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Old 05-31-2005, 12:29 PM   #1
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What's the Problem - #2?

Since Lyndalou wanted another one ....

I'm going to take some liberties and use some of our DC Family as participants in these problems - picked because they participated in the first "Problem" and I know where they live. They are fictional characters in these accounts and are just to help demonstrate something in the answer.

In this one the only problem is the flour - each recipe calls for plain old everyday all-purpose flour.

1. CAKE: Andy, in MA, posts a request on DC for a recipe for a certain cake and Lyndalou, in FL, sends him her tried-and-true recipe she got from her grandmother. Since it doesn't need anything special like cake flour, just everyday all-purpose flour, Andy decides to make it. The batter is very thick - and the cake turns out dense and dry. Andy is sure that (a) it is the worst recipe he has ever seen, (b) it wasn't TNT, (c) something got left out of the recipe, (d) Lyndalou has never had a good cake, (e) Lyndalou needs to up her meds.

2. DINNER ROLLS: In gratitude for getting the cake recipe from Lyndalou - before he tried it - Andy sends her a recipe for some yeast dinner rolls that you can make in a food processor. But, instead of it forming a ball like the recipe said - it's just a sticky glob. So she adds a tablespoon more flour, but that doesn't do it ... so she adds another, and then another. Finally, after she has added 1/2 - 3/4 cup more flour it finally makes a ball.

3. PIE CRUST: Alix, up there in Canada, hears about Chef Paul Prudhomme's (New Orleans, LA) recipe for sweet potato pecan pie and wants to give it a try so someone posts it. Well, the filling turned out perfect, but the crust was a nightmare. At first, the liquid hardly dampened the flour and it was too dry to make a dough. So, Alix added a little more liquid at a time until it finally formed a dough - but it was so tough it was hard to work with. And the end result was less than tender and/or flaky.

What's the problem?

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Old 05-31-2005, 12:47 PM   #2
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I love this, Michael.

I'm guessing the problem is the same in all three scenarios - lack of proper amount of shortening.
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Old 05-31-2005, 01:17 PM   #3
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Michael:

You're getting really geographical on us now.

Lindalou is from Florida where she uses flour made from Southern wheat which is 'softer', containing less gluten.

Andy (that's me ) is from Massachusetts, where the AP flour is harder and contains more gluten than the southern flour.

Alix, from Canada, is accustomed to the hardest wheat of all. It has a higher gluten content than either Lindalou's or Andy's.

The gluten content directly effects the amount of water that can be absorbed and the ultimate texture of the finished product. That's why Alix's crust was so tough. Paul P's recipe was probably based on a relatively low gluten southern flour. Alix's AP flour is close to bread flour and will create a tougher product.

The problem is the same in all three examples. Water to flour ratios are off due to the differences in gluten content.

I should have added more water, Lindalou should have cut back on the water she used and Alix should use a softer flour such as cake or pastry flour.
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Old 05-31-2005, 01:30 PM   #4
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Oh, I bet you're right, Andy.
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Old 05-31-2005, 02:18 PM   #5
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Oh Andy, I am not worthy! I was going to make some smart arse comment about humidity levels but I think you are right on the money.

I LOVE THIS PLACE!!! I learn so much from you all.
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Old 05-31-2005, 02:50 PM   #6
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I agree with Andy.

(Can I be in your next round? Californians are known for doing weird stuff with their food)
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Old 05-31-2005, 03:21 PM   #7
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Okay, jkath .... I'll put you down for the French Bread problem.
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Old 05-31-2005, 03:26 PM   #8
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jkath, here's a hint - there are no avocados in recipes for French bread, even in SoCal. :)
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Old 05-31-2005, 03:36 PM   #9
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hee hee hee!

or would that be............ oui oui oui!
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Old 06-01-2005, 10:27 AM   #10
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I LOVE this thread - and similar ones! WAY TO GO Michael!
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Old 06-01-2005, 10:35 AM   #11
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There is another problem at work here... Flour is not a crystalline structure, so it can be packed to varying densities. One cup can contain four ounces, or three, or six, depending on a number of factors.

Many people advocate weighing flour in recipes and baking, rather than measuring by volume. I have no kitchen scale, so I can't weigh out ingredients, but I do shake and aerate my flour to keep a certain level of consistency in my volume measurements.
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Old 06-02-2005, 08:35 PM   #12
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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?
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Old 06-03-2005, 06:57 AM   #13
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I knew that... Ah! but sure was fun
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Old 06-03-2005, 03:48 PM   #14
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Michael, you've enlightened me again! Thank you!!!

Baking Illustrated included this chart in their discussion of protein content in AP flours:

King Arthur--11.7%
Heckers/Ceresota--11.5-11.9%
Hodgson Mill--11%
Gold Medal--10.5%
Pillsbury--10.5%

Granted, it only includes a handful of common/national brands, but it's still a handy reference. In general, AP flour has a content of 10-12%, Bread flour is above 12%, and cake flour is 6-8%.
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Old 06-03-2005, 06:25 PM   #15
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Oops- someone beat me to the comment I was making.
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Old 06-05-2005, 04:40 AM   #16
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Michael,
I just found this thread so it's too late for me to reply. I was thinking geographic location and humidity levels like Andy said, although I could not have written it so clearly. Your "problems" are fun. Keep 'em coming. I might just get one right, first.
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