The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Is Canadian Flour Better Than American?

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Ozzie's picture
Ozzie

Is Canadian Flour Better Than American?

Hi,

I just moved to Montreal from the States.  I've been baking bread regularly since 2007 and so I consider myself very familiar with the texture of dough for various bread types.  I use my hands for mixing and kneading the bread.  What I've noticed with the Canadian All Purpose Unbleached Flour is that it comes together very fast and with little amount of water.  The gluten develops beautifully and the resulting bread is superb.  It has a huge rise with the crust being crunchy and a crumb that is perfectly chewey.  I'm just baffled, is this everyone elses experience?  Years of baking in the States and I never ever had the same results even though I was using anything from King Arthur to organic bread flour to AP Unbleached.   Here in Montreal, I only use the Robin Hood Unbleached AP flour and I get superior results.  At first, I thought it might be due to the environment and the type of yeast that grows here but I tried some 00 Italian pizza flour to see if I get the same results and what do you know!  The 00 pizza flour didn't produce the same high rising and crunchy crust that I get from regular Unbleached AP flour.  I'm just curious, is the Canadian flour superior to American one?

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I just looked and the Robin Hood AP flour and King Arthur AP flour both have the same amount of protein, so it's not that.  That said, I have noticed differences from brand to brand as well, even with the nutrition label otherwise looks identical.  I've always assumed it's the particular type of wheat that was used to make the flour ...like maybe there's a difference in enzymes or something that doesn't normally show up on the nutrition label.  In general, Canada leans towards harder wheats I believe and it could be that their softer wheats are a different (average blend?) breed of wheat than ours as well.  This company: Pendleton Flour Mills sells flour that (IMHO) performs more like what you are describing and they are from northeast Oregon ...climate very similar to Canada's, and I'm going to guess that most of their wheat is grown around the Pendleton area as well.  I'll quit rambling ...but yes, I think you're on to something here!  Maybe one of the bio-chemist-scientist types around here will chime in?

 

Brian

 

 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I just bought my autumnal 50lb bag of Pendleton Flour Mills Morbread flour at Cash & Carry and agree with Brian that it performs beautifully, far better than other flours I find at the grocery store including the premium brands.

I'm excited to hear that you've had similar experiences with Robin Hood.  I'm hoping to get the chance to bake with Canadian flours more in the not-too-distant future. :)

-Floyd

scottsourdough's picture
scottsourdough

Remember, same amount of protein doesn't mean same amount of gluten. If the wheat is higher quality it may have better protein quality, and more gluten in a given amount of total protein.

jaywillie's picture
jaywillie

Pendleton Mills has an Oregon address, but their corporate headquarters are in Tennesee! That makes me wonder if they blend flours from wheat grown all over the country. It's so hard to get that sort of info without direct contact with someone in the company. I've never used the Morbread flour that Floyd speaks so highly of, but if he can get it at Cash and Carry, so can I, so I'm going to try it.

For those in the Portland, Ore., area, I have a find for you. At the Alberta Co-op, they sell Shepherd's Grain high-gluten flour (13% protein, per an email from Shepherd's Grain) in the bulk section -- for 59 cents per pound! A great bargain, as far as I'm concerned, especially considering it's organic and from sustainable farms. Shepherd's Grain (www.shepherdsgrain.com) is a growers cooperative from the Paloose in Eastern Washington. I've been using it for a few months now, and have no complaints. I need to make a loaf with only that flour to really test the flavor. To this point I've only used it in conjunction with whole grain flours, so it's hard to tell what flavor it's bringing to the loaf. I got it particularly for bagels and haven't done them yet! (Alberta Coop also has Oregon-grown and -milled whole wheat flour. In the past they have also had Oregon rye, but they didn't have it the last time I went.)

Jonathan

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I've never called Pendleton Flour Mills to find out where the wheat comes from, but I'm not purest enough to care as long as it works and tastes well!  I buy it at the local restaurant supply company for $22/50lb ($0.44 per lb).  Especially for Alaska, that's a real bargain ...but you just have to be willing to buy in 50 lb increments.  The only other restriction is that the restaurant supply company here only carries Morbread and Power Flour (high-gluten flour for pizza, bagels, or as a gluten-booster for other breads).  We buy both.  I didn't know about Shepherd's Grain ...sounds like a good outfit.

