a bad recipe that called for too much flour…?
    – Maybe you are adding the flour at the wrong moment. I.e.: Adding flour at the beginning, or the end will produce different results.
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    Sorry, I hope it’s any help…

    Comment by Tamami - January 25, 2009 12:00 am

  7. where did you get your boxes from?

    Comment by sarah - February 19, 2011 4:51 pm

 

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