The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Robin Hood Flour

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shootingladybug's picture
shootingladybug

Robin Hood Flour

I live in the states but was going to Canada to buy Robin Hood flour to bake my bread with. I have recently moved to the south and I'm trying to find a flour that is comparable here in the states. The problem I have been running into is that my bread is WAY more dense and it looses its flavor as well. Has anyone else had this same problem? Is there a flour in the states that is comparable to Robin Hood flour? 

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

Sure.  But most of them are Northern flours.  However in the south - depending on where in the South you are - you might try White Lily Bread flour.  Also, King Arthur AP flour is about the same as anybody else's bread flour @ 11.7% protein.  King Arthur Bread flour is 12.7% protein.

Also try the Costco or Sam's bread flour - not the AP, where I lived (in the SE US) the AP flour is 9.2% protein and is just not suitable to make bread.  The bread flour available to me from Costco/Sam's was 11.6% protein, roughly equivalent to the KAF AP flour.  It performed fine for breads.

Pillsbury bread flour is my choice in national brand bread flours, with Gold Medal bread flour last.  The reason for that is that GM has a MUCH wider allowable protein content than the Pillsbury, to the point where it is (barely) possible that it could dip down to the point where it wouldn't really be suitable for bread any more.  So it may behave just fine this year, but if next year is a "bad year" and high protein flour gets expensive, they may reduce the protein content in their flour blend.  There is too much POSSIBLE variation for my tastes. 

Also, the Pillsbury is a blend more similar to KAF AP (hard red winter and hard red spring wheats) in the types of wheat used while GM uses a blend that includes the soft wheats as well.

You will be happier with Pillsbury than GM, coming from the Northern varieties used to make Robin Hood.  You WILL need to use bread flour or King Arthur Flour AP flour to make breads.  Avoid any other type of AP flour for bread, especially in the south, where AP flour tends to be lower in protein and softer wheat as it is purposed more for biscuits than bread.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

When I was in MS last summer, I picked up a bag of White Lily bread flour because I had read such good things about their AP in biscuits. I thought it was not at all satisfactory as a bread flour. I've only been baking bread for three years and do fit the raggedy home baker description but I can say that the White Lily bread flour I bought wasn't in the same class as Dakota Maid BF or Gold Medal Better for Bread. I thought it behaved like like an average AP.  If it were available locally, I still wouldn't bother with it.

When buying bread flour at Costco, take a close look at the label. The Costco BF available in the KC area, produced by Conagra, is bleached and bromated as well. If the same flour is sold at your local Costco and these aspects aren't of concern, then you'll get the flour at an inexpensive price. Costco sells different flours in different regions of the country so exercise the old nostrum of "buyer beware" when purchasing flour in their stores.

 

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

Of course it isn't - Dakota Maid is a northern flour that is totally different.  It's not the the WL Bread flour is inappropriate for bread - it's that it is different and requires different treatment.  Dakota Maid BREAD flour is on the order of 13% protein 12.5% or higher, I've forgotten exactly because I don't expect to ever live in an area where I can get it so I haven't bothered to commit the exact figures to paper.  That is significantly higher than the WL bread flour, and is composed of different wheat.  WL Bread flour makes fine bread but it will not of course perform the same as a high protein northern wheat.  It must be handled differently.

The only way you're going to get close to the regional flours of the north with their higher protein content and more reliance on the hard red wheat it milled from is to stick with the high gluten flours.  King Arthur Bread flour might get you close enough, at 12.7% protein; I find that it makes for too chewy a product unless you are making bagels or bialys, for my taste.  YMMV.

As for it "performing like an average AP flour" - given you're familiar with and have used Dakota Maid I'm going to guess that you routinely have access to northern flours and probably live in the north - so you have a familiarity with "AP" flours that end up with a higher protein content than the rest of the country sees in an AP flour (King Arthur excepted, of course).  WL bread flour probably DOES perform similarly to northern regional AP flours, which, like the King Arthur AP flour, range at around the 11.5% protein mark, sometimes even as high as 12%.

For the rest of the country, that's bread flour.

