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Cake Flour Explained!

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The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Dear Lynne,

Everybody calls me the Cookie Queen which is why I am embarrassed not knowing this. What is cake flour and why would I use it?

Jane from Tulsa

***

Dear Jane,

Cake flour is the baker's insurance policy in pie crust and cookies. It saves overworked doughs from baking into hockey pucks. High in starch, but low in the proteins which can turn into rubber bands when dough is over mixed, cake flour protects against toughness. The other way I use cake flour is for greater tenderness, and/or a melting texture in cake-like cookies.

I substitute cake flour for one-third of the all-purpose in crusts and cookies. These melting, fudgy cookies illustrate the technique. The food processor has them done in minutes. We stuff stockings with them as "coal" for naughty adults.

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE NUGGETS

Yields 28 to 30 drop cookies and doubles easily.
30 minutes prep time; 12 to 15 minutes oven time

Chill the dough up to two days, or freeze it for three months. The cookies hold for three days, sealed, at room temperature.

Cook to Cook: You can get carried away with which chocolates you use in baking.
For cocoas my first pick is Italy's Pernigotti for all its plush chocolate goodness. But it runs about $10 a pound and needs to be mail ordered. A more practical option is Ghiradelli's unsweetened cocoa found in supermarkets.

As for bittersweet 70 percent chocolates, my falling scale of price and lushness for relatively easy to find bars run like this, Amadei, Valrhona, Theo, Valrhona, Lindt and Ghiradelli.

2/3 cup all-purpose flour (3-1/3 ounces), measured by scooping up flour from the sack and leveling with a knife
1/3 cup cake flour (1-1/6 ounce), measured the same way
1/2 tight-packed cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3.5 ounce bar bittersweet chocolate, broken up (Valrhona 70 percent, Amadei 70 percent, Lindt 70 percent, or Guittard 70 percent)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 chunks
1 large egg mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate bits

1. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade combine the two flours, two sugars, cocoa, salt, and cinnamon. Process about 10 seconds, or until ingredients are well blended. Add the chocolate bar and process until the chocolate is coarse ground.

2. Add butter, pulsing the machine until the butter chunks are in pea-sized pieces. Then add the liquids. Pulse four or five times to moisten the dough. It will be rough. Turn it into a bowl. Blend in chocolate bits, without over mixing. Chill the dough for one to two hours.

3. Thirty minutes before you're ready to bake the cookies take them out of the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or butter it. Once an oven thermometer reaches 350ºF, use teaspoons to scoop up teaspoonfuls for cook dough and drop them onto the cookie sheet, spacing them about an inch apart.

4. Bake the cookies 12 to 15 minutes, or until their tops are dry while their interiors are still moist. Let them cool five minutes on the sheet, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Decorating: Dots of white icing transforms the cookies into Dalmatians.