The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Clear Flour

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zolablue's picture
zolablue

Clear Flour

What can you tell me about clear flour and its uses?  I have to chuckle at myself.  I recently found this on King Arthur baking site and thought - oh great - a clear flour to use for dusting my bannetons!  It won't even show!  Oh my goodness.  Well, at any rate I bought some and now I'm not sure what to do with it except that I know it is used in rye and pumpernickel.  I have not made these types of breads yet however am always on the lookout for some great tried and true recipes.  In the meantime this is what King Arthur says about it but please feel free to add all your knowledge on the subject with any suggestions on what to bake using it.

First Clear Flour

This is the flour New York City bakers have always used for their signature Jewish-style rye breads.
  • High-protein, high-mineral (extra flavor) wheat flour.
  • Use in combination with rye flour.
  • Also an ideal flour for feeding your sourdough starter.
  • In a 3-pound bag, recipe included.
BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

One use is in M.Glezer's 'Artisan Baking' for one of the French Country loaf (Tom Something's Country Sourdough) ... and P.Reinhard is also refering to it in one formula. Supposedly the taste should be 'special', somewhere between AP and WW. I received a couple of pound a few days ago and plan to use it over the weekend.

I don't have the books with me right now, but if you wish I could look up tonight the exact names of the formulas I was suggesting.

BROTKUNST

clarkej's picture
clarkej

was wondering if this would work as a discussion board for some of my senior students to get involved with - just testing the ground...

thanks

judy clarke

zolablue's picture
zolablue

We were just discussing the Thom Leonard bread again (a couple posts down).  Are you telling me that this is a high extraction flour and that I can use it in the Thom Leonard because I'm planning on making that tomorrow.  (Does high extraction mean high gluten?)

Have you actually baked with it yet?

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...thanks to you again Brotkunst for the heads up.  I checked my BBA book and on page 30 Reinhart says the following:

“…Professional bakers use the designations clear flour and patent flour for types of white flour (as opposed to whole-wheat flour, a category unto itself in which the entire wheat berry is preserved in the flour).  They indicate what part of the wheat berry has been sifted through and packaged.  Clear flour, which means the flour that clears the first sifting (to separate out the bran and germ), still retains some of the finer bran fiber from the outer endosperm of the wheat berry and is thus coarser and contains higher levels of ash.  This flour is often used in rye breads and is usually made from very strong, high-protein wheat.  Rarely is clear flour sold in regular markets, but it is a good value for professional bakers who can use it in whole-grain and high-fiber breads.

 

Patent flour, sometimes called “second clear,” is flour that has passed through a second sifting, thus retaining only the pure inner endosperm, or white interior, of the wheat berry.  It is the purest grade and shows up in stores as bleached or unbleached all-purpose, pastry, bread, or high-gluten flour…”

  

Based on that I think I will try making the Thom Leonard boules tomorrow with this flour.  It can’t hurt and will be fun to compare flavor as I mentioned to Mountaindog in the other thread regarding using a traditional WW flour and not sifting for that recipe.

 
todbramble's picture
todbramble

I was reading through this series of posts and had a couple of thoughts. First, would be that Peter R's book is completely wrong when talking about first clear and patent. If you collect all the flour that comes out of a mill you get something called 'straightgrade flour'. By flour, I mean everything that passes through the sieve on the bottom of the stack that has the smallest openings. Now, not all flour streams in the mill are created equal. Some of those streams contain a lot fine pieces of bran and as such are very dark, and the protein is not all that good for bread making as it comes from the region right next to the bran layer. So to get patent flour, you remove one or more of these dirty (or dark) streams. What you end up with is a lighter flour that contains a higher percentage of gluten forming proteins. But as a flour mill needs to make money they can't just throw out these darker streams. So they collect them in what is called first clear. And if they cut that further the cuttings go into second clear (even darker).

Traditionally, clear flours were used in darker breads simply because they were cheap. Granted it has a lot of flavor but the real motivation was price. And if you were making a dark bread, like rye or raisin it didn't matter.

You can't call clear flour a highextraction flour because its protein makeup is not proportioned correctly. Recall that above I said it comes from grinding right up against the bran layer in what is called the aleurone layer. The protein here does not contain much of the gluten forming proteins so you should get a really sticky, extensible dough.

A highextraction flour is a specal creature. It is a straightgrade flour (for all practical purposes) which has had reduced bran and germ added back into it. So the key here is that it has all of the gluten forming proteins available from the kernel which allows it still make great bread even though it contains a higher percentage of bran.

Hope that made some sense.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

todbramble,

I had wondered about the BBA paragraph about clear flour. It seemed wrong to me, too. You sound like you've had some experience with flour mills. One thing I'm curious about is how much "first clear flour" is produced from a given amount of grain?

Also, would it be reasonable to say that whole wheat flour is approximately composed of patent flour, clear flour, wheat germ, and bran? If so, what would be the normal percentages of each in whole wheat flour?

If you want to approximate "high extraction flour" could you combine regular AP flour with clear flour in some percentage and then add in some amount of wheat germ and then bran as the extraction rate goes higher?

Sorry if too many questions.

Bill

todbramble's picture
todbramble

Yeah, I'm not sure where the BBA info came from but it is so wrong that it makes me scratch my head everytime I read it.

You know, the amount of clears that is produced is pretty small, probably just at 2-3 percent. If you figure the extraction rate on patent flour is around 67-70%, and that a good amount of the bran is recovered as mostly pure bran the clear flour production is pretty small. Plus, I believe demand for clear flours is shrinking these days so its production is probably pretty minimal.

Your second question is a pretty tough one. A wheat kernel is approximate 84% endosperm, 14% bran and 2% germ. So a whole wheat flour would contain those percentages of each of those kernel parts. Further breaking it down into patent flour, etc would be pretty tough. Also, when you set out to make whole wheat flour your motivations are deferent than when you set out to make say patent flour. When you are making patent flour, since it is the most valuable product you can make you set out to maximize its production (while still staying within the specification). With whole wheat you are perhaps more concerned with getting the bran reduced to the right size (for coarse medium or fine). So it would be hard to figure out its composition beyond endosperm, bran, and germ.

