Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Flour (Part II) - A Guide to the different kinds of Flour.

Before I start with any new projects and recipe-sharing, I still need to finish my one ingredient: flour. Remember how important flour is? It's the structure and base of any baked good. Especially the proteins in flour play a large role in shaping the end product.

But even knowing all that, there's still something missing. Every flour has a different purpose and the amount of proteins can vary even per bag of flour. So knowing a bit more about the different types of flour is essential. You can't just substitute any flour with a different one - you'll see why.

Wheat flours
Wheat flours are achieved by milling wheat grains to various degrees. Some will use only the endosperm, while others include the bran and the germ of the wheat. I've sorted a few of the most widely used flours by their 'hardness', or the amount of proteins they contain. Harder flours contain more proteins and thus can absorb more water and create a stronger structure.

Cake flour
 - Cake flour made from soft wheat flour and is milled to a finer texture than all-purpose or pastry flour. It has a very low protein content, which keeps the gluten formation at a minimum. It's used for cakes and biscuits and other goods that don't need a lot of gluten, but require that soft, delicate and tender texture instead.
Pastry flour - This flour is a bit 'harder' than cake flour. It has more gluten formation than cake flour, but still contains less proteins than all purpose flour. It's often used the same way as cake flour. It has a finer texture than all purpose flour making this flour perfect for pastries, cookies, biscuits and quick breads.
White, Plain or All-purpose flour  All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft flours: it’s right in between cake flour and bread flour. You could even mix them 1:1 and get this versatile flour. It can be used for.. well, all purposes really. 
Bread flour - This is a hard wheat flour, meaning it has a high amount of proteins. It's used for baked goods that need a lot of gluten such as breads and buns. The stronger gluten give structure to the rising dough and ensure a chewy texture. The high gluten content helps the bread rise and gives it shape and structure.

* Whole-wheat flour - While all other flours use only the endosperm, whole wheat flour uses the whole grain (from endosperm to germ) to grind to flour. As a result this flour contains more nutrients and fiber. Because the bran can interfere with the formation of gluten, whole wheat flour often produces heaver and denser products than all-purpose, bread or cake flour. Whole wheat flours can vary from whole wheat bread flour to whole wheat cake flour. Stone ground flour is a whole wheat flour with a coarser texture.
* Self-raising flour - This is another flour that uses only the endosperm of the wheat grains. Self-raising flour is really just an all-purpose flour with chemical leaveners (normally baking powder) and occasionally salt added to it. Only use self-raising flour when a recipe specifically asks for it.

Making your own self-raising flour (substitute)
1 cup of flour (130 grams)     +     1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100 grams flour (3/4 cup)      +     1 teaspoon baking powder

Self-raising or self-rising flour from the US contains salt as well: 1/4 teaspoon salt per cup.

Non-wheat flours and other
Not every flour is made of wheat. There is a whole range of different milled grains and nuts that are used as flours. Below I try to explain just a few of these. Some flours contain proteins and can be used to bake cakes and even bread. Some flours don’t contain the proteins glutenin and/or gliadin, but can still be used to create a unique texture or flavour.

Graham flour – Graham flour is a type of whole wheat flour made by milling the endosperm very finely and the germ and bran coarsely. The flours are then mixed together to create a more nutritious flour.  
Rye flour - Rye flour is made from rye grains and is comparable to whole wheat flour. Because the bran and germ are included in the milling process, it often results in denser baked goods. Rye has a high amount of gliadin, but a lot less glutenin, which means it has less gluten formation than wheat flour. It contains more fiber than wheat flours.
Barley flour  This flour is made from a different type of grain: barley. Similar to rye flour, barley flour contains a lot of fiber and less gluten than wheat flours. 
Spelt flour - Spelt flour contains less gluten and is lighter and softer than normal flour. Wheat flour can relatively easily be substituted by spelt flour. Spelt breads may be denser in structure and need more yeast.
Semolina flour - Semolina flour is made from a specific sort of wheat called Durum. Durum wheat has an exceptionally high protein content, giving baked goods a dense and chewy texture. For this reason semolina is often used to make pasta and noodles. (Semolina can also refer to a coarse grinding and is not always made of durum wheat.)
Quinoa  flour - Another flour full of proteins, especially aminoacids, but this time without gluten. Quinoa flour can have a bitter taste. Substitute no more than half the amount of flour called for in a recipe. The texture will become a lot more dense and coarse.
Corn flour or corn meal - This flour is made by milling corn kernels. It contains no gluten and is therefore not suitable as a base for breads. Corn starch is made from the endosperm of the corn kernels and is often used for thickening soups and sauces.
Rice flour - This flour is made by milling rice grains. There are different sorts of rice flour ranging from white to brown and glutinous (sweet) rice flour. Rice flour is lighter in texture than wheat flours and contains no gluten.
Almond (or other nut) flour - Almond flour contains a lot of proteins and healthy fats as well as a lot of vitamin E. It does however not contain the proteins to make gluten, making it unsuitable as a base for cakes and bread. It is possible to exchange a quarter of the flour called for in a recipe for almond flour.
Soja flour - The amount of proteins, calcium and fiber make this flour a very healthy option. However, it does not contain glutenin en glutadin, making it unsuitable for cakes and breads. Substitute no more than a third of your normal flour in cake recipes. Soja flour is a perfect substitution for wheat flour when it comes to thickening sauces and soups.

