The Fresh Loaf

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French and American flour/ The 123 formula

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Janedo's picture
Janedo

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.


Jane


 

Comments

ryeaskrye's picture
ryeaskrye

All this talk about French/American flour differences and their effects on baguettes is extremely interesting for me to read. It also causes me wonder about other breads and flours.


My nascent adventures into bread baking were born in a longing for the European ryes and pumpernickels I remember from traveling around the Continent - a longing likely handed down in my lowly Germanic genes as well.


While I would think neither rye nor pumpernickel breads are as sensitive to flour differences as the subtle tang of baguettes, I now grow more curious whether European rye flours more piquant than the American versions.

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I have no idea! The ryes I see on this site always look the same as over here and since it's a flour that has probably undergone less "manipulation" maybe it remains pretty much the same. But that's just guessing.

saintdennis's picture
saintdennis

The best thing to buy bag of flour from France and ask the miller if he/she make flour.The reason is I try to make some European breads or the pastries and I had very hard time to do it. Let say breads from Czech Republic,Austria,Russia and any countries.We ship them our wheat and they process it different way.Our A/P is close to they but not perfect. If you make French the bread here is same in France taste different. Try to bring to miller sampes and ask them to make some that Franch flour,but you must buy large quantity.American public are not use that breads (they like Wondra bread),sometime I wondering what is in.


 


                              Saintdennis

leucadian's picture
leucadian

Are you able to ask a miller to run a batch just for you?? I live in Southern California, and I don't believe that there are any commercial/public millers here. Are there small mills elswhere in the country that would accept custom orders, and does anyone have experience with them?


Now that I think of it, I've had cornmeal from what appear to be small mills in Georgia. Is anyone doing the same for wheat?

Flo Makanai's picture
Flo Makanai

Hi everyone and Happy New Year to all of you!


I've just read your posts with great interest. Thanks a lot Jane and SteveB for taking the time and money to make those tests for all of us!


Here is what I can add:


* I recently tried to bake a Portuguese sweet bread following exactly Suas' recipe, with French organic T65,  and I ended up with an extremely liquid dough, quite like a cake batter. I was surprised because I had taken it for granted, from what many among you had told me before, that US flours needed LESS water than French flours, so I thought I had made a mistake. I reread the recipe carefully and I had not made any mistake. Then Jane told me about her using US flours and everything fell into place : US flours need MORE water than my organic French one, so I baked the Portuguese bread once again with significantly less water and it worked perfectly.


* Maybe it's not only that the kneading has to be longer when using US flour, if you don't want a slack and overly wet dough, it's also the WAY you knead your dough. In France, my 1.2.3 formula is a complete success with eveyone who uses the slap and fold (Bertinet) method for kneading. People who use conventionnal kneading process like push and fold find the dough to be too wet. David (Soundman), I know you've adopted the 1.2.3 formula and you get super good results : HOW do you knead your dough?


* If I understood correctly, Nancy Silverton was immensely helped by Suas before opening La Brea Bakery. Suas helped her find out recipes that would work out correctly each time and that provided an excellent bread. Suas is French, he has been trained by the best in France, so it's not impossible that Nancy Silverton baguettes' recipe, for example, has been elaborated to get in the US, with US flours, a taste that is very much like French bread using French flour. I have never tasted my aunt MC's bread, but it's not impossible that her Silverton baguettes are very much similar to mine, which she tested at my home recently as she reports in her comment above. Because Siverton's way of retarding the dough surely has an enormous impact on the flour's flavor.


* It's a different story when one bakes bread in the US vs. in France without retarding the dough. No "cheating" allowed, then : if the flour is bland, so will be the bread, the lack of added flavor due to a long fermentation will reveal the poor taste of the flour, don't you think so?


* the water surely plays its role, too.


* Proth5 : I'm very sorry to inform you that Berthillon does sell marrons glacés ice cream and that it is absolutely delicious! We always have some at my parents' house for Christmas : marrons glacés ice cream and pear sherbet. Mmmmm. So now you just need to fly to Paris ASAP ;-)

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Flo,


Nice to see you back on TFL! As you know, I'm a confirmed 1.2.3 baker. It's easy for me and it works every time. No problems. I never use just straight white flour, which may explain in part why the dough is never too wet.


I keep wishing I could see other people's "too wet" dough. I like wet dough, and I have learned a few rules of thumb that have helped work with it:


1) If the dough looks good in the mixer, IT'S TOO DRY!


2) If I can knead the dough at all on my work table IT'S NOT TOO WET!


