The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flour comparisons

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enaid's picture
enaid

Flour comparisons

I have always been intrigued by the fact that many posts advocate using King Arthur flour. In Rose Levy Beranbaum's book some of her recipes actually say to use ONLY King Arthur flour.  What is the difference in this brand than any other?  We can't get King Arthur flour here in Canada.  I use different brands of flour, depending on where I am shopping at the time I need flour, sometimes American (Red Mill) but mostly Canadian (because it's cheaper). I can't say I have found any great difference in the brands I have used.


Searching the web to find out more about flour, I came across this site


<www.practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/pages/flour>


It is very informative about the difference between Amercan, Canadian and U.K. flours.


Canadian wheat is exported to both the U.K. and America and a much smaller quantity of  American wheat is exported to Canada.  I believe hard red winter wheat is produced in both U.S. and Canada and is the best for bread making. Is King Arthur flour made from U.S. or Canadian wheat?


 


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Similar thread:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/15814/king-arthur-flour-why-use-it


If you can find a flour with the same(or very similar) protein level as the KA flour being specified, you will reproduce the recipe with similar results(all other things being equal).


King Arthur publishes the precise protein levels of it's flours, and is known to be stringent in adhering to it's quality standards. Sometimes, this may not be the case with other flours. The precise protein % can usually only be found if the manufacturers give this info.


Many recipes specify KA all purpose flour, which is 11.7% protein. Most other all purpose flours, in the US are lower in protein. Some bread flours are even lower, some higher, some similar.


So again, many recipe developers know the key to their results being faithfully reproduced often is the use the same, or very similar flour.


That's not to say you can't get a satisfactory result using a dissimilar flour. You may very well like your results even better than the original. But it just may not be the same. Bottom line is if the protein level of the flour being used is lower than the KA flour, the bread will not rise as high. If the protein is higher than the KA, it may make a chewier bread than called for.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

That being said, I use White Lily bread flour, which is said to have the same protein as KAAP. I maintain that White Lily bf produces results virtually identical to KA. Often at less than half the price(on sale) that even the lowest price I can get KA in my locale.

DonD's picture
DonD

I do not think that we can generalize that Canadian flours have higher protein content than US flours. Rather, I think the variation comes from different brands. I have done a comparison of Canadian ('La Milanaise' from Quebec) AP flour vs KA AP flour and both the advertised protein content and the actual baking properties of the Canadian flour indicate a noticeable lower protein content.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/16110/baking-la-milanaise-flours


Don

saraugie's picture
saraugie

" Rose Levy Beranbaum's book some of her recipes actually say to use ONLY King Arthur flour"


What's so Funny about RLB and KAFs is that she is a spokesperson for another company that makes flour.  Her photo appears on the packages of the flour ! I recently ran out of KA bread flour, needed some in a hurry and bought said flour with her picture on it.  I am waiting for the final rise on a bread that I used that bread flour in the Liquid-Levin build, all other ingredients including the seeds and grains by KAF.  The recipe is from "Bread", by Hamelman, who is the director of bakery and education at the King Arthur Flour company !


I don't know if I'm coming or going but I sure hope the Five-Grain Levin bread I've been making tastes good. LOL


PS: Update Bread tastes fantastic, crust all dark and crackly.  Not nicely formed, no beautiful ears or any of the like, my cutting technique is zilch. I wish I could say its because I did not use KA bread flour. LOL  But of course, that is not so.  In my limited experience, I can tell no diff between the two brands.  However, its in my nature to be brand loyal, so I'll continue to use KA whenever possible.

PJ Hamel's picture
PJ Hamel

The main difference between KA and any other flour is consistency. I work at KA (baker/blogger), and have been here nearly 20 years. We always, ALWAYS put out flour with the same protein level and quality in all respects. Use KA today, it'll be the same as it was 5 years ago, and 5 years from now. Other national brands don't adhere to consistent specs like we do - either season to season, or in different parts of the country. The national brand you get in California may be WAY different than what you get in New England. And, to answer the original question - there are years when we do buy some Canadian wheat, if the American crop isn't offering the protein level we need; but it's a small amount, and seldom. Our wheat is now, and usually is, 100% American grown. Not to say Canada doesn't have excellent wheat - it does! But the bulk of what we use is winter wheat, and Canada produces more spring wheat.


