Pantry Magic and the Miracle of AP Flour
In the pancake thread, M had this thought provoking thing to say. I thought it deserved it's own thread:
- Flour is the most underrated ingredient. It's amazing how many completely different and tasty dishes you can make with flour and just a few other ingredients. But they all depend so much on proper technique and many unspoken rules. If you grew up learning how to "cook by feel", then all of this will be very intuitive. Otherwise, it can certainly be overwhelming.
I've often marvelled at the magic of eggs and wondered who figured out emulsions, meringues, egg rising cakes, egg wash, whipped eggwhites for fluff and structure, custards, sauces and all the miraculous things you can do with the waste product of a rooster's inattention.
I love flour. I love baking and all the things one can do with flour. Grainlady turned me on to the wonders of milling my own flour. I've always kept at least all purpose and bread flour on hand. Now I have a bunch of different grains and flours and different uses for many of them. Recently, however, I've been rediscovering the magic of bleached white AP flour. It's not the most nutritious, but it's certainly the most versatile, and so much fun to play with!
Frankly, I don't really think it was the flour, but I'd kind of lost my biscuit mojo (which I learned from Caroline). The last batch was back to normal, and the ones that weren't as good were bleached. The recent good ones were unbleached white AP. I really do think there were other factors, but I just felt I had to stick up for unbleached flour.
I've spent years working with whole grains only, but it turns out they weren't good for me, which is a shame. They're delicious. But they're a PITA, really, so having an excuse to make lovely things out of white flour isn't entirely unwelcome, though what it really means is that I'm eating more seeds and other nutritious stuff.
I can't give short shrift to the other staples, though. Salt is magic. Sugar is delightful and does nearly as many unimaginably magical things as eggs. Baking soda. Magic. Milk and butter? Possible to live without, but so amazing as they are! And yeast. Wild or commercial, yeast is a gift. Besides all the lovely risey stuff, it's the source of life saving B12 for vegans, because yeasts are simple enough organisms they're willing to eat them. :)
The pancake story was about someone who doesn't really cook, who comes from a different culinary background than most of us, but who wanted to learn the most basic of entries into the world of the magic of our staples, especially flour. No one really needs to eat pancakes, but pancakes have become a trendy trope in popular film and TV, because they're so delightful, and so often bring up memories of family togetherness. A great many cultures make some kind of pancakes. And the few that don't start with some kind of flour are made from eggs. :) Out of our simple staples, even if they're more about the millet or maize or cassava, magic happens.