 

Brian

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I live in Montreal and buy 'no name' unbleached a-p flour all the time.  I know people here who, when they go to the States for holidays, bring RH or other Canadian flour with them, as the American flour just doesn't measure up.  The standards for flour in Canada are higher than than they are for American flour.

Ozzie's picture
Ozzie

Thank you all for validating my assumption.  I also suspected that it's the genetic makeup of the wheat.  It's so light and fluffy that it doesn't take much water to bring it together and form a ball.  When I first arrived here, I used to spend so much money on bread flour sold by specialty bakeries such as Le Premiere Moisson until I discovered the Robin Hood flour by accident and noticed that I'd get the same results.  I don't think it's because of the wheat being of the "hard" variety because I've baked with Semolina, which is a hard wheat and the dough with RH is nowhere near that density and hardness.  Could it be that it just has more gluten? 

ejm's picture
ejm

I used to think that Canadian flour was different from US flour but since almost all the major flour companies have been purchased by Smucker foods, I'm thinking that now, there may be very little difference. Robin Hood and Five Roses are no longer separate companies; they are both owned and operated by Smucker. If you phone the customer service line, you will  undoubtedly talk to a very nice person who is in an office in one of the midwestern states. This person will commiserate that rye flour is no longer available and that the high-gluten bread flour is NOT unbleached any more. But, alas, there will be nothing more than commiseration.

Correct me if I'm wrong. I'd LOVE to be wrong.

-Elizabeth, in Toronto

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

The two companies are owned by Smuckers, as are so many of our Canadian companies now, double sigh, but the flour produced by those companies IN CANADA still has to meet Canadian standards, as does all flour produced here.  I found that the last couple of times I bought RH flour on sale, that's the all-purpose bleached, it was lumpy and had to be sifted before using, so I've gone back to buying the 'no name' brand, or Weston, if I can ever get it.  Loblaw's used to carry Weston flour in 5 kg bags and it was cheaper than the big brand names.

ejm's picture
ejm

Note that both Weston and No-Name 'unbleached' contain Azodicarbonamide, which is (as far as I can tell from reading) an oxidizing (aka: bleaching) agent that is added to flour to improve it. I'm not entirely convinced that either Weston or No-Name 'unbleached' are actually unbleached at all, or even if they are really different from the bleached flour. Take a look at the ingredients lists on the flours....

Lately, I've been buying Selection unbleached flour. It contains alpha amylase as an improver. As far as I can tell, even though alpha amylase is not a bleaching agent.

Ingredients Lists
Selection (Metro) “unbleached” all-purposewhite flour (contains wheat) niacin, iron, ascorbic acid, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, alpha amylase, folic acid, contains wheat gluten
No Name
“unbleached” all-purpose
wheat flour, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, amylase, L-cysteine hydrochloride, vitamins and minerals (niacin, reduced iron, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)

 

If I lived on the west coast, I'd buy Rogers Flour (www.rogersfoods.com) - it has no additives. Alas, it is not sold in Ontario.

-Elizabeth

(Some people have suggested that I purchase flour from King Arthur. This makes zero sense to me, to be forced to import flour into a country that grows so much wheat)

suave's picture
suave

I too heard many nice things about Canadian flours, so when one of the local stores started selling all-purpose Five Roses I was quite excited.  The flour was absolute junk though, it was extremely weak, gave slack dough and was nowhere near as good as store brand AP flour I usually use.  Good thing I only bought one bag.

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

I mainly use unbleached bread flour and since Robin Hoods bread flour is bleached I had to look elsewhere. I get most of my flours from Bulk Barn, but if I'm near Clarington I stock up at Tyrone Mill, they sell their own milled flour and are famous for their apple cider donuts!

newenglanders2's picture
newenglanders2

I too used to live in Canada (NB) and baked bread for years using Robin Hood Flour.  I made beautiful bread, never failed.  Then the last few years while living in the U.S., I have had very inconsistent bread results.  I use King Arther, a top rated flour.

I called the hot line today to get some input and mention my thoughts on this. (They really didn't know what the difference was.)

So here's what I think:  my bread recipes are all Canadian, and require 3 rise times.  They call for 2 initial rises, plus the 3rd in the bread pan. I did this for about 10 or 15 years without fail before I moved to the U.S.  Now, my bread is sour smelling or yeasty sometimes, or the rises just take way too long. (explains smell).