Third question is a great one, and not one that I had considered before. That would be a decent way to make a highextraction flour. So, let's say the ash content of patent flour is around .50% and a highextraction flour is around .85-.90 and clear is around 1.0. I don't know the exact percentages but you might start with 75% patent and 25% clear and then work your way up from there; maybe getting as high as 50-50 patent to clear. I might use "bread" flour as opposed to AP because you could benefit from the extra protein with all those bran pieces in there. If you start adding whole germ and bran you are going to get away from a highextraction flour (where all the particles are roughly flour-sized).

I hope all that makes sense. I've been writing this while doing other things.

Tod

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Tod,

Thanks for your response - very interesting.

I had read somewhere that straight flour is 72% of the kernel, and that after patent flour at 67-70% is removed, the rest is clear flour. So, I see where the few percent for the clear flour comes in. What happens to the part of the endosperm from 72% to 84%? Is there a type of flour corresponding to that slice of the extraction?

I may have a different (possibly wrong) concept of what "high extraction" means. I've read about extraction percentages from 72% to 90% in discussions about high extraction flours. It seems like 90% extraction would be flour where you have removed some of the bran, which is how certain flours are described from places like Littleton Grist Mill and Homestead Grist Mill. The extraction rate is not really described for Golden Buffalo flour from Heartland Mills, but they say that it is flour with the germ and a small amount of bran included. These flours behave a lot more like whole grain flour when you use them, but they don't have the gritty feel of whole wheat flour, I assume because most of the bran is removed.

In the BBA, the discussion of the flour used by Poilane for the sourdough miche recipe talks of a 90% extraction flour.

I was naively imagining that to you might make a 90% extraction flour substitute by combining 70 parts bread flour, 14 parts first clear flour, 2 parts wheat germ, and 4 parts bran (adding up to 90 parts, like 90%). I was assuming that a 90% extraction flour would contain the entire germ, but maybe that's off base. Anyway, you can see the somewhat naive idea.

If you have a chance to respond, it would be great to hear more about this high extraction topic, where clear flour fits into it, and how to make a "high extraction flour substitute".

Bill

todbramble's picture
todbramble

With flour milling you are breaking big pieces into little pieces. But it is not perfect. If you look at a big piece of bran often there is a little endosperm clinging to it (so there is a loss from the 84%). So not all of the endosperm ends up where you want it (ie in the flour)

Yeah. I see what you are saying about highextraction. I would imagine that 'highextraction' is like the terms 'AP' and "Bread' flour: they mean different things to different people. To me (based on the highextraction flours that I have seen) highextraction flour is a flour that has all its particles roughly the same size as one would find in a white flour and that includes bran pieces. Now this is hard to do becuase the bran resists being reduced into such fine particles (it's fiber after all). The germ grinds up pretty easily and its oils are sqeezed out and spread throughout the flour. So what you end up with is a dark (say tan) colored flour (fine particles), that when you grab a handful and clump it together in your fist it says clumped (from the oil).

So at 90% extraction you are still missing 10%. That 10% is bran which could not be reduced into flour sized particles.

Now I don't know how you would accomplish that at home other than to mix white flour and clear flour together. You are going to be missing the oil from the germ but you would get pretty close on color, texture and (fairly close) on flavor.

Not sure if that helps. TOD

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Tod,

What you describe as high extraction flour sounds just like the Golden Buffalo flour from Heartland Mills that I've been playing with. It has that tan color, and it seems to have some small amount of small bran particles, and it clumps when you squeeze it in your fist. The ones from Littleton Grist Mill and Homestead Grist Mill are called "sifted whole wheat". They don't seem to clump quite as much when you squeeze them, the color is similar, and there is more of a visible amount of bran that looks kind of like flecks of brown particle in the tan mass of the flour. Maybe it doesn't clump as well because of the additional bran particles in it?

Also, on your comment that the wheat germ oils would be missing from a combination of flour and clear flour, does it make sense to add back the 2% germ by using a product like the KA stabilized wheat germ? Would you expect that adding a wheat germ product like that would successfully simulate the addition of wheat germ, or is the fact it's separated out and "stabilized" going to have a different effect from what would be intended if you were trying to simulate the germ that would be ground up in the high extraction flour? I had the idea I might grind up a small amount of wheat germ in a coffee grinder and add it, along with clear flour, to regular flour to simulate high extraction flour.

Thanks again for your comments on this. It's very interesting and good to learn about.

Bill

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Tod - thanks for all the detailed info, very informative. Like Bill, I'm interested in trying to mimic a high extraction flour since a lot of artisan bread recipes call for it if available. What do you think of the method for the home baker proposed by Dan Leader in his Bread Alone Baking Book of mixing 3 parts bread or AP flour with 1 part Whole Wheat flour to make what he calls a "20% bran flour" that theoretically would be more similar to the artisan bread flours of Europe? An oversimplification? Is this "20% bran" flour similar to a high extraction flour?

I have been using this 3:1 method for awhile with King Arthur AP and King Arthur Whole Wheat, just mixing/shaking them very thoroughly in a big tightly-sealed bin until no color separation is left anywhere. The result is a creamy tan flour that I use in any recipe calling for white flour, and I find I really like the taste better than using all white. If I were to make a pilgrimage to the King Arthur HQ in VT and buy some bulk flour on-site, what type do you recommend as being most like European flour, would that be the organic artisan AP, or one of the other specialty flours sold to the professional bakeries?  Thanks...

todbramble's picture
todbramble

I've seen that method before- 3:1 AP:Whole Wheat. I think that's a good combo. With whole wheat you are getting the germ (it's whole wheat after all). I think a fine (as in particle size) whole wheat would be good to get you closer to what I think of as a highextraction flour.

The previous post mentioned Golden Buffalo by Heartland Mills. That is one of the highextraction flours I've seen and is exactly what I am talking about. As for adding 2% germ to the white flour-clear flour mix. I think that's a great idea. However, the germ that is bought separate is mostly the whole germ (one piece) and as such, will not release its oils to the flour mix. But would still impart good flavor.

