Well, once again Andy comes up with the right answer and a beatiful answer, too! Don't worry gang - I've already scolded him and said that if he's always going to be right all the time he has to wait at least 12-hours in the future before posting so others will have a chance.
The clue to the problem was in the geography.
In the US - regional brands of bleached all-purpose flour in the South (such as White Lilly, Martha White, Red Band, Gladiola, etc.) have a lower protein content (7.5 - 9.5%) than Northern regional brands (such as Robin Hood or Hecker's) with a protein content of about 11-12%. National brands of AP (such as Gold Medal and Pillsbury) are 10-12%. Bread flour is 12-14%, and Semolina is about 13-13.5%.
In Canada - AP flour is high protein, more like our bread flour. Their cake and pastry flour is closer to our Southern AP flour.
Depending on the protein content of the flour - the flour to liquid ratio in these recipes can be off by as much as 25%!
To add to the fun ... regional AP flour in the Pacific Northwest seems to be closer to Southern AP than those from the Northeast and Midwest. And, some artisan bread bakers took it another step ... the same national brand purchased in TN did not behave the same as a bag purchased in CA - and the company swears
they are identical.
How to solve this problem?
Include in your recipes the Brand of flour you were using! Another that would be nice would be the protein content of the flour ... but that's another problem you're not going to find on the bag.
It probably will not do any good - but write to the FDA and complain strongly
about the flour labeling changes they made in 1994 - and demand they change it back, or additionally list the total protein percent. Here's the problem: the serving size and the way they round the numbers. Prior to 1994 the serving size was 1 Cup - the gram weight of protein was fairly close to the protein content by % when rounded to an intiger (whole number). In 1994 they changed the serving size to 1/4 cup - which means almost all flour will now show 3g due to rounding (3g = anywhere from 2.5g to 3.49g). Anything from 10g/cup to 14g/cup is all listed as 3g/quarter-cup. That pretty much covers all flours except cake flour!
Humm .... plans beginning to rumble in the back of my mind for the "Million Bakers March" on DC to demand better flour labeling. If "Flower Power" could influence decisions made in DC in the '60's - why not "Flour Power" today???
What will I come up with next?