Most men were born to a life of labor in the fields, most women to a life of grinding, chopping, and cooking. “Servitude,” said my mother as she prepared home­cooked breakfast, dinner, and tea for eight to ten people three hundred and sixty five days a year.

She was right. Churning butter and skinning and cleaning hares, without the option of picking up the phone for a pizza if something goes wrong, is unremitting, unforgiving toil. Perhaps, though, my mother did not realize how much worse her lot might have been.

She could at least buy our bread from the bakery. In Mexico, at the same time, women without servants could expect to spend five hours a day — one third of their waking hours — kneeling at the grindstone preparing the dough for the family’s tortillas. Not until the 1950s did the invention of the tortilla machine release them from the drudgery.


The gluten network in a bagel vs. a pie

Gluten develops in dough when two wheat proteins found in flour (glutenin and gliadin) are mixed with water. Because parts of these proteins don’t like to interact with water, the proteins begin to stick to each other much in the same way oil droplets come together when suspended in water. As a flour-water dough is mixed, the glutenin and gliadin molecules interact to form a protein network.

These networks give structure and stability to dough. Although dense networks are great for chewy bread dough, they are less than ideal for flaky, tender pie crust. An ideal pie dough has as just enough gluten to hold everything in the dough together. And while gluten development can be minimized by adding only scant amounts of water and handling the dough as little as possible, this is easier said than done.

What flour is the best flour for pie crust? This is a contentious question that has a variety of answers depending on personal preference, but the type of flour you use can have a major effect on the final texture of your crust. The protein content of flour, based on the type of wheat the flour was made from, will affect the extent of gluten formation in your dough. Bread flour has particularly high protein content, which can make pie crust dense and tough. Flours with lower protein content, such as pastry flour or cake flour, will create less extensive gluten networks and can produce a more tender crust.

Use science to make the best pie ever →

Rafael Cano

Flour Shop’s Installation for the Brooklyn Artists Ball Is a Gumball Homage to Murakami

“The Murakami flowers have got to be one of my favorite things ever,” says the baker, Flour Shop proprietor and candy aficionado Amirah Kassem, who has made fancy and fanciful confectionary for Vogue, the Wu-Tang Clan, Warby Parker and Olivia Wilde. 

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mostlyjudson asked:

I actually had a question about the grass. If one where to allow grass to go to seed, and collect that seed could they make flour from that seed?

It depends on the kind of grass, but the short answer is: yes. How laborious this is depends on how easy the seeds are to hull, if they stick to the stalk, and how large/numerous they are, but there are several species of wild or semi-domesticated cereals that can be processed like wheat.

It also depends on how willing you are to sit and grind seeds with a millstone.

Seeds can generally be processed this way into nutritious cakes, like bush bread.

You can also make flour from acorns and chestnuts, as well as yams, clover, arrowroot, mesquite pods, and some kinds of palm trunks. Eat the Weeds has a great article on wild flours, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In terms of edible grasses, Eat the Weeds also has a number of pieces on that topic, from a North American perspective: ‘Can we eat grass?‘ and ‘Crabgrass was king’ are a good start for learning more.