The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Good Flour

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chuppy's picture
chuppy

Good Flour

Good evening! I am beginning to read more about different flours and not to mention going through quite a few bags at the same time. I've always bought gold brand as a family tradition, but this web site seems to suggest using the King Aurthur flours. Does it realy make a difference, and how can You buy flour in bigger quantities for less?

Thanks, Chuppy

sphealey's picture
sphealey

In my opinion King Arthur is worth trying. As they say on the Internets, Your Milage May Vary!

In KA's consumer catalog they used to offer some of their higher-volume flours in 25 lb buckets, but the last few catalogs haven't listed them. You could call their customer service line (which is exceptionally helpful) and ask if the buckets are still available. However I suspect shipping charges would be high.

You could also ask if there is a commercial distributor in your area that handles KA flour by the sack/drum and then find out if that supplier (or one of their customers) will sell you a few sacks. Some will, some won't.

sPh

chuppy's picture
chuppy

sPH,

Thanks for the advice. It seems I'm going to the store every 4 days for flour. I'm also going to talk to my local co-op for buying in bulk if I like wahat they offer.

Chuppy

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I stand by what I said in lesson one: that the all-purpose flour you can get in the grocery store is going to be better than what 99% of bakers throughout history were able to use. It is plenty good to get started with at least.

That said, if you are trying to bake artisan breads and all you are putting in them is flour, water, salt, and maybe yeast then, yes, you actually can notice the difference between different brands of flour. I find this to be particularly true with whole wheat flour.

King Arthur flour is very good. It also seems to have the widest distribution of any of the high end flour brands. It'll only cost you an extra 2 or 3 bucks to try a different brand of flour, so it is worth experimenting with to see if you notice the difference.

For what it is worth, I still bake with around 50% store brand unbleached all-purpose flour. I mix it with some King Arthur's, Bob's Red Mill, or Giusto's flour depending on what I'm making and what I happen to have around.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I agree with Floyd 100% on white flour. Though I would add that, if you're using whole wheat flour, the brand makes a big difference. Because it contains the oily germ, whole wheat flour goes rancid after a while.

How long? Who knows -- some say it starts going bad three days after grinding; others, two or three months.

I tried a bunch of different brands -- Hodgson Mill, Bob's Red Mill, the bulk bin -- and by far had the best performance from King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour.

For what it's worth, my favorite white flour is the King Arthur Organic all-purpose -- stronger bread flours make the crumb a bit too chewy for my taste. Plus, the KA AP flours are already on the strong side for AP. So strong, in fact, that I don't like using KA AP for quick breads. Too tough.

chuppy's picture
chuppy

JMonkey,

So far my only experience has been with Gold Brand bread flour. After this weekend I'll have a better idea about KA AP and KA BF. Can't wait!

Thanks, Chuppy

chuppy's picture
chuppy

Floydm,

Point well maid. The flour of olden days can't be compared to the flours of today. From what the bread bible says about flour, we are in good shape when it comes to quality. I'm still going to try as many brands to see the diffrence. Thank you for your reply.

Chuppy

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

My trials over the last year support what you've heard from both Floyd and sPh. 

  • If you're baking lean artisan loaves, where your only ingredients are flour, water, yeast and salt, you may very well notice differences when you change brands. 
    You will immediately notice variations in flour color.  And there may be discernable difference in protein content.  Enough so that when you're folding a fairly wet dough, it will strengthen (form a strong gluten structure) at different rates.

    For example, KA's all-purpose flour reportedly has a high enough protein content to provide you with the strength needed for the crisp crust you'd like.  I found that to be true when baking Thom Leonard's French Bread (made with levain). 

  • At the same time, and depending on where you live, you may find local sources for some really good flour at reasonable prices.  If you've got a natural foods or food co-op store nearby, you'll probably be able to find both bread flour and all-purpose flour (AP, for short) in bulk and save lots of money.

I happen to live near Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, a mecca of organic food co-ops, and natural food stores.  I'll bet there are 20 of them within 15 miles from where I sit. They each carry bins of flour of all types that you can buy in any amount you'd like.  The challenge is that they don't identify the protein content or the mill. (Many of which are probably from near-by states.)  I'm trying to find out how to they might make that info available.

In the end, I'm finding that most of the flour is pretty good. When I used the prepackaged brands, I try to get bags that are stamped with the packaging date, and that are not bleached in any way.  My real challenge?  Building my skills so that I can draw the most from whatever flour I use.   As you can see in my blog, I've a long way to go,  http://web.mac.com/sylviaburgostoftness/iWeb/Site/Bread%20Obsession%20.html

Sylvia

chuppy's picture
chuppy

Sylvia,

This weekend I'll be visiting a co-op for the first time. I hope to some good bread flours. It sounds like you are well versed in natural resources concerning organic ingrediants. Is tghere that much of a difference in performance and quality when you make the switch?

