Dear Barbara: Can you tell me the difference between “all-purpose” flour and cake flour? — Rob from Stockton
Dear Rob: Cake flour is made from soft wheat, and is grown in moderate climates. The flour is ground much finer than all purpose flour. Cake flour is low in gluten protein, so your end product is much lighter. All-purpose flour is from a heartier winter wheat and is used when you need a leavener, such as baking powder, or baking soda. You can use all-purpose flour for everything, hence ‘all purpose,’ but if you want that little edge, use a flour that is specifically made for whatever you are baking.
Dear Barbara: My family is of Slovakian decent. We have a favorite soup just as you do. It is called Lettuce Soup. What I would like to know is if it can be made with cabbage. — Kit from Mundelein
Dear Kit: Certainly you can make it with cabbage, but then you would have cabbage soup. The recipe that I saw had no eggs and no meat. I also found two that used butter lettuce rather than iceberg lettuce. It seems to me that the butter lettuce wouldn’t hold up in the soup, where iceberg lettuce is a bit hardier.
It amazes me that Slovakia is such a small country to have such a large culinary reputation; very simple food, yet very delicious.
Many Americans have family who had roots in Slovakia, such as Paul Newman and Jesse Ventura.
I’m sure your soup would be good whether it is lettuce or cabbage, and I understand that your family loves it. Good for you! I compliment you for keeping a family tradition alive!
Dear Barbara: What is “simple syrup”? — Ruth from Lockeford
Dear Ruth: Simple syrup is nothing more than syrup that is half sugar and half water. Heat it over medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved. You want it to be cool when you use it. In the Southern states, “sweet tea” is very popular. Some make the simple syrup ahead and put it in the refrigerator so that it is ready when they are.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.