French and American flour/ The 123 formula
Hi all! I've been one busy person what with the holidays, kids, etc. But now life is settling into a more calm and regular rhythm. So, I'm BACK!
Over the holidays, Steve from Breadcetera, and I did a flour swap (yes, it cost a fortune!). We sent each other dried samples of our starter and flour. I sent him some organic stone-ground T55 and T65 and he sent me some KA AP and bread flour. Not so much because he himself uses that particular flour, but he figured it would give me an idea of the type of flour many people bake with.
I was VERY excited to try the All-Purpose flour for two reasons. I wanted to see how it felt, how it worked and what it tasted like but also I wanted to test Flo's 123 formula because many people seemed to have trouble with it.
So, here are the results:
I did up a dough of 150g starter (100% hydration), 300g water and 450g KA AP and 9g salt.
There is obviously more or different gluten in the flour. It takes AGES to get developed. With the T55 or 65, you literally only need to knead a few minutes to get a good dough formed, but with the KA AP, at initial mixing (in a Kenwood) it was rough and together, then went gloppy and then got extremely elastic (TOO elastic). It took quite a while to mix. So, this leads me to believe that for those who found the dough too wet may have hand kneaded and found it gloppy, but it would take ages to knead by hand to get the right consistancy. With French flours, the dough is wetter than with American flour which is the opposite of what people believe. I think it just the kneading time. More flour would have made a dough that would be much too firm (to my liking).
When it was finally risen and baked, I took it out of the oven and to my surprise, it was SHINY and smooth crusted. It looked plastic. Now, I did everything exactly as I always do, no changes, no more steam than usual. It was really weird. Then, with my husband next to me, we smelled it. We looked at each other and said, It doesn't smell like anything! OK, then we left it to cool and cut it. I handed pieces to my family in different rooms. My son said, it doesn't taste like anything. I went to my daughter who smiled and said, "It's good!... but it doesn't have any taste". The overall concesus was that it really didn't taste like anything at all.
So, I got thinking, and I understand a lot of things now. I understand why preferments are so important and retarding and adding rye, etc. If you bake with KA AP as your basic artisan bread flour, well, it really needs help!
In France, the non organic flours that bakers use can lack in taste but it's still a lot tastier than the KA AP. So, the French organic flour is pure bread heaven.When a loaf comes out of the oven, it smells so incredible, a blend between deep wheaty aroma and the slight tangy, yet earthy sourdough. I did up some Mike Avery's version of The Three Rivers bread that I spoke about on my blog for a cheese fondue and even though there is no sourdough, just poolish and retarding, it could have been mistaken for a sourdough, it smelled so incredible.
I guess I'm being French chauvinistic, but ever since I joined this group and have shared and learned so much from you, the huge question that has lingered for me has been all about American flour, how it reacts and tastes. I'm sure there are some better flours out there. Many speak of some organic brands, Guisto's and some other mills. I know it's more expensive, but if you're looking for something tastier, it's a good idea to try some of them. Oh, and remember, French wheat is soft, not hard. I think that makes a big difference.
So, I invite discussion and ideas or questions. I'm all ears.