As to a good flour to get on a visit to KA. (You asked, so hopefully I won't get in trouble for shameless self-promotion.) The Organic Artisan is a great flour - lowish protein, higher ash .55 (or thereabouts). But my favorite is Sir Galahad. My job is selling 50 pound sacks to bakeries and what I call Sir Galahad you would call KA All Purpose. Same flour. It's my favorite.

Tod

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thanks Tod. I have been using KA Organic Artisan as well as regular AP and I do think the regular AP is an excellent flour, very hard to tell the difference between the two in side-by-side comparisons I've done. I'm also lucky to have 25lb sacks of KA AP available in all of my local supermarkets here in upstate NY. Interesting to know that Sir Galahad is the same as the KA AP, just different label. For my 3:1 mix I use the KA Organic Whole Wheat which seems to be very finely-ground so it mixes well with the AP.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

MD, did you say somewhere that you have stopped using KA AP in favor of KA Artisan AP?  I have just requested my grocer let me buy the KA Artisan flour by the case for a 10% discount rather than have to either buy it online or buy locally in the tiny bags only.  I've also used the KA Artisan AP for chocolate chip cookies and it works super.  Don't know if I need both flours but I don't really have the confidence yet to give one up completely especially since todbramble favors the KA AP so much.

 

Btw, I think I need to make a little trip down to Kansas to Thom Leonard's bakery and sample his bread first hand to see which flour comes closest to what he intends.  I'm not far away, I think.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Not a bad idea, Zola. I actually live close to Lawrence and should visit  the Wheatfields Bakery. Hmm ...., although after it does not matter after all too much what the 'original' tastes like. If it's different it does not make your bread 'wrong' or 'worse'. But there is a chance to learn about a certain touch or kick to the flavour that one has not experienced yet.

 

I should call and see if they would sell some pound of their flour over the counter ... 

 

BROTKUNST 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

So it is Lawrence.  I could not remember and for some reason was thinking KC.  I don't remember where Lawrence is exactly so will look it up.  I'm in Omaha.  I agree there is no wrong way to make that bread as long as you like it. I've done a couple different things with very different results first sifting traditional KA WW to sifting Hodgson Mills WW graham (coarse flour) to using the KA first clear flour.  They are all good in fact I think you can't mess up that recipe.  Thanks again for your further tips below.  I need and appreciate all the help I can get.

 

PS...Definately post photos when you can!

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Lawrence is right between Kansas City and Topeka ...here.

 

BROTKUNST

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Hi ZB, I have been using both KA AP and KA Organic Artisan back and forth. I recently switched back to KA AP just because I didn't have time to special order a case of the Organic Artisan from my health food coop and I was running out. I really cannot tell any difference between the two, and you may recall I did that side-by-side test here. I prefer to use the Organic Artisan simply because it is organic, though, so if I make a trip either to VT soon, or to TT's distributor out near Utica, I'll gladly buy a 50 lb sack of the Organic Artisan.

I wish I was able to get to TL's bakery and sample some of his bread like you are planning, that sounds like fun. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Tod and Mountaindog,

Thanks again for all the information. Your comment about the wheat germ makes sense. That's one reason I was thinking that maybe grinding the wheat germ in a blade style coffee grinder might work to more or less pulverize the wheat germ before adding it to the "combo" would help, rather than adding the large particles of the straight wheat germ product.

Mountaindog, I think the difference between high extraction flour and the 3 part AP, 1 part WW, is that 3 parts of the wheat germ and 3 parts of the "clear flour" are missing, since that was filtered out of the AP, yet it would still be in a high extraction flour.

That's what makes me think, after Tod's input, that adding something like 2-3% (maybe pulverized) wheat germ and some amount around 10% clear flour to the 3 parts AP/1 part WW mix might get you closer to the flavor and composition of a true high extraction flour like the Golden Buffalo. Maybe it's more trouble than it's worth, depending on what flavors and textures may be contributed by the wheat germ and the clear flour.

Bill

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Tod, since you work for King Arthur Flour and have quite some expertise as a grain scientist, one can rely on your statement as first-hand information.

From what you write though ("The protein here does not contain much of the gluten forming proteins so you should get a really sticky, extensible dough"), I'd expect that KAF's 'First Clear' Flour would not make for a good dough just by itself ....I have to say though that my experience is quite the contrary. KAF's 'First Clear' makes an excellent (sour)dough, not sticky at all and passes easily the 'window pane' test. The KAF website describes their 'First Clear' as "High-protein, high-mineral (extra flavor) wheat flour" which does not directly contradict your statement ...however you say that the (high) protein content "does not contain much of the gluten forming proteins" ... that's the point I don't understand after working with this flour.

 

I would also read your statement as saying that 'First Clear' Flour is basically a cheap leftover ("But as a flour mill needs to make money they can't just throw out these darker streams. So they collect them in what is called first clear.") Why is then KAF's 'First Clear' Flour more expensive then Bread or AP Flour ?

 

BROTKUNST

 

todbramble's picture
todbramble

How'd you know I work for King Arthur? I guess there are no secrets in this world...

That's cool that you can make great bread with the clear flour. It's got loads of flavor, etc. From a production standpoint I don't know of any bakery using 100% clear flour for their bread production for the simple reason that it isn't well suited for use by itself. But, perhaps by hand one can work the dough sufficiently to make a great loaf of bread. Well, obviously one can becuase you have :-).

I don't work for the KA catalog so I can speak to their pricing. I would have to believe though that they sell it as a premium becuase it would be impossible for a homebaker to get it otherwise. Also, I wouldn't say it's a cheap leftover for the mill (it's still more valuable than feed) but rather has an application as a substitute for the more expensive patent flour in darker breads.

Tod

 

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

You are right, this world appears rather small at times :-) It's good that way because otherwise this form of communcation would become too impersonal, would it not ?

 

The information you offered about the 'First Clear' Flour is really very interesting ! When I read the label on the back of the (KAF) bag it states that the flour would contain 'Hard Spring Wheat Flour and Malted Barely Flour'. The Protein content of a 26g serving is listed as 5g .... I suppose that does not mean that the Protein content is 5/26 or about 20%. That would be much higher then I would expect (?). I also don't know what the proportions of these two flours are, but I guess the malted barely would not be more then a very few percent.