I mix 1.2.3 doughs minimally in my KA mixer: maximum 2 minutes with the paddle using just water and flour for the autolyse of 30 minutes; maximum 2 minutes on medium with salt and levain added in. The dough looks very gloppy at this point, which is good. If the dough came all together and cleared the sides and the bottom, I would have to add more water, which is a drag at that point.


Recap: third rule of thumb: 3) Glop is good!


Taking the dough out of the mixer bowl isn't easy, it's sticky. That's also good. Remember, wet doughs that aren't too wet would rather stick to themselves than to the work table. So with minimal flour shaken onto the bench (thanks to dmsnyder for his suggestion of a flour shaker), and dough scraper at the ready, I start to do slap and fold until the dough resists stretching to do the slap. At this point I push-and-fold knead very briefly (5 or 10 strokes) until the dough resists again. After that, the dough is strong enough that an hour or so later a stretch-and-fold makes a beautiful, strong, extensible dough that never tears and ferments/rises like a champ and gets excellent oven spring to boot.


(Another angle: Last week I made a 40% rye bread, with a soaker. Since the soaker soaked up all the water, I thought I'd use the full 67% water as I usually do. Hamelman says wet rye doughs make for better flavor after all! Well this dough was so wet it didn't clear anything. The dough hook just went round and round. I added one tablespoon of flour and the dough came together just enough to be pronounced gloppy. That was all the adjustment it needed.)


I wonder if we wouldn't benefit from posting pictures of our doughs, as much as the loaves they turn into?


Soundman (David)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

being able to bake the best we can from the products we have.  That takes a little experimenting.  Isn't that what we're up to?


I would like to see more regional baking differences.  What does your particular area have to offer and how can ingredients be combined to make something good, great?   It is memorable when a travel experience brings with it a new experience in eating.   Variety is the spice of life and good food certainly brings many back for more.  It is the essence of good tourism.


So, when do we fly to France?


Mini

MC's picture
MC


  • Retarding the dough in the fridge certainly has a huge impact on the flavor as pointed out in most US bread books but so does the use of levain-chef, preferments, etc. In Silverton's baguettes, the slow fermentation combined with the flavor of the starter produces a complex and very characteristic taste which we are very much hooked on. In other formulas, I get almost the same taste (with subtle and delicious differences) using levain-chef.

  • However I once made 5-minute no-knead dough with very very little yeast using the recipe provided by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. As I didn't get back home as scheduled, it sat "forgotten" in the fridge for close to three weeks. When I came back, I took it out to make baguettes. They were hard to shape because the dough was very wet and limp and when baked, a bit on the ugly side but they were totally delicious, crunchy, without much crumb but with a taste to die for. See my post on the issue: http://www.bombance.net/2008/09/une-bonne-pte.html (it is in French, sorry)

  • Conversely, I once made baguettes using the same recipe but out of dough which was just 2 days old and they were quite bland. "Sans intérêt" (nothing to write home about) as we say in French... I'd rather go without bread than eat that kind of baguettes.

  • So water, flour, fermentation, everything has an impact and that's the fun of it. It makes you feel a little bit like a conductor trying to get all the musicians to come together to make gorgeous music.

  •  I also love the notion of "terroir" mentioned in several of the comments and the huge variety of tastes that it offers in breads, just as in cheeses or wines. I once talked with the owners of Della Fattoria bakery in Petaluma and they told me they purchase wheat grown on high plains as it produces the best match with the local water and other ingredients that they use in the bakery.

  • Finally it should be said that finding good bread in France has been a hit-and-miss proposition for quite a few years now and since expectations are always high regarding French bread, it is/was disappointing. However there are signs that the trend is starting to reverse. I have had excellent bread lately from small artisanal bakeries in villages around Paris where the bread used to be mediocre at best. When they have time (for instance on weekends), people go more and more to specific bakeries (not necessarily well-known ones) to get specific loaves. In other words, there is a bread renaissance at large in France as well as in the US and it is very exciting to witness.

  • Also, more and more people I know in France are making their own breads...and that is exciting too.

Aprea's picture
Aprea

All of this being said at this blog, can we Americans (Floridians at that) ever hope to achieve a bread that is delightful as the above example, made with French flour?  


 


Steve - you said you can achieve the flavor by using 5-10% whole wheat - or are you ruined by the results of your experience with T65.


 


Maybe we should start a French flour import business.  With the current bread rage in the states, why don't the millers try to achieve something close?

holds99's picture
holds99

There are MANY French chefs and bakers and French trained chefs and bakers living and working in the U.S. using U.S. ingredients and, for the most part they're doing just fine.


