A three-ingredient cookie recipe in a Christmas event booklet made me question what I knew about a very basic ingredient: flour.
The booklet was published for the Weihnachtsmarkt 2003, a Christmas shopping event to benefit the Sophienburg Museum in New Braunfels. Patty’s favorite cookies, named after Patty Pope, call for self-rising flour, milk, and – a surprise to me – mayonnaise.
This condiment replaces the butter, shortening or lard usually included in cookie recipes.
Research has shown that substituting mayonnaise for fat is popular with many cooks, especially those in the South who have a fondness for self-rising flour.
Self-rising flour contains baking powder and salt. Eliminating the measure of these two ingredients makes self-rising flour a time saver when you’re in a rush to bake cookies and scratchy pancakes.
I grew up in an all-purpose flour house, where my mother thought that measuring salt and baking powder was no big deal and avoided having two kinds of flour in her small kitchen.
I’ve always thought that both self-rising and all-purpose flour are the same. So, in my research on how to replace all-purpose flour in a self-rising flour recipe, I found that my hypothesis had caveats, according to the producer.
For example, King Arthur Baking Company states on its website that its all-purpose and self-rising flours contain slightly varying amounts of protein. This molecular component has an impact on the gluten in the flour, which in turn affects the elasticity of the dough.
Farine Médaille d’Or did not specify on its website the protein percentages of its flours. I made the mayonnaise cookies with Gold Medal self-rising and all-purpose flours, adding salt and baking soda to the latter, and the cookies looked identical in texture, elevation, and chewiness.
This recent deep dive into the bakery made it clear that flours are not created the same way. Variations in fiber, protein and gluten content make one type of flour better for cakes, while another shines in pizza dough.
A detailed explanation of these different flours begins with wheat and its variety, harvest and processing. It takes longer than the space allows here.
I can offer, however, the following suggestions that help take some of the complexity out of making basic treats at home.
► Visit the websites of flour manufacturers for specific recipes designed for their flour varieties. Test kitchens from top brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Gold Medal, King Arthur Baking Company, and White Lily offer proven instructions for everyday and artisan breads and baked goods.
► All-purpose flour is suitable for cookies, pie crusts, quick breads and muffins. It also works as the dredge used to coat chicken, mashed round steak, and other dry foods for frying.
► Use the flour specified in a recipe. If the recipe is from an old cookbook and lists “flour” in the ingredients, chances are all-purpose flour will work.
► Store all-purpose flour in a cool, dry place in a cupboard and use it before the date suggested on the package. For a longer shelf life, all-purpose flour can be stored in the freezer.
► Baking powder and salt can be added to all-purpose flour to make a substitute for self-rising flour at home. The measurements are 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt for 1 cup of flour.
► As a general rule, do not substitute all-purpose flour for self-rising flour.
As for Patty’s favorite cookies, the recipe made a pretty good cookie for butter and honey or a sausage breakfast sandwich. It would also hold up well under a layer of itching cream sauce.
I changed the name to what it’s commonly known as: Easy Three-Ingredient Mayonnaise Biscuits. I doubt most people will be able to tell the difference between this and a cookie made with other typical fats.
What I liked about this version is that it makes a small batch of six cookies. This is ideal in a two-person household. But, it’s easily expandable to more servings if needed.
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Easy three-ingredient mayonnaise cookies
1 cup self-rising flour (plus about 1/4 cup more for flouring the kneading surface)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup of milk (or buttermilk)
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a pie plate or small baking sheet with butter and set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, add 1 cup of the flour. Add mayonnaise and milk and stir gently until combined into a paste.
3. Spread additional flour on the kneading surface. Place the dough on the prepared surface and gently fold the dough back on itself several times until it no longer sticks. (Add more flour to the kneading surface, if necessary.) Avoid overworking the dough, which will release more gluten, leading to firmer, flatter cookies.
4. Use your fingers or a rolling pin to gently flatten the dough to about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut into cookies. Place cookies, sides touching, on prepared pie plate or baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown. Makes approximately 6 cookies, depending on the circumference of the cutting tool.
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This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Flour counts in a three-ingredient cookie recipe using mayonnaise