Updated from the archives, with new links, recipe and photo.
For the most part, I don't believe in "one size fits all," because I am a size and shape that one size never seems to fit.
And while in my pantry I have half a dozen types of flour -- surprising, given that I'm a notorious bake-o-phobe -- the one I reach for more often than not is "one size fits all," also known as all-purpose flour.
All-purpose flour is a blend of hard (high-protein) and soft (higher carbohydrate, lower protein) wheats, with the bran (outside coating that protects the wheat berry) and germ (the embryo of a new wheat seedling) removed. All-purpose flour has a medium protein content of 9-12 percent, compared to whole-wheat (14 percent), or cake flour (5-8 percent). The King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour I use contains 11.7 percent protein. It's designed to be a flexible flour for everything from apple-cranberry-bourbon cake to country-style whole wheat pita to cinnamon roll cookies to maple-oatmeal scones.
On its own or in combination with whole wheat or white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour works for most any baked goods, and the high starch content makes it an ideal thickener for gumbo and gravy, stews, and coatings. I like the clean taste of unbleached flour; bleaching makes the flour whiter in color, but I'd rather have my bread taste good than shine in the dark.
All-purpose flour keeps indefinitely in a cool, dry place, stored in an airtight container. I never store flour in the freezer, because the temperature of my frost-free freezer fluctuates.
And, because I don't bake often, I buy flour in five-pound bags, decant it into one-gallon glass jars (a perfect fit), and replenish frequently. One piece of advice: be sure to include a piece of the bag, or label your jars. Once decanted, one white flour looks much like another.
Cheddar cheese biscuits
My friend Lucia was born with the biscuit gene, and though I've watched her make biscuits several times, mine never taste quite the same as hers. I think it's the love, or the elbow grease, she puts into them. Adapted from The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook, written by Lucia's sister, Martha Murphy. Makes 12 biscuits.
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Mix baking soda and buttermilk. Add slowly to the flour mixture along with half of the cheese, and mix to a soft dough. (At this point the dough may be stored in a covered dish in the refrigerator for several days.) When ready to use, roll out on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, and sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Serve hot.
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