The Fresh Loaf

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The itty bitty flour test

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mse1152's picture
mse1152

The itty bitty flour test

Hello,

There are a few of us living in San Diego. Susan (of upside down Pyrex bowl cloche fame) and I (of no particular fame that we can talk about here) have gotten together a couple of times. Last week, we did a field trip to a place called Lakeside Poultry that no longer sells poultry (???), but does sell restaurant supplies, including 50 pound bags of flour. Susan bought a bag of Gold Medal Harvest King, and I bought a bag of Eagle Mills organic bread flour (from ConAgra, not exactly your old time mill).

I have been using Bob's Red Mill flours for years, so I decided to do a side-by-side bakeoff, making one loaf of sourdough from Bob's (BRM) and one from the new Eagle Mills (EM) flour. BRM is organic unbleached flour with a protein percentage of 11.75. The EM flour has 11 percent. Neither is malted. I used the recipe I've posted earlier here, except I used all unbleached flour in the sponges. I started a sponge for each batch of dough with one teaspoon of my 100% hydration white starter, created from the BRM flour. Due to yet another brain lapse, I neglected to photograph the sponges. For the record, BRM looked a bit more robust, thicker, but both had very good bubble populations. Here are pics of the two doughs just after the initial mix (BRM is on the left):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did four stretch and folds, with 45 minutes between each (and before the first one), for a total fermentation time of about four hours. Both doughs were a bit tacky, and the EM dough rose a little more throughout than the BRM. After the fourth S&F, the dough rested for about 25 minutes before shaping. The BRM dough looked and felt smoother after shaping, as seen here (BRM on the left):

 

The loaves rested 30 minutes after shaping, then went into the oven at 425F (convection). I poured boiling water into a cast iron pan at (well, almost) the same time. I wasn't happy with the look or feel of the BRM loaf; it didn't take the scoring well, and the knife just dragged through the dough. It was also flatter looking than the EM. But the oven spring fairies were on duty! Here's the BRM loaf:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the EM loaf:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven't used that center slash before, and I think I like it better than 2 or 3 diagonal ones. Both loaves had very good oven spring and color. They had decently open crumb for a 65% hydration bread.

Here's the BRM crumb:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the EM:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I'm not seeing much difference so far, are you? The biggest difference is the price; I order the organic Bob's Red Mill flour online, and the shipping doubles the cost of the flour ($12.00 for 20 lb. of flour plus $14.00 shipping). The 50 pound bag of Eagle Mills cost just over $18.00. Duh...

After all this, how did they taste? Well, in a side by side tasting, the clear winner is...um, well I think I liked...er, uh, actually, they tasted very similar! And this is actually good news, because I don't have to spend so much on flour anymore.

It was a fun experiment, and I was even able to keep track of which dough blob was which throughout the whole thing.

Sue

 

Comments

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Cool experiment.

I like supporting Bob's because they are local and a cool company, but I can't say I'm convinced that their products are superior than some of the other brands.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Good looking loaves.   :)    Mini Oven

browndog's picture
browndog

interesting stuff, and good-looking bread, Sue. Considering all the options we have in flours, side-by-side comparisons make a world of sense. I found this when I was out hunting one day and found it fascinating if not all-inclusive. On the left is a list of options--click on flour test.

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I've been wondering what Susan Pyrex has been up to. Off stocking up on flour. 

MSE you did an interesting test there with the flour. Little difference in taste afterall. Maybe as some here have said it's more in the technique and handling than in the flour. Hmmm. Might as well look for the best price but I prefer the organic so I'll have to pay more anyway.
Your breads are beautiful, such nice color and the slashing is great. 

Browndog, the site you mentioned looks so interesting, I'm going to spend some time looking in there.    weavershouse

mse1152's picture
mse1152

Weavershouse,

I prefer organic too.  The Eagle Mills I bought was organic, and still only about .37 per pound in the 50 pound bag.  If you can find a bulk source of any organic flour nearby, it's a great deal.  Susan's Harvest King was about .22 per pound.  Either one is cheap!

Sue 

Susan's picture
Susan

Just taking a sabbatical! Not really, I haven't learned anything new lately, sabbatical just sounds more interesting than stuck-in-a-rut! I'm going to have to work hard to bring myself up to date. Truly, my Yorkie best-friend Gizmo was too ill and left this earth, so things have been upside-down and lonely here at my house for a few weeks.