When I lived in Paris more than a few of the niegborhood boulangeries purchased their dough from a central mixing facility and made their baguettes that way, rather than mixing the dough on-site.  So, things aren't always what they seem. 


 Baking is a very adaptive craft, in the sense that with the accumulation of experience and development of various techiques one can make excellent bread using U.S. ingredients, which in my opinion are right up there near or at the top. 


 "In April 2002, Bread Bakers Guild Team USA at the Coupe de Monde de la Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking) in Paris, France narrowly edged out the Japanese team to take second place..." 


I rest my case.


Howard
St. Augustine, FL 

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Howard, I may be wrong (and someone please correct me if I am), but I think all the teams at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie are required to use French flour.


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com

holds99's picture
holds99

Team USA bakers, in the Coupe du Monde competition, had to adapt their techniques to the French ingredients at hand.  My main point being, it's about understanding what you are working with...being flexible and able to adapt to the ingredients and situation at hand.


Interestingly, as you know, Suas generally covers the evolution of baking in AB&P on pages 6-18.  It certainly makes for interesting reading---and discussion.


Hang in there and thanks for your posts.


Howard

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Anna, not so much ruined as enlightened.  Now that I know how good a loaf can taste, I have an ideal to shoot for.  I have no doubt that something similar to it (but never exact) can be reached using American ingredients, it just might take a bit more manipulation (the right flour, more whole grain, different types and amounts of preferment, retardation, etc.).


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com


 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Wow, what a read! I'm so glad this discussion has taken off and so much information and ideas can be shared.


I have a question... what about high extraction flour. I know David Snyder uses it, Pat probably gets something pretty similar. I don't really know exactly what it is, but I think it must be around a T80. I think it is hard to come by in the States or expensive, but it might be an interesting flour to use when searching for a T65 equivalent... majority of AP with some high extraction. It doesn't resolve the gluten problem, but it may resolve the taste.


The thing about taste is that it is very individual. People taste things differently according to their culture, pas experiences, health. What may seem bland to me may seem explosive to someone else. So, really that can be a delicate subject. Even though I found the loaf I made "tasteless", it was a MILLION times better than regular soft bread from a sac and still better than many baguettes I have had in France. Everything is relative.


Upping the bar is always interesting and exciting. It's no fun arriving at total perfection, afterwards would get boring. I just think it would be interesting to be able to play with different American flours to get better taste and not necessarily having to do a bunch of fermenting tricks to achieve it. Simple bread is nice sometimes!


David (Soundman): Your description of working with that dough sounds right on. That is exactly the experience I had, but I did it 100% in the Kenwood.


I'm all for the International Fresh Loaf Terroir Get Together! Everyone has to come with their regional bakes. It has to be in Boston so Flo and I don't have to cross the continent, just the ocean. :-)


Jane

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Jane.


This is exactly what I've been thinking about. I currently have sufficient quatity of 3 different high extraction flours (Golden Buffalo, KAF First Clear, and First Clear from Norm). The last couple of days, I've been trying to decide on which of these I will try first and the proportions.


First Clear flour generally has more of the outside layers of the endosperm than AP and a higher ash content. It is very, very tasty when used as 100% of the flour in a loaf. I'm thinking of a mix of 50-80% bread flour and 20-50% First Clear. The best tasting baguettes I've made, not counting ones made with levain, were made with KAF Bread Flour. But, I may pick up some stone ground flour.


I would use the Gosselin or Bouabsa approach to baguettes. If I had more experience with "regular" poolish baguettes, I'd try those.


Soundman (David), I love your description of the cues the dough gives you. Learning to make adjustments according to the behavior of the dough is the milestone marking graduation from "beginner" to "intermediate" baker. At least, I'd nominate that criterion. Maybe we should think about collecting descriptions like yours to help new members make faster progress. Bravo!


The quest continues! Focus on flavor.


David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I think I'll try the baguettes with the bread flour Steve sent me to compare as mentioned above. I'm really interested to hear about your results. Will you do it this weekend? I will!


Jane

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I have a batch of Bouabsa baguette dough bowl-folded for an hour and in the refrigerator to divide, form proof and bake tomorrow evening.


I used 125 gms of Norm's First Clear Flour and 375 gms of KAF Bread Flour and 375 gms of water.


Norm's first clear is ground finer than the KAF first clear. It feels almost like talcum powder. The dough came together really, really fast, even on the initial mix before the autolyse, adding yeast and salt, etc.


This dough is tacky but dryer than that made with Giusto's Baker's Choice or KAF French-style flour with 10% rye. I think it will cooperate with traditional forming and slashing.


