The Fresh Loaf

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Baking A Baguette with High Protein Flour

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aakoh's picture
aakoh

Baking A Baguette with High Protein Flour

Hi,

I am learning to bake artisan bread, beginning with the humble french baguette. Recently I chanced upon some very well priced Allinson's Very Strong Bread Flour. Being a novice and not having done my research thoroughly, I bought up 15 kg of the flour, thinking that better and stronger flour would result in a better baguette. After some reading up, I realised that many bakers use  all purpose flour instead of strong bread flours. The protein content of the flour that I bought is very high - 13.9g per 100g or 13.9%. I read that many people have been successful with KAF's AP flour which has a protein content of closer to 11.5%.

Has anyone had any success baking artisan breads using flour with such high protein content? Any suggestions or recipes would be greatly appreciated.

Aaron

http://www.allinsonflour.co.uk/products/premium-white-very-strong-bread-flour.html

 

 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

First of all, the baguette is a very tough place to begin learning to make bread.  While it may appear simple it is anything but.  This is a bread that requires skill in all areas of breadmaking and can be a challenge for experienced bakers.  That aside, you can certainly make baguettes with the flour you have chosen but it may not produce the product that you are looking for. 

Jeff

lumos's picture
lumos

Hi, Aaron. Nice to (virtually-) meet you and welcome to TFL! :)

Re making baguettes... As Jeff said, baguettes may seem humble, but that's actually the most difficult bread to make, in all aspects.

Also, they're best made with French flour, T55 or T65 (or similar) which is weaker in gluten (=a kind of protein) than regular bread (strong) flour.  Their protein level is usually around 10 - 11%.   So using high protein flour for making baguettes is, as you've already found out yourself, not a very good idea. 

If you're new to bread making AND have high protein flour, a good place to start is to make a basic, regular tin loaf. 

Good luck! :)

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I did an experiment last year baking baguettes with three different flours: King Arthur All-Purpose, Bread, and Hi-Gluten flours.

I wanted to know how protein content would affect a baguette's crumb structure: would it be more open (bigger holes) with the higher-protein flours.

The result was that the Bread and Hi-gluten flours did have a more open crumb (no significant difference between the two, however), but the eating-quality (chew, texture) was far too chewy to justify their use in making baguette. (I joked with my partner, "If you need to remove a bad tooth, try gnawing on one of these high protein baguettes.")

Don't be dismayed, however. There are plenty of artisan breads that can be made with this flour, including bagels.

lumos's picture
lumos

One thing I've learned from a certain professional artisan baker long time ago regarding flour and open crumb with large holes :  You need to use relatively weak flour to get random large holes, because if the gluten is too strong, the trapped air in the crumb can't break the gluten strands to make big holes when expanding in the oven.  If you use strong flour, you may get more volume, but the crumb will usually be finer  with smaller holes with even sizes. 

That's the theory, and I think it makes sense. But the problem is that weaker flour is more difficult to handle, especially when shaping.  Also, trying to build up a sufficient gluten strength with weak flour can be difficult, too.   So unless you're very careful in how to handle them and know how much gluten strength you need to develop, you can end up with less open crumb.  

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

http://www.danlepard.com/blogs/2010/03/2255/coming-on-strong/

Strong white flour: what to expect using it

Strong white flour usually contains high levels of a type of protein called glutenin, causing the dough made from it to be able to hold its shape rather better than stretching easily. Where dough made from an Italian 00 flour or French T55 can be pulled and lengthened easily, dough made from strong white flour needs to be coaxed gently into performing a similar act otherwise it will tear. Though strong white flour will contain gliadin, the stretchy protein, don’t expect the same extensibility with dough made from it. However, high speed mixing, especially with the additional of a crushed vitamin C tablet, will produce a very elastic and stretchy dough from this flour.

Best for: dough that requires good oven spring, and tight shapes. Breads that need to stay moist and soft for a few days, as the protein absorbs moisture and avoids it drying quickly.

Sometimes you need to add a little malt or sugar to strong white flour to sustain a long fermentation. The biggest market for strong white flour in the UK is for bakers – at home and in bakeries – making dough that is risen and baked fairly quickly. Because of this, the millers choose a selection of wheat varieties that don’t contain very high levels of natural sugar as they won’t be used up during a short fermentation and could both leave the crumb gummy and heavy, and cause the crust to brown too quickly. And in the UK, pale bread has a strong fan club. Now curiously, the glutenin found in strong white flour is perfect for long fermentation but…as the natural sugars in the flour are kept low, the resulting loaf will have a pale greyish crust, look slightly anaemic, and the final rise will be lengthy. If you add a little malt or even dark ale to the mix the additional “sugar” in the form of maltose will help to correct this.

