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meaning of "strong flour"

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jvafis's picture
jvafis

meaning of "strong flour"

I just picked up Dan Lepard's "The Handmade Loaf" in which many recipes specify a "strong flour.." In his discussion of flour he doesn't make any reference to this. Does he mean a high protein flour, like a bread flour, or is that just a British way of saying all-purpose wheat flour?

Dillbert's picture
Dillbert

In Britain, many flours go by names different than those from America. Some American flours and British equivalents include:

    * Cake and pastry flour = soft flour
    * All-purpose flour = plain flour
    * Bread flour = strong flour, hard flour
    * Self-rising flour = self-raising flour
    * Whole-wheat flour = wholemeal flour

jvafis's picture
jvafis

Thanks for translating the English for me. I appreciate the quick reply.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,


I am from the UK, and lecture in Bakery at Newcastle College.


I would not describe our plain flour as equivalent to US All-Purpose flour.   We just don't have that grade of flour over here, for the homebaker.   UK Plain Flour is milled from domestic wheat which is too weak to be considered ideal for breadmaking.


That means that our plain flour is actually the same as soft flour.


So if you work with mainstream British flour, the only safe grade to use for breadmaking is Strong flour.   You can mix some plain into the strong, but, generally, all plain flour will not make good bread.   It is definitely NOT the equivalent of US All Purpose, simply because of climate difference.   UK wheat is less than ideal for breadmaking as a result.   However, there are areas of the US which have a climate totally ideal for producing great breadmaking flours; thus seeking out strong flour is not so much of an issue!


Hope this helps to clarify a little


BW


Andy

Susan Lynn's picture
Susan Lynn

What kind of flour is used for general baking, then, in the UK? For what we in Canada and the U.S. would use all-purpose ... cakes, muffins etc. There are some recipes from the southern U.S. best made with cake flour rather than our fairly strong AP ... should we be using a lower gluten flour for best results with UK recipes?

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Susan Lynn,


Fairly simple; plain flour is used for cakes, pastry, biscuit etc, so it is an "AP" flour in that respect.   But it isn't really strong enough to be used on its own in bread.   Commercially, "Baker's Grade" flours are the equivalent of "AP", but I'm always reluctant to use this term "AP", as it really has no equivalent on the UK High Street.   It has confused quite a few of my students when they research flour types too.


Best wishes


Andy

meab2206's picture
meab2206

I thought I would reply to this posting of yours and ask my question as you sound like an expert and from the UK.

I have a US recipe for a banana bread which I would like to try and it states "unbleached all-purpose flour".

Is that wholemeal strong flour - or what? 

I look forward to your reply.

Mary B.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Mary,

The substitute flour in this recipe would be Plain White Flour.   I assume the recipe uses Baking Powder, so your recipe is, technically, a cake.

Best wishes

Andy

meab2206's picture
meab2206

Hello Andy

Many thanks for that answer.  Just one further question if I may.

The recipe uses Baking Soda - am I right in thinking that this is different from baking powder?

I'm not an expert cook but I thought I read something somewhere.

Mary B.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Mary,

Baking Soda is Sodium Bicarbonate, which is the part of the Baking Powder which releases Carbon Dioxide gas.

Baking Powder contains Sodium Bicarbonate, an acidulant and a filler such as Starch, or wheatflour

Best wishes

Andy

Patf's picture
Patf

So where does the strong breadflour come from that we use in the UK? Brands such as Allinsons, Marriage, Hovis, Dove Farm etc.


I'm in France at the moment  where the local wheat produces a low-gluten flour.


But originally come from your area, ananda, where I was always able to have a good choice of strong bread flours.

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Strong flour (even in italian this term is used with the same acception) means high-gluten flour, that doesn't mean high-protein flour or spelt and kamut flours would fall in the  category (and they don't, it's quite the opposite).

It's necessary to bear very long fermentations, geenerally because the dough calls for a lot of fats and/or sugars.

Generally strong flours are milled from hard wheat.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Patf,


You can get good quality strong bread flour grown inthe UK right now.


Hovis and Sainsburys boast, and rightly so in many ways, that they use 100% British wheat in their bread.


British wheat has made up an increasing proportion of the grist used to make bread in this country for several decades, going right back to the early 1960s and the introduction of the Chorleywood Bread Process.


Please note my comment refers to Plain flour, which is SOFT British Wheat.   However, go to England's Bread Basket in East Anglia, and the wheat grown to contract for firms such as Hovis and Sainsburys is pretty strong; indeed the strains of wheat are based on those grown in Canada.   They are produced very intensively, so much chemical treatment, unfortunately, but the quality is pretty good considering our climate.