I also just realized that I used a bread maker for several years after moving here, until the last couple, when it died.  I had used the bread machine recipe, in the bread machine, and then later, just used the machine to mix and raise the dough (which would be 1 rise cycle). I then put the dough in the bread pans for the final rise and baked it (much better this way and you get 2 loaves!).  It always turned out fine, and used 2 rise cycles total.

This explains why my bread is now inconsistent, because I'm back to using my Canadian recipes and making it all by hand (these are 5 and 6 loaf recipes).  I'm getting very inconsistent results. (I must admit I now watch my water temp a lot more closely too - btw, I use Red Star yeast)

So, I can either go back to buying my flour in Canada on my trips home (I am going to talk to my mother about the flour too, she still lives in Canada), or try my recipe with only 2 rise times total, which I am trying today (or thirdly, try an American recipe, with the 2 rise times).  I guess the higher protein/gluten/type of wheat grown in Canada has something to do with it.  That's my best guess, anyway.  Glad to know I'm not the only one who noticed this! :0)

PS: Did your recipes call for 3 rise times too?

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

Keep in mind, too, that old flour performs poorly (due to its exposure to the air).  Most bags will be stamped with a Julian calendar number indicating the date that the flour was milled.  The Julian calendar counts days, without the months.  For example, if the flour was milled on January 15, 2011 (Gregorian calendar), the code on the flour bag would be 1015 (the first digit is the year followed by day number 15).  If the flour was milled on February 6, 2011, the code on the bag of flour would be 1037.  This time of year, you would want to see that number rather high.  This may have something to do with the poor performing flour some of you have purchased (it is often reduced to sell quickly to unsuspecting bakers).
I also recently sat in on a class with Master Baker James MacGuire (friend of Jeffrey Hammelman, and mentioned in his book) and he told us that Canadian all purpose flour is the same as American bread flour, that it was unnecessary to use strong bakers flour in Canada to make good bread.  

He also told us that wheat kernals need to be soaked in water before they can be ground into flour.  Ideally, he said, wheat should be soaked for 35 days.  Very few mills soak their wheat for longer than 12-15 days (he noted that a miller at the Parrish & Heimbecker Mills - formerly New Life Mills - in Montreal gets away with soaking his for 24 days).  The shorter the soaking time, the poorer the quality of the milling and therefore the flour.

Happy baking!

newenglanders2's picture
newenglanders2

seems this doesn't let you cancel a comment...deleted by author.

Ozzie's picture
Ozzie

It's not the recipe, it's the flour!  Back in the States, I also used King Arthur and other "artisan" flour but never I made such fine bread until I came to Canada.  Here in Montreal, I also tried Italian Pizza flour but the results were similar to what I used to get back in the States.  I also noticed that the Italian Pizza flour was as hard as the American flour and required way more water than the Robin Hood flour. 

As for the yeast, I use SAF yeast that I purchased 6 years ago from Williams-Sanoma!  I've been keeping it in the freezer all along and it's still quite strong and active.  I first bought this yeast when I started my bread baking adventure but as I got good at it, I started using my own starter and that's why the yeast has lasted this long.  When I got to Montreal, I started using it instead of my own starter because I don't want to commit to weekly bread making schedule.  I use only 1/4 teaspoon for 6 to 7 cups of flour and let it rise over night for maybe 9 or 10 hours.  Then I put the risen dough "undisturbed" (no punching or kneeding) in the fridge for another 7 or 8 hours before I pull it out to bake.  When I'm ready to bake, I form the dough and wait for another 30 to 45 minutes for another rise.  So technically, my bread only goes through 2 rises.

I don't know if the flour date would make any difference because I've bought the Robin Hood flour from many different sources and it's always given the same results. 

I'm heading back to the States tomorrow to take care of my dad for a few months and I'll be sure to schlep a bag of Robin Hood flour with me just to validate my hypothesis!  Who knows, it could be the Montreal environment that produces such fine bread!

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I don't personally buy Robin Hood because it's too expensive, but I'll vouch for Canadian flour any day.

Ozzie's picture
Ozzie

Robin Hood too expensive?  I buy a 5lb bag (ok in Canadian terms, a 2.5kg bag) for $4.99 at Segal on St-Laurent, which is way cheaper than what I used to pay for bread flour at the bulk food groceries in the States. 

newenglanders2's picture
newenglanders2

Wow.  That must be some expensive bulk food store.  I just bought King Arthur Bread Flour yesterday at my small (most expensive in area) local grocery store (here in CT) - a 5 lb bag for 4.99.  That's the bread flour.  The all purpose is slightly cheaper.  I thought that was expensive!

