A few weeks ago Alex asked me to write a post about flour. She mentioned that at one stage she had up to 9 flours in her pantry but has now limited it to a very respectable 4. She said her experiments with her various flours led to some ‘interesting’ (not always in a good way) results and she wanted to know more.
So I thought I’d divide this into two sections. Today I’ll talk about wheat flour and then next week we can go into all the other interesting flours out there. Which will give me an excuse to do some baking. Yay.
But before we get into that I need to tell you about these puddings. I recently had a craving for the lemony heavenliness of my Mum’s famous lemon meringue pie. But I just wasn’t up for the whole, pastry-making-egg-white-whipping thing. Besides, it can be dangerous to have a whole pie around when there are only two people in the house.
Then I had a flash of brilliance – why not make a lemon version of my ginger self-saucing puddings? We’re talking super simple and a recipe that’s easy to make just two serves. Win.
And do these puddings deliver? Yes. Yes. And Yes. These little puddings are face-puckering good. They certainly pack a heavy lemony punch, that until now, I only thought lemon meringue pie could dish up. These puddings aren’t for the faint-hearted, but if you like things sweet and lemon-fresh, these are the puddings for you.
Just don’t forget to use self raising flour – I mistakenly used plain flour when cooking these for a dinner party the other day and the texture was very dense and heavy. Although there weren’t any complaints from my guests, I made a big mental note to be more careful with my flours.
16 facts about (wheat) flour
weighing flour is quicker and more accurate than using cups
If you’re using the cup measuring system and you like to bake, I highly recommend investing in a set of kitchen scales. I saw some digital ones the other day for $20, they’re really worth the investment. Even in my minimalist kitchen, scales play a big role.
The problem with the cup measurement system, especially for flour is that the density of the flour changes depending on how much you’ve compacted it, so it’s really difficult to get the same quantity of flour every time. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child had a least a page detailing the ‘correct’ way to measure out flour by the cup. Why not make life far more easy and just weigh? You’ll be guaranteed of the same results every time AND you’ll save on washing up. My scales weigh in both metric and imperial so I don’t need to think or do any tricky conversions if I’m following an imperial recipe. Yay.
self raising flour = plain flour + baking powder
While I often refer to self raising flour in recipes, I actually just keep plain, all-purpose flour and baking powder on hand. To make your own self raising flour, add 2 teaspoons baking powder to 150g (5oz) or 1 cup plain flour. Unfortunately, you usually can’t get away with substituting the other way.
gluten is the main protein in wheat
Given the rising incidence of people needing to follow a gluten-free diet, you’ve probably heard of gluten. It’s one of the main proteins in wheat and has the unique property of being able to absorb lots of water and become really elastic. It’s because of this ability of gluten to expand that normal bread has the lovely light texture we know and love, while ‘gluten-free’ breads tend to be dense bricks.
bread is made from high protein wheat
So if gluten is what gives bread it’s lovely texture, it makes sense that bread is made from wheat with higher levels of protein.
cakes and biscuits are (generally) made from lower protein wheat
For cookies and cakes, we don’t want a really chewy texture, so we tend to use lower protein flours that have less gluten.
plain, or all purpose flour is a blend of high and low protein wheat
So the normal ‘flour’ you see in your supermarket is a compromise. It’s a blend of both high and low protein wheats which means it is able to be used for most things. I actually made some bread the other day with some all-purpose flour and it turned out much better than I was expecting.
wholemeal and wholegrain flour are the same thing
Wholemeal may sound a lot more old-fashioned that the ‘wholegrain’ that’s being promoted by cereal and bread manufacturers but at the end of day they’re one and the same. Flour that has been made from all parts of the wheat kernel, so the bran and goodness from the germ have been left in.
wholemeal flours have a shorter shelf life than white flours
The wheat germ, which is not present in white flour, contains oils which can be susceptible to rancidity and therefore decrease the keeping time for wholemeal flours. To delay the onset of rancidity and prolong their shelf life, wholemeal flours can be kept in the fridge.
stone ground v’s roller milled
In modern flour mills, metal rollers are used to produce the flour. These operate at high speeds and heat can build up which destroys natural enzymes in the flour. Stoneground flour on the other hand happens at much slower speeds and lower temperatures so the enzymes are preserved. Most bread bakers recommend using stone ground flour.
bleached vs unbleached
The difference between bleached and unbleached flour is all about colour. Bleached flour is treated with chemical bleaches to make it whiter. So unbleached flour has a darker, more rustic colour which makes it great for breadmaking but not necessarily that great for delicate sponge cakes.
Italian flour is labelled according to how refined it is
In Italy flour is labelled as 1, 0, or 00 depending on how finely ground the flour is and how much of the bran has been removed. 00 is the most fine and has the least bran. But different types of 00 flour can have different protein contents.
Italian flour for bread making will be labelled ‘panifiable‘
So given the variation in Italian 00 flour protein contents, the safest best is to use the flour that the manufacturer recommends for bread. Or the ‘pasta’ flour for pasta. etc.
dried pasta tends to be made from high protein flour
Durum wheat has the highest protein content of all flours and is the flour of choice for dried pasta manufacturers.
fresh pasta doesn’t need to be made from high protein flour
I’ve been very confused about this over the years. When I first began pasta making I thought that all pasta was made from durum wheat so, therefore high protein was best. Since reading Marcella Hazan’s wonderful Italian book, Marcella Says earlier in the year I’ve discovered that I had it wrong. Marcella recommends 00 flour, but given that different 00 flours have different protein contents, this is a little confusing.
Thankfully Marcella recommends using all-purpose (or plain) flour if you can’t get your hands on 00 flour for pasta making. Problem solved. Although to be honest, I’ve been happy with my pasta made from bread flour all these years. I didn’t notice a massive difference when I did use all-purpose flour.
spelt is still wheat
Spelt is a different variety of modern wheat. It is said to be a more ‘ancient’ strain that some people find easier to digest. Spelt products tend to come with a hefty price tag which other people may find difficult to digest. If you struggle with normal wheat products but find spelt OK, then go for it.
semolina is a precursor to hard flour
When durum wheat, with its high protein content is milled, the first stage is to remove the bran and the germ. Semolina is what is left when the bran and germ have been removed. It is then ground into flour but can be used as is.
lemon delicious puddings
If you don’t have self raising flour, just use plain flour with 3/4 teaspoon baking powder mixed through. Big NOTE – you need 100g (3 1/2oz) sugar total, but it’s used in 2 different stages.
These puddings are wonderful for entertaining (as long as you remember to use the right flour). Just have them mixed and ready to go up to step 5. Then continue from step 6 when you’re ready to cook.
I also love that you can easily double or triple the recipe or even scale up further depending on how many people you are feeding.
50g (1 3/4oz) unsalted butter
zest from 1/2 lemon + 1/4 cup juice
100g (3 1/2oz) sugar
50g (1 3/4oz) self raising flour
1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan with the lemon zest.
3. Remove from the heat and HALF the sugar. Stir and then add eggs, stir.
4. Lightly mix in the flour until just combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps.
5. Divide cake mixture between 2 x 1 cup capacity ramekins or oven proof dishes.
6. Combine the remaining HALF of the sugar with 1/4 cup boiling water and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Pour over the cake mixture.
7. Cover loosely with a large piece of foil and bake for 25 minutes.
8. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes until puddings are puffy and golden.
9. Serve hot with vanilla icecream.
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