Every four or five months I get it into my head that I’m the sort of woman who is both impeccably groomed and can bake like the dickens. Fictional statement, to say the least. I own muffin pans, so technically I could bake. But I could also train for a 5k marathon and announcing that I walk to and from Third Avenue each day will never convince anyone that I won’t die of a heart attack after 1.5 miles.
Besides, I’m going to throw my short domestic attention span into sewing, since I love to shop, so naturally…I mean, naturally, this means I’m the next Etsy superstar.
With the intention of creating something extraordinary called Baked Blintzes with Fresh Blueberry Sauce by one of my imaginary best friends, Ina Garten, I walked into the supermarket the other day in search of flour. Have you done this lately? When did flour become so damn confusing? Are you as bowled over as I am that there are 300 different varieties of flour or am I from another planet?
I try to keep our family meals healthy, despite what the Barefoot Contessa’s strong presence in our house would have you think. I was so distraught by what it all meant–unbleached, bleached, whole wheat–that I left the stupid store and decided not to make my all-important flour purchase until I did a little research.
And now I’m going to simplify flour. Hold onto your hat–it’s about to get exciting:
1. All-Purpose Flour: Most common flour that comes unbleached or bleached. Unbleached flour is not chemically treated and has more protein. It is used for cookies, pies, pancakes, etc. Bleached flour is chemically treated and is used in many breads, danishes, and pastries. All-purpose flour has a gluten content of roughly 12 percent.
2. Cake Flour: Soft wheat flour with a lot of starch but a lower gluten content than all-purpose flour–about 8 percent. As its name suggests, this flour is powder soft and ideal for cakes and pastries.
3. Buckwheat flour: Perfect for people who must restrict gluten in their diets, this flour can be used to replace all-purpose flour.
4. Organic Flour: Must pass U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation to be considered organic. Otherwise, it seems like you can use this flour for all of the same recipes that require All-Purpose flour. Companies like Bob’s Red Mill offer an insane selection like coconut, corn, and fava bean organic flours.
5. Bread Flour: One day I’ll make homemade pizza. My family will be forever grateful. And I will use bread flour, which has a stronger scent than other flours and a higher gluten content, between 13 and 14 percent.
6. Pastry Flour: With 9 to 10 percent gluten, pastry flour is slightly stronger than cake flour and can be used for biscuits and muffins.
7. Self-Rising Flour: Anyone can prove me wrong and I am happy to hear it, but by all accounts, self-rising flour seems like a pain in the ass to use. It contains salt and baking powder, but various manufacturers put different amounts of these in their product so how are you supposed to know how much flour to use in your own recipe? Anyhoo, it’s most often used for quick bread recipes and biscuits.