I love flour. All kinds of flour. It is central to some of the most important foods in my life: bread and cake. I love the story of flour. How the field is prepared, the different grains sown, reaped and harvested. How it is stored in silos and then transported to mills and ground to produce the flours that we all know. And then, with a knowledge that has been shared down through the ages, someone, just like you or me takes it, adds other ingredients in a special order and ratio, and with a magical alchemy turns it into some of the most historically enduring and recognisable foods in most cultures. Bread and cake.
Wheat flour is a bit like wine you know. There are different varieties of grain grown in different terroir, which produces wheat of different hardness. These different varieties are ground and blended to provide a full range of flours for the home-baker, each flour best suited to a different purpose. Terms like plain flour, and self-raising are familiar to most who like to bake. And then there’s cake flour.
At my Baking Days, students often ask me about cake flour – what is it? Why is it different? Well, generally speaking, cake flour is wheat flour ground from grain that is low in protein. It’s often referred to as soft flour. A flour that is low in protein produces less gluten than hard (or strong) flour and therefore makes for a more tender cake. It has less protein than the amount found in our household plain or self-raising flours. But cake flour is different in different countries. In North America cake flour is chlorinated and more acidic, and in some cases a home-baker is advised to make their own ‘cake flour’ by replacing some of the wheat flour in the recipe with corn flour making for a ‘shorter’ product.
Are you still with me?
Well, you can see that flour is an absorbing subject and you might just like to enjoy it and not have to be a flour scholar. So I’ll stop now. The good news is that Kialla produces an excellent organic, unbleached cake flour from Australian wheat so we have our own soft, pure flour to bake into delicious cakes, pastries and biscuits. I love it and use it in my cakes. Why don’t you try it in your favourite cake recipe and see the difference for yourself?
About Gillian Bell:
Gillian is a self-taught home-baker who creates custom cakes for weddings and special occasions in her business Gillian Bell cake girl. She is an energetic advocate for old-fashioned baking skills, and for organic and sustainable farming techniques. Visit her website.
Cook with Gillian:
If you live in Brisbane you can join Gillian for one of her baking days. But if you can’t do that the next best thing is to bake with her virtually at our inaugural Bake-along.