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Measuring Canadian flour in American recipes

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ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Measuring Canadian flour in American recipes

Any advice for a novice when using American recipes with Canadian flour?

I've seen comments that our bread flour is high protein compared to US flours  and either needs more water or less flour.

How much? One recipe I read calling for 6 1/2 cups US AP flour suggested using 1/2 cup less of Canadian flour. But... 

Is that the same for all flours? Our unbleached white flour? Bread? All-purpose? Whole wheat?

What about specialty flours like Red Fife? Rye?

And if I chose to add more water - would that recipe need 1/4 cup more?

suave's picture
suave

If you are planning to bake seriously and keep track of what you are doing you need to forget cups and start weighing ingredients.  That's what absolute majority of us does.

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I've been using American recipes for years with Canadian flour, cups not weighing, and have had no problems.  When it comes to bread, I go by the feel of the dough, remembering that the amount of flour in each recipe is approximate.  I'm in Montreal, by the way, and I regularly buy store brand unbleached flour.  

kat56's picture
kat56

Yep me too. I live in US but buy canadian flour here.

Meliss's picture
Meliss

As far as I’m concerned, if it is mentioned in the recipes “1cup of flour sifted”, I use the dip and sweep method to measure, then pour the flour into a sifter; if it says “1 cup of sifted flour”, I sift directly into the measuring cup until it is slightly overfull, then use a knife to sweep away the excess.

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks. The recipes I'm using right now are by volume (not weight). Don't think that will make a difference if the issue is the absorption of water or protein content.

 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Weighing ingredients is a key to consistency in baking, whether cup-cakes, kugel or bear-claws, not to mention bread.

I've read your blog entry "I’m struggling with this…". Seems to me you're making it an either-or choice. You've already got three blogs going, what's wrong with starting a fourth? You're a writer; so write. 

Yes, there are some damn good bakers contributing to TFL (one of the major reasons for visiting TFL at least daily). However, your concern of being presumptuous conveys, to me, you're the "expert" on those other three blogs, and you wouldn't be on a TFL blog. I empathize.

I thought twice (trice?) before starting a blog here four years ago. Im glad I did. In my opinion TFL is an example of the best the the Internet offers in DIY websites. TFL is a virtual community: a great place to dwell virtually. Here, you get to make friendships a bit broader and considerably deeper than on Facebook. Here you might learn more than just how to make the "best" brioche. At the risk of sounding grandiose, here there just might be life lessons to be learned--regardless of how much life you've already experienced.

Specific to your conflict voiced in "I’m struggling with this…" you might benefit from something I felt comfortable blogging herein a couple of years ago.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/24931/baguettes-and-kiss-principle

On TFL you can expose your mistakes, fall on your prat: be vulnerable. It's members will only pick you up, reach out to encourage you, build your confidence, and gently suggest alternatives or corrections. (Well, admittedly some of us can be a bit more abrasive.) More importantly, you can improve your baking skills just asking questions.

And you won't bore your non-baker followers on your www.ianchadwick.com/blog.

A belated welcome to The Fresh Loaf,

David G

 

 

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks for the encouragement, David. Not to digress too far - I'm not an expert at anything. Just a passionate tinkerer with an obsession for writing and research. And playing the ukulele. And tequila. And reading. And politics, bread making, paleontology, secular humanism, military history, philosophy.... and I can never separate them all that cleanly. So my blog meanders and rambles and I throw in personal and political and religious comments into the mix. In my experience, politics, religion and sex are fun to write about, but open a whole case of worms. Which is why I tend to write on my own platform: to avoid the slings and arrows when I participate in a community. 

I will, however, contribute my successes and failures here in the forum as I seek advice, information, tips, techniques and, when warranted, kudos.

A question from your baguette post: what does DDT stand for?

 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Most (all?) bread-baking books use 76°F in their examples of DDT. I argue if you intend to cold-retard dough for extended hours--8 to 21, or more--why not set your DDT at the planned retarding temperature, and use iced water in the mix? Dough mass takes a long time to cool down.