Either way , I wonder if KAF's 'First Clear' is labeled as such without the intention to stricly conform to the actual definition of 'first clear flour'. That may be the reason why this 'First Clear' works so nicely for me. I get also exceptional good feedback from friends and family for my variation of the Thom Leonard Country Style Loaf (95 % KAF First Clear Flour). The taste, possibly from the ash content (?) is very rustic, slightly earthy and intense 'wheaty' - unless I suppose one would use an overpowering sour levain or prolonged retarded proofing.

In the formula for a Peasant-Style Rye Bread that KAF offers on the back of the flour sack, one uses 'First Clear' with Rye Flour in a relation of 1.6:1 with about 3.8% (of the total flour weight) Vital Wheat Gluten 'for a stronger rise'. (that formula contains also instant yeast, sugar and sour cream). I am not sure if the 3.8% is telling me that this portion is necessary to 'boost' the total flour weight or just the rye flour portion.

 

BROTKUNST

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Tod, Is there a commercial product that might be available in Milwaukee at a bakers supply outlet that resembles first clear?

 

Thanks, Eric

Elagins's picture
Elagins

I think clear flour is probably what the NY Jewish bakers used for bagels and bialys also. I've been using a fairly high gluten bread flour (13% or so) for my bagels and they come out nice and chewy, but Nancy Silverton (Breads from La Brea Bakery) quotes her old Jewish baker friend Izzy to the effect that bagels aren't bagels unless you use "high-gluten flour", which I take to mean clear flour.

I just ordered about 12# of the stuff from King Arthur and intend to experiment with pure clear and 50-50 clear/bread and see how things turn out.

Incidentally, I've also begun using food-quality lye for my boiling, along with about 1/2 tsp of malt syrup in the water (as well as malt syrup in the recipe). The trick to killer bagels, I've found, is not to use more than 52% water, not to ferment beyond about 10 minutes, and to refrigerate the formed bagels overnight as soon as possible. I've also read that 550 is the best baking temp, and that the old-timers used burlap on top of cedar planks as a baking surface (which I remember seeing as a kid in Brooklyn and also intend to try).

I imagine that you can use the clear flour for almost any open-crumb bread where elasticity, oven spring and flavor are paramount ... probably either a cold ferment and/or ciabatta ... real slack doughs.

I'd be interested in hearing from others.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I baked the Thom Leonard boules last week using the first clear flour.  It made a completely different loaf and yummy!  It was very difficult to mix however as that flour is a different animal to anything I've used so far.  Wow, was it ever elastic!  Like a big, giant rubber band.  The dough kept crawling up the dough hook but I persisted.  I splashed in extra water (I did not measure) and I supposed I really should have added even more.  Do you?  At any rate, I wish I'd have photo'd the bread because it was beautiful. And it was delicious.  I'm not sure I favor it made that way but I'm assuming it might be more true to how the author meant it to be.  ???

Elagins - Can you believe I have never made bagels...yet.  I really appreciate your comments and will copy them for my first attempt.  Thanks.  Oh, and why would this type of flour create more oven spring?  I did use it for Pagnotta that I baked a couple days ago and those loaves really sprung but I didn't know that might be due to the first clear flour used.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

I had the same experience, although I kneaded it by hand ... the dough extended very well but also kept it's shape (freeform). Very easy to work with. I retarded the dough in the first fermentation overnight in the fridge, took it out for 3 hours next day and continued with proofing.

For now, this is my favourite flour. I have to place another order since I only included 6 lbs in my prior shipment. The dough also released perfectly from the banneton, the freeform loaf stayed in shape and produced a beautiful ovenspring, pronounced but not excessive (orange-gold to gold-brown crust). I remember I considered more water but since it was the first run, I decided leave the Hydration as planned. In my case, after fermentation, I can say that it was not necessary since the crumb came out open and moist (used La Cloche).

 

BROTKUNST

debmarkow's picture
debmarkow

I live in a town that does not openly support home bread baking and so I am having a terrible time finding clear flour.  Seems as though you may have ordered yours by mail.  Can I get some too and where from?

Deb 

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

go to: www.kingarthurflour.com and look for the 'First Clear' flour. This is by far my favourite flour (for taste and ease of handling). And the cost os reasonable, shipping not too bad at all. If you order some more flour, the shipping actually is paid by the lower pound prices (compare to the grocery store)

 

BROTKUNST

debmarkow's picture
debmarkow

Done!   And thank you.    I chased all over NYC to no avail.  It's good to go to the experts.

Deb 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I'm impressed that you kneaded Thom Leonard by hand at all let alone using the first clear flour.  I did knead it by hand only once when I first started baking in December and that was using KA traditional WW flour that I had sifted.  It was a BIG job...lol.

I must check my fridge temp.  I mentioned I used this flour in the pagnotta recipe and retarded the dough after folding.  I removed it at 7:45 the next morning and it had not warmed up and risen properly until almost 4:00 pm.  That must have been some cold dough and it sure seems it takes me far longer to get my doughs to that point than others.

I notice, too, that it gives a really nice spongy texture to the crumb.  Maybe that is not the best word to describe but it is really a noticable change from other flours I've used.  I will definately reorder because I'd like to keep trying it.  Thanks for your suggestion on how to use this.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Zola, actually the Thom Leonard formula is the easiest to handle with KAF's 'First Clear' flour. When you follow the formula with 'First Clear' you'll get a dream dough, very easy to handle with perfect hydration. The dough easily keeps the boule shape during proofing.

 

Personally I use about a 1-Hour 'Autolyse' before I add the salt and my levain is composed of 140g Water, 140g Artisan Flour, 15g Rye Barm (100:125) and 35g White Barm (100:100) ... Today I added 30g Coarse Ground Barley Flour. I like to think this would make a difference, but it's just one of many possivle levains after all.

 

This is a dough I would not trust to a Kitchenaid. The Autolyse make the kneading effortless and it mostly serves the purpose of incorporating the salt. I think it would pass the window pane test right after the Autolyse actually ...I should confirm that next time.

The loaves turned out perfect ! The color of the crust is orange to gold and dark brown with hinted areas of black. Fresh, chewy crumb with a crisp crust after cooling. Honestly, I could not wish for more even if I would have a wood fired brick oven.