I haven't seen any bromated flour from Costco for at least 4 years.  However Costco flours differ regionally, you can call or e-mail Costco to get the protein levels for the breads being distributed in your area, and also to find out if they are bromating in the mills in your area that distribute to Costco/Sam's.  I was told 3 or 4 years ago (last time I called Conagra) that they were not distributing bromated flours through Costco or Sam's any more any where in the country but perhaps that was in error, and was only true for his region (most of the SE US) - you can always check your local sources.  Frankly bromated or not is of no concern to me; the bromate is broken down at baking temperatures anyway.  I'm not at all alarmed, but the OP of course will have to decide that for themselves.

If you're afraid of bromated flour, you'd best cut all commercial baked goods out of your diet, because most bulk flour packaged for professional bakers and commercial bakers is still bromated.  It's just the stuff packaged for consumers like us that is largely not bromated any more.  At least that was the case last time I checked, admittedly a couple of years ago.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

U.S. WHEAT FLOUR TYPES AND BEST USES:
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Wheat Flour Protein:

-Protein levels range from about 7% in pastry and cake flours to as high as about 15% in high-gluten bread flour.

-Protein percentage indicates the amount of gluten available in the a given flour. Gluten is the substance which develops when the flour protein, which occurs naturally in wheat flour, is combined with liquid and kneaded.

-Because gluten is able to stretch elastically, it is desirable to have a higher gluten flour for yeast-raised products, which have doughs that are stretched extensively; like pizza, most yeast breads, and bagels.

-For cakes, pie crusts, cookies, biscuits, pancakes, waffles and pastry to be short and crumbly or tender, a lower protein flour is better. Also, in higher gluten flours, the gluten can overpower the chemical leaveners like baking powder or baking soda, causing the final baked goods to not rise as high.

-Hard winter wheat, mainly grown in the north, has a higher protein and more gluten, 10% to 13%.
Most northern and national brand all-purpose flours, bread flour and high-gluten flour is made from hard winter wheat.

-Soft summer wheat, mainly grown in the south, has a lower protein and lower gluten, 8% to 10%
Most cake, pastry and southern all-purpose flour is made from soft summer wheat.