I'm refreshing my starter and thinking of making a Hamelman Miche, pointe-à-calliere with Norm's First Clear, just to compare with those I've made with KAF first clear in the past.


Then, I have to decide between making a babke or cinnamon rolls this weekend. It's tough.


David

proth5's picture
proth5

I use "proth5 Home Milled" high extraction flour.  What this means is that during my sifting process, I hold back about 20% by weight after my first 2 to three mill passes.  I need to get busy about setting up the equipment to measure ash content, but what this gives me is a quasi whole wheat bread.  I am milling hard white wheat.


What is now intriguing me is that I can sift an "almost white" flour through my next to finest sieve.  I haven't been baking with this because - well - when you hand crank a mill, it's just a lot of work to get enough "almost white" flour to bake anything.  Now I think that I should perhaps see what is going on with this flour.  This will be a bit of a project as I will need to mill and sift a fair amount of grain to get a usable quantity.  I will also need to investigate the mill pass at which the flour is produced.  I would think that sifting to "almost white" flour early in the process will yeild a quite different flour than sifting later in the process - sort of a "first clear vs all purpose" flour.  Then I will need to age the stuff.  Producing white flour is a stupendous undertaking. Since I have started milling I have gained an enormous appreciation for those bags of white stuff that we pick up at the market.  But I am always reminded of a passage from a CS Lewis book where Merlin from Arthurian England comes to the 20th century.  He is amazed by the luxuries that we take for granted (such as running hot water...)and appalled by the lack of graciousness in daily life.  Perhaps that is what we have done with flour.  We have white flour with incredible ease, but we seem to have taken the taste out of it...


For the hard core among us, type "heritage wheat" into your favorite search engine.  There are a large number of folks dedicated to keeping the tastes of our landrace wheats.


Unfortunately, my bread does not travel.  We need to move the people to the bread...


Happy Baking!


Pat

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

<please remove this comment>

ehanner's picture
ehanner


Sorry about the formatting on the top line. A MS code problem I suspect.


Wow, where do I start! I just read this thread from top to bottom and it contains some extremely interesting bit of information. The first thing that hit me was Jane's family comments that the bread didn't smell like anything. I guess that's where I will start. How can anything that doesn't smell good, taste great? The nose has such an effect on taste, surely the place to start has to be in finding a way to improve the aroma of our breads.


Since the crust being caramelized would have the best chance of creating the majority of smell, the available sugar in the flour along with ash seems like a good thing to look at. Dsnyder (David), I think you may be on to something with the high extraction combination.


SteveB, Your image of the T-65 bread is wonderful. It has the look of a perfectly balanced loaf. Since you are the one who has actually felt the flour in your hands and smelled the finished bread, do you have an opinion on what it would take to improve the aroma of our breads? I don't use KA flours and have been adding 5% white rye with my Gold Medal "Better for Bread". I happened to be in Whole Foods yesterday and saw the 365 flour you once mentioned. Could you compare the T65 to the 365 in any meaningful way?


MC, Your comments are very insightful to me. After watching your video of Flo kneading I discovered the dough was sans salt and yeast. Interesting. I have never kneaded a dough without those items. It would be interesting to know what kind of processing the city uses where you have your apartment. Could you tell us what city it is and if you have time perhaps ask the water department which process they use? I also have well water but it is run through an Iron filter before we see it. I purposefully avoid using water that has been softened, in the kitchen, by routing the plumbing with soft water around the kitchen. I think this is a common practice in the US to avoid the salt in the softened water. Taste is so subjective. I'm buoyed by your discovery that your French bread at home made with 365 flour is the same as Flo's made with T65.


Thank you all who have been participating in this thread. I have been following along with keen interest. I'm certain many of us are hoping someone will find a formula or procedure to create a flour and then a bread that has the aroma of common French bread. "Common" not meant wth any disrespect please.


 Eric


 

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish


Since the crust being caramelized would have the best chance of creating the majority of smell, the available sugar in the flour along with ash seems like a good thing to look at. Dsnyder (David), I think you may be on to something with the high extraction combination.



Since maillard reaction is believed to be one of the biggest contributors to flavour and aroma (especially the crust), I would think that protein content is at least as important as residual sugars. Higher extraction flour would have a higher protein content and might at least be a partial factor. (Protease notwithstanding...or perhaps protease is also an important factor since it is the denaturing of proteins, leaving amino acids rather than proteins themselves that participate in the maillard reaction)


I would imagine the enzyme levels in high extraction flour would also be proportionally higher. The relative levels of beta and alpha amylase determining the ratio of fermentable to unfermentable sugars.


