Updated December 2011.
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.
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 sauces, 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, and replenish frequently. One piece of advice: be sure to include a piece of the bag, or label your jars. Once decanted, one flour looks much like another.
Sweet potato latkes (potato pancakes)
A variation on the traditional potato pancake, sweet potato latkes are best made right before you plan to eat them, but it's possible to make them a day ahead and reheat in the oven at 400°F for 10 minutes. Serves 6-8 (makes 12-15 large potato pancakes).
3 cups peeled, grated (by hand) or shredded (by food processor) orange sweet potatoes, approximately 2 very large potatoes
1/3 cup grated or shredded onion
2 medium eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sliced scallions, including green tops
1/2 tsp thyme
1-1/2 Tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Peanut oil for frying
Preheat a large frying pan. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until light and foamy. Add the potato, onion, salt, flour, scallions, thyme, parsley, and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Fill the frying pan with oil to a depth of 1/4 inch, and let the oil heat for a minute or two. Drop the batter in large spoonfuls into the oil, a few at a time. Cook until brown on both sides. Remove to a plate covered with paper towels and drain thoroughly. Serve with warm applesauce and/or sour cream.
NOTE: If you use a food processor to shred the potatoes and onion, you may need to return the finished mixture to the processor and chop (with metal blade) for 6-8 pulses until a good texture is achieved. Even with the extra step, when you're doubling or tripling this recipe it beats the old method of grating down to your knuckles on a hand grater.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Gluten-free potato pancakes, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Apple latkes, from Smitten Kitchen
Purple potato latkes, from eCurry
Butternut squash latkes, from Elana's Pantry
Oven-baked latkes, from Baking Bites
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