Best for: short (2-3 hr) to medium (4 – 6 hr) fermentation; beyond that consider adding additional malt or sugar to sustain the fermentation.

Even the best strong white flours are remarkable bland, so think about cutting this flour with a little wholemeal flour to deepen the flavour. You can happily replace up to 10% of the weight with wholemeal flour without affecting the texture or appearance greatly.

Best use: when cut with a little wholemeal flour it produces an exceptionally well-flavoured bread. Otherwise, consider increasing the flavour of fermentation or the other ingredients used.

For cakes with a high level of fat, like a buttery pound cake, strong white flour can be uses in place of plain flour without it being too noticeable. In fact, if you have a cake that tends to crumble, then using strong white flour should correct this. You might need to add a little liquid to achieve the same consistency, but you’ll have to judge this for yourself. I find strong white flour gives a very good result when used for rich fruit cakes or gingerbread. It’s less good used in a sponge cake, or other low fat cake.

Best for: fruit cakes and gingerbreads.

For biscuits and traybakes, strong white flour instead of of plain flour usually produces a good to very good result.

Best for: biscuits etc that requires a chewy soft consistency.

Strong white flour: what to replace it with

Using Italian 00 instead of strong white flour: in breadmaking, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 15% 20%, and reduce the rising temperature to about 21C  – 24C.

Using strong white flour instead of Italian 00: in breadmaking, use a mixture of half strong white and half plain flour, but the dough produced will not be as stretchy and extensible. Increase the water slightly to help make the dough more elastic. 00 produces a much crisper result that can’t be imitated with either flour. In cake making use slightly more baking powder and slightly more liquid, but no other changes.

Using UK strong white flour instead of US all-purpose flour: For breadmaking just add a little extra liquid when making the dough, otherwise no changes needed.

Using US all-purpose flour instead of UK strong white flour: For breadmaking, use slightly less water than suggested in the recipe.

Using French T55 or T65 (Euro T550 or T650) instead of strong white flour: Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 10% – 15%, and reduce the rising temperature to about 21C  – 24C for the best result. As T55 or T65 will colour quickly in the oven, reduce the oven temperature towards the end of baking to stop it burning.

Using strong white flour in place of French T55 or T65 (Euro T550 or T650): In bread baking increase the dough temperature slightly, and for long shapes roll the dough out in stages to avoid tearing it. Consider adding a little malt or sugar if you intend to extend the rising time beyond 6 hours. Expect the crust to be slightly tougher and chewy, and less brittle and crisp, when using strong white flour in place of T55 or T65.

mcs's picture
mcs

Aaron,
You already bought the flour. You want to make baguettes.  Don't over-think it and start blending flours before you even have a baseline as to how your flour behaves as a baguette dough.  If your dough doesn't relax because it's too tough, give it more time to rest.  Americans are looking for French type flours to tone theirs' down, the French are blending their flour with American or Canadian flours to increase their protein levels.  The flour is always better on the other side of the Atlantic or English Channel for that matter. 

As others have said, baguettes are a difficult place to start, but don't let that stop you.  Start with dmsnyder's post on these baguettes.  At least if you have questions, there are enough people on this forum who can give you advice since they've already made the recipe.

-Mark
http://TheBackHomeBakery.com

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

I'm looking forward to your posting about your experiences both as a novice breadbaker starting with baguettes and with learning  how your strong flour works out.  I'd baked Northern European breads (low-percentage-of-water doughs producing fine grained crumb without holes) for almost 3 decades before I braved Southern European breads (high-percentage-of-water doughs used to produces loaves like baguettes).  The techniques are very different between the two.

I learned how to do baguettes in a class at a baking school.  It opened my eyes to a whole new world.  There's nothing like hands-on experience with so-called slack dough bread baking.  Even using videos (and I recommend that you watch all the videos you can get your hands on in your pursuit of a good baguette) doesn't hold a candle to having a knowledgeable baker showing you the moves. 

aakoh's picture
aakoh

Hi everyone, 

Thanks for the feedback so far. I was kinda at a loss about what I should do with so much strong flour and not being able to bake baguettes as planned. I guess I rushed into it. I now have a bit more options thanks to everyone's advice. I can bake some breads which require the strong flour and learn some basics at the same time as lumos suggested. I will also try baking the baguette anyway (thanks for the encouragement, Mark).  At the least, I will learn something from it.

Aaron

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Dear aakoh,

I hope I'm speaking for the many of us who spend our time looking at this site (maybe far too much) when I make another request that you report your progress, especially using the strong flour with baguettes.

 

 

 

aakoh's picture
aakoh

Hi richkaimd,

Yes, I certainly will update my progress.  I will have a little time to do it tomorrow.