I do miss buying bigger bags of flour in Canada, though.  Here in CT, the only place I can buy a 25 lb. bag of flour is at Costco - and only one brand.  Seems people don't bake as much here? Probably regional...

sophiejean's picture
sophiejean

I've also heard some bakers say that Canadian flour is superior.  I've always used Dakota Maid flour milled in North Dakota from hard red spring wheat grown in ND.  Has anyone tried both flours?  I know I'd use Dakota Maid every time over King Arthur - and I've used both.  But maybe the Dakota Maid is just fresher, being a small, regional miller?

SKPrairieGirl's picture
SKPrairieGirl

We just bought a new breadmaker (with instructions we now know are for American breadmakers) and had total failure (we wondered why we have never had to purchase gluten or ascoribic acid before).  Now that we have visited the site linked to below we found out why we never had to.....Canadian flour doesn't need any additions re " A Canadian housewife would have to be pretty bored with her lot in life to experiment with cake or bread Flour." :)

"Canadian Flour

Canadian Flour is the first and still the greatest Canadian success story. Canadian wheat makes the finest Flour in the world, bar none. Despite everything that is said about bread vs cake vs pastry Flour, somehow magically Canadian all-purpose Flour basically handles all those tasks effortlessly. A Canadian housewife would have to be pretty bored with her lot in life to experiment with cake or bread Flour -- if you say Flour in Canada, it means all-purpose, end of story. Here apparently is the breakdown of Canadian all-purpose Flour: 73.0% carbohydrates; 13.0% protein; 14.0% moisture (including 1.0% fats.) The cake and pastry Flour reasoning would say that the protein content is too high, so there must be some other factor involves which makes it truly "all-purpose." The better Flours on British grocery shelves proudly advertise that they are made from Canadian wheat. "Buy French" movements in France have been trying to persuade French bread makers to switch from Canadian to French Flour, but the bakers haven't budged."


(Copyright 2012 CooksInfo.com. All rights reserved and enforced.) Read more of this snippet here : http://www.cooksinfo.com/flour#ixzz1kA59yg2H

 

AlanTheBreadGuy's picture
AlanTheBreadGuy

Wow!  What century was that written in?  "A Canadian housewife would have to be pretty bored with her lot in life to experiment with cake or bread Flour..."  Wrong for so many reasons.

SKPrairieGirl's picture
SKPrairieGirl

I believe it means adding items like gluten or ascoribic acid to the all purpose flour that is sold here.

 

of course it could have stated "a Canadian home baker* rather than narrowing it to a particular sex (politically correct flavour of the day and all).

Ozzie's picture
Ozzie

As I mentioned back in my last post, I was heading to California to take care of my dad and I was determined to take some all purpose Robin Hood flour with me to see if the "environment" made a difference.

Well, I'm happy to report that it WASN'T the environment and I am still getting puffy, light, and fabulous bread with the Robin Hood flour here in Cali.  I use it to make Pizzeta in a 10" cast iron pan and my Pizzeta exhibits the exact same characteristics that I noticed in Montreal: crunchy and crispy on the outside with a soft and well risen crumb on the inside.  Using the American flour, I could never get my pizzeta to stay crispy past the 1st 5 minutes after you pull it off the pan.  By the time it was cool enough to bite into, it had lost its crispyness on the crust.

This never happens when I use the all-purpose Robin Hood flour.  Alas, I'm happy to report the result of my "scientific" experiment!  It's not the environment, it's the flour itself.  Incidentally, I used the exact same batch of SAF yeast that I usually use in Montreal.

 

alec984's picture
alec984

Hello there! 

I wanna give you some tips about which kind of flour use for cooking when you want bake pizza, bread, and some other special kind of pastry (e.g. brioches, panbrioche) but fist of all i wanna apoligize with all for my english... i'm still learnig it!

Canadian flour, also knows as "Manitoba flour" is the strongest kind of flour that is possible to find: strong means that it contains a more proteins that the all porpouse one and last but not least absorbs more water (up to the 85-90%) respect to the regular type. That means the Manitoba flour is used for food where long time to rise are required.