Bleaching flour does a couple of things, it whitens the flour and it also alters the flour protein causing it to form weaker gluten.
Most cake flours are bleached.
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FLOUR PROTEIN BY TYPES AND BRANDS (retail flour):
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CAKE FLOUR - 7% to 9.4% protein
Best Use: cakes, blending with national brands all-purpose flour to make pastry flour or Southern flour substitute.
-King Arthur Queen Guinevere Cake Flour, 7.0%
-King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend, 9.4%
-Pillsbury Softasilk Bleached Cake Flour, 6.9%
-Presto Self Rising Cake Flour, 7.4%
-Swans Down Bleached Cake Flour, 7.1%
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PASTRY FLOUR - 8 to 9% protein
Best Use: biscuits, cookies, pastries, pancakes, pie crusts, waffles.
-King Arthur Unbleached Pastry Flour, 8%
-King Arthur Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, 9%
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ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, SOUTHERN - 8 to 9% protein
Best Use: biscuits, cookies, muffins, pancakes, pie crusts, quick breads, waffles.
-Martha White Bleached All-Purpose Flour, 9%
-White Lily Bleached All-Purpose Flour, 8 to 9%
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SELF-RISING FLOUR (flour, baking powder, salt) - 8 to 10.5% protein
Best Use: biscuits, cookies, pancakes, muffins, quick breads, waffles.
-Gold Medal Bleached Self-Rising Flour, 10.5%
-King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour, 8.5%
-Martha White Bleached Self-Rising Flour, 9.4%
-Pillsbury Best Bleached Self-Rising Flour, 9.7%
-Presto Self Rising Cake Flour, 7.4%
-White Lily Bleached Self-Rising Flour, 8 to 9%
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ALL PURPOSE BAKING MIXES (flour, shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt) - 6.25 to 12.5% protein
Best Use: biscuits, cookies, coffee cakes, pancakes, quick breads, pastry, waffles
-Arrowhead Mills All Purpose Baking Mix, 12.5%
-Bisquick Original Baking Mix, 7.5%
-Jiffy All Purpose Baking Mix, 6.25%
-King Arthur Flour All Purpose Baking Mix, 10%
-Pioneer Original Baking Mix, 7.5%
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INSTANT FLOUR 10.5 to 12.6% protein
Best Use: thicken gravies, sauces, and soups without lumps.
-Gold Medal Wondra Quick Mixing Flour, 10.5%
-Pillsbury Best Shake & Blend Flour, 12.6%
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ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, BLEACHED & UNBLEACHED, NATIONAL BRANDS - 10 to 11.5% protein
Best Use: makes average biscuits, cookies, muffins, pancakes, pie crusts, pizza crusts, quick breads, waffles, yeast breads.
-Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour, 10.5%
-Pillsbury Best All-Purpose Flour, 10 to 11.5%
-Pioneer All-Purpose Flour, 10%
-White Wings All-Purpose Flour, 10%
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ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, NORTHERN, BLEACHED & UNBLEACHED - 11.5 to 12% protein
Best Use: cream puffs, puff pastry, yeast breads, pizza crusts.
-Heckers and Ceresota All-Purpose Flour, 11.5 to 11.9 %
-King Arthur All-Purpose Flour, 11.7%
-Robin Hood All-Purpose Flour, 12.0%
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BREAD FLOUR - 12 to 13.3% protein
Best Use: traditional yeast breads, bread machine, pizza crusts, pasta.
-Gold Medal Better For Bread, 12%
-King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour, 12.7%
-Pillsbury Best Bread Flour, 12.9%
-White Lily Unbleached Bread Flour, 11.7%
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DURUM WHEAT (Semolina) 13 to 13.5% protein
Best Use: Pasta.
-Hodgson Mill Golden Semolina & Extra Fancy Durum Pasta Flour, 13.3%
-King Arthur Extra Fancy Durum Flour, 13.3%
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WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR - 12.9 to 14% protein
Best Use: hearth breads, blending with other flours.
-Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flour, 13.3%
-King Arthur 100% Whole Wheat Flour, 14%
-King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour, 14%
-Pillsbury Best Whole Wheat Flour, 12.9%
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HIGH-GLUTEN FLOUR 14 to 15% protein
Best Use: bagels, pizza crusts, blending with other flours.
-King Arthur Organic Hi-Gluten Flour, 14%
-King Arthur Sir Lancelot Unbleached Hi-Gluten Flour, 14.2%
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VITAL WHEAT GLUTEN FLOUR, Breadmaking Supplement - 65 to 77% protein
Best Use: Added to raise gluten. Adds extra gluten to low-gluten whole grain flours, such as rye, oat, teff, spelt, or buckwheat.
-Arrowhead Mills Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, 65.0%
-Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, 75.0%
-Gillco Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, 75.0%
-Hodgson Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, 66.6%
-King Arthur Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, 77.8%
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Retail Flour Companies - Brands:
-Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, Milwaukie, Oregon -Bob's Red Mill
-C.H. Guenther & Son Inc, San Antonio, Texas - Pioneer Flour, Pioneer Baking Mix, White Wings Flour
-General Mills Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota - Bisquick, Gold Medal Flour, (sold US Pillsbury Flour , retains Pillsbury frozen goods)
-Hain Celestial Group Inc, Boulder, Colorado - Arrowhead Mills
-J.M. Smucker Company, Orrville, Ohio - Martha White Flour, Pillsbury Flour, Robin Hood Flour, White Lily Flour
-King Arthur Flour Company, Norwich, Vermont - King Arthur Flour
-Reily Foods Company, New Orleans, Louisiana - Swan's Down Cake Flour, Presto Self Rising Cake Flour
-Uhlmann Company, Kansas City, Missouri - Heckers Flour, Ceresota Flour
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To make self-rising flour, add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp table salt to each cup of flour.
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To make a lower protein flour (similar to White Lily or Pastry flour), mix half cake flour with half all-purpose flour.
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Another substitute for soft Southern flour, not quite as tender, for each cup of regular all-purpose flour, replace 2 Tablespoons of flour with cornstarch, mix well. (1 cup lightened all-purpose flour = 14 Tbsp flour and 2 Tbsp cornstarch.)
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Version 7-6-2013

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

OK, if we're going to get technical about it, LOL!