Thanks, everyone, for your kind words about King Arthur Flour. PJ Hamel, KA baker/blogger

enaid's picture
enaid

My intention was not to compare US/Canadian flours.  I was just curious about why many people seemed to think KA flour was superior.  Now I know it is all about protein content.

During my recent research, I discovered that the Canadian Grain Commission decreed that all Canadian (hard) white flour should have at least 13% protein. According to a U.S. website, the U.S. does not tell millers how much protein they must mill into their flours, so KA flour may be the most reliable U.S. brand.  I checked on the flours of Canada's Robin Hood brand (one of the most readily available ) and both their AP and bread flours are 13.3% protein.

P J Hamel states that Canada grows more Spring wheat than Winter wheat.  Despite the statement I made in my earlier post, I have now found out that high gluten flours are most commonly made from Hard Red SPRING wheat. KA uses Hard Red SPRING wheat for it's bread flours.  I know very little about U.S. flours and, as previously stated, I am not interested in comparing, just finding out about Canadian flours as that is what I mostly use. 

I am sure we all have the same aim - to make the finest bread we can.

 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

"...I checked on the flours of Canada's Robin Hood brand (one of the most readily available ) and both their AP and bread flours are 13.3% protein..."


Curious as to how this was checked?

enaid's picture
enaid

When I posted my previous comments re protein, I had spoken with someone from the Canadian Agricultural Industry who informed me that Canadian flour had to be at least 13% protein.  The packaging on the Robin Hood Flour I had in stock stated 'protein 4g per 30g of weight' (13.3%). I subsequently realized that all the Robin Hood flours I had used had the same protein levels.  This obviously didn't seem right so I contacted Robin Hood Flours but the person I spoke with didn't know the protein level of their flours!!!  I have e-mailed them again but have not yet had a reply. 'Robin Hood Flours' was owned by Smuckers Foods but has recently been sold to a consortum (Horizon Mills (American) and Cargill (Canadian) so it may be difficult to get further information.


Although flour obviously plays a part, I believe the way bread is made and the other ingredients used play a greater significant role. I grew up in U.K. during the war and we existed mainly on homemade bread.  Anyone who grew up then will tell you that we could only get black bread.  Goodness knows what was in the flour.  However, we loved it, weavils and all, as we were starving.  It puts into perspective the obsession we now have with making the perfect loaf.

carluke's picture
carluke

I also sent an email to Robin Hood asking for the protein content of their 'Best for Bread' white flour. I received a response stating that it is 13.1 % and that it is bleached.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Your experience in trying to gain true, accurate data on the specifications about your flour provides emphasis as to the difference of KA flours.


As you have discovered, there is nutrition label data, then there is the real info, known only to the companies themselves or those with the wherewithall to actually perform an analysis.


KA is more forthcoming than many other companies in providing the true precise info about their flours, and pledges not to vary. In general, other companies don't necessarily do this.

carluke's picture
carluke

I think I speak on behalf of many of the other Canadian bread enthusiasts when I say we would love the opportunity to use King Arthur flours. Unfortunately, it is not available here.
I am going to Vermont in May to take a KA course, so I suspect the trunk of my car will be filled with flour on my return home!

saraugie's picture
saraugie

Why is using KAF not viable in CA ?  Import duties ?  Vermont is so close to parts of Canada, it seems shipping would not be at issue.

enaid's picture
enaid

I also wonder why we can't get KA flour here in Cda.  We do have Whole Foods stores, which are American and sell lots of US products, even some U.S. flours but not KA. Does anyone in U.S. know if they can get KA flour in their Whole Food stores?  I will try to found out, next time I'm in the store, if there is a reason it's not sold here.  In the meantime, I am going to start buying my flour from a local mill.  It's more expensive and I'll have to drive quite a way but I hope it will be worth it.  I have yet to make my 'perfect' loaf.  I'm hoping it will prove it's the flour that's the problem and not me!!

saraugie's picture
saraugie

YES, and if we can get here at our Whole Foods store in the middle of the Pacific ocean, its got to be available at every other WF in the US.  Not only at WF, but it is available at every large food market I have looked for it in.