 

BROTKUNST

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I am going to make the Thom Leonard again using your instructions.  I've already stated I don't understand all the details of flour like some of you do but I know I liked the Thom Leonard made with this flour.  It was however extremely elastic which means I either misunderstand what todbramble stated above or this is acting very differently in this recipe.  Or I just don't understand.  LOL.

I didn't love it in the pagnotta and I don't think I would ever use it again for that recipe.  It was even harder to mix and it was crazy elastic.   I mean, I thought it was going to jump out of my mixer and get a strangle hold on me!

Thanks again for the tips.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Zola, if you can arrange for it, try a 1-hour Autolyse - combine the levain with the water and the blend it into the flour (no salt!). Mix it briefly to a coarse ball. It won't look too promising at that stage but it will one hour later. Then blend in the salt. If necessary (when the dough feels like tightening up too much) let the dough rest -covered tp prevent drying- for five minutes. It may take about 5-10 minutes to get the (23g) of salt incorporated.

I baked a 2lb loaf and two 1 lb loaves of that batch. I rub the loaf with rice flour before I slash it ... I like the spiral slash and a "( )" slash the best. I get exceptionally good results with the 2lb-loaf by pre-heating the oven to 500F with a baking stone. Steam. Place the loaf directly on the hot baking stone and cover with LaCloche. Lower the temp to 450F for 20 Minutes. Remove LaCloche (the loaf will be yellow with hint orange). Continue baking at 450F for 20 minutes with the door cracked about 3 mm (1/8"). The result will be a brown loaf with shades of black under a white-yellowish dusting of flour with pronounced orange-golden areas around the loaf.

The 1lb-loafs I bake 18 min covered plus 10-12 minutes uncovered and door cracked open.

 

I took some pictures after they came out of the oven (for my notebook) ... I'll see that I post them here sometime soon.

 

BROTKUNST

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

I thought I'd post some pictures of the 'First Clear' loaves ... nothing special but since we talked about it, it may help to get a visual of "the little flour that could".

 

 

 


 

BROTKUNST

 

kjknits's picture
kjknits

Ooooh.  Ahhhh.  Lovely loaves, brotkunst!

Katie in SC 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Wow, those are really impressive! What a beautiful crust, shape, and slashing job, BROTKUNST! I also like the spiral slash a lot, I think it makes the loaf rise taller than usual...I may have to try some of that clear flour now after seeing these...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mini

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Those are really well done BROTKUNST! Your sense of artistry and drama combine to make a very appealing bread.

Do you suppose you could post the entire formula as you make it all in one place? I don't have the first clear yet but I would like to try this with the buffalo prairie.

Eric

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Thank you for your kind comments. I will post an outline of the formula later. As far as appearance is concerned the major factor is how to bake the loaves. I will detail that then as well as I outlined it in an earlier post. I cannot stress enough the advantage of LaCloche or a similar device when baking bread in an consumer-style electric oven. It makes all the difference in the world and is worth the $50 you have to invest. But then it took me some time to figure out how to use the LaCloche to bake loaves that compare well to wood fired oven results.

So all that is to come as soon as I can free up some time within the next days.

Again, I appreciate the nice comments from you guys because you all know well how to bake - so your feedback carries alot of weight.

BROTKUNST

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Wow, Brotkunst, thanks for posting those.  They are gorgeous!  I would love to know how to get that spiral slash.  I am a super bad slasher and I only marvel at my luck when I get good ones, which does happen occasionally but I always feel lucky when it does.

I have a question about color though.  I have made this bread a bunch of times since it is one of my very favorite recipes from Glezer's ABAA.  The one I have pictured on my webpage was actually made with the Hodgson Mills WW graham flour I love so much but I sifted it to get the dark stuff out.  I did not have my first clear flour at the time but I still got that incredible color variation you are describing with the orange, gold, brown, black.  Why do you think that is? 

I'm so hungry for this bread again I'm going to make it this weekend using the first clear flour and your tips.  I'll report how it comes out.  I just wish I had taken photos the last time I made it when I did use the first clear flour.  It was soooooooooo good.  I bake it in four boules so I can give 3 away and hubby and I actually scarfed most of the first one that night because it was so darn good.

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Brotkunst:  I am interested in trying the Thom Leonard Country French loaves with clear flour this weekend.  Did you use all clear flour for the specified 750 g of bread flour or did you combine it with another flour?  I like this bread and am curious about trying it with clear flour.  Your loaves were certainly impressive and your comments about the handling and taste of clear flour caught my interest.  Thanks!

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Fleur-de-Liz, I used just the KAF First Clear for these loaves. I would not skip a 1-hr Autolyse (as usual without salt). All in all a very pleasant dough to work with - in a KA or by hand.

I hope you'll like it. I'll pay attention to any question you may post during that process.

BROTKUNST 

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Brotkunst:  Thanks for your prompt reply to my question.

 I will use only clear flour for the white flour portion of the recipe as you suggest. I did note all your other previous instructions, including the 1 hour autolyse, baking times with cloche and how you mixed your levain.  I will also use some rye starter along with the white starter (both are refreshing as we speak).  I really like the taste that the rye starter imparts to the finished loaves.  After reading your's and Zolablue's posts about clear flour, am anxious to see its texture and feel.  Will probably work it by hand as you have done.  Baking will begin either Friday night or early Saturday morning -- thanks for agreeing to stay tuned!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Brotkunst, I'm sure you are simply a better and more experienced baker than I am at this point.  I just cannot make myself like this first clear flour now that I've been working with it more.  Perhaps I am not using it correctly in some recipes however I followed your instructions to the tee using the one hour autolyse and still I had to add about a cup more water and then it was still this extremely elastic dough that wanted to crawl up the dough hook.  This time I nearly cried from frustration! (chuckle)

Whatever you are doing is definately working but for me I just don't care for how the dough feels and it makes the process so much more difficult.  And each time I've used it I have been forced to add really a lot more water.  I don't even think I'll reorder this flour.  I feel defeated (boo hoo).  :o)

So, please, to anyone else wishing to try this flour please report your results.  I am really interested to find out if it is just me. (Am I just baaaaaad?)  Or is this a flour that also causes some others of you a bit of angst and not the best results. 