Most AP flour in grocery stores is around 10.5%, sometimes as low as 9%. Gold Medal AP flour ranges from 9.8% to 12% according to information I've been able to glean from them so far, but you can't count on it being in that upper range. Pillsbury claims their AP flour is 10.5% protein but I've not been able to get them to tell me what their tolerance is - what the range of protein level is.

King Arthur flour at 11.7% is about the same as anybody else's bread flour already, and it is milled to be within 0.02% of that protein range, so when you buy KA AP you can be sure it is NO LESS than 11.68% protein.

The protein level is important because in flour, about 80% of the protein comes from glutenin and gliadin, which combine when making dough to form the gluten networks that give form and structure to bread. So while protein content doesn't EXACTLY conform to eventual gluten development, it's a strong indicator of how good your bread is going to be.

If you try to make bread with a flour that is very low protein, it won't absorb enough water (higher protein breads absorb water better than lower proteins). When I tried to make bread from a local AP flour (by accident!) I kept ending up with a soupy mess. Adding flour didn't help - then I ended up with dense loaves that wouldn't rise properly. It turns out in my area the AP flour I was buying was only 9.2% protein!

For this reason, when making bread from recipes, you should either use King Arthur's AP flour, or buy bread flour of another brand. The bread flour I got from Costco when I was living in the SE USA is 11.6% protein, but this varies depending on what area you live in.  Since you are living in the South, bread flour available at your local Costco or Sam's club will likely be in that area of 11.6%; in the North, it tends to be higher, around 12% and up.

Some commonly available flours:

Gold Medal
Pillsbury
King Arthur

Regionally available to you (probably, depending on where in the South you are) is White Lily - their AP flour is a finer grind, more finely sifted, and I often used it as a substitute for cake flour.  Their Bread flour is the same protein range as the King Arthur Flour AP, 11.7%; they have matured it using ascorbic acid (vitamin C).  Despite it's southern packaging it is fine for bread.

Bleached All Purpose

  • Gold Medal 9.8% to 12%; Blend hard/soft spring/winter
  • Pillsbury 10.5%, range unknown; soft red winter
  • White Lily 8%, range unknown; soft red winter

Unbleached AP

  • Gold Medal 9.8% to 12%; Blend hard/soft spring/winter
  • Pillsbury 10.5%, range unknown; soft red winter
  • King Arthur 11.7% plus/minus 0.02%; hard red winter

Bread

  • Gold Medal 11.7% to 12.3%; CORRECTED - unbleached; blend of hard and soft winter wheats
  • Pillsbury 12%, range unknown; don't know if it's bleached; hard red spring
  • King Arthur 12.7% plus/minus 0.02%; unbleached; hard red spring
  • White Lily 11.7% (unsure of the tolerance); unbleached


In general:

Flour milled from one kind of wheat will be more consistent and reliable from one bag to the next.

Hard wheat is higher protein than soft wheat

Spring wheat is higher protein than winter wheat

So the lowest protein content is likely to be a soft winter wheat while the highest protein content is likely to come from a hard spring wheat.

However, remember how gluten formation is dependent on TWO kinds of proteins, glutenin and gliadin? These two proteins have different characteristics when forming gluten.

Glutenin contributes most to elasticity (how well the dough recovers from being stretched)

Gliadin contributes to extensibility (how well it stretches without breaking the gluten chains)

Hard red winter wheats tend to have a higher proportion of the gliadin to glutenin, making for a more extensible (higher rising) loaf. Thus, in many circumstances, a hard red winter wheat may be the flour of choice rather than the higher protein hard red spring wheat, depending on what you are baking. This matters more for a sandwich loaf, less for bagels.

A lighter loaf will be easier to make from a flour milled from hard red winter wheat.

A chewier product (like a bagel or a pretzel) will be easier to make from a flour milled from hard red spring wheat.

You CAN use either type but results may be slightly different.

The least consistent flours are milled from blends of multiple types of wheat; although I haven't (yet) been able to get the info from Pillsbury regarding the actual range of protein content, each of their flours is milled from only one type of wheat, making them much more consistent than the Gold Medal flours of the same type which are milled from FOUR different types of wheat, and this has been reported by people who have used both flours.

Gold Medal in particular has such a wide range of possible protein content for their AP flours that you can never be sure what you'll end up with. It's likely that this is a regional variation so as long as you stay within the same region the variation is probably less, but if you go from, say, Chicago, to Murfreesboro TN, you're probably going from the high end of that range to the lower end and it will make a big difference in your end product even with the same recipe. They USED to report their range as being 9.8% to 11% which is at least roughly 10.5% on average, but apparently they've reduced their quality control in this area sometime in the last 10 years or so (since the last time I had data on this).

If you want a chewier texture (bagels, pizza crust, pretzels, etc), KA Bread flour or a mixture of KA AP (or a national bread flour, including the Conagra bread flour stocked at Sam's and Costco) and KA Bread flour would be appropriate.

As it stands, MY LAST choice for an AP flour for any purpose would be the Gold Medal. The variation is just too wide and they have not been forthcoming about why that is. It may be a regional thing, but it may also be that they simply do not enforce much in the way of quality control at their mills and any bag you buy from the same store in the same city could swing from a low of 9.8% to a high of 12%. ALL their flours, including the bread flour, are blends, which makes reliability and consistency an even bigger problem.

This matters less for the Gold Medal bread flour, and you may, in fact, get pretty good results from their blended bread flour. The mix of hard red winter and hard spring wheat has the potential to give you a good compromise between chew and loft. But their AP flours are DEAD to me, DEAD, I say! LOL!

The bleached vs unbleached debate is one that constantly comes up and can never really be settled. Some people will insist it matters and others that, by itself, it really doesn't matter much. I'm in the latter camp. The problem with nearly every "test" of bleached vs unbleached flour that I've seen is that they're comparing apples to oranges. The bleached flours used are nearly always some blend of wheat being compared to an unbleached flour milled from a single type of wheat, like the King Arthur or the Pillsbury. There will definitely be a difference in such cases, but it's due to the difference in the quality and type of flour being used and not whether or not it was bleached. Studies have shown no difference in performance between bleached and unbleached flours when the flours were milled from the same kind of wheat.

Some people say they can TASTE a difference, but I never have been able to. Again, there will be an actual flavor difference due to the different types of wheat used; I don't know of any "taste tests" that control for that factor, either. You should go with what tastes good to you and what you feel like baking with; there's absolutely no reason to feel compelled to bake with an unbleached flour. The only exception to this is if the flour has been treated with chlorine; but few AP flours, and NO bread flours, are treated with chlorine these days.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Gold Medal "Bread" (or Better for Bread, as it's marketed) is unbleached. Has been for at least the past 7 years or so.

Here's a thread from 2008, with pictures of the packaging. They have recently changed the packaging again though:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7555/gold-medal-bread-flour#comment-38879

Maybe you are confusing it with their retail AP flour, which has bleached and unbleached versions, or maybe some product sold in more nontraditional, or non-retail channels(institutional, buying clubs, etc).

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

I called the company and spoke to one of their technical people (I don't know if they are chemists or something else).  He told me they bleach the bread flour using peroxidation.  Perhaps he meant the AP flour; I don't know, I go by what the tech people tell me.  I actually contacted technical people at each mill to gather this information and I have to assume they are telling me the truth as they know it.

I will try to double check - I still have the contact info and the original tables on my old computer.  The packages do say unbleached so ... apparently it is in fact unbleached.  I've made the correction here, I'll have to get at my original files to see if that needs to be corrected as well.

Thanks for the heads up.

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

BTW, the OP will be hard pressed to find Dakota Maid at all living in the South.  Robin Hood AP flour is, as I recall, around 12%; her best bet is to stick to the bread flours EDIT: including the King Arthur AP, which is for all intents and purposes bread flour, where she was using the Robin Hood AP before, and if she was using a Robin Hood bread flour, either King Arthur bread flour or some mixture of the common bread flours (Conagra, Pillsbury, GM) and a high gluten formula will most likely be her best bet.  Or his, I guess I don't know that for sure, LOL!

Without knowing EXACTLY which flour the OP is trying to replace we probably can't get any closer than that.  But Dakota Maid is going to be unobtainium, as is the Robin Hood.