Historically?....Britain was an Empire once, and utterly reliant on its colonies for food...so the finest quality wheat was brought across the Atlantic Ocean from North America, of course.   And, interestingly, that is the route of the difference between the French, and their pride in using their own flour to produce bread, and the UK, where bread producers [I'm reluctant to say bakers!] have realized there are economies and political capital to be made from using domestically-produced wheat.   The wheel turns full circle; perhaps?


Marriage and Doves produce largely organic flour...imported from Germany to mix in with some domestic.   Allinson, Hovis etc use wheat sourced on the world market, but increasingly UK.   BUT, never, ever forget: wheat is a world-produced and TRADED commodity.   Nico, your finest ciabatta flour is most likely sourced from wheat grown in Australia.   Wheat from Kazakstahn makes fantastic bread.   French wheat has particular characteristics, etc., etc.


Major player is CLIMATE.   The short hot and dry summer following a hard winter, typified by North America, makes for a hard wheat, high in desireable proteins glutenin and gliadin.


Just as Nico says [and Durum wheat typifies this] high protein wheat is easy to grow in the maritime climates of Europe; but high protein is not the same as "strong" flour.


I hope this makes some sense


Best wishes


Andy


 

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Well this is a helpful thread as the Jan Hedh recipe I'm aiming to follow for the third time also mentions 'strong wheat flour'. My first interpretation of this was 'whole wheat'. Looking back this was obviously wrong but made a gorgeous loaf.


Am aiming to use Marriages organic bread flour next. The recipe also calls for durum wheat and mentions that this is similar to the flour used for pasta and Italian breads. I happily started out with the white organic Italian durum wheat (tipo 00 biologica) I had in the cupboard. Made a great loaf but less yellow than Hedh's. Turns out Swedish durum wheat is yellow. After a quest have now got semolato di grano duro, which is fine and yellow. Nico I will check your post on different types of Italian flour.  Couldn't get semola but recipe doesn't specify coarse or fine (grades that also exist in Sweden). Semolato is 12g protein at 15.5% water content.


So sad our brilliant local Italian deli. closed down. It was so much better than much vaunted alternatives in neighbouring towns.


Kind regards,  Daisy_A

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Daisy: 00 is a milling grade of  soft wheat, not durum wheat.


Just like most soft wheat flours 00 doesn't have the slightest taste, hence it has no place in my kitchen. Durum wheat will yield a yellow or yellowish crumb, depending on the amount of liquid used (mine tends more to white because I use a 80% hydratation, mostly milk).


Durum wheat flour is unmistakenly yellow, except the "flour" proper (it's the finest grind) type that tends more to amber than to yellow. Flours like that stem from durum wheat cultivated in northern italy, that I find fit only for the wastebasket. Durum must be toasted by the sun, thus it's always better choosing a southern italy brand -of course in the context of italian flours.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Oh of course you're right, Nico. I must have misread it - my apologies! I got the type 00 originally for pasta. There was no other Italian flour in the supermarket. Mm, what would one make pasta out of then?


The semolato is fine but yellow, like Bird's custard powder before you mix it (sorry Brit ref.!) or a yellow chalk stick. Guess what, though - it's from Modena. That's the north, isn't it!?


I would choose Southern Italian if I could. We used to have a great Italian deli. here but it closed, sadly.  To give you a picture of the normal availability of Italian flours here, I went 60 miles to Cambridge, paid £3 for a tiny packet and there was no choice. There were only 3 bags of this 1 type in the whole shop, which styled itself 'one of the best Italian delicatessans in Britain'. So sadly that seemed to be the only yellow Italian flour in central England! Anyone know of other sources I'd be glad to hear of them. I'm sure more are available online but postage fees can be 2,3 times the flour.


I love the recipe, though so might try to source Southern flour if this works well. The recipe has other tasty flours in so hopefully they will add flavour. Has to have one yellowish flour, though, as the final bread is meant to look like a lemon. Sounds a bit decadent, no, but bread tastes amazing.


Cheers, Daisy_A

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

just 30 km far from here (Bologna).


Generally the most famous brands you can find abroad are Voiello, Divella and DeCecco, all very good flours. Hopefully some larger supermarket will sell them.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Nico,


Many thanks for the information about brands. One of the reasons that I went to the shop in Cambridge was that they normally stock DeCecco. Unfortunately when I got there they had run out :-C. We had other reasons to be there so had a good day out anyway but hopefully at other times they would stock it. I will also look out for the other brands. It's good to have actual names to look out for.


I thought you must be in Bologna when you mentioned your local specialities. I love Bolognese ragu, although we make some wan versions of it over here. One of my close friends once had a Bolognese partner and he advised cooking the ragu for a minimum 3 hours.