Thanks for the feedback.

Aaron

Graid's picture
Graid

Hrm.. I use this flour often, now I'm wondering what difference it might be making to the results I'm getting with my bread.  I always use at least 'strong bread flour' and sometimes 'very strong'. It seemed to me likely that bread flour would be a better choice for giving a good bread structure, but is it possible that in doing so I'm changing the results.  I would not say that the results are bad though- so I would certainly say it is worth a try.  Of course in the UK we do not have 'all purpose flour' but rather 'plain flour' and I am not quite sure of the differences. I have made a couple loaves using the Artisan bread in five minutes method and also the French bread from Paul Reinhart's 'artisan bread every day'.  Not quite sure how I'd describe the crumb- it's certainly not quite as I want, but it doesn't strike me as terribly 'wrong', if that makes sense, and it's certainly been fairly open on occasion.  

lumos's picture
lumos

Never used AP flour in US but from my experiences in trying out formulae by American bakers, using AP flour, and improvising it with the flours we can get in UK,  I think their AP flour is stronger than our plain flour.   I've  tried couple of times replacing AP flour in the recipe totally with plain flour, but I always ended up with very soft and wet dough that had not much structure at all and very difficult to handle.  

The plain flours I usually use are either Waitrose's Leckford Estate one or their Organic one, and both of them have very similar or sometimes even higher gluten level than AP flours in US, so I have a feeling flours in US have stronger gluten than ours in UK.  

I usually mix strong : plain to 4 : 1 or 3 : 1 ratio when replacing AP flour.  That way, the dough seems to behave like what the formula with AP flour suggets it would.

 

aakoh's picture
aakoh

I baked the loafs using the high protein flour using Anis Bouabsa's recipe from David. Due to the high humidty (it was 94% in Singapore yesterday), I held back 10% of the water as I had trouble with wet doughs before. The hydration should be at 68% with that adjustment. Dough was very soft after the proofing and I had some difficulty with the scoring which resulted in no grigne and only some oven spring.  The serrated tomato knife I used didn't work as expected. I didn't get the open crumb like thomaschacon did but he was right about the chewiness. It was a bit too chewy. I think I will try again since I made too many mistakes this time round...

Here are some shots:

Aaron

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

That's about what my result was, no more open than that.

Some define open crumb as those gigantic holes you'll sometimes get from a compliant ciabatta, but I'd say holes this size in a baguette that uses high-protein flour is about as good as you're going to get.

(I haven't tried Bouabsa's technique, however; apparently it's supposed to produce thee mythical crumb.)

 

aakoh's picture
aakoh

I did cut back on the water by about 10%. It's really hard to work with otherwise.

Does a higher hydration dough give better crumb?

Aaron

 

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Of the magic people use to conjure big holes in their crumb structure, I'd say that using higher hydration is one of the most consistent (along with stretch-and-fold).

I say tricks because I just don't subscribe to the bigger-holes-are-better philosophy. They aren't bad, but does it make the bread taste any better? Not particularly. It's rather like someone said yesterday re: big holes, which made me laugh, something like, "...because bigger holes mean more air! And we all know more air tastes better than less air!"

I classify "big holes in the crumb" with "sourdough bread is supposed to taste sour!" rallying cry, which is also questionable, if not outright wrong. 

mcs's picture
mcs

I think that crumb looks really nice and the color is also great.  Try, try again and there's no sense in increasing the hydration up before you get used to the dough.  High hydration is just one factor affecting the holes in the crumb - IMO handling, technique, timing and procedure being at least as important.  One thing that you may or not be aware of is that with wetter doughs, you need to make sure they are very thoroughly baked or when they cool, they soften up and become tougher, rather than crispier.  I'm not saying yours is undercooked, but the wetter it is, the more you need to be aware of this.

-Mark

aakoh's picture
aakoh

Hi,

Just an update on the second try with the high gluten flour using Anis Bouabsa's formula.  This time round, I didn't hold back any water so this should be 75% hydration. I received my new baking stone on Fri and used it for this bake. The dough was still wet and I had difficulty scoring the loaf after proofing. This time round, the oven spring was more obvious as I could see the loaf lifting itself off the stone and I got a much rounder bottom than before. If the scoring had been done properly, I guess the spring might have been better. I used a heated pan at the bottom and poured in a cup of water for steam after I loaded the loaves. Crumb wise, I got slightly bigger holes than before.

Question: How do I get the dough to dry up sufficiently that I can fold and seal and get the surface tension? I could not roll the dough as it was so wet.

After proofing, I used a really sharp blade (used in art and craft) and I wet the blade before I performed the scoring but the dough seems so soft and wet and just sticks to the blade. Any advice will be much appreciated :)

Aaron

Some pics below: