The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

YES! The quality of your ingredients DO make a difference!

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Skibum's picture
Skibum

YES! The quality of your ingredients DO make a difference!

For the last year and a half or more I have been buying my flour from the head baker at our local artisan bakery. Well, I ran out a few days ago and horror of horrors, she was on vacation and I had to buy grocery store 'best for bread' flour. Now I used the same formula, dough handling technique and proofing as my last Forkish style bake and you can see the result --  stuck to the banneton, no rise, little spring and I don't even want to look at the crumb -- straight into the trash.

By comparison, here is a loaf with the strong bread flour from the bakery using the same formula.

Well I certainly see a huge difference! For what it is worth folks.

Happy baking! Brian

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

didn't even taste it or learn from it?

Skibum's picture
Skibum

It was a pretty sad sack loaf! I will relegate the rest of my grocery store 'best for bread flour' to AP uses and visit my friend in the morning, now she is back to get real bread flour. I always bring treats and always get the freshest strong bread flour and guess that is my biggest learning experience from this. Of course I will cut it and taste bake it before pitching it.

Best regards, Brian

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

invented VWG!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

what do you think would make the flour work if you didn't have a choice and had to make another loaf from the flour?

a) shorten the fermenting times

b) reduce the hydration

c) add more folds

d) try a water roux or tangzhong

e) make a hybrid and add some instant yeast 

f)  add some rye, anywhere from 5% to 10% just to add a little flavour,  then it can be as ugly as a Nury loaf.

adri's picture
adri

f) is similar to what I did with my Viennese Kaiserrolls: Without adding lecithin and malt (or the enzymes directly), my rolls won't get as good as in the bakery next door. So I switched to organically grown flour and added a small portion of whole wheat. ;)

Back to the topic:
My guess is, that it is just the optics. On such a high hydration and long sourdough fermentation the taste usually is the same and there is enough air inside the bread.
Once cut, what is the difference? And if you don't like slim slices: There is still a lot you can do with it: Cheese fondue (more crust surface is even better as it is easier to hold with a fork), Semmelknödel (bread dumplings?), croûtons (just roasted in a pan), gazpacho, hot soup, ... and that is just what I can think of and I'm not so much into cooking.

lg
Adrian

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to the list, that's what I need for Semmeln (Kaisers)...  lecithin? (yuck)  really?  ...but I erased it.  Interesting that you brought it up, Adrian.   More wet time or slow instant yeast fermentation (poolish) etc., are also options.  

Mini

Skibum's picture
Skibum

I would cut down on the hydration first. This bake was 78% and the flour didn't support it. Manana, I go to see my friend Angela and get 20 kg of problem solved Bakemark strong bread flour. It pays to bring treats every time I buy flour! Happy baking! Brian

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

I believe the quality of the ingredients make a huge difference, although I must admit for me with bread, it is mainly to the flavour. I didn't believe that the taste would be different, until I was given a bag of good flour, I baked with it, not even considering there would be a difference and was taken aback by the flavour, it was so good. Now, I only use the best flour. But, I have also discovered that there are times in baking when the best is not always better. My best oats, make awful flapjack. My best butter doesn't work in cornflake cakes and the best sunflower oil has a very strong flavour that permeates and ruins my baking. I think it is always worth considering what you are using something for, then assessing whether buying a better quality product makes a difference. If it does, and you can afford to buy it, go for it.

Although it is also possible that we get very used to certain flours, and I think, I am probably repeating what Mini was saying, if we adapt to the different flour we would get good results. I try to buy organic whenever I possibly can, but as much for environmental reasons as anything else, choosing to buy and eat far less, but of a better quality. But there are many, many times when I have been staggered by the improvement in flavour when spending a little bit more. Flour, in comparison with many other foods, is very inexpensive and for the relative price difference, it seems a shame to skimp.

embth's picture
embth

Hi Skibum et al...Not to completely dispute the fact that quality ingredients are essential to get the best results, I wonder if anyone else has noticed that you, as the baker, are also a factor.  It seems that if I am expecting less than optimal results, that is what I get.  If I am distracted or tired, the bread produced reflects it.  To paraphrase Yoda….I must not be "using the force" to best advantage.   So, if you were given a bag of grocery store flour that was craftily disguised as "Baker's Most Excellent" flour and you BELIEVED in your flour, would you get different results?   : )   

 

Skibum's picture
Skibum

I had a pretty good string of successful bakes and only got duds - 4 in a row when I changed flour. The grocery store stuff has a different feel in the mix, stretch and fold and extensibility than the strong bread flour. I also go into each bake and indeed each event in my life expecting great results. I have had some pretty good results, I think, but then I am pretty easy to please when the flavour is there. Maintaining a good attitude is quite important and if you can access The Force, well then good on you!

Well I visited with my friend Angela, the co-owner and head baker at JK Bakeries this morning and got another 20 kilos of the Bakemark  Bakers Enriched strong bakers flour. I discussed my results of my grocery store flour bakes and she said, "No it is not the same at all." My results speak to this pro bakers comment.