Anyway, back to the baking... Kind regards, Daisy_A

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A,


Look at this thread with great contribution from Nico:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/17308/semolina-durum-bread-and-sourdough-seed-bread


BW


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Thanks Andy,


That was exactly the reference I was  looking for. Thanks for flagging it up!


Cheers, Daisy_A

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A,


Why don't you buy some Gilchesters Semolina, mail order?


That way you can support grain processing which involves consumption of the wholegrain, rather than milling certain grains in specific ways, then potentially wasting the rest, or, hiving it off for animal feed?


Just a thought.


BW


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Andy,


Thanks I will look into that. Haven't got into the whole mail order thing yet although I recognize it would open up a whole load of new possibilities. I've not quite organized receipt of goods yet if we are not home. Neighbours are brilliant but pick up office is miles away and sometimes posties just try to hide stuff behind our front rose bush - obviously not good for flour!


Thanks for the recommendation - though. Will look at Gilchesters.Thinking about other options though. I've got a very yellow organic maize from the local Wholefood cooperative that I use for tortillas. Is a bit rougher. Would it be comparable as a flour or not?


Kind regards, Daisy_A


 


 

Patf's picture
Patf

Thanks for the explanation Andy.


I remember asking a baker in Gateshead where his flour came from, and he said it was made from a strong english/canadian wheat. So perhaps the East Anglian type.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A,


Maise is gluten free; semolina is a by-product from milling wheat to white flour.


Best wishes


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Andy,


Mm, I was thinking they probably weren't comparable. Thanks for the confirmation. Oh well, at least it was worth buying the semolina.


Kind regards, Daisy_A

meab2206's picture
meab2206

Hello Andy

I'm not sure if I successfully submitted this first time around or not so I'm sending it again, sorry if you receive it twice.

The recipe uses Baking Soda - am I right in thinking that this is different from Baking Powder?

I'm not an expert cook but I thought I had read something somewhere.

Mary B.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Baking soda and baking powder are not identical.

Baking soda reacts with acids to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide, which provides leavening. Baking soda depends on acidic ingredients such as applesauce or lemon juice for the acid it needs.

Baking powder contains baking soda. Baking powder also contains an acid to react with the baking soda, to make the bubbles of carbon dioxide. Double-acting baking powder contains two acids, one to react at room temperature and one to react at higher temperatures. This provides more leavening because the bubbles don't all escape while you are still mixing things together. Some aren't formed until the batter or dough is baking in the oven. Think of it as a chemical oven spring.

Sometimes both baking powder and baking soda are used, if there is excessive acidity in the ingredients that would otherwise make the baked good taste too tart.

KeithA's picture
KeithA

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate (sodium hydrogen carbonate).  When this is heated above 70-80 degrees C it decomposes (even in the absence of any acid) releasing carbon dioxide.  After release of CO2 it is converted into sodium carbonate (otherwise known as washing soda)  which has a salty, soapy taste.  So in theory you could bake using sodium bicarbonate without adding acid but your bread would taste of sodium carbonate.  Sodium carbonate does not decompose on heating (except at extremely high temperatures).

I  suspect that the kinds of weak acid used in baking (eg tartaric acid, lemon juice or lactic acid from fermented milk) do not react at all quickly with sodium bicarbonate which is only slightly alkaline.   However during heating (and release of CO2)  sodium carbonate is formed.  This is much more alkaline than sodium bicarbonate and will react a lot faster with the weak acids producing yet more CO2.   This action removes the sodium carbonate.  Twice as much CO2 is released in the presence of (excess) acid than if no acid were present.

I suppose you want to ensure that enough acid is present to remove the sodium carbonate because its presence will affect the taste of the baked product.  

MarciaD2002's picture
MarciaD2002

I am new to the website, as I was searching for the meaning of 'strong flour'.  I wanted to make French baguettes, so headed to my Midwest USA public library and selected the book Artisan Breads by Jane Hedh.  This discussion has really helped me and more than answered my questions, thank you!  I live in the US where these wheats are grown, but never thought about it until I came across this term.   I, too, thought it meant stone ground whole wheat flour.

jemar's picture
jemar

I use lots of American baking books for cakes and to put it very simply, if the recipe says 'baking soda' it means , to us in the UK, bicarbonate of soda.  If it says 'baking powder' it is the same as what we call baking powder.  I hope this helps.

cumbriafanatic's picture
cumbriafanatic

I have to admit, I'm still a little confused.  Fair enough, plain flour isn't really the thing for making bread, but I have a recipe for communion bread   [http://mylittlekitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2006/03/communion-bread.html] which I was hoping to make with the children at school,

4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (540g)
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour (170g)
2 1/4 cups warm water

It does not have any raising agent, and although it is not intended to rise, I would like confirmation as to whether I should be using UK PLAIN or STRONG WHITE flour.

Advice much appreciated.