Bread-book author Peter Reinhart prescribes using ice water in one of his formula that subsequently retards the dough in the refrigerator overnight, but is less than clear as to why use ice water.

Humans are social animals, communities are messy, but they beat aloneness everytime.

David G

P.S. I also write: fiction mostly. I contend that a fiction writing is always about parents, sex, religion or money, or any of their combinations.

kat56's picture
kat56

The reason Reinhart uses ice water is to keep the yeast from activating too quickly Overnight the long slow proofing process begins in the refrigerator and then continues for four or five hours during the day after taking it out, which results in the amalyse being able to start freeing sugars from the dough before the yeast eats it all up. When the yeast wakes up during the out of fridge rise, it has sugars that were not there before and have formed in the slow fermentation process. The result is a highly caramelized loaf, and the flavour of the wheat is greatly enhanced.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

In addition controlling DDT is also a way to control timing, and aid consistency. Mixing a mass of dough without regard to its temperature and then retarding it in the refrigerator is a crap shoot.  I retard most lean doughs I make for 15 to 21 hours at 54°F I use ice-chilled water in the initial mix. The doughs' temperatures are generally in the sixties after machine mixing. I place them in a 39°F refrigerator for autolyse and all early dough manipulations--e.g. kneading, S&F, etc. I return the dough to the refrigerator after each manipulation. I monitor the doughs' temperature throughout these early hours. When it reaches the prescribed DDT I place it in the wine chiller I use for retarding at 54°F. Subsequently, I divide the dough, pre-shape loaves and warm them in a proof-box for 1 hour. The proof-box's temperature is generally controlled at 82°F. After shaping the loaves I return them to the proof-box. Predictably, each loaf size and dough type proofs in the same time batch-to-batch. And the loaves finish batch-to-batch consistently with the same color, crust, crumb, mouth-feel and flavor.

Consequently, I can plan my baking schedule to fit our needs. For example, baguettes with poolish: Day 1, 7 AM I mix a poolish, Day 1, 3PM I mix the dough ingredients (minus the salt) with iced water, followed by refrigerated autolyse, machine final mix incorporating salt, and a 3 min. machine-kneading period. The dough is further manipulated with rest intervals and typically three S&F. DDT is monitored. Slow bulk ferment completes in the wine chiller set at 54°F.

Day 2, 7AM Divide, pre-shape and warm @ 82°F. By 11:15 the baguettes are cooling, and clean-up is complete. We follow with lunch. Fresh, crisp, and still slightly warm baguettes are featured.

Similarly, I plan most of my weekly bakings to fit our schedules.

David G

PastryPaul's picture
PastryPaul

There is an issue in converting cups to weights... one that most of us (myself included initially) do not take into account. Namely, the true weight of a cup of flour is one thing, but the amount that the formula's writers intended is quite another.

My bread flour weighs 128g per 237ml as calculated by its average specific gravity. That is no help at all in formula conversions. In the ABin5 books, Zoe's web site states that their "cup" is assumed to be 140g. I use that number if a formula calls for "fliuff, spoon into cup level off." Other books I have read seem to use a 150g "cup."

So how can we convert? Look for clues in the formula itself and try to match the dough to any pictures or descriptions. Once you figure out what a "cup" means in one formula, that same number should work in all formulae in that book and, often, that publisher.

If you can spare me a moment of personal ranting: Cup based recipes are a publisher's idea to dumb down a recipe to make it more accessible. Talk about insulting your clientele. Everyone use weights, the recipes/formulae must be converted to cups, then we convert back. Silly! Publishers, at least include both measures. Authors, insist that your publishers get their heads out of their bums and include both measures.

Cheers

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Here's an online cooking Volume to Weight converter that I find useful:

Weight to Volume Cooking Converter
http://www.onlineconversion.com/weight_volume_cooking.htm

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

I appreciate the comments, but I think the problem still remains. Regardless of whether a recipe is built from weight or volume measurements, Canadian bread flour has a different absorption ratio for water, or so I've read.

