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Everything About Cake Flour

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24 replies to this topic

#1 rajsuman

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 01:36 AM

Hi,

Back when I had a bee in my bonnet about making my own dim sums from scratch, I bought some special dumpling flour from the local Chinese shop. I don't know when I'll get around to making the dimsums, but I thought I might use this flour for baking cakes, perhaps? Is that a bad idea? Could someone tell me what the protein content of dumpling flour is? As far as I know from Googling, it is a low-protein flour, so I don't see why it shouldn't work as a substitute, either in whole or in part.

Thanks!

#2 whisks

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 06:04 PM

have a feel of the flour - usually, if the flour is high in protein, it will feel coarser, low protein flours feel smoother. also, if you mix a little flour with water, high protein flour will be sticky, whereas soft flour will mix up quite smoothly.
there are many types of chinese dumplings, some require high protein flour, others, low protein.
another way you can go is to use a small portion of the dumpling flour to replace your regular flour in a recipe and see how that goes. but really, the feeling and water tests should give you a good indication.
hope this helps.

#3 Renee K

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 01:13 AM

Hi Rajsuman,

Was the flour meant for use for making steamed dumplings like "har gow" and "siew mai" i.e. those with just a very thin layer of (sometimes translucent) dough wrapping a filling of prawns and/or meat... or was the flour for making steamed buns "paus" like "char siu pau" etc.

The reason I ask is that if for the former, it is quite likely to be wheat starch and not wheat flour i.e. no gluten. This would not be suitable for cake making. If it is for making paus, then it will almost definitely be highly bleached, low protein flour, which can be used for cake making. Though it might be helpful to note that certain "pau flours" can be mixes i.e. with added emulsifiers and such like, so that might affect the cake if you use it in cake baking.

Hope that helps.

#4 rajsuman

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 06:17 AM

Thanks! I have to try the water test yet, but it feels like a low-protein flour. It is definitely wheat flour rather than wheat starch, because I have a separate bag of wheat starch that I know the feel of. I have to check for additives, then just dive right in, bake a cake and find out for myself. I'll be really happy if this works because I've never found cake flour here. Will post results. In the meantime, more advice wecome.

Renee, I mourn the demise of your beautiful site. What happened?

Thanks again for the tips both of you!

#5 piazzola

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 06:57 AM

If you look hard enough at some Chinese stores the one some people call HK flour is farina or 00 type flour

#6 Renee K

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 09:09 AM

Rajsuman, so sweet of you to remember! I decided to take a hiatus... and might bring it back in another form in the future :cool:

Good luck with the cake, let us know how it goes.

#7 NoEggs

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 11:08 AM

Anybody make homemade cake flour? I'm finding on the web it is AP flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Some of the measurements on the web are different and so is to sift/not sift.
The Softasilk cake flour now says may contain egg which my son can't eat.
Thanks!
Sue

#8 RodneyCk

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 11:51 AM

Anybody make homemade cake flour? I'm finding on the web it is AP flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Some of the measurements on the web are different and so is to sift/not sift.
The Softasilk cake flour now says may contain egg which my son can't eat.
Thanks!
Sue

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I would not add the baking powder, unless you want it to be like a self-rising flour. You can substitute, and I have before, 7/8 cup bleached (not unbleached) all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Again, this is a substitution as cake flour is made from soft wheat, so the real thing is best to use.

#9 merstar

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 02:06 PM

Anybody make homemade cake flour? I'm finding on the web it is AP flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Some of the measurements on the web are different and so is to sift/not sift.
The Softasilk cake flour now says may contain egg which my son can't eat.
Thanks!
Sue

View Post


I would not add the baking powder, unless you want it to be like a self-rising flour. You can substitute, and I have before, 7/8 cup bleached (not unbleached) all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Again, this is a substitution as cake flour is made from soft wheat, so the real thing is best to use.

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It's a good idea to sift a few times after measuring.
There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

#10 chefpeon

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 02:35 PM

I would like to know how in the world cake flour may contain traces of egg???
I don't have a box of Softasilk to look at, but it really says it may have egg in it???? :huh:

#11 alanamoana

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 02:49 PM

the box says: "may contain milk, egg and soybean ingredients"

i'm sure this is standard disclaimer information for places that manufacture multiple items on the same machinery or near certain machinery. softasilk is made by pillsbury, so depending on which plant it is packaged in or milled or whatever, it could be packaged on the same machinery as cake mixes, etc. which probably have traces of allergens. you'll see this kind of language on almost any processed food these days.

#12 chefpeon

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 03:02 PM

softasilk is made by pillsbury, so depending on which plant it is packaged in or milled or whatever, it could be packaged on the same machinery as cake mixes, etc. which probably have traces of allergens.


Well, that's good to know. I've been buying cake flour from my bakery supplier for so long, I haven't bought a box of Softasilk in years. Luckily my cake flour doesn't have egg traces since it comes directly from a flour mill instead of an "everything mill".

I feel sorry for folks who can't buy ingredients from a supplier like I can. When it comes to specific baking ingredients, your typical grocery store usually falls pretty short. It seems like Softasilk is the ONLY brand of cake flour you can find in the grocery store, and it's INCREDIBLY overpriced. After buying bulk wholesale for so long, I just shudder at the tiny amounts sold for inflated prices in the retail world....... :blink:

#13 reenicake

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 03:32 PM

The packaging is the culprit, they now have to have this on everything that gets boxed in a plant that is used by different products in a company's range. I have the same problem with my son's dairy and egg allergies; if you are doing a substitution by weight it is 15% cornstarch, 85% bleached apf. Although, King Arthur supposedly packages their flour products in a different plant -- their Queen Guinevere cake flour is excellent..
Chefpeon, I know what you mean! Half the time I pine for the things I can get so easily at work, such as praline paste and real high-gluten flour (both of which, if you can find them retail, are ridiculously priced), when I bake at home.