Is it possible that these factors vary not just according to level of extraction but method of milling and also season in which the grain was harvested?



SteveB's picture
SteveB

Eric, thanks.  In my response to Anna, I posited that something similar (but perhaps not identical) to the flavor and aroma of a T65 loaf could probably be reached using American ingredients, it just might take a bit more manipulation (the right flour, more whole grain, different types and amounts of preferment, retardation, etc.).  Experimentation will be the key.  Dough workability is a whole other issue. 


(Warning... pure conjecture follows!) I think the use of soft wheat in France vs. hard wheat in the U.S. may play some role in the different flavor/workability profile of the T65 vs. KA.  By using hard wheat for AP flour, U.S. millers are constrained to exclude a significant portion of the distal (with respect to the germ) endosperm and bran, in order to produce a flour with not too high a protein content.  The flavor profile may suffer because of this.  By using soft wheat, French millers are able to get a flour with around 10% protein content while utilizing a greater portion of the distal endosperm and bran, contributing to a more "wheaty" flavor.  I would be interested if anyone is aware of an American flour milled from soft wheat at around a 10% protein content.


It would be difficult for me to make a fair comparison of the T65 to the Whole Foods 365 without using the T65 for an identical recipe in which the 365 was used.         

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

I'm curious...are we so certain that all french flours are milled from soft wheat?


I'm pretty sure I've seen T55 advertised as hard wheat flour (even though the grain origin is french)...My guess is that at least in some cases,  a mixture of wheat varieties is used to create optimal results for a given classification...there may be soft AND hard wheat present in the flour?


 


 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== I'm curious...are we so certain that all french flours are milled from soft wheat? ===


In _Bread Alone_, Leader reports that French millers (at least some of them) use wheat from the Montana/Manitoba area to adjust the ultimate gluten content of their product.  So I don't think you can assume that a flour sold in Region X contains only wheat from Region X, or even only the predominant type from that region.


sPh

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I admit that I do NOT put what I call "industrial flour" often used by bakers in the same category as the flour I bake with. Industrial flour can be anything and have additives. Organic T55 and T65 is always soft wheat, nothing added. What Steve used is this flour. I have worked with other T55 flour one can buy anywhere and some T65 "Tradition" that a baker gave me. It is the flour used to make the famous baguette "Tradition". It didn't feel the same and the taste wasn't great at all! There are better T65 Tradition flours, but I don't see the point in baking with it because it isn't organic and who knows how the wheat is grown and what pesticides are used. I'd like to try some wheat grown in the Gers and Auvergne. They seem to strive for a very high quality.


http://www.gersfarine.com/petitbonheur.htm


They specify that it is "blé tendre", soft wheat.


I think this is an important point and the reason I wonder if some American organic flours could have great taste and feel as well.


Jane

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

 


I thought I'd weigh in on this discussion from a UK perspective.


I've used T55 flour (from M. Bertinet) and while it is certainly different from the AP flour I normally use, I could not honestly say that the *flavour* is significantly better than other flour products readily available in the UK.  It's fair to say that if you want the 'classic baguette' then T55 is pretty much a go-to flour... a reasonably safe bet if you like. However I think there is definitely something to be said for experimentation with other flours (not necessarily french origin) which may well yield results which have subjectively better flavour.  


Currently my own thoughts are running along the lines of using a stronger flour (maybe cut with some high extraction flour) in the preferment and T55 in the final dough.


 


I'm sure most reading this already know, but perhaps worth remembering that the classification 'T55' or 'T65' simply refers to the ash content (milligrams per 10g test) so there is nothing inherently superior about a product labeled T65 or T55. I'm not aware of any legislation regarding the type of wheat selected for such flours...it just so happens that to achieve 'T55' spect by conventional milling, it might be logical to choose a soft wheat...I don't know. In the end, it's down to the miller's experience and judgement and the product will doubtless vary from mill to mill.


 


Personally, I'm all for variety...whether by choice or circumstance. The idea of a 'universal' baguette is precisely the sort of concept that I'm sure we'd all strive against. US, UK, and French flours can all give fantastic results both in appearance and flavour - however I would question whether classification/country of origin can be used as a guarantee of either.




 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I baked a batch of Bouabsa baguettes with 25% Norm's first clear and 75% KAF Bread Flour at 75% hydration. The dough was rather slack. I scored the baguettes but probably should have left them unscored. The crumb was nice and open.


These had more aroma than baguettes made with white flour alone. There was a mild "wheaty" smell to the cut loaf. They had more flavor than without the first clear, but it was not a classic good baguette sweet flavor. This was "good" bread, but did not have my "target" flavor.



