Monday, May 19, 2014

What is the difference between kinds of flours?

Flour is a tricky thing.  If you are like I was, growing up there was one, maybe two kinds of flours.  Then you dove into the world of baking and found like 4 million other kinds of flours.  It's stressful.  You think, "when the hell am I going to need 10 kinds of flours?"  But sometimes you do.  Here is an intro to some of the usual suspects when it comes to flour.  How are they different?  What do they do?

Cake Flour: Flour used for cake.  Has the least  gluten content to produce delicate cake.  Typically is bleached to create pristine white cake. 6-7% protein.  I have only ever been able to buy cake flour in a box (about 2 pounds) but unless you make cake all the time, this much should suffice.

All Purpose Flour: Like the name suggests, this is the flour used for almost everything in your kitchen.  Almost every person I know has a bag of AP flour floating around even if they don't cook.  You can find it bleached or unbleached. 9.5-11.5% protein.  If you use all purpose flour instead of cake flour in a recipe, your end product will typically end up heavier and more dense from the increased protein.

Pastry Flour: Less protein than AP flour but more than cake flour.  Ideal for (duh) pastry.  Pie crust becomes much easier if you get/make yourself some pastry flour.  If you don't want to buy pastry flour, you can make an acceptable substitute by mixing cake flour and AP flour in a 1:1 ratio.  7.5-9.5% protein.

Whole Wheat Flour:
Whole wheat flour is made by crushing the whole wheat berry.  Because it has more oils, it can go go bad faster.  If you don't use it very much, store your whole wheat flour in the freezer.  When a recipe calls for all-purpose flour, I like to substitute out 1 cup of all-purpose flour and replace it with 1 cup whole wheat flour to increase the nutritional value.  Substituting 100% whole wheat for all-purpose will result in a heavier baked good due to the increased protein although I have had much success with substituting up to half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
  • Red Whole Wheat Flour: made from red wheat, has a higher protein content that white whole wheat flour.  In the United States, red whole wheat flour is more prevalent.
  • White Whole Wheat Flour: made from hard white spring wheat.  Has a lower protein and gluten content than red whole wheat flour.  Because of it's softer nature, it can be used more like all-purpose flour but with higher nutritional content.

Bread Flour:  Has the greatest protein content.  Protein content in the flour is what makes gluten.  Used to make bread because unlike cake, you want your bread dough to be more stretchy and elastic.  11.5-13.5 % protein.  You can buy it bleached or unbleached.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What is the difference between Philadelphia style ice cream and custard style ice cream?

Finally, it is getting just a tad bit warmer in this great state of Illinois.  Warm enough that I am daydreaming about making ice cream again.  Whenever I set out to make a new ice cream, I always am torn-do I make the richer, creamier custard style ice cream or the simpler, less time consuming Philly style?
Pineapple Upside Down Ice Cream

The main difference?  Custard is make with eggs, usually just the egg yolks which are cooked with the cream until they thicken.  This results in a thicker, creamier ice cream that doesn't get as icy in the freezer.  Philadelphia style is made with just cream or a combination of cream and milk (and sugar of course).

The drawback?  You usually have to divide the yolks out of 8 eggs or so, which takes time and effort.  Also, the eggs will occasionally curdle on you when cooking and need to be strained out of the custard before refrigerating.

Moose Tracks

How do I decide?  Usually it's a time and ingredients factor.  If I have a lot of time and am making a pure flavor (like vanilla) I will typically make a custard.  If I am adding a lot of mix-ins and am a bit tighter on time or energy, it's Philadelphia style all the way.  Homemade ice cream tastes so much bette than store bought ice cream anyway, it doesn't make a huge difference which you choose.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mother's Day Roundup!

Cross your fingers it doesn't rain this weekend!  We are hoping to take my mom on a picnic in the park.  I haven't yet decided what to make for dessert yet, but here are some Mother's Day ideas:
Crustless French Silk Pie
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Mango Lime Pie
Mini Lemon Meringue Pies
Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes
Oreo Cookie Cupcakes
Angel Food Cake
Layered Strawberry Shortcake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles
Chocolate Covered Cherries
Don't see anything you like here?  Be sure to check out my Recipe Index for more choices!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cute shower favor

My mom made these for a shower she hosted over the weekend.  Aren't these a great simple wedding shower idea?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

This and That: Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

Last weekend, David and I escaped for a long weekend to Red Rock Canyon to do a little climbing.
We went with some awesome friends, soaked up some wonderful desert sunshine, and got to climb on some fantastic grippy rock.

The scenery was, of course, stunning.  Especially at the top of the routes.  You felt like you could see forever.

We even got to see a little bit of wildlife, which is incredibly rare for us on these trips.

All in all, it was a pretty good trip.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttercream

When I made these cupcakes a few weeks ago for my friend Mandy's birthday, I decided to spice up my usual chocolate buttercream with a little bit of peanut butter.  It made the frosting a Reese's lovers dream.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature or slightly cooler
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate
  • 8 ounces semi sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk

Chop the milk chocolate and semisweet chocolate up and place in a microwave safe bowl.  Melt chocolate in microwave, running the microwave in 20 second intervals and stirring the chocolate between each interval until fully melted.   Allow to cool slightly.  In another small bowl, mix together cocoa powder and boiling water into a thick paste.  Set aside.  In yet another bowl (Martha Stewart seems to be a big fan of dirtying as many bowls as possible), beat together powdered sugar and butter until smooth.  Dump in chocolate paste, beat until combined.  Pour in melted chocolate and beat to combine.  Add in milk to thin as desired.  I found when I let the frosting cool overnight, it became much thicker and I needed to add in more milk before piping.

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