Oh, btw, Brotkunst, my hubby and I stopped at Wheatfields on the way back home from KC yesterday afternoon.  OMG!  What a wonderful looking little bakery and incredibly gorgeous breads that we saw.  I bought a loaf of the Country French (to die for) and a batard they just called sourdough.  I took photos of loaves and crumb so will have to post them.  The bread was absolutely fantastic!  You are lucky to be so close - definately make a trip there.  Thom was not in but I told them to tell him hello and that he has some very big fans. :o)

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Elagins@sbcglobal.net

First Clear Flour BagelsFirst Clear Flour Bagels

After days of anticipation, I finally got to make bagels with KA First Clear Flour, and I must say, the difference between these and my normal bread flour bagels was dramatic. These were much chewier, with deeper flavor and lots more texture; in all, my best effort in over a year of bagel-baking.

There are a lot of different things going on in this recipe, which is about 35% water, 2% salt, 0.5% active dry yeast, 2.5% malt syrup (although i used a lithuanian kvass concentrate, which includes both barley malt and rye malt), and 75% 1:1 sponge using a wild yeast starter, which in all results in about 52% hydration.

The dough was very stiff and somewhat sticky, probably because of the elevated gluten. After kneading it the night before for about 10 min in my Kitchen Aid, I let it rest for 10 minutes or so, then shaped the bagels -- I eyeballed them and they came out to about 3 1/2 oz. each -- and immediately refrigerated them, uncovered, in my wine chiller, which is about 10 degrees or so warmer than the fridge.

Next morning, I boiled them for 30 seconds or so in water to which I added about 1/2 oz. of kvass concentrate (to improve color) and about the same amount of food-grade lye solution (available in my local Asian supermarket). I've found the lye gives a better sheen than baking soda, which I've used in the past.

After topping, I baked them at 500 degrees on parchment on top of my stone for 7 minutes, then turned them front to back and gave them another 6 minutes.

Need I say they were a hit?

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Elagin,

usually I'd say that we are not a bagel family but your bagels actually are quite tempting ... If I could get them to look like that and have them taste the way you describe yours I am sure this would be a great experience for the family.

 

Did you get the basics for this formula from one of the major baking publishings ? If not, I think I can follow your instructions above. Would you mind giving me some details about your 100% Hydration wild yeast sponge ? How much mature culture did you use for the sponge? What TTW (Total Flour Weight) works best for a bagel batch ?

How do you feel about working with food-grade lye ... my understanding is that one has to exercise a certain amount of special care because of the corrosive properties of this substance. (We do have a large Asian Supermarket near by ... I'd prefer buying it there instead of ordering a larger quantity online ... I guess there is no 'special name' for that in the Asian Supermarket, is there?)

 

BROTKUNST

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Thanks for your kind words; it's actually taken me a while to get to this point. I started out using Peter Reinhart's basic recipe in BBA (where, incidentally, I believe he mentions using food-grade lye for bagels and pretzels), and have subsequently done a great deal more research, from a variety of sources, including Breads from La Brea, the barley malt association website, and various TV program tours of bagel bakeries, which helped me tremendously in gauging the stiffness of my dough and in my shaping technique, which involves wrapping a thumb-thick sausage of dough around my knuckles, breaking off the excess with my thumb, and then rolling the seam together.

My starter has been around for several years now, and I'm really pretty casual about proportion of starter to nutrient, although I'd say that my general approach is "less starter, more nutrient, more time." For 10oz each of flour and water, I may use 2oz of starter, so it's typical for the sponge to take 12 or more hours to triple in bulk. In Sunday brunch terms, that means I start my sponge on Saturday morning, knead/shape on Saturday night, and boil/bake on Sunday morning.

As for total flour weight (including what goes into the sponge), 3 pounds works best from both a convenience and quantity perspective (it's also pretty much the upper limit my KitchenAid 4.5 can handle): convenience because it's exactly one bag of KA Clear, and quantity because it produces about 18 4-ounce bagels or 24 3.5 ounce bagels -- 7 or 8 for brunch, and the rest for breakfast all through the week. Longer-term, they freeze very well also. If you pre-slice, all they need ia a minute or so in the toaster.

I had been looking for food-grade lye for some time, and wasn't willing to buy half a pound of the dry chemical via the Internet. I finally found it in a store specializing in Filipino ingredients, where they sell it for about a buck in 10oz. bottles of pre-diluted solution. In using it, I just exercise what I consider to be reasonable caution: non-reactive (i.e., stainless) pots and utensils, and avoiding any direct contact with the liquid, even though it's very dilute: as soon as the baqels are boiled, I dump the liquid and flush the pan/utensils with plenty of water. Also, even though I handle the boiled bagels, I haven't had any problems with the lye solution at that point, probably because most of it has reacted with the starch.

Anyway, that's everything I know. Good luck on your attempt, and let me know how they turn out.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Elagins,

Sorry if you already have it somewhere here, but do you happen to have a recipe posted for your bagels? I recently blogged my attempt, which came out well (at least we were very happy with them here at home). However, I'm interested in trying your 100% first clear flour for them. Also, are you doing your bagels 100% natural leaven, or do you also use some yeast? The recipe I did was based closely on Susanfnp's recipe, which in turn came from the Silverton book. If you are 100% sourdough, I'm interested in the rise times and temperatures. The ones I did involved making the dough and refrigerating it almost immediately, then next day boiling them almost immediately out of the refrigerator and baking after that.

Darn, I just found the post below with the pictures. Somehow I missed scanning through earlier. I guess my question would now be how to adjust the rise times and temperatures if I don't have a wine cooler. Without going to some extra trouble, I have 75F, 80F, and 40F easily achievable in my kitchen. Would you let them sit for a while at room temperature before or after refrigerating, and how long would you think?

Thanks, Bill

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Hi Bill,

Before I discovered the wine cooler, I just put them into the fridge overnight and boiled them without letting them warm up. The boiling wakes up the yeast and the combination of domestic yeast, higher baking temp and the clear flour creates some really awesome oven spring.