The quest must continue.


David


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

While I don't know your targeted taste, David, that baguette looks very nice and had to taste as good as it looks.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The bread did taste good, just not the sweet, wheaty flavor baguettes are supposed to have. Different. Not bad.


David

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Looks great, David!


I was browsing through a copy of "Bread Builders" at my local library yesterday. I noticed that the authors state that baguettes made with French flour, are typically hydrated to 60 - 63%, while the American counterpart would be made from 65% or higher hydrations.
I didn't spot any more in-depth comments about the flour differences, but the observation seems to ring true to what's been said in this thread as well.

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Looks nice! I can see the difference in the color of the crumb. I am a day late with the baguettes made with bread flour, but I can already say that in order to get what I consider a good dough for the Bouabsa baguettes, I had to add 30g of water! That makes a hydration of 81% if my calculations are correct. As for the rest, that will come tomorrow. Once again, it goes to show that French flours absorb less.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

But I'm confused about the hydration. There's a video on u-tube of Anis shaping his baguettes. The dough does not act like a 75% hydration dough of fine made with KAF bread flour. It looks drier.


If I made an 81% hydration dough with bread flour, I think it would be runny. On the other hand, a 65% hydration dough made with bread flour would be quite dry.


Hmmmm .... Time to check Prof. Calvel's baguette formula for American flour. 


David

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

From my own experience, I don't really believe that higher hydration is better. It certainly opens up the crumb and leaves those large holes, but I find the taste to be pretty "bland" more often than not in these highly hydrated doughs. That's why I'm not so fond of many of Leader's extra wet recipes in "Local Breads". I find a more pronounced flour taste when I use "standard" hydrations (between 65 and 68% for your typical, straight wheat dough). To me, they're easier to work with, taste better, and, from my cursory investigations, also keep better than their sloppy counterparts.


So what about scaling down slightly on the hydration in the baguette dough next time? I've never used American flours, so I won't suggest how much... but to say around 68-70%? And since the typical extraction rate of French flour is slightly higher than American flour (roughly 75% vs. 72%), add a pinch of wholewheat flour to get some bran in there.

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I only did the higher hydration with this dough because it is an experiment. I've never worked with American flours, either and that is the whole game! Some people do the Bouabsa baguettes with KA Bread flour and so I thought I'd do a comparison. So, in order to get a dough that ressembles what mine usually looks like, I had to add water. An 81% hydration with Bread flour ressembles a 75% hydration with T55.


As for taste with high hydration, these baguettes made with T55 or T65 are pure baguette heaven. The taste in incredible! But as I said above, I use stone ground organic French flour and it really has incredible taste.


Jane

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

I believe you, Jane! If you're ever traveling to my part of Europe, I beg you!!, please bring some stone ground T55 and T65 along... :-)


It is really interesting to try "true-and-tested" recipes with new kinds of flour. I recently purchased stone ground organic rye, spelt and wheat flours from a tiny Norwegian mill. I've just baked with it a couple of times, but so far I'm extremely happy with the results. They have a slightly higher extraction rate than my usual flours, and the ash is also noticeably higher. Especially the wheat and spelt breads I've baked have benefitted greatly from using stone ground flour.

Janedo's picture
Janedo

That is what I have found with this flour I have been using for the last six mths or so. It has a higher ash % compared to the flour I was using before. It absorbs more water and is very flavorful. It makes sense since T65 is really a window, not an exact measure.


Where exactly are you?


Jane

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Jane and Steve, really informative experiment and great thread! Jane, I have stumbled across your blog a few times and you are an amazing cook and baker.


I am a longtime member of TFL but have only had time to lurk for well over a year, but your post has piqued my interest. I have always been interested in how different flours taste and handle, and have always wanted to experiment as you have.


For what it is worth, I did a somewhat controlled experiment 2 years ago between KA "Organic Artisan" flour and KA AP, here. The KA Artisan was at the time supposed to be more like French flour in terms of ash content while keeping the protein level the same as AP (11-12% range). However, I could find really no difference at all in taste or performance between those two, they were pretty identical to me. A few caveats, however: I used them in my standard sourdough boule recipe that I love best, my version of the Thom Leonard boule, which contains about 2% whole rye flour and about 22% KA whole wheat flour. (I also use the Celtic Grey Sea Salt from Brittany in that recipe, which I like!)


I have always wanted to obtain some French flour, my father-in-law is a retired 3-star chef in France and has educated me on the finer points of bread and other quality ingredients over the years. When in the States, he insists, however, that my sourdough boules, when made with the flour mix described above, tastes as good as as any of the best bread he gets in France (of course I'm sure he is prejudiced). We will be visiting them in France next summer and I plan to make some bread while there to try out the various flours.