They are a very responsive company, why not write Customer Service and ask them directly ?  Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised by their answer.

enaid's picture
enaid

Further to my previous posts, I have now received a reply from Robin Hood (Canada).  Their AP flour has 12% protein.  Their Bread flour 13% and their Whole Wheat 14%. When I queried that I had been told all Cdn. flour had to be at least 13%, I was told that it only pertains to flour advertised as high gluton such as  Bread flour and whole wheat.  I was assured that their flour is highly regulated by the Federal Government (as is all Cdn. flour) and the protein levels are consistent. However, if one buys one's flour from a supermarket, there's no knowing how long it has sat on the shelf deteriorating. As U.S. flour is not Government regulated, our U.S. friends may be right to stick with KA who, apparently, guarantee the quality of their flour.  I will be checking on other Cdn. brands.  If I can ever get my hands on KA flour, I will definitely give it a try. I am not letting patriotism interfere with my attempt to make a better loaf!

CoveredInFlour's picture
CoveredInFlour

I just stumbled on this thread as I was checking flour information.


Keeping in mind that I am a "new-to-bread-making-by-hand", I have been making bread by machine for 12 years. I mainly make white bread- based sandwich loaves for my family, I haven't started making Artisan bread.


I live in Mississauga, in Southern Ontario, and when I first started making bread by machine I only used Robin Hood "Best For Bread" white flour. 


I noticed that when I opened a fresh package, the loaves were higher and lighter in texture than when I got to the bottom of the package- I would empty the 5lb/2kg bag into a large plastic container to store it, only refilling it when it was completely empty.


When flour prices started to go up 8 years ago (or things in general just got much more expensive), I switched to "No Name All Purpose Unbleached Flour" sold by Loblaws grocery stores. I think I can hear some of you shuddering. :) BUT, I realized that I was getting consistently good results from the "cheap" flour. I have occasionally bought Five Roses or other name brands, but I don't find them any better than the store brand.


 

Yolandat's picture
Yolandat

I live in London Ontario so Arva Mills is about 2 km away. I have been using their bread flour which is unbleached and they say it was 12% protein last year. It will vary from year to year and I think last year was a lower % protein. I have had no problem with it at all. 


Yolanda

jimeluiz's picture
jimeluiz

Having just discovered this sight I have done some reading about flours and then went to the grocery store to investigate.  I live in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


All of the various brands of flour on the shelf report 7% protein.  Is there some way to add something to improve the situation?  I have been battling lousy results since I got here two years ago.  Perhaps I have stumbled on what the problem is.


Any suggestions?

houstonwong's picture
houstonwong

My 2 cents. But I doubt that Canadian brands such as Five Rose or Robin Hood is bad... or for that matter worse than KA.


Though I have only been baking bread regularly for a few years, I've had experience with different mills indirectly through my family's noodle manufacturing company, which uses and sells flour by the truckloads. Mainly Monarch, Five Rose and at one time Maple Leaf. (Robin Hood was mainly used in retail and we dealt by the bulk.)


There is more than likely a difference between Euopean flours/US flours and Canadian flours, but all the major brands (and the no-name brands in Canada which are packed by the big brands which all are owned by the same few conglomerates) off Canadian shelves work fine for bread.


Living overseas now, I am fortunate enough to have access to European (UK, French, Italian) US (including KA) and Canadian flours. I can tell a difference between the flours. I've made good and bad (and occasionally very good) bread with many of them (haven't tried all yet). What I've found is that the amount of water and the amount of working the dough varies, which often throws me off a bit. I've even made better breads with UK AP flour (Waitrose, the store brand, which is very good in my experience btw).


The point of my humble opinion is: while it is worth trying out different brands to find your personal favourite, don't worries, fellow Canadians. You've got decent flour locally. :)