I need to adjust either weight or volume. Is there a particular formula, or just a best guess?

And just a PS: Wow. Proofing boxes, mixers, thermometers, litmus strips... I feel downright underprivileged with my plastic measuring cups and wooden ladles.I need another trip to a kitchen supply store...

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi ichadwick,

It is not unreasonable to expect a slight variation in water absorption for each different batch of flour...even from the same brand.   To that extent, you really have to get the feel of each and every batch of bread dough you make.

However, I will nail my colours firmly to the mast.   Volumetric measuring is a vastly inferior way of calibrating your flour and water and any other ingredients you put into your bread dough.   And, in spite of people trying to help you out by posting conversions, there really is no accurate way to convert from volume to weight.   I simply refuse to use recipes which use volume; it doesn't mean anything to me at all.   That said, I am UK-based, and our recipe culture has clearly evolved a little differently to you good people on the other side of the pond.

I would just echo the good advice of a few on here: buy some good digital scales and you will never look back.   Professional bakers use percentages to calculate formula, based on flour as 100% and looking at the other ingredients as % of that.   It is all based on weight.   So, see how easy it is for us to use the metric system in conjunction with bakers % to calculate any recipe quantity needed in a matter of a minute or so.   Both use multipliers based on 10,100,etc.

From your posts so far, asking for worksheets etc. I would say you have aspirations.   If you move to weight you will never look back.   The small adjustments you always have to do by feel at the time.

I cannot help you on variation between Canadian and North American flour.   What I would counsel is that wheatflour for bread is a commoditiy traded on the world market.   Your assumption that what you buy in Canada is markedly different from some flour available in the States is not necessarily a sound one.   And what types of bread are you wanting to make anyway.   Hydration could be anywhere between 55 and 85% for white bread flours [and your "AP" flours possibly too, although I don't know much about them as a group].

Hope this gives more food for thought.

And on your other thread....buy Hamelman; you don't need any more than that, although I concur with suave's more general comments about each book you list.

Best wishes

Andy

proth5's picture
proth5

for posting that.

I'll only add that "absorption" is a quality of flour that is measured under laboratory conditions and cannot be used to determine how much water needs to be added to this batch of dough.  And there is no substitute for the actual spec on the flour. It is often difficult to get, but always useful.  Names like "Bread" or "All Purpose" don't give us the whole story.

And although it doesn't mean much on these pages - I'm going to agree with you on each point you made 100%.

Pat

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Here's how I do it:

Take the liquid volume measurements and convert them to weight.
The volume measurements of liquids should be more accurate in the original recipe text than the flour, which can really vary by cup.

When you have the liquid weights you can pick a hydration percent (example - 60%) and then calculate the flour weight.


If the liquids weigh 600 grams and you want a 60% hydration:

600g /.60 = 1000g

So for a 60% hydration, flour would weigh 1000 g. That would be a good starting point. It still may need some minor tweaking.

Other weights will fall out as a percentage of the flour weight: (If you don't trust the original recipe volumes)

salt 2%
yeast 1.5%

etc.

PastryPaul's picture
PastryPaul

That's one of those ideas that seem obvious in retrospect. Excellent for when a hydration, even an approximate one, is known.

Thanks for that post

Cheers

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks, that's good to know. But...

Is the % hydration the same for all flours? And how do I know the preferred hydration?

And.. is it the same for Canadian flours as for British and American flours?

Antilope's picture
Antilope

I would start with weight measurements, that method has more reproducible results than volume measuring.

I would start with a recommended hydration, usually from the original recipe. Based on those results, it would most likely be apparent if the resulting dough was okay or was too wet or too dry. I would then have a starting point with a reproducible result to further tweak the recipe to my liking. 

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Your assumption that what you buy in Canada is markedly different from some flour available in the States is not necessarily a sound one. 

I'm basing my comment on numerous references to the difference on websites,including official grain council or ag department info, and referenced in several bread cookbooks (and some bread machine manuals). They all say pretty much the same thing: use less Cdn flour in an American flour recipe.