Sue, your itty-bitty-test breads are just beautiful! Thanks for the good info, and I'm glad you are happy with the flour. The little road trip to the Poultry Ranch was memorable, and now we know where to get inexpensive bulk flour in San Diego!

Fleur, you are up in the LA area, aren't you? My sense is that most distributors to San Diego are based in LA, so you should be able to find a closer distributor than our Poultry Ranch. Let Sue or me know if you want to make the trip, though. Maybe we can all meet for lunch! In fact, when SDBaker gets back from deployment, perhaps we should do a SoCal gathering! Don't want to let those Northwest chaps get ahead of us too much, after all. Hope I am not treading on toes or discussing something that's already been decided!

Oh, I bought one of those little Cuisinart brick ovens, and combined with the Magic Pyrex Bowl (of course!) it does an admirable job! Maybe not quite as good as the Miele, but the kitchen stays cooler.

Nice to be back, and thanks for missing me.

Susan from San Diego

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

I agree, really beautiful breads. I'm wondering, since your flours are not malted, whether you added disatatic malt to the dough? I've been searching out sources for organic, malted flours. Maybe the malt is not all that critical, though. That is a really great price you got for the flour!

 

Susanfnp (yet another Susan)

mse1152's picture
mse1152

Susan,

Thanks!  I'm not sure about exactly what diastatic malt does for you, even though I've read about it several times in the BBA.  I thought it was supposed to help develop color, but it seems unnecessary, at least with this recipe.  I've put it into Italian bread, and the kaiser rolls I want to try next call for it.  It has an enzyme that's supposed to help draw some specific sugar type (I think maltose) from the grain.

Gee, now I'll have to experiment with malted vs. unmalted!

Sue 

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Sue,

That's right, the malt provides amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch into sugars that the yeast can use. Therefore it enhances fermentation. I usually use malted flour, or add malt if the flour doesnt already contain it, but I haven't done any side-by-side tests to see how much difference it really makes. I would be interested in the results of any experimenting you do with that.

 

Susanfnp

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Sue:  Thanks for sharing your flour experiment.  Lovely loaves and hard to beat the price of your local flour purchase.....  I also have been mail ordering flour (my favorite is Heartland Mills), but it is difficult to justify the price when the shipping almost equals the cost of the flour!  I live just bit of north of you so I might just  check out your source in San Diego. 

I am intrigued by your sourdough formula with its long bulk fermentation and short proofing and am curious to give it a try.  Did you do any kneading of the dough by mixer or by hand or just the series of stretch and folds? The texture of the crumb loves wonderful.  Thanks!

mse1152's picture
mse1152

Fleur-de-liz,

Not a single second of kneading!  The four stretch and fold cycles did it all.  I did the initial mix by hand, just enough to make sure all the flour had been wetted.  I love not having to knead...anymore, my wrists complain even after 10 or 15 minutes of it.  I was very happy with the openness of the crumb.  It's not a super high hydration formula, and I think the folding with gentle handling throughout helped develop the holes.  My kitchen was in the mid to high 70s that day.

I forgot to mention that the flavor was very mild.  I've had it a bit more tangy/sour by retarding the bulk dough in the fridge.  I'm still trying to find just the right sourness.  Maybe a longer proof would help too.

Sue 

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Sue:  Thanks for the details on mixing and folding.  I will definitely give your formula and method a try.  Did you notice a bit more tang when you increased the quanity of the initial starter from a teaspoon to a quarter cup?  I, too, am on quest for the perfect degree of sourness.

Liz

mse1152's picture
mse1152

Liz,

Yes, the tangiest bread came from the batch with 1/4 cup starter, BUT...I also made the mistake of changing two things at once.  I retarded that dough for 19 hours in the fridge after the stretch and fold cycles.  So then I really didn't know which change contributed more to the extra tang, though I think it was the retardation.  The crumb on that batch was tighter too, and my guess is that the extra starter had something to do with it.  When I make it with just one teaspoon of starter, the dough is airy, like a partially deflated balloon, and that difference is apparent before any retardation.  And I have no idea why...!

