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My mum taught me to cook. Mum was English and she enjoyed nothing better than trying out new recipes on dad and me. There was always a cook book, the latest Women's Weekly or New Idea laying open on the kitchen table. Some of my earliest memories are of being in the kitchen making stuff (that and mum trying to get me to help clean the house by pretending it was a game - I didn't buy it). From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a Chef (I'll tell you about how that went at some stage in the future). I've managed to keep many of her books and I have hand written recipes and recipe pages, torn from magazines, going all the way back to the 60's!
“WTF? Special flour? What is cake flour, and where do I get it?” I hear you yell at the screen?
I learnt about "Cake Flour" when I did my stint at William Angliss Institute in Melbourne, way back in the '90s. You'll rarely see cake flour mentioned in Australian recipes, it's a Yank thing really. Cake Flour is a fine, bleached, low protein flour (approx 7-8% protein) and contains no raising agents. In Australia it's very hard to find cake flour* and we don't produce bleached flour (for good reason), so you'd think getting your hands on a substitute would be a problem. Not so - it’s easy enough to make, so don’t panic.
2 cups cake flour = 1 3/4 cups plain flour + 1/4 cup cornflour
Sift the flours together a few times and store it in an air-tight container.
Grab yourself a glass of wine as a reward for a job well done.
When a cake recipe calls for plain flour, use your cake flour.
There is a bit of science behind why you should use cake flour rather than everyday plain flour.
The protein content of flour dictates how much gluten can be formed during cooking. Gluten helps create structure and texture in baked good:
Thus endeth the science lesson. Go forth and bake!
If you've never used cake flour, give it a go. You'll notice the difference. I'd love to hear how you go with it.
* I've since discovered there is one producer making cake flour in Australia - Lighthouse. They sell a "biscuit, pastry and cake flour" in 1kg packs. In actual fact cake flour and pastry flour are not the same - pastry flour has a higher gluten content (but it's not enough of a difference to bother most home cooks). You won't find it in every supermarket so I still reckon making your own is easier.