Commercial AP flour in the US and in Canada has different specs, and the stuff sold as "bread flour" here is different from the AP flour - just based on the info on the bags.

ananda's picture
ananda

You need to use that quotation in context ichadwick,

It is prefaced with an explanation that wheatflour is a world commodity.   The flour in the bag in front of you could be made from any different blend of wheats which could have been grown in different countries throughout the world.

Frankly I don't really care where you are getting this advice from; the notion that you use less flour in a recipe suggests using water as the basis for calculating that recipe.   That is nonsense to me.   I use bakers' percentages where the total flour by weight in the formula is 100%.   You can keep asking all you like whether there is as formula to work out water absorption, but I'll give you the straight answer here: no there isn't!

You have to know and understand the specification of each batch of flour you use, then you can make a reasonable assessment of its hydration capacity.   I'm not the only one suggesting this; note what proth and mrfrost write in the same thread.

I think it is great that you want to create sound recipes from formulae and use spreadsheets, but you need to approach their construction in a different way.   Move away from volume and learn about bakers' % and its correlation to the metric system and you will be standing on much firmer ground.

But, the big message is that all flour will vary from time to time in terms of its hydration capacity, there is no magic and simple answer.   A baker has to have knowledge and skill to make these assessments, and you gain these primarily through baking, with reading primary source material being secondary to that.   So, you can and should have some fun and get on and bake.

You generalise too much about the flour situation.   If you want in depth knowledge necessary to make the kind of in depth assessment you are discussing here, then follow the advice of proth and obtain the specifications for the flours you use.

Best wishes

Andy 

ananda's picture
ananda

That really depends on how you measure the volume of water Antilope,

If you use a jug with a line on it, then that is not necessarily accurate at all.   The line will likely be a guestimate, rather than calibrated, and it is very difficult to claim that you have hit that line absolutely.

Add to that water is actually very heavy; so a small error in your measurement is actually quite significant by weight.

I know there are many who use measurement quite happily, and that to a significant number in North America it is "the accepted way".   That's fine, but I'll not be joining your club.   Any volumetric recipes I am given just go in the bin, or back on the shelf of whatever shop I happen to be browsing in.   Life is too short; it's much easier and far more accurate to weigh, and, are we really quibbling over a few £/$ to invest in a set of scales???   I don't get it; never have, never will.

Andy

Antilope's picture
Antilope

from the original recipe. I don't pour and measure anything. If the recipe says 2 cups of water, I do a lookup and put down 480g. The the flour weight then falls out from the hydration chosen.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

No matter what you are told, you will have to learn to make the adjustment(or not) yourself. Case in point, PaddyL.

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

From http://www.thescienceofbreadmaking.com/flour.html (emphasis added):

Protein content in flour is also a major concern these days. The typical Canadian flour ranges from 13%-16% protein. This is very high in comparison to ancient grain wheat flours with a level of protein ranging from 1%-11% but never higher than 13%. The culprit behind the transition to "strong" wheat flours is that in the industrialized bread-making world higher protein flours are more forgiving and machinable. The down side to high protein flours is a loaf of inferior quality due to the super absorption of protein molecules. Loaves made from high protein flours seem dry and when bakers try to correct this by over-hydration, it yields a loaf with a texture that is chewy and tough. Also, it is important to note that low protein flours are easier to mix, come together quicker and require less mechanical input. Using ancient grain wheat flours lower in protein allow the baker to mix the dough easily by hand or slow speed mixer without risking all the degradation associated with over oxidization that comes with intense mixing.

 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi ichadwick,

Have you thought about sourcing alternative Canadian flour which has greater provenance?   If your concern is with high gluten industrial wheat [available plentifully in both Canada and the US], then there are alternatives out there.   Take a look at the work of Franko http://www.thefreshloaf.com/blog/franko and breadsong http://www.thefreshloaf.com/blog/breadsong here on the Fresh Loaf.    Look in particular for Red Fife wheat.