Hereafter a sample of Canadian flour sell in my country:

http://www.google.it/imgres?um=1&hl=it&biw=1600&bih=775&tbm=isch&tbnid=xUoNaRJIviFlSM:&imgrefurl=http://www.spaziotorte.com/ecommerce-id-417.html&docid=0JWSffBg4zBQuM&imgurl=http://spaziotorte.com/file/alfredo/Z_ecommerce_farina%2525201%252520manitoba.JPG&w=513&h=770&ei=LNfuT4rCDbDR4QTjsJXQDQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=769&vpy=370&dur=196&hovh=275&hovw=183&tx=74&ty=297&sig=111533736233329229402&page=1&tbnh=141&tbnw=94&start=0&ndsp=34&ved=1t:429,r:29,s:0,i:159

Thus is suitable (i mean RECOMMENDED) for pizza and panbrioches: the crisp will be more crunchy an lighter to digest because less yeast is used than to the traditional recipes that use general porpouse flour. I want to give my recipe for pizza:

1Kg of flour (800gr of Canadian flour and 200gr of general flour)

600gr of water (tepid water)

12-15 gr of fresh yeast 

half teaspoon of sugar 

3-4 tablespoon of extravirgin olive oil or olive oil

Salt?? as less as possible (generally a pinch) to add after mixing

This recipe requires at least 4 hours for to grow up. Longer time of lievitation are possible (no longer tha 24hour) but it's necessar to keep the fresh crisp covered in a bin and storede in the fridge.

PS This recipe is used for making the real Italian pizza: is a professional recipe used in the "Pizzeria" .

 

I_love2nurse's picture
I_love2nurse

I know that this subject was discussed a few years ago but I would like to put my 2 cents in: I have been living in the US for the past 3 years as have many other Canadian military wives before me. We all use Robin Hood flour. There is always someone driving back to Ontario from Virginia and we all bring back Robin Hood flour with us back to the the US. I gave my American friend 3 cups of Robin Hood flour and she loved it. Not sure why it's best, but everyone says that it gives better results to pie dough, bread, muffins, pizza dough etc. I'm going back to Canada for a visit this June. Anyone want some good Canadian flour. P.S. I live in Norfolk, VA! Happy baking!

papasmurf2525's picture
papasmurf2525

Hi there.  I am new to this forum.   I have to agree that Canadian flour tends to be better the US flour because of the use of Durum wheat.   Robin Hood flour is good, but I have found that the No Name flour to be just as good or better.

The biggest difference you will find when using most any kind of flour is age.  If you can buy your flour, and store it in a cool, dry spot for 6 - 8 months, (up to a year), the flour will be better to work with.

You can go to some Hutterite colonies and actually purchased fresh ground flour.  What a difference.

On a side note, I have work as a cook in bush camps in Northern Canada, and as a flour extender, I have had to use Cattail pollen.  Baking bread with this sucks, but it is okay for stuff like pancakes

tekwarp's picture
tekwarp

I know I am probably two years too late in posting an answer, but it wasn't until recently that I started baking bread.

From what I have read, the input here is mostly about whether Canadian flour is better or not than American and quality standards.

Although quality standards are different, the answer is much simpler.

Most Canadian flour comes form what is called "Winter wheat". Winter wheat is a type of wheat planted from September to December and it sprouts right before freezing occurs and then it becomes dormant (hibernates if you will) until the soil warms in the spring. It is ready to be harvested by early July.

American flour for for the most part comes from "Spring wheat" planted in April to May. It makes a continuous growth and is harvested in August to early September.

Hard or winter wheat has a higher gluten protein content than other wheat. They are used to make flour for yeast breads, or are blended with soft spring wheat to make the all-purpose flour used in a wide variety of baked products. Soft wheat is used for specialty or cake flour. Durum, the hardest wheat, is primarily used for making pasta. Almost all durum wheat grown in North America is spring-planted.

Conclusion:

Canadian flour = Winter wheat = high gluten content = high protein. Since gluten is a combination of the natural proteins found in wheat, and to much a lesser extent, in rye and barley, gluten molecules are activated when flour is moistened and then either kneaded or mixed. When this happens, the "glutens" literally stretch out. Then, the gases produced by yeast or another leavening agent inflate these gluten molecules like little balloons, which is what permits dough to rise. Finally, when the dough is baked, the gluten hardens, giving the bread its structure.This translates into a much fluffier and lighter bread.

Hope this helps.