Generally speaking, I'm pretty laid back about rise times, temperatures, etc. I figure that the people we're trying to emulate -- those who were close to their process 100, 200, 300 years ago -- didn't have anywhere near the control we have over the environment and had to depend on feel and experience to get consistent results. I tend to look at my baking in the same way: no two batches are ever the same; I'm continually experimenting, changing one variable or another to see what effect it has on the final outcome.

I have to say, though, that I'm not planning on straying too far from the recipe I posted, since it's the product of lots of experimentation and blown batches. I do, however, intend to go back to malt syrup and see what effect it has on the clear flour bagels.

Stan

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Stan,

Thanks, I'll have to try another batch soon. I agree that at some point your instincts have to take over. However, I find that one huge advantage of all this technology we have is that in addition to our ability to control the parameters better, we can communicate the details more precisely over the internet. As a result, I've been able to duplicate techniques and recipes I've seen here on the site without going through the blown batches you experienced doing the primary research on them. I was encouraged that my crumb looks much like yours in the picture below. I had thought my batch had a crumb that was maybe a little too open, but at least they aren't too far off from your photo. My effective hydration was about 61% because I forgot a small portion of flour. I was going to try about 57% hydration, but I see you are going a lot lower. Is this an attempt to adjust for the clear flour? Somehow, I would have thought the clear flour would need more water, not less. However, I get the impression that may not be the case based on some of the posts below. I have not used clear flour except as a small percentage in some recipes so far. If you were not using clear flour, but instead were using high gluten flour, what percentage hydration might you have used?

Bill

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Well, call me a Luddite of sorts re: my anti-technology rant. One thing I've discovered is that the old-time Jewish bakers generally used less water, rather than more. I keep my bread flour bagels at around 50-52% also, and my bialys as well (of which more another time, after I bake my next batch). Next on my agenda are clear-flour pumpernickel and Jewish rye ... I'll also post results for those when I've baked them.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Stan,

I'm an engineer by background, so it's natural for me to feel more comfortable with some gadgets nearby and to measure the heck out of everything with all kinds of neat devices. Does it really help? Maybe it helps me a little, but I've discovered while traveling that I can make pretty good bread away from home without all my gadgets, so maybe I've learned something after all this playing around that works without the gadgets.

Did you decide to use first clear flour in your bagels due to research on what the old Jewish bakers did, or is this more of a personal innovation? I'm just curious if you have any information on how authentic it is to use first clear flour in this way.

Bill

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Bill,

Far be it from me to gainsay technology: it's gotten us to where we are today, for better or for worse, and in reality, everyone measures, whether it's by eye, handfuls, or micrograms. I guess I just don't want to fall so deeply in love with measurement that it actually blinds me to the bigger, random stuff that goes on in the process -- things we really can't control very well, like temperature, humidity the moisture content of our flour and the proportion of lactobacillus in our starters.

My adoption of clear flour comes from research, and started with Nancy Silverton's old Jewish baker mentor, Izzy, who told her that without "high gluten flour", a bagel just isn't a bagel. Add to that the essential nature of clear flour in Jewish rye bread, and I inferred that the Jewish bakers in prewar Eastern Europe used either a clear flour or a hard winter durum flour (but only because that's most likely what was grown locally). So let's say it's 50% fact and 50% inference.

What I do know is that the higher gluten content makes for greater chewiness and oven spring, while the higher ash content gives the flour a more interesting taste.

Stan

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Zola, I am sorry to hear that you felt some frustration with the first clear flour. I have to think about what could be the reason for the different experience. Maybe I should take some pictures or  I have to try to make some closer observations (times, description of the dough with relating photographs). I am certain there must be a reason, a difference in procedure that may appear possibly insignificant at first ... I am sure I will bake that loaf again soon. I'll keep you in mind and I will do my best to come up with something that may help you out.

 

Thanks for the Wheatfield update ... we will stop by there in July. 

 

BROTKUNST 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

This forum is getting harder to find specific recipes quickly. Earlier you said you were going to post the formula and method for the bread in the images above. If you have done that could you be so kind to point us to it. I should get my first clear tomorrow and I'm anxious to try it out.

BTW have you tried clear in a straight french bread formula?

Thanks, Eric

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Brotkunst:  Just reviewed your notes on your clear flour Thom Leonard Loaves. You indicated that you retarded the dough in the refrigerator during the bulk fermentation.   Did you do the 3-hr bulk fermentation with the three folds first and then retard the loaves in the refrigerator?  Or did you have a different procedure?

Elagins: Those bagels look divine. I grew up in New York City but have been living on the West Coast for years. Although we have reasonable bagels here, they are not as plump and chewy looking as yours.  Clearly, I will have to start baking bagels!

Elagins's picture
Elagins

liz, the reason I started baking my own bagels is that I haven't found a decent bagel in Southern California (San Diego here); and even in New York, where I, too, grew up, the old-time bagels are being rapidly co-opted by the franchisers' bread doughnuts. Having grown up with the original, I'm trying as hard as I can to get back to the roots, using traditional methods and ingredients (except for the kneading) as much as possible; I think I'm getting close. Glad you liked them, they're even better in person.

ericb's picture
ericb

I just ran across this fascinating thread about First Clear flour, and thought it deserved a "bump" so that it shows up again in "recent forum posts." One of the contributors works for KAF.

rangme's picture
rangme

There are several recipies in George Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" that use first clear flour, including a wonderful Jewish Rye.

varda's picture
varda

I have been trying to make a good Jewish rye like the ones I remember from yesteryear, and got Greensteins book.  Also got KA First Clear mail order.   I made the Jewish Sour Rye and the Jewish Corn Bread using rye flour and first clear.   I have also made the Jewish Corn Bread with an unlabeled "high gluten" flour from a food co-op.   I think the latter came out much better.   After reading the fascinating discussion on this post going back three years,  I'm wondering if the old Jewish bakers who made great rye bread used first clear because it was cheap, and would have been delighted to use a better flour.   And then we spend a lot of money on first clear because we are trying to be authentic.   But I see other people on this post are swearing by first clear.   So I am wondering if other people have got good Jewish Rye results using some other combination of flours, because I really don't want to track down a 50 pound sack of First Clear or continue to pay exorbitant prices to order it 3 pounds at a time from KA.  But maybe I'm just not tasting the magic, and need to be reeducated.


