Spring arrives on March 19th this year.  It seems early, but we have been waiting all winter for the news that spring has sprung.  However, winter doesn’t always listen to the fact that it is supposed to be gone, so we can’t depend on it to completely go away for several weeks yet.

Since March is National Flour Month, I decided to focus this particular column on that subject. 

I am sometimes asked about the differences in flour types – bread flour vs. all-purpose vs. pastry flour vs. cake flour. Here is my answer: the amount of protein in the flour is what makes the difference.  Bread flour has the most and cake flour the least.  I actually listed them in order of protein content.  In order to grow, yeast does better with a higher protein content in the flour.  Even when yeast recipes call for all-purpose flour, I have found that I get better results when I use bread flour instead.  A lesser amount of protein yields a more tender product, which is what is desired in cakes.  Pastry flour is great for biscuits and pie crusts; it has less protein than all-purpose but more than cake flour.

It is definitely not hard to find recipes that include flour in the list of ingredients.  I find it much more challenging to select the ones I wish to try, as so many of them sound wonderful. 

Some people believe that everything I make turns out well, but I would beg to differ.  A recent misadventure occurred when I prepared Lemony Lemon Brownies.  I love lemon-flavored things, so I couldn’t resist trying the recipe I found on the Internet.  I followed the recipe exactly, not changing anything.  Somehow, I ended up with a soggy glob in the middle of my baking dish.  I cooked it longer, but to no avail.  The edges were nicely browned, but most of the center was yellow slime.  The glaze was a soupy mess, no matter how much powdered sugar I added.  The recipe I printed out ended up torn to shreds and thrown in the trash, and the finished product followed suit.

Undaunted, I chose more things to try.  Fortunately, they turned out well, so I have three new recipes added to my files.  Chewy Cheesecake Cookies only have five ingredients and are quite easy to make.  I took the cookies to a gathering I attended; others liked them as well as I did.

Still wanting something with a good lemon flavor, I chose a recipe for Poppy Seed-Lemon Pancakes.  They were scrumptious!  This is from a person who is not a big pancake fan; I usually prefer waffles.  These were lighter than most pancakes, as the egg whites were stiffly beaten and folded into the batter, which made quite a difference in the texture.  I warmed some leftovers for my breakfast the day; they were as tasty as the day I made them.  I loved the lemon flavor; it was strong, yet not overpowering.

My last venture was a recipe I found on the King Arthur Flour website.  Cream Tea Scones appealed to my lazy side, as they use heavy cream instead of having to cut in butter.  I brushed cream over the tops of them before baking, but I didn’t opt for the sugar.  The directions suggested placing the prepared dough in the freezer for fifteen minutes; however, the baking sheet wouldn’t fit in my refrigerator freezer.  I decided that some chilling was better than none, so I stuck them in the fridge side.  My scones rose nicely, and I loved the texture and flavor of them.

Flour is considered a staple pantry item.  In light of what has been going on in the world with the Corona Virus pandemic, I would like to say this.  Prayer and trust are two staples of my faith pantry.  No matter how much we would like to be in control, we aren’t.  However, rest assured that the God who created the universe has this situation in hand; He will never lose control.  Panic never helps anyone; it often causes problems for others.  My suggestion is to add prayer and trust to your faith pantry; they can see each of us through this unsettled time.

Chewy Cheesecake Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 ounces cream cheese

1 cup sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and cream cheese; gradually add sugar, beating and light and fluffy.  Add flour, and beat well.  Stir in chopped pecans.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Dip bottom of a glass in water; gently press each cookie until 2 inches in diameter.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool 2 to 3 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to cooling rack. 

Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

Poppy Seed-Lemon Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg, separated

1 egg white

Powdered sugar

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add milk, next 5 ingredients, and egg yolk, whisking just until blended.

Beat 2 egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into batter.

Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Cook pancakes 3 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked; turn and cook other side 2 to 3 minutes more.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve with lemon curd, if desired.

Cream Tea Scones

3 cups all-purpose Flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream

Additional heavy cream, for brushing on scones

Coarse white sparkling sugar, for topping (Optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Combine vanilla with 1-1/3 cups cream. Drizzle liquid mixture over dry ingredients, tossing and stirring gently all the while. Add enough cream to make a cohesive dough, using up to 3 additional tablespoons if necessary. There shouldn’t be dry flour in bottom of bowl, but dough shouldn’t be particularly sticky, either.

Lightly flour a clean work surface. Divide dough in half, and gently pat each half into a 5-1/2-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick.

Brush each circle with heavy cream, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.

Place the two circles of dough on the baking sheet, and cut each into 6 wedges. Pull the wedges apart, in a circular pattern with about 1-inch space between each wedge.

For best rising, place the pan of scones into the freezer for 15 minutes, while oven preheats.

Bake chilled scones for 14 to 15 minutes, until they’re starting to brown, and baked all the way through.

Remove from oven. Serve warm, split and spread with a bit of sweet butter and jam or preserves.