If you're confused, go read this.
Whenever we have visitors from Canada, we'll often ask them to bring us some of the Canadian luxuries that we can't find here. I know, this is America, what does Canada have that the U.S. in the 21st century doesn't?
Ketchup chips (among other things).
Anyway. When Wayne's family was here visiting a few weeks ago, my mom-in-law was kind enough to bring me a nice little bag of Canadian Robin Hood flour (what is with flour companies naming their product after mythical British figures?). I was determined to get to the bottom of my baking woes -- determined. I refuse to let silly ingredients and my psychotically over-hot oven destroy my love for all things absolutely non-gluten-free.
I grew up in a family with very firm weekend meal traditions in place -- spaghetti on Fridays and pizza on Saturdays (and no, we're not Italian... or Eyetalian, as the Dutch say). Not only did Wayne grow up with similar traditions, and not only are these two meals extremely delicious, but it's also wonderful to hit Friday and not have to decide what to plan for the next two nights' meals -- so we've stuck with the traditions.
With our Friday night spaghetti we switch between having cheese bread (courtesy of Wayne's family traditions) and homemade biscuits (my fam). I know, biscuits are something you have with tea and jam, or soup, or milk if you're British. We, however, like them with our spaghetti. They're fluffy and light and perfect for soaking up the last dregs of sauce on your plate.
I got married and moved to the USA and consequently started buying American flour. I made biscuits on a Friday night and was terribly offended by their denseness and general lack of flavour. I tried different baking powders, different flour brands, different measurings of ingredients -- nothing. Nada. Continued suckiness.
Then Robin Hood came on the scene, and not only did that rogue help out the poor, but he saved my baking face. The biscuits last night were like enormous marshmallows and tasted like they were straight out of my mama's oven. Ohhhh yeah. I was so happy that I forgot to take a picture of them like a true blogger would.
But the question remains... what's the deal with American flour?
I did some research and dug up some very interesting facts.
First of all, American All-Purpose flour isn't truly All-Purpose -- it's not recommended for bread-making because of its lower gluten content (hence my crappy bread-baking results). In order to get bread to do what it's supposed to, you must buy bread flour. But I don't want to buy bread flour. I don't have enough room in my tiny seminary kitchen for all different kinds of flour taking up my minimal shelf space... so this could be an issue.
Canadian All-Purpose flour generally has a higher protein content than American flours do, which results in a higher gluten content, which somehow results in a flour that is actually true to its name -- all purpose! You can use it for anything from cakes to pastry to breads -- and it will all turn out beeeeyoooooteeefully.
I wish I understood the science behind all of this. There's a reason I stopped taking chemistry after grade 10. Yikes.
I'm sure that scientifically there's probably a clear explanation. I, however, think it's simply the je ne sais quoi of Canada. Don't try to explain it. Just eat it. Mmm. Bread.