Varda

Elagins's picture
Elagins

its overriding virtue is that it's cheap and high in protein, since first clear is really just what's left over after the patent flour is taken out of the straight flour (whole wheat berry without the bran or germ). so what's left is the 10, 15, 20, 30% of the wheat kernel that's closest to the bran, i.e., highest in protein, fiber and fat. for a bread like Jewish rye (or any rye for that matter) the flavor of the rye sour and caraway are going to overwhelm anything the wheat can contribute by way of flavor. so really, what's left is a very inexpensive source of gluten. 


fact is, the whole point of using gluten in a rye bread is to provide a tougher, more dependable structure: you can do this with first clear, whole wheat, or a super strong flour like All Trumps or KA Sir Lancelot.


I bake a lot of Jewish rye bread, have used both high gluten and first clear, and am still wondering what all the fuss is about, George Greenstein or no George Greenstein.


Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com

bobm1's picture
bobm1

many thanks for the 'bump', ericb. this is a fasinating thread.

Dillbert's picture
Dillbert

Stan - I think I've figured it out, but it's something that is next to impossible to "quantify"


one of my aunts loved to bake bread.  she bought the cheapest market flour, yeast in little packets - stored them in the cabinet over the oven - and was always having issues with taste, crumb, rising, proofing, collapsing - you name it.  admittedly an extreme example but it does point out:


one may experience a lot of difference whene using different "quality" ingredients!


in a pro setting one might not see a lot of difference between a first clear and a high gluten.  but for the less fastidious baker, the difference between a first clear and a sub-par discount supermarket brand may be a lot more ovbious.


once upon a midnight dreary I got stuck shopping in a convenience market - picked up a bag of Gold Medal AP Flour - got home and found the date on the bag was four years old / "past" its date!  bet that doesn't happen in your bakery [g]

Elagins's picture
Elagins

the difference between high gluten and first clear is far less significant than the difference between fresh and outdated -- especially when heat-sensitive ingredients like flour and yeast are kept over an oven, where their quality is sure to be compromised. while i don't go so far as to refrigerate whole grain flours (which isn't a bad idea), i do keep them in an air-conditioned warehouse (or my garage, if they're for my own use), both of which normally stay in the low 60s.


given the choice, i'd take fresh first clear over stale high gluten any day!


Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com

varda's picture
varda

but this seems like the right answer to the wrong question.   We are not talking about whether to buy a high quality vs a low quality product, but rather whether first clear flour is a high quality product in the first place.   My limited experience with it would suggest that a high quality high gluten flour outperforms it at least in a rye.  The discussion above by people who should know makes me think it is a low quality product being passed off as a high quality product and people are going for it in order to appease the gods of authenticity.  But what about price authenticity?  By all means get the best you can get for the best results.  

Elagins's picture
Elagins

hi Varda,


IMO, using different components of the wheat kernel, which can both be of equal quality, and each having its own best use. there's nothing inherently higher or lower quality about a short patent (low extraction) flour vs the first clear that's left over after the endosperm is taken out. however, i'd hesitate to use the first clear for baguettes, let's say, just as i'd likely not want to use the short patent flour for my Jewish rye. while both will work, neither will provide the results i'd be looking for. 


to use another example, from the world of meat (hoping you're not vegetarian and don't find this offensive), beef chuck and tenderloln can both be prime, but i'd never make pot roast out of a tenderloin, any more than i'd use a piece of shoulder in beef wellington.


so the issue for me, assuming freshness is equal, is the proper use of the ingredients, rather than whether there are quality differences. 


SG

varda's picture
varda

Ah.  My bread education continues apace.   If I'm understanding you rightly though, fresh high gluten it is.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

First clear is not only high in protein. As I understand it, it's also high in ash. This adds to its "performance."


Stan, have you ever used First clear for anything besides rye bread? I have. I use it where the formula calls for a high extraction flour. (Yes. I know it's not exactly the same thing.) I have made many miches using 100% First clear. It has a distinct flavor of its own which I happen to like. I have preferred it to a mix of white and whole wheat, for example.


I've never made a Jewish sour rye without First clear, so I don't know if I could distinguish one made with First clear from one made with BF in a blind tasting, but it wouldn't surprise me if I could, given the high percentage of wheat flour in Sour rye.


I share your understanding that, historically, the reason bakers used First clear was that it was cheaper than patent flour. It was also called "common flour." It is no longer cheaper. Au contraire!


David

Elagins's picture
Elagins

and the results are further down in this thread. again, i was hard-pressed to find a difference between the first clear bagels and high gluten ones, largely because i retard my bagels for anywhere from 18-24 hours. as i was writing my last post, though, i was also thinking about French flours, which are typically higher extraction than US flours, and so using first clear for miches makes a great deal of sense. in fact, i'd argue that first clear is the perfect additive flour when one needs to strengthen a dough, especially when using lower-gluten or more fragile flours like buckwheat, barley and spelt. 


as for "cheap," first clear is still relatively inexpensive, when compared to, say, an All Trumps or Sir Lancelot. the problem is finding it, particularly since demand seems to be largely concentrated in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, and (more significantly, i think) the big mills use a lot of it to strengthen weaker flours, where they can take bigger margins.


Stan

varda's picture
varda

<<<I've never made a Jewish sour rye without First clear, so I don't know if I could distinguish one made with First clear from one made with BF in a blind tasting, but it wouldn't surprise me if I could,>>>


It would be cool if you could try this.   I could do it, but my baking skills are considerably less advanced than yours, so many more factors than suitability of flour could come into play.  Of course, I'm the one who wants to know, as you sound quite happy with first clear.   Maybe I'll try a side by side test in a few months when my bread learning curve has flattened out a bit.

timmer19's picture
timmer19

I am making Rye Bread, I have tried one recipe but looking for more recipe's.  Some of these recipe's call for "Clear Flour".  I use High Gluten in many of my other breads and want to know if there is a difference between the Clear and the High G.  ??  Is so, what is the difference...taste, texture....?