There is still over-simplification implied here.   As already stated, wheat is a worldwide commodity today.   High gluten flour is available in numerous countries throughout the world.   Just because you buy flour in Canada, it does not necessarily mean the wheat was grown in Canada.   Admittedly, that is the most likely scenario, but not necessarily the case.   Millers buy wheat from various sources which will allow them to produce flour of a given specification.   You can step away from that by using more traditionally grown grain as noted in the reference you provide.

Best wishes

Andy

ps. Best advice is still that you have to learn to make these adjustments in water addition for yourself.

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks. Gluten isn't solely the issue, I don't believe. Rather it's the overall higher protein quantity which is more absorptive. However, as I understand it, our bread flour has a higher gluten content, too.

Due to Canadian food regulations plus Competition Bureau legislation (and the oversight of the grain council), if it says "Product of Canada," that's a labelling requirement with specific definitions about source. My Five Roses flour says so. My bag of Robin Hood "Nutri" flour blend, on the other hand, says "Product of USA" The FR flour is 13.3% protein; the RH is 10%. I will have to look at the other bags next time I go shopping.

See: http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/03169.html#cn-tphp

3.2.1 "Product of Canada" Claims

The Bureau generally will not challenge a representation that states that a good is a "Product of Canada" under the false or misleading representations provisions of the Acts if these two conditions are met:

  • (a) the last substantial transformation of the good occurred in Canada; and
  • (b) all or virtually all (at least 98%) of the total direct costs of producing or manufacturing the good have been incurred in Canada.

It seems according to this report that Americans are more concerned about Canadian wheat getting mixed into flour than the other way around:

http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/23615/1/aer587.pdf

This site identifies some differences between US, UK and Canadian flours:

http://www.cooksinfo.com/flour It says (read it with a grain of salt...):

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. Canadian home cooks and home bakers, in general, don't really experiment with different types of 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.

I've read many comments like these on http://www.canadianfavourites.com/Robin_Hood_All_Purpose_Flour_p/robinhood003.htm:

  • Canadian flour is a harder flour - we have a shorter growing season and a harsher winter but overall, spring wheat or hard red wheat grows 'better' in Canada than the U.S. in that we produce a flour with a higher percentage of gluten or protein. This makes for 'spine' in a flour - offering chewiness in bread, etc. Bakers just say it is a harder or softer flour.

  • ALL flours are blended however, to become 'all purpose' (a compromise of hard and soft flours) in the states and Canada so that the flour is stable (in the bag) from year to year. That said, the average protein percentage in our all purpose (never mind our bread flour) is a bit higher....
  • The bottom line is: for bread machines, one might need to add more U.S. flour to get the right consistency of dough AND in the end, it might be a wee bit less chewy of crumb than a bread made with Canadian flour (in a machine or not). In other words, one will have success either way but the high regard the world holds for our dear Canadian flour is due to its exceptional performance in things like bread, bagels, rolls, baguettes. You don't really need much adjustment - you can just count on more success in the baking. French bakers would give their eye teeth to have this flour at their disposal. by Marcy Goldman - Canadian Baker/Author

But, yes, I recognize I need to figure it out myself because I'm using difffrent brands, mixing in different flours, etc.; I was just looking for some base formulae to start from... ;-)

 

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Just checked a local Freshco grocery store: Robin Hood & Red Roses both say "Product of Canada" while the house brands don't. Hmmm.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Robin Hood and Five Roses Flour are owned by the J. M. Smucker Company of Orrville, Ohio. They also own Pillsbury Flour  (General Mills licensee), White Lily Flour, and Martha White Flour.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_J.M._Smucker_Company

ananda's picture
ananda

..but my interpretation of clause 3.2.1. as quoted above, is that the wheat could still have been grown elsewhere, it just means it was milled to flour in Canada

But I am happy for anyone to demonstrate otherwise.

The Cooks Info stuff needs a veritable bucket of salt, a mere grain is grossly insufficient.

Best wishes

Andy