The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Food scale joy and an abundance of bread flour

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devineharris's picture

Food scale joy and an abundance of bread flour

Hello all, I have lurked a bit since I started baking regularly but upon (prematurely) opening my food scale, I was compelled to make a post. I looked through the recipes on the tab but didn't find any "french bread" type recipes under the "bread flour" ingredient tab. I have a little AP flour and a LOT of bread flour, and while I'm eager to start mixing some dough, I don't know what recipe or techniques suit the use of bread flour. I know it has a higher protein content than AP (although mine is a cheap generic brand, not King Arthur) and that the result can be less flavorful, but I was hoping some of the TFL experts can help direct me to a recipe for which bread flour might be adequate. I just really want to start weighing out my ingredients and seeing what results I get!

devineharris's picture

I searched "bread flour" and read a couple of posts - interesting one discussing whether baguettes should be exclusively AP or a ratio of AP to bread flour. Given that, perhaps I should try the 2:1 ratio for a basic baguette formula? I know I am woefully ignorant compared to the majority of you guys but hopefully I will become more proficient by measuring by mass not volume! I'm pretty excited to see what results I get upon my first bake.

mrfrost's picture

My guess is your "bread" flour will be more suitable for making just about any yeast bread than your AP. That is unless your AP happens to be King Arthur AP, which is actually just as good or better than some "cheap, generic brand bread flours", for making bread.

So again, starting out with your bread flour would be my suggestion.

What baguette formula caught your eye? Many baguette formulas, or really even many of these "artisan" type recipes here can seem almost impossibly sticky to handle for many novices. All things being equal, the bread flour will be more manageable for those just starting with bread making.

JoeV's picture

Please excuse me if I'm not a bread flour snob, but I buy whatever is the best price at the store when I need it. Actually, KA is the most expensive, and my palette cannot distinguish the difference, so It's Gold Medal or Bob's Red Mill, and I usually go with Bob's because it's only 50 cents more per 5# bag, and it's organic.

That being said, true French bread is made with flour, water, salt & yeast. Nothing more, nothing less. Anything else is a variant of French, so I'm not sure why you cannot find a formula. Retarding the dough will deliver a deeper flavor, but there is a point of diminishing returns with that, IMHO. Some will argue that, but they probably have a more discriminating palette than mine. FWIW, I use only bread flour for baguettes because I want that texture when I tear off a chunk, and nice crisp on the skin. The only bread I make that uses AP flour is no-knead bread that ferments for 18 hours before baking.

When I make baguettes that will be totally eaten the same day they are baked, I stay with the original formula. If I want a little shelf life, I add 1-1/2T (1/2 oz.) of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per pound of flour. This easily gives me 3-4 days on the counter before it starts to go South, and it also gives the bread a bit more flavor as well. I can't remember the last time I actually made a loaf of French, it's always baguettes, and most often its Epi style because they present so well at the table.

devineharris's picture

Thank you mrfrost, I was thinking that might have been the case but I wasn't certain. As for recipes that have interested me, last week I was reading about Pat's baguette recipe, 65% hydration ( Nice to know that the bread flour might be more workable for a novice folder like myself, though when I was measuring by volume I'd expect my dough wasn't as well hydrated as it could've been.

JoeV, I couldn't find a formula under the "bread flour" ingredient tab - there was only one for "bialys" listed ( Anyway, I've used this bread flour for pretzels and they were amazing, so I think I have lost my reluctance to go forth with the baguettes.

Thanks for sharing your flour preferences! Once I move I am planning on investing in some different brands to compare them myself, so I'll start with what you use. Those look gorgeous btw - I still strive to just have a nicely shaped loaf by the time it makes it into the oven, so that is quite impressive to me.

I definitely want to focus on the "true" French bread formulas for now, though I will have to add a little olive oil to a batch in the future. I think I'm going to go with the recipe I linked to above, and I will post pictures when I am done!

Thanks to the both of you, I was just afraid to use my scale and make an awful first batch because of the bread flour, haha!




JoeV's picture

The scale is every bread baker's best friend, because it GUARANTEES repeatability. It does not matter what the humidity is in your house, because one pound is one ounce is one gram is one's that simple. Once you have dialed in a formula, you just make adjustment and update the formula so the next time it comes out exactly the same. With French, the hydration is what differentiates the formulas, and to some degree the size of the holes in the crumb.

I might be asking you to bite off a little more than you're ready for, but I'd be remiss if I didn't at least expose you to how professional bakers make bread according to Baker's Percentages. I wrote this tutorial back in 2010 and you can find it on a number of websites. I share it freely, because once it is understood, you can develop your own formulas. Here it is;


Baker’s Percentages Revealed

Flour weights based on volumes are only approximations, and should not be taken as gospel. What the flour weight actually is, is the main ingredient in your bread formula. Formula? Yes, professional bakers make batches of dough based on a formula, and that formula is derived from some basic math called "Baker's Percentages." In a nutshell, all ingredients in a bread formula are a percentage of the flour weight (the flour weight being 100%), and through some quick calculations, you can determine EXACTLY how much of each ingredient is required to make a batch of dough. If, for example, you wanted to make 10 loaves of French bread weighing 1.5# each, you would back into the formula using nothing more than division and multiplication on a basic calculator. It sounds complicated, but once you learn how to do it, you can look at a recipe from someone else, and be able to determine if the dough will be lean or slack based on the % of water or other liquid in the formula. You will also know if it will rise quickly or slowly by the % of yeast in the formula, and whether it will have good flavor based on the % of salt. Here’s a simple formula for plain white bread or French bread:

Flour = 100%
Salt = 2%
Instant yeast = 1%
Water = 59%

Total ingredients are 100 + 2 +1 + 59 = 162%

So if you just had 2# (32 oz.) of flour to work with to make bread, you would do the following math:

Salt is total flour weight x 2% or .02
32 x .02 = .64 oz. of salt

Instant yeast is total flour weight x 1% or .01
32 x .01 = .32 oz. of Instant yeast

Water is total flour weight x 59% or .59
32 x .59 = 18.88 oz of water.

Add them all together and you get:
32 + .64 + .32 + 18.88 = 51.84 oz of dough, that would make two loaves weighing 25.92 oz. each, or 1# 9.92 oz. each.

Now let's say you wanted two loaves of bread weighing 1# 8oz. each, for a total of 3# of finished dough (48 oz. of dough). You would do the following math to determine how much flour you needed:

Total flour =(Total dough weight divided by total percentage) x 100
(48 oz. ÷ 162) = .2963 x 100 = 29.63 oz

Now that you have your flour weight, just follow the percentage listed above.

Flour is 29.63 oz.
Salt is 29.63 x .02 = .59 oz.
Instant yeast is 29.63 x .01 = .30 oz.
Water is 29.63 x .59 = 17.48 oz.

29.63 + .59 + .30 + 17.48 = 48 oz of dough.

This comes in handy when you want to make something like hamburger rolls . If you need to make 20 hamburger rolls and want them to be 2.75 oz. each, do the following:

20 x 2.75 = 55 oz. of dough
Then take (55 oz ÷ 162) x 100 = 33.95 oz of flour. Then just multiply the salt, yeast and water by their percentage, and you will get a repeatable recipe every time. The percentages may vary a bit based on how a particular baker want their dough, but if someone gave you just the percentages of the ingredients in their formula, you could calculate the flour and all the other ingredients just from determining how much finished dough you wanted to have.