And don't forget buckwheat, chickpea, oats, potato, soy, chestnut, acorn, tapioca, peanut, coconut, banana and other fruit and vegetable flours (just to name a few).

What I found the most interesting about this research was the huge variety in flours. Apparently in Europe, bleaching and adding any sorts of additives to flour is forbidden on a production level. Flour is simply milled wheat grains and to self-raising flour only baking powder is added. In the US one could find ‘enriched, bleached all-purpose flour, pre-sifted’. Self-raising flour from the US also appears to contain salt. Hell, some countries don’t even differentiate between pastry and cake flour. Although I never noticed during baking, I find it fascinating to know that there are such big differences across the world in such a basic ingredient!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Chinese New Years!

After all the hectic school busy-ness is finally over, what better day to start up your blog again then on the Lunar New Year?

I was thinking of how long it's been and how hard it's been. I was even contemplating on ranting about all of it. But my school career is now semi-officially over - I'm just waiting for the papers to be written. A new (Lunar) year has started. So really, it's time for a fresh new start. I'm all ready for it! 

Are you ready for some new recipes? Here's a little sneak-peak in the goodies you can be expecting!

Hope to see you soon! And don't forget to enjoy the New year! :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Years with Kniepertjes!

Wauw, it's been a while hasn't it? Last month December was way too busy for me to even leave a note to say I'm busy. Christmas can be a busy time right? I'm sure everyone was busy with preparations...

That's not what kept me busy though. Oh, surely the weekends were filled with that. But there were another 5 days in every week on which I was going to work for my apprenticeship. That meant waking up before 5, coming home at 7 and going to bed before 10 and working loads in between. There was no time or energy left to even look at my blog. Which killed me little bits every time. 

Now I'm done! Well, nearly done. But at least I don't have to get up so early any longer. So now I can start the new year freshly with more posts!

This recipe is from my grandma: traditional Dutch kniepertjes! This kind of recipe is handed down from mother to daughter. You won't really find kniepertjes anywhere but in peoples homes these days. These thin crunchy 'cookies' with an anise flavour are made and eaten on New Year's Eve and New Years Day. Add some whipped cream and you're all set for celebrating the new year!

lots* - recipe by my grandma

500 grams flour
250 grams sugar
2 eggs
250 grams butter
2-4 tablespoons liquor (optional)
25 grams anise powder
25 grams anise seeds
about 1/2 liter milk

1. Melt the butter. Combine it with the eggs, sugar, flour and anise in a large bowl.
2. Add the liquor with as much milk as needed to form a creamy dough. It should be quite runny.
3. Pour a small spoon of batter on a cookie/ice cream cone/pizzelle iron and close for about a minute until golden brown.
4. Take the cookie out with tweezers or a spoon, and roll! This needs to happen quickly as the cookies turn hard very fast. A slightly warm surface helps. And heat-proof hands. And a cylinder stick of about a fingers thickness to roll it on.
5. Leave to cool (that goes real fast!). Eat plain or fill with whipped cream**.

* According to my grandma you can make 120 kniepertjes in roughly 3 hours with this recipe. I think both the amount and time are slightly exaggerated, but it's safe to say 'lots'.
** Seriously, fill it with cream.

My grandma explained how, on New Year's Eve, people would eat kniepertjes in the shape of flat circles. It would represent the whole previous year, which would be all over (round) and clear to you (open). On New Year's Day the kniepertjes would be rolled up, 'the contents invisible', as you do not yet know what is ahead of you the upcoming year. I didn't know there was quite so much symbolism behind these cookies!

I really hope you enjoy the recipe! I'll be back with more very soon and hopefully I can get back into my routine of posting once weekly when I've got all the deadlines over and done with!

Happy New Year everyone! I wish you guys all the best :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Flour (Part I) - The final ingrediƫnt

So I’ve touched on butter, sugar, eggs and milk. We’ve almost got a full (Quarter) Pound Cake. We’re just missing one very important and essential ingredient: flour. Which baked good doesn’t use flour? Honestly. This stuff is important and you know it.

Components of flour
First if all, what IS flour? To understand the purpose of flour it’s crucial to know where it comes from. Flour is milled from grains such as wheat. The wheat grains are made up of several layers:
 - Endosperm. The center of the grain. It contains starch, protein, carbohydrates and small amount of oil.
- Brain (bran). The outer husk of the grain. Contains mostly fiber, but also adds texture and colour to flour.
 - Germ. The reproductive epicenter of the grain. It contains the most nutrients. Flours with germ are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. It also contains a small amount of fat.
All flours contain the endosperm. Quite frankly, most (white) flours only contain this part. The bran and germ are found in whole wheat flours.