The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Making Flour Adjustments

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mcs's picture
mcs

Making Flour Adjustments

One of the hurdles that all bakers will have to deal with at one time or another is adjusting his/her recipe for a new flour.  Sometimes your favorite flour is discontinued, the price skyrockets, you move to a new location, or maybe the recipe that you're using 'couldn't possibly be right' with the amount of flour that is called for.

Over the last 5 years of the bakery, I've had to adjust to 6 different rye flours, as a result of all of the above reasons (and a few more reasons, to boot).  First it was Bob's Red Mill, then it was Montana Milling, then Giusto's, then Arrowhead Mills, then ConAgra Dark, and now Montana Flour and Grain.  Of course when you're selling rye bread commercially, not only do you have to make the product's appearance consistent, you also have to keep your customers happy without creating a drastic change in flavor or texture. 

As you may or may not know, Montana is known for some of the best flour in the world.  Much of it is grown and milled north of here in an area known as 'the golden triangle'.  Having recently moved to the Bozeman area, I decided to try Montana Flour and Grain's organic rye flour, which happens to be reasonably priced at $.50 per pound when bought in a 50 pound bag. 

As you can see, it has a nice speckled color, is medium coarse (my opinion), and has a slightly sweet smell.  Of the previously mentioned flours, I would compare it to both Montana Milling's and Bob's Red Mill.

The first step in switching from one flour to a new one is matching the consistency.  With the ConAgra Dark Rye flour (which is what I was switching from) I kept a 125% hydration starter.  At this hydration, the starter was best described as 'very stiff'.  To give you an idea how stiff, I would use a plastic scraper to remove it from the mixing bowl, as opposed to a rubber spatula, and I could 'lift' the dough out in one 3 kilo glob, when I needed to.

Since the new flour appeared to have a much finer texture right out of the bag, I decided I would do my first sponge (using a portion of the old starter) at 100% hydration, then I would check the consistency as it mixed.  If it was thicker than the previous ConAgra starter, I would add water, if it was thinner, I would add flour, recording the results regardless.

sponge original:
471g rye flour
540g water
45g rye starter

new sponge experiment:
540g rye flour
540g water
45g rye starter

As you can see, I made a 'drier' sponge by adding more rye flour to create the 100% hydration, as opposed to reducing the water.  This was for two reasons:  I wanted to have enough dough for the amount of loaves I needed to make and I felt a slightly stronger rye was better than a slightly weaker rye.

Anyway, the sponge ended up being very close in texture; a little bit 'wetter', although I felt it was within a workable margin. 

For the final dough which I mixed the following day, I decided to reduce the water, the same amount in weight as the rye flour I had added the day before.  This means I reduced the final dough water by 70g, or, keeping all of the other ingredients the same as before, I was left with the same final dough total weight.

As it was mixing, I observed how quickly it 'came together' and how it moved in the bowl.  Pressing my finger into the dough part way through the mix, it felt identical to 'how it should be'.  By the time it was finished mixing, it was identical to ryes I had made in the past.  If it hadn't been, then I would adjust during the mix by adding water or flour, and recording my results in a notebook.

With this adjustment and increase in rye flour and reduction in water, the rye loaf changed from being a 37% rye to a 42% rye.

Below are the results.  The texture and flavor a very close, although the color of the crumb and crust of the bread on the right is lighter.

-Mark

 

 

37% rye made with ConAgra Dark Rye flour (left) and 42% rye made with Montana Flour & Grain Organic Rye

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

when I was there for the internship, I think.  Interesting that you've cycled through so many varieties.

I just bought 50# of Great River's rye flour and am interested to see how that works out.  Considering it's an organic flour, which tend to be pricier, I was happy to get it for about $1/lb.  Free shipping didn't hurt, either.  Better to get some for your price, though.

Paul

mcs's picture
mcs

We were using Montana Milling when you were interning.  To tell you the truth I've been happy with all of the rye flour that I've used, it's just been a matter of my suppliers switching what they carry.  They all have such different flavors, so it's nice to be able to see how they react as a sourdough. 

Well, if you and your better half decide to head up here and you're also low on rye, let me know and I'll order some up for you.  They stock small quantities at the co-op here in Bozeman, but I have to order the 50# bags. 

-Mark

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

But I think that my remaining vacation time for the year is going to be spent on a trip to South Africa in December.  We definitely want to get out your way again, so we need to start planning for next year, it seems.

About the only rye flour I can consistently find in supermarkets around here is Hodgson Mills, which is a rather coarsely ground whole rye.  It's great in things like pumpernickel but I would like to be able to get a medium rye from time to time for things like deli-style rye breads.  And some first clear flour, too.  However, it looks like mail order is about the only way to get either of those.  

Paul

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Hi Mark,

Being a hard core organic fanatic, I am glad to see you leave ConAgra behind.  On the subject of changing flours I have experienced fairly dramatic changes from one crop to another without swtiching brands.  The difference can be quite significant.  Most recently the difference came in the form of high moisture content in the new crop, so much so that I had to make a notable reduction in the water in the formula.  At the same time I received flour from another mill with the exact opposite change, much less moisture.  So in one morning I had an unexpectedly wet dough followed by a surprisingly dry dough.  A reminder to always pay close attention to every detail.

As for rye, I mill it myself as the availablity of good rye never seems to great where ever you go.

I trust that your Summer is going well,

Jeff

 

mcs's picture
mcs

Well, I have to admit that I did enjoy the coarseness, color and flavor of the ConAgra stuff.  Most ryes that I've experimented with, including the latest, tend to be quite gummy when hydrated as opposed to the more coarse or 'mealy' flours.  The handling changes a little bit to adjust for the new texture, and the water temperature also is adjusted slightly to make up for the strength differences.

Anyway, this local and organic flour is very nice and produces a bread with a very strong yet mellow flavor. 

Good hearing from you and I hope your summer is going well also.

-Mark

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks for sharing this with us , Mark. It only goes to show how experienced and talented of a bker you are.

You are super fortunate to be so close to one of the best wheat/rye varieties in the world.

-Khalid

mcs's picture
mcs

Yes, very fortunate to be surrounded by such premium gluten.  Much of the flour is less than one week old when I get it and has made a very short trip to go from the farm to the mill to the bakery.

Happy Baking.

-Mark