#14 NoEggs

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Posted 18 October 2006 - 03:50 PM

Thanks for the replies! Actually there is no law to label for may contains or manufactured on same lines...it is still voluntary. When I called Pillsbury today after seeing the new "May contains" statement, the rep told me nothing has changed with the formula or process. Pillsbury has just started labeling for may contains. I had used a box of Softasilk before with no problems but it is different when it is in black and white on the box. And to top it off, Pillsbury does not differentiate whether the cake flour is just in a plant that has eggs or if it is on the same machine. The plant I would be OK with but not the same equipment.
I will look into the King Arthur's.
Thanks!
Sue

#15 Aria B.

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 09:30 PM

I've done a few searches (local stores, online, etc.) for unbleached cake flour since the only kind I've found before is bleached. Is cake flour always bleached by nature of it's purpose?
Aria in Oregon

#16 alanamoana

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 09:40 PM

according to paula figoni in "how baking works" -

"Cake flour is typically bleached...Recall that chlorine is a maturing agent that weakens gluten and increases the ability of starch to absorb water.  The importance of chlorine on the properties of cake flour cannot be overstressed.  It is as much the chlorine treatment as the low protein content that defines cake flour."



#17 naes

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 11:30 PM

It is my understanding that flour is bleached as a method of chemically oxidizing it so the manufacturer can get it to market faster. Any type of flour needs to be oxidized in order for gluten to properly develop and bleaching just speeds that process up.

#18 Dianabanana

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 12:18 AM

I was interested in this, too, and wrote to Rose Levy Beranbaum about it. She said basically (not quoting here) that it had to be bleached in order to have the desirable qualities of cake flour, and that if it wasn't bleached, the cake would collapse because the flour wouldn't have a rough enough texture. I really dislike the taste of cake flour, though, and wish someone would come up with an alternative.

#19 Abra

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 04:18 AM

If you look here King Arthur cake flour they explain that bleaching promotes a fine texture and higher rise. It's the only one of their products that is bleached, and I think of them as an impeccable source, so my thought is that if they bleach it, it has to be bleached!

#20 artisanbaker

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 07:19 AM

alanamoana is right

really though: it must be bleached to support the tremendous ratios of sugar/fat/liquid that are introduced to American recipes

in France they were astounded to hear me say that "one can not make a cake without bleached flour..."

it is not legal in France to add chlorine to flour.

Edited by artisanbaker, 15 September 2007 - 07:20 AM.


#21 alanamoana

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 08:47 AM

It is my understanding that flour is bleached as a method of chemically oxidizing it so the manufacturer can get it to market faster.  Any type of flour needs to be oxidized in order for gluten to properly develop and bleaching just speeds that process up.

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flour is matured before being sent to market, correct...however, to strengthen the gluten they do not use bleach, that is the opposite effect you'd like with your cake flour. maturing agents that strengthen gluten are potassium bromate and ascorbic acid. flour that has been bromated has to be labeled as such (particularly in california, while it is no longer allowed in canada and europe) as it is a carcinogen (in lab animals). so, the move has been toward using ascorbic acid (vitamin C). these strengthening agents basically speed up the aging process in flour.

bleach on the other hand is also a maturing agent, but it is a maturing agent that weakens gluten rather than strengthening it. this weakening of gluten in bleached cake flour gives you the desired effect of a tender and even crumb in your cakes.

#22 Dianabanana

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 01:09 PM

alanamoana is right

really though: it must be bleached to support the tremendous ratios of sugar/fat/liquid that are introduced to American recipes

in France they were astounded to hear me say that "one can not make a cake without bleached flour..."

it is not legal in France to add chlorine to flour.

View Post


Right, I had forgotten, but that was what prompted me to write to RLB. I had heard that French flour was not bleached. Now, it didn't occur to me that American recipes had more sugar/fat/liquid than French ones. Obviously this is true for some classic French cakes like genoise, but I find it hard to believe that no one in France is making American-style butter/chiffon/whatever cakes, or that all those cakes are falling!

#23 sugarseattle

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 10:56 PM

I have the same dislike for cake flour, I can totally taste the bleach, and it sometimes has a certain pithy texture, something like it's not quite absorbing the liquid or something. I don't find this problem as much with chocoalte cakes, where the extra tenderizing qualities of cake flour seem to help stop choco cake dry out, but I use all purpose flour other tenderizing tactics with other cakes such as a little more egg, a tad more sugar, a little less baking powder.
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#24 paulraphael

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 09:12 AM

i've been curious about this too ... considering bleached flour isn't allowed in france. they don't seem to have any trouble making tender cakes.

do the french use techniques that let them get away with out it, or do theymake cakes in styles that need it less?

#25 alanamoana

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 01:34 PM

i would have to say that layer cakes are a pretty traditional american dessert. chiffon, butter and most recently in history high-ratio cakes abound across the united states.

in france, the cakes they make are more what they would call "entremets"...they start with a sponge or meringue base and layer with mousses, curds, jams, etc. there isn't the same tradition that we have with just cake and frosting. while i would think that there are some french bakers who might experiment with american style cakes, it just isn't in their everyday repertoire.

so, the need for cake flour in europe and more particularly in france isn't really strong. that being said, flours in europe tend to be lower in protein than flours in the united states to begin with.


edited to add: and if you're talking about something like "quatre quarts" or what we would call pound cake, there's so much butter and sugar and egg that the type of flour used almost doesn't make a difference. cake flour is intrinsic in the making of high-ratio cakes.

Edited by alanamoana, 16 September 2007 - 01:37 PM.






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