Sue 

ryaninoz's picture
ryaninoz

 Sue,

 Have you read 'The Omnivore's dilemma' by Michael Pollan. The only concern you might consider is the type of flour used by ConAgra. Is it modified, etc.? I am trying to personally steer clear of stuff made and supported by ConAgra and Archer Daniels Midland Company. Though it's easier now that I am an American living in Australia, at least for the next 3 to 4 years. They, ConAgra & ADM, do not typically support the producers (i.e. farmers) well and I am concerned about "industrial" Farms. I am not sure of Bob's Red but I believe they are better....anyone know?

I just returned from France and again stopped by Poilane's in the Latin Quarter and finally purchsed his baking book though it was only in French. I've seen it several times there and kept resisting and finally gave in. He has the BEST sourdough loaf you've ever tasted!

Anyway, just my 2 cents. I would encouage everyone to read this book if you haven't already, it's very informative and challenging. I am a classically french trained chef and find his points to have great merit.

Your breads do have wonderful crumb and crust and they look to be beautiful loaves!

Ryan Propst

Sydney, Australia

mse1152's picture
mse1152

It's a fascinating book on many levels.  We grow some veggies at home and subscribe to twice weekly organic veggie deliveries from a local grower.

I understand your concern about ConAgra.  The flour I bought is certified organic, therefore any modifications would prevent that certification.  It's milled at a facility formerly owned and run by Capitol Mills (Milling?) in So. California.  They were swallowed by ConAgra several years ago.  As to where the flour is actually grown, I have no idea.  Not the ideal, but at least it's organic (and the definition of that is changing too).

Sue 

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Omnivore's Dilemma is really worth reading. I thought I knew a lot about the state of food in our country but I found out I had a lot to learn. Michael Pollan, the author, has written a book that should be read by everyone who cares about what they're eating or the state of agriculture in America. No one has come out and said he exaggerated or told a single untruth. Good reading.                                                                                                                          weavershouse

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Sue:  Have you tried a longer overnight fermentation when using only a teaspoon of starter?  If so, were the crust and crumb as lovely as in the photos above?

Thanks!

Liz

mse1152's picture
mse1152

That would be an interesting combination.  This is kind of self-perpetuating, isn't it?  Maybe next time I do sourdough, I'll try that.  But it takes us a while to go through the bread, even with half-sized batches, so I can't say when that will be.  If you beat me to it, post it!

Sue 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

First, Sue, your breads are just beautiful!  I love to hear about the experiments.  I've done a few myself but honestly regarding long cold fermentations and amount of starter used I don't really think I can tell much of a difference. 

I baked the Vermont sourdough again (love that bread) Sunday morning after it had retarded in the fridge for 40 hours.  I had not meant for it to retard that long but I was not able to get to it to bake when I'd planned so I was looking forward to seeing how different it would taste.  It really did not taste any more sour to me or my husband. 

I had made it a couple times recently using 2 ounces to make the levain the night before, as called for in the recipe, and also using 100g of my firm starter to make it in one day.  I could not tell any difference in flavor comparing the two.  Also, if you look at my photos, they looked exactly the same inside and out. 

The only time I had a tiny bit more sour tasting bread was when I was experimenting with a liquid starter and I allowed it to ripen quite a bit before using it just because I was not familiar with the maintenance of a liquid starter.  I feel it is very confusing because what I read and what I experience first hand are often two very different things.  ???

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Sue, thanks for posting this.  Your breads look great.  I'm keeping a running list of things to buy at a restaurant supply place - I hadn't thought to add food items!

activ8's picture
activ8

I am still eagerly waiting for answers to how to use quinoa SEED in bread. Can I toast it and add it like millet or does it have to be cooked first? The packet does not say it is raw.

browndog's picture
browndog

there was quite a discussion in honor of quinoa at your original post.

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Susan:  Am so sorry to hear about your dog. Losing a beloved pooch is very difficult.

Yes, when SDbaker get backs it would be great to have a Southern California gathering.  Actually, I live in Orange County so am only about an hour north of you. Any other SoCal bread bakers out there who want to get together?

Your pyrex bowl cloche borders on sheer genius.  Not only did it save me $50 in purchasing a second cloche, but I LOVE that I can watch the bread rising in the oven.  I have been known to sit on the floor in front of the oven watching....  I would only confess that one to other bread bakers!

I still have to try Sue's bread.  Too many recipes, too little time....

Take care, Liz