Saturday, July 28, 2012

R&D: Hacking cake Flour

The other night I was doing a mindless internet crawl and poking about things and came to a realization; almost everything can be jury rigged. That is to say that even if it's not exactly the right thing, you can usually make something stand in for something else. Sometimes, it even does a better job than the original. Prime examples of this are Sugru and Alton Brown. I'm pretty sure if you're looking up food recipes, you don't need to be told who Alton Brown is. The guy pretty much revolutionized the kitchen industry with the idea that you don't have to have a gadget for EVERY single process in your kitchen. He's used ziplocks as piping bags and more. Sugru on the other hand might have slipped past your radar. It's an epoxy like material designed to 'fix' things but it's very moldable and it's actually a lot of fun to play with but the things I've seen this stuff do is amazing. From safeguarding a young'uns camera like they have highlighted on their website currently all the way to holding a dishwasher together or even for product prototypes.

Which of course reminds me, I need to order some.

But the idea is the same, yes, we are a consumer nation and I'm more than guilty of my gadgets and gizmos but not everything has to be the same, especially not when it comes to your health. So I got to thinking and was thinking about how all the GF flours weren't just a single flour so I'd have to come up with my own composite but how to start without practically taking a food science course in addition to the other two degrees I now have finished. My biggest issue with gluten free foods was and is how dense they are and that icky gumminess that seems to coat all of them inside and out. Which basically means I dislike a great deal of gluten free foods (sucks to be me, inoright?) But back to the basic problem. How to start figuring out ratios.

Well, to start, rarely is anything 50/50. Fair is not fair in any world but even more so in something created. So I decided (luckily as it turned out) to go with a 60/40 ratio. The question was what ingredients to use. Most of the GF recipes I've seen have used a combination of six ingredients for their 'flour' mixture. Brown Rice, White Rice, Nut Flours, Tapioca Starch, Potato Starch, and Sweet Rice. Of those, the nut and Brown Rice could be considered proteins while the others were starches. So by their own separations they gave me a simple split. Proteins and Starches, which is what a lot of baked goods already are (have I mentioned lately how much I adore having had food scientists for instructors during Culinary training?).

I could have gone about this in a lot of different ways but I was actually a little silly about it all. I hated the gumminess so I wanted the starches to be the smaller part of the ratio. Even if it meant the heavier (or so I thought) items were in larger ratio. So I decided that with my first batch the starches would be the 40% and the proteins would be the larger portion. I kept hoping it wouldn't be a rock in my mouth but I could always adjust in the next batch. Well, since the starches were 40% and there were 4 of them, might as well just split it evenly the first time, right? Yeah, remember what I said about fair? Throw it out the window...because in this case, fair was me being lazy and having no idea how to tell which one would be better.

So we had the starch ratio, now it was time for the protein. This part I wasn't so lazy on. I like the flavor of nuts but I don't want a nutty cake so I hedged in the favor of the brown rice flour mostly because I had a ton of it, I grind my own nut meals and so on. Again, trying to resist the lazy part of it all by splitting it down the center and still worried about the flavor, I went for a 35/25 ratio of the 60 ratio for the protein half. Then it was just a matter of what recipe to try it out with. I knew just the one. The one I'd missed most. The white cake recipe from my Culinary School. I made this cake so much and still loved it. I had to make it over three times for my wedding cake final and still loved it. (We never did figure out why it kept sinking in the middle but only on the bottom layer sized pan.) So I dug out my recipe books from school and dug it up.

It looks just like the evil cakes I used to make in school
Now here's the thing that occurred to me once I looked at the recipe. Most of my culinary stuff was done in weight (we even had to buy a scale for class) but once I was out, I started measuring again despite it was rarely a consistent product. Don't ask me why; but it was probably laziness on my part. But looking at the recipe, I realized that recipes when converting from metric to standard are often drastically different. Then I got to wondering about how the same size cookie can be a different weight based on the ingredients so I bet flours do as well. This led me on yet another search of the interwebs which led me to a wonderful little converter which made me realize I was right. Which if you just use a cup of almond meal, it's going to have a different volume than a cup of cake flour. So I had to do math. Ick.

So the result is.

360g / .35 (The 35% Brice) = 126g
126g x 1.60 to make up for the difference between 100cake flour and 160g of Brice = 201g of Brown Rice Flour is needed for this particular recipe.
Isn't that a beautiful crumb?
So the weights I used for my cake flour are as follows after multiplying the ratio by the percent difference between cake flour and the current flour. The amounts in parenthesis are how my cake flour which was 360grams turned into for each GF flour. It will be a more weighty cake gram wise.

Brown Rice Flour = 35% x1.60 = (201g)
Almond Flour = 25% x  1.12 = (90g)
Tapioca Starch = 10% x 1.25 =  (45g)
Potato Starch = 10% x 1.70 = (61g)
White Rice Flour = 10% x 1.60 = (57g)
Sweet Rice Flour = 10% x 2.04 = (73g)
Total = 527g
Original cake flour weight was only 360g

Tastes sooooo good!

Now, it is still a bit denser than normal cake but it's hardly noticeable and the layers don't fluff up as much so you won't really cut the top off for even layers as it tends to be rather flat and not fluffy in the middle like most cakes. The main reason I'm not putting up the exact recipe for you to use is that for the whole rest of the recipe, I'm using an ingredient that's only available to bakeries or craft stores and isn't as easy to get a hold of. However, this ratio method seems to work really well for any recipe calling for cake flour.

My only word of caution is to make sure all ingredients are at room temperature and get them as fluffy as possible when making this. My recipe calls for whipping the egg whites into stiff peaks and that helps so much with the lift of this cake. Plus cream of tarter is good with egg whites too.

Anyways, good eats!

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