In any event, I tend to believe that we can make our American AP flours behave a bit more like French flour by adding a percentage of whole wheat and rye, as many have pointed out. Any recipe I use that calls for white flour, whether bread flour or AP, I always use Dan Leader's method in Bread Alone of adding in at least 20-25% whole wheat flour to KA AP flour. When I make Reinhart's Pain a L'Ancienne from BBA, I use 25% whole wheat and I do think it tastes nearly as good as any good baguette I remember having in Paris, although any bread fresh from the home oven will certainly skew your memory!


I personally never liked the KA Bread flour, I thought it tasted like cardboard in my resulting bread, too much gluten and not enough flavor, so I never use it.


I have tried an organic Canadian flour, Milanaise, grown and milled in Quebec that I was able to purchase in a 50 lb bag from Dan Leader's Bread Alone Bakery down the road from me. While it had a nice flavor, it was considerably more of a sandy texture than KA AP, and I found my resulting baked breads' crumb all to be very dry and crumbly for some reason. I may try it again though.


Water ...this one I find really interesting, namely because I happen to work for NYC's Water Supply so I may be able to shed some light on a few things there:


MC indicated that her "city" water gave her better results. MC, do you live in NYC? If so, you are receiving unfiltered water from the Catskill Mountains (NYC has the largest unfiltered water supply in the world, it is kept clean through a combo of watershed land protection and reservoir retention and settlement of impurities). Your NYC water is chlorinated to kill pathogens, but it is not filtered. It is NOT, however, a mineral-rich water, it is NOT hard, calcium-rich water, due to the geology of the Catskills, which naturally filters the water with extensive clay deposits. This is probably why everyone says NYC bagels are so good...it's the water. I live at the source of all this water in the Catskills, so my well water, which I use for all my baking, is the same unfiltered, but soft ground water, sans the chlorine. Well water from places like Long Island, NY and Florida are coming from probably deep aquifers that contain a lot of minrerals, metals, salts, and calcium.


I guess my point being, I tend to agree with proth5, MC, and some others who indicate that with the right manipulation of flour and other additions like rye, you can make great bread with what you have locally, just handle the dough differently as well if needed. The quality of your tap water is going to have a big effect I would think, so if you are not lucky enough to have good tap water, get a filter for your sink, and if it is just chlorinated but otherwise OK, just let it sit uncovered 24 hours to evaporate the chlorine.


That said, I still can't wait to get to France next summer and try the French flour :-) It will be interesting to see what the Savoie tap water is like to cook with, however, at my in-laws place.


--Mountaindog

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Mountaindog.


Nice to see you back!


The best tasting baguettes I've made to date have been with a mix of KAF Artisan flour with 5% whole rye and 5% WW. I think playing with the flour mix is going to be more productive for us in the U.S. than trying to find a single flour that acts like French T65. (Not counting home milling.)


My experience with the taste of KAF Artisan Flour and Bread Flour matches yours - underwhelming flavor. I made Hamelman's Miche, Pointe-à-Callière last night. This morning, it has the wonderful wheaty aroma I want for my baguettes. The flavor is that of 100% First Clear Flour breads, which it is. It's a pain au levain. This is not baguette flavor, of course, but it is wonderful.


Our local water is high in minerals and chlorinated. I filter it for bread baking, which removes the chlorine. My understanding is the minerals are a good thing for bread baking, if not for my espresso machine (which has an additional in-line filter to remove them).


David

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

David - interesting that minerals in water may or may not enhance flour...since French flour has a higher ash (i.e. mineral content) you would think it does, I suppose it all depends upon the concentration and type of minerals, and esp. on the acidity or alkaline properties of the local water as well. Where are you located?


As far as NYC water, the interesting thing is that so many think that it is what is IN the water that makes great bread and bagels in NYC, when in fact, I believe it is what is NOT in the water that makes it good. Here is an interesting NY Times article on this...the water is relatively soft, not hard. I think a lot of groundwater out in the western US is naturally very alkaline (common in more arid regions) compared to the eastern US where it is more acidic due to the more humid climate, but some of the Westerners here at TFL can comment about that better than me.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Mountaindog.


I'm in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California. 


Our water for drinking comes from an underground aquifer. I think it's fairly neutral, pH-wise. Our biggest water quality problem is agricultural soil fumigants (applied to kill nematodes) that were used in the orchards and vineyards around here for years. Most wells are okay, but some have had to be shut down.