Thanks, Chuppy

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Hi chuppy,

I think any difference you experience will really come from two qualities: freshness and purity.  The benefits from buying organic flours tend to come from the extra care used to grow, harvest, process, and package the flour.  Organic growers and processors tend to be business people devoted to the health of their crops, land, water supply and livestock. By federal law, they must follow strict rules to keep their organic certification and for their products to bear the organic label.  They do not, however, claim to be pesticide-free.  No one can do that.  By the way, the term "natural" is not regulated.

I think you'll find these same high quality in products like Hodgson Mill and Bob's Red Mill.

In any case, if you can find brands stamped with a "packaged on" date, it'll help.  I find the "best used by" dates worthless.  It doesn't give a clue how old the product is.

As far as purity goes: no bleaches, no additives, no presifting. 

Does it make a difference?  I think so.  After you've invested two or three days building levains, coaxing long fermentations, carefully shaping, slashing and baking, you want the best loaf your skills will allow. 

Sylvia

chuppy's picture
chuppy

Sylvia,

I'll let you know when I post my results for KA. I should have time this weekend to turn out some loves.

Chuppy

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Chuppy,

Let me know how it goes.  I'll be away from my oven this weekend and I'am a bit afraid of withdrawl.  I'll need to know how others are doing.  Good luck.

Sylvia

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

I checked out the photos on your blog. I haven't tried those recipes yet since I've been concentrating on sourdough. The photos make me want to get right back in the kitchen again!

Trish in Omaha

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...I saw on a thread you were looking for durum locally and wondered if you found it. If not, I have a source for you.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Someone told me about durham that can be purchased in Indian markets. It was exactly what I was looking for. My husband picked it up for me and said the spice smells in the place was amazing. I'l have to go back and visit myself someday.

Thanks!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I will try an Indian market as well to see how the flour differs and what they have available.  If you haven't tried the health-food sections of Hy-Vee you will be amazed at the flours available there.  I about fainted.  They not only carry Hodgson Mill pasta flour, which is semolina and extra fancy durum but they have KA Artisan Select which I've been using in my artisan breads, although I didn't realize it until last week so I've been ordering it from KA - on the slow boat.  Plus they have the fabulous Hodgson Mill graham flour which is even healthier than regular whole wheat.  Thought you might like to know, if you don't already, they have a ton of other flours not in the general store area.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

For what it's worth, here is a link to a flour test done a few years back by Mike Avery:

http://www.sourdoughhome.com/flourtest.html 

It has some intersting observations, but it is a little out-of-date in that some brands are no longer available, at least under the same name (i.e. Rocky Mt. Millling Alpine), and many newer brands were not yet available (KA Bread Flour, Gold Medal Harvest King).

I think any type of flour, being the main ingredient in bread, is extremely important to the flavor, texture, and handling requirements of the dough. I love the King Arthur flours, and am fortunate to live where they are widely distributed and available in bulk amounts. If I lived out in the western US I'd want to take advantage of the many local mills there and try a variety of others, like Wheat Montana and Giusto's. Availability of good flour specifically for artisan baking at economical prices is surprisingly regional though...I hear it is difficult to find un-enriched, unbleached higher protein AP flours in the southern US for instance, even under the same brand names the actual flour may differ regionally. Product turnover is also very important - wherever you get your flour, from, whether health food co-op or supermarket, make sure it has not been sitting on the shelf a long time.

chuppy's picture
chuppy

Mountaindog,

If I end up liking KA products as much as others do, believe me, I'll find a way to buy in bulk.

Thanks, Chuppy

ehanner's picture
ehanner

When you first start baking Artisan breads there a lot of variables that affect your outcome. I first thought that I would try to decide on a brand based on results as I learned. Wayyyy to many variables to determine a result. My pantry looks like the organic flour section at the Super market, the selection is endless. With mail order on the Internet, you can buy anything so I figured I would go to what ever extreme necessary to produce that "Fisherman's Wharf" San Fran SD bread I loved so much. After all, flour is inexpensive (although the shipping can be substantial).

Along the way, I discovered this site and started to learn about the subtle effects that folding and fermenting and hydration have on the finished product. I'm with Floyd here in that I decided to pick one primary flour, albeit a high end brand (KA-AP) and learn to use that product. Every so often when I have a formula I really like, I'll switch out one of my expensive mail order flours in place of  the KA and taste the differance.

Yesterday I was at the local Walmart Super Center looking for banana's and I noticed they were selling a 50# bag of AP flour for $6 and change. I'm just about done with the 25# bag of KA-AP I got mail order 2 weeks ago for $14 plus shipping, maybe I'll break down and try it. Mike Avery's advice is to find a flour you like and can get cheap, locally, and learn to use it well. Considering how much flour I am going through recently maybe I should follow that line of thinking.

Eric

RFMonaco's picture
RFMonaco

Not Found

The requested URL /flourtest.html  was not found on this server.

This one does.

http://www.sourdoughhome.com/flourtest.html

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Didn't see the typo in my link. Thanks for correcting...

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

has anyone else tried this brand from Seattle?Any opinions? I was also wondering where you find the protein %s..on the company's web site?