Now I must re-build my levains with the stronger gluten flour and begin to bake bread again. I will say I am  LOVING THE PASTRIES!!!!!

Happy baking folks and may you be blessed to find the best quality ingredients! Brian

embth's picture
embth

the flour does make a difference.  At home, I use only certain flours that I buy in bulk from restaurant supply shops.  Once in a while I find myself baking in someone else's kitchen with unfamiliar ingredients and it is a challenge to get good results.   Happy baking with your fresh supply of "the good stuff."    

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Yes. But there are flours of known excellent quality to be had at most larger grocery stores, if one so chooses(in the US, at least). Can't exactly expect wholesale prices though.

embth's picture
embth

A good point which brings another one to mind.   You can pay amazingly different prices for the same flour!  For example, (choosing a well known and well respected brand)  if you order through the KA catalog, you will pay $2.50 a pound plus postage.  KA all-purpose, whole wheat, and bread flours typically sell for $1.00 to $1.25 per pound in our local grocery stores.  If I buy a 50 lb. bag at the wholesaler, I can get several types of excellent KA flour (including their "Sir Galahad" and "Sir Lancelot") for 0.38 a pound.  So, if anyone is looking for good flour at good prices it can be well worth the trouble to find other bakers to share an order with you and buy from a wholesaler. 

FIT's picture
FIT

I see nobody has mentioned adding extra gluten. I buy the 20 kg bags of flour from Costco and add 2 heaping tbsps. of gluten flour (from Bulk Barn - not vital wheat gluten) to my recipes -- that usually bake about 3 lbs of bread. I find the extra gluten not only adds extra protein / nutrition, but it supports oven push because it makes the flour much stronger. Just my 2-cents worth as a new member of this site.

Cheers - Frances

adri's picture
adri

If the flour really has not enough gluten, this might work.
But too much protein makes the bread "chewy". (Vegan meat is made of gluten.)

My approach is to enhance my gluten development skills before I add extra gluten. For my last bread 400 S&Fs seemed to have worked fine. But sometimes I also really prefer strong flour as I'm also just beginning with higher hydration wheat breads.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

a high protein flour.  Many French breads and especially baguettes 10% protein works best - so store bough AP flour at 10% protein works fine.  If you want to make 400g g of 10% protein of AP into 12.5% bread flour then:  400g of AP at 10% has 40 g of protein in it so 12.5% would require 50 g of protein - an increase of 10 g.  My VWG is 65% gluten, I make my own so I am guessing, and it would take (10 divided by .65) 15 g of VWG to get it up to 12.5% protein. 

I have never made a bread that required more than 13% protein that was reasonable in hydration.  We use LaFama AP flour, found for 38 cents a pound in 5 # bags at Hispanic markets for bread flour  - it has 13% protein and works as well as any KA flour at 3  times the price.  We have tried both many times.

No bread made with 12-13% protein will be chewy either.  I'm guessing very few folks can tell the difference in looks between store brand AP modified with VWG to get it to KA protein levels and KA itself.  I know for sure I can't but a blind test would prove it for sure. 

What is totally subjective is the taste.  Some folks think poolish baguettes made with weak whole flour taste better than a 50% wholegrain SD bread made with the best flours available.  I'm guessing few could tell the difference in a white bread made with modified weak AP + VWG and a KA one taste wise either - i know i can't.   I'm glad I'm one of the many too because my high quality, low cost bread fits my level of thriftiness and affordability just fine, but others would not be satisfied with my bread - I'm sure of it.  Especially if they knew what flours were used.

The French wine makers don't do blind taste tests anymore after their home grown experts picked cheap CA wines as the best red and white wines in a blind test in 1976 - over much more expensive and supposedly better French wines.  We now know that most folks and many experts can't tell the difference between supposed expensive good wine and a good cheap wine from the many blind taste tests made since then from wines from all over the world now that they are available.  Same for butter, cheeses, breads and just about anything else folks eat.

There is even a lot of scientific research going on at the University level that focuses on blind taste testing.  Most folks just can't tell the difference in blind taste testing and why Richard Kimball is wrong, compared to experts and his guests, so often on the many Cook's Illustrated cooking shows when he tries to pick the best tasting highest quality winner.

What really upsets me is that my wife and daughter still prefer their Oroweat store bought whole wheat sandwich bread to any that Lucy and I have made.  I think that makes them heathens or at least barbarians or perhaps, easily fooled by cheap, crappy bread - or just what they are used too :-)

For me, nothing beats the taste of fresh home milled flour used in bread.  So, flour milled by anyone else isn't as good  but I sure wouldn't want to blind taste test it against KA whole grain flour either!

I'm just thankful that there are plenty of all kinds of different flours to fit nearly every need and want by everyone imaginable at all quality, price and service levels - so long as you only choose 2 of the 3 :-)  We are very lucky.to have this kind if variety in the flours available here in North America.