Playing with flour
This weekend I got to try a couple of flours that I haven't used previously.
The first was an unbleached AP type (brand name Eagle Mills) that I purchased at a Sam's Club. With a protein content of 4 grams in a 30 gram sample, it's as high in protein as a lot of bread flours that I have used. Whether I was brave or foolish is open to debate, but I decided to try in in the BBA pain a la ancienne even though I've never made that bread before. The flour worked very well in this application. I'm still of the opinion that the water content in Reinhart's formulas don't begin to produce the types of doughs that he describes in the text, because I had to add more water to get the kind of softness that he indicates. Once I got the dough sufficiently hydrated, it was very supple and extensible without being excessively sticky. In fact, I'll cut way down on the amount of bench flour next time (because there will be a next time with bread that tastes this good) so that I don't have as much on the finished bread. The crust was crisp and the crumb was tender, though not as open as I had hoped. My shaping left a lot to be desired. And let's just state up front that it is better to remember to slash the loaves before they go into the oven, rather than a couple minutes after closing the door. However, ugly or not, this bread has a wonderful flavor. It was a great accompaniment to the jambalaya that my wife made for lunch Saturday.
The other flour I tried was Wheat Montana's Prairie Gold. A local grocery has a display set up featuring both the Bronze Chief (a red variety) and the Prairie Gold variety grains. Each bin of grain feeds into an individual grinder, which I think are impact types. Just push a button and it drops freshly milled flour into a plastic bag. It's a bit pricey at 79 cents per pound (which is quite a bit higher than the already-ground and bagged flour of the same brand sitting on the shelf). Still, I got a couple of pounds of each, partly to play with freshly ground flour and partly to see how the gold variety tastes in comparison to the red varieties with which I'm already familiar. I used a honey whole wheat recipe that I have used for many years so that I could gauge the behavior of the Prairie Gold against past experience. The dough mixed easily, but seemed somewhat wetter (because the fresh flour wasn't as dry as the prepackaged stuff, maybe?). The dough also handled well, becoming very smooth after 8 to 10 minutes of kneading. It was much tackier than I usually see with this recipe, although it wasn't at all gloopy. The bulk fermentation easily doubled but although the last rise in the pans was quite a bit slower and seemed to run out of gas before redoubling. There was very little change in volume while baking. The crust of the finished loaves is perhaps a little lighter in color than loaves made with red wheat but the crumb is markedly lighter. It isn't as white as a white loaf, but it isn't dark either; more of a sand color. Since the flour grind was relatively fine, the crumb is free of any grittiness and fairly close-textured. The flavor is, well, like whole wheat, but less so. There is no bitterness or "grassy" flavor that some find objectionable in whole wheat breads. Some writers have described the flavor as insipid, but I don't think that is accurate. I think it is more that people are gauging the gold or white varieties' flavor against the flavor profile of the red wheats, which have more tannins. That's not unlike comparing a white wine to a red wine and complaining that the flavor isn't as robust. I'm certainly willing to use it in my bread, particularly if I know that the people eating it aren't fond of the flavor of the red wheat. For myself, I'm happy to continue using the red wheat flours since I like that flavor.