There was discussion of this topic (water and bread) 6-9 months ago, I think. 


David


 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Mountaindog,


Great read and thanks for your input. I think we are basically just coming back to what leader has said all along and what yourself and other have repeated. I have his local breads book and I never know whether to really follow his recipes because he blends flours to make French style flours with American ones. So, I guess whether he is trying for a straight T65 or maybe a T80. I have to translate his recipes BACK!


The question that does remain for me, though, is the difference between organic and non-organic. As I have said, I have used non-organic T65 "Tradition" flour and it still isn't as tasty as the organic stone ground T65 or even T55. I wonder if it is the same over there with smaller mills that produce organic flour.



I do know that we have great water here, direct from our mountains.
 I haven't baked with anything else and so I can't really compare. Your info is really interesting.


I think David should do up a chart of good flour blends to try! :-)


Of course the water and EVERYTHING is wonderful in Savoie! I want news on your French breadbaking!!! But before you do it, tell me and I'll tell you which flour to try.


Jane

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thanks Jane, I'd definitely like to know the best places to pick up your favorite flours when I'm in Chambery, you'll have to give me a list and what stores to look in. Do they sell them in Carrefour?

Flo Makanai's picture
Flo Makanai

Hi Mountaindog,


I wouldn't recommend the organic flours Carrefour sells. I've tried them recently and they're not (by far) as good as the ones I buy in organic stores. They're OK for cakes, crêpes, pancakes, but not great for bread baking: the dough lack structure and taste. I use the bags I have left to dust my bread proofing baskets, and I'm happily back to my original organic shop ones!

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thanks Flo - I'll do some research to find what organic food stores are located in Savoie. If you or Jane have a list of organic mills/brands you especially like, please let me know.


Jane listed the Biocert T65, I'll look for that as a start....great info, thanks!

Janedo's picture
Janedo

If you google Biocoop Chambery, you get the address of the local organic coop. You can try any of the stone ground organic flours there. They usually sell in bulk or you can get Celnat, Moulin des Moines and sometimes very small mill flours. I use Biocert because that is what they sell in bulk. I also use flour from a small mill not far from where I live that has some really nice stuff. DON'T buy from a grocery store even if it says organic, stone ground. It isn't the same!


Jane

Thor Simon's picture
Thor Simon


I do know that we have great water here, direct from our mountains.



Where in France are you?  I lived in Paris for several months and found the tap water unpleasantly hard, a comment which Reinhart echoes in the introduction to BBA.  On the other hand I lived in Pau for about the same length of time and have no particular recollection of the water at all, which given where I grew up probably means it tastes not unlike the NYC water Mountaindog is talking about!



Janedo's picture
Janedo

In the South, near the Spanish borders, on the road to Andorra, about 40 min from Perpignan. Paris water is disgusting. Our water doesn't have a lot of calcium (calcaire) in it. Not hard, but it isn't soft either. I like it and it bakes well.

Aprea's picture
Aprea

Forgive me for asking the obvious, but why doesn't everyone just use bottled water?  We still have hard water in Jacksonville - so we have a salt water softener.  I would be hesitant to even use the filtered water from the fridge.  

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Hi Anna - you certainly may want to use bottled water if your tap water is too hard and not easily filterable, many bakers use bottled spring water. I myself have a few reasons why I prefer to use what is at hand, namely: 1) I am a minimalist in many ways and am too cheap to pay for potable water, I use so much water between everyday cooking, drinking, and baking, it would take a large bite out of my food budget. 2) I am lucky to live in a location where we do have really excellent drinking water from my well. 


If I lived in a location such as yours, however, I may have no choice but to use bottled if a suitable household filter was not available. When we used to spend a week or so in the FLA Keys every winter a few years back, I recall the tap water really having a bad taste (probably desalinized seawater?), I never tried baking there, but it probably would have a made any bread have a flat taste.

holds99's picture
holds99

You wrote: "I would be hesitant to even use the filtered water from the fridge."


FWIW.  I use filtered St. Johns County municipal water from my fridge dispenser for all my baking, and have done so for years.  I do a lot of baking and don't have any problems with the filtered water here in St. Augustine.  I fill a gallon container with filtered water and let it sit out for 24 hours, uncovered, to get rid of any residual chlorine.  Afterward, I store it in the fridge in a gallon jug for use in baking.  As I said, I get what I consider good results with my filtered water. 


Since I have never used a salt water softener, I don't have any experience or idea how it affects dough/baking.  If your fridge filter is being supplied water from the salt water softener, that may be causing you a problem. 


Howard

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