The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

French and American flours

meryl's picture
meryl

French and American flours

Hi all,

 

I recently saw the post on French versus American flours (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/blog/janedo) and I just didn't know how to respond. I've was disheartened and jelous that french T65 flour is much more flavoful than ordinary US all-purpose flour. I also took note that french T55 flour tasted quite a bit less flavorful than the T65.  So I guess ash content equated with flavor. Knowing that is useful.

Today I am reflecting US all-purpose flour is lower in ash content. Is it the reason for lack of flavor?  The goals of all-purpose flour if I may suggest, are to make flour selection easy. But is it too much of a compromise to flavor?  Frankly I have always gone out of my way and paid more for King Arthur AP expecting bread flour that works (like so much of the US bread literature suggests)  But the post I referenced above showed that not to be the case. 

I would like to ask for thoughts of any type but in particular is there a mill (and a specific flour) available in the US which is similar to T65 flour?  Is there a make-at-home substitute for decent tasting flour?

Regards and happy baking

cdnDough's picture
cdnDough

Depending where you are in the US, you might want to contact a few local mills or look to your northerly neighbours (both states and countries).  I believe that La Milanaise (Quebec) offers European spec flours and are quite willing to sift to your specifications if you buy in quantity.  I've lived in Europe (Britain, France, Switzerland) and, in comparison, I've had great results with many of the Canadian organic flours.  I imagine that flour milled from mid-western grain could make some excellent flour if it was correctly milled/aged/sifted.  Daniel Leader's book titled, Local Bread offer some suggestions for mixing common flours (unbleached white AP, rye, whole wheat) to make breads with the consistency of European breads.  The book is good but be prepared to work around some poor editing.

If you happen to live near Ontario, I have a thread that lists where to find supplies (including flour).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The way the consumer buys food and ingredients might have more to do with it.  Europeans shop several times a week for food.  They have smaller refrigerators and don't tend to buy in bulk.  Americans on the other hand tend to shop once a week or every two weeks, have huge refrigerators and freezers to stock up.  Stores have to stock differently.  So maybe mills are forced to produce flour that has a longer shelf life as opposed to flavor.  The bulk of consumers are happy with so so bread.  Big producers aim for the middle consumer tastes.  Change the tastes or demand > then product gets changed.

Have you ever heard of an American Baker getting jailed or punished for producing bad tasting bread?  Europe has a history of punishing it's bakers.

Look how long it took to get flour (during the shortage) into the stores after the grain was harvested?  Transportation plays a big role too.  If the distance from farm to mill to consumer is shorter, it could mean fresher.  

Mini

 

Patf's picture
Patf

I know I'm swimming against the tide here, but I don't like french bread or any bread made with french flour. I find it tough and quick to dry out. I've tried farine complete from three different mills, and have not been happy with the result.

We are living in France at the moment but I grew up in the UK so am used to bread made with high gluten flour such as english or canadian. I can buy imported flour - Dove Farm, Hovis etc. So personally I don't think you need to be jealous, Meryl.

topslakr's picture
topslakr

I am not, nor do I prentend to be an expert on bread. I've been baking seriously for about a year and am just now producing loves I am proud of. That being said I have been disapointed with King Arthur's bread flour for it's lack of flavor and texture and began using the 'French-Style Flour' that they also offer. This flour isn't cheap at $10 for 3lbs but, all other things being the same, the crust comes out so much better and the flavor of the final loaf is the best I've ever mande (again not saying too much :) ). I would be curious to see what some more seasoned bakers think of the flour.

 

Has anyone here had any experience with that as an alternitive?

xaipete's picture
xaipete

What about Guisto unbleached bread flour? It costs about the same as KA bread flour? I wonder if that might be a good alternative.

 

http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ProductDisplay?prmenbr=132201&prrfnbr=176800

 

 

suave's picture
suave

Actually it costs twice as much and that is before the shipping charges are applied.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

My local Whole Foods Mkt caries Giusto's flours in bulk. They cost around $1.34-1.54 per pound right now.

David

suave's picture
suave

And KAF is around $3.60/5lb locally.  So it does differ by a factor of 2.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

My local markets also carry Giusto's in bulk. I don't remember the price but think it was a little over a $1.00 per pound. The only problem I had with buying it in bulk was how to get it home. It seems kind of difficult/messy/a-pain-in-the-neck to get any quantity of flour into some flimsy plastic bag and then out of the bag and into a more permanent container. But, I guess it would be worth trying to see if I noticed any difference between it and KA. There was mention in American Pie of some pizza maker in AZ, I think, who thought that Giusto's flour was the best.

--Pamela

meryl's picture
meryl

Hi and thanks to all that responded,

cdndough: I'll be sure to check out Daniel Leader's book

Mini Oven: We have some national mills here (are you in the US?) and some local ones. Even the local ones may not have fresh product since people have learned to by the big brands. 

Patf: I always feel fresh bread is good bread. But it doesn't stay that way long enough, does it?

topslakr: The KA french is a little expensive for me, especially with shipping but I bet it's good.

xaipete: I will look into Guisto's. Thanks

rainwater's picture
rainwater

Is the bread I'm baking with King Arthur flour with Reinhart two day techniques flavorless.......I thought I was baking some pretty tasty bread.....oh well, it's better than store bought.  I haven't baked anything but sourdough for the last two weeks....and I find the sourdough breads to have some interesting layers of flavor.....I need to go to France and Italy to taste the breads.....but my experience in cuisine has shown that French tastes are pretentious....and Italian food is the best.  I'm teasing about the French...kind of.....

I have found that produce is usually better when I travel.  I've been to the Ukraine....the produce is so plentiful, with so many open markets....so good.

I like the bread in the Ukraine, but I'm not impressed with the bread....I mention this because the Ukraine has some of the finest soil in the world.....and is considered the "bread basket" of Europe-I've been told.  Some day......France and Italy.......

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I have baked quite a bit with both Giusto's "Baker's Choice" and KAF European Artisan Flour. Baker's Choice is similar to KAF AP flour. it make a very nice dough. KAF European Artisan Flour is also very nice. Neither one stands out as much better than the other. Differences in technique have a bigger impact on flavor, in my opinion.

Another thing to consider is mixing white flour of your choice with 10-20% rye, whole wheat or a combination. This will produce a significantly more flavorful bread than white flour alone.

Note that my experience is almost entirely with sourdough breads.

David

Yundah's picture
Yundah

I've combined AP, both KAF and Baker's Choice, with some King Arthur white whole wheat and gotten really good results, the bread is tasty and I get a nice crust. It does have more flavor than AP flour alone produces. 

darellmatt's picture
darellmatt

I haven't tried this yet but I would suggest that adding heartland mills "golden buffalo" which is a high extraction flour about 10% to a premium bread flour would up the flavor without impacting the texture too much. Rye flour is flavorful but not everyone likes the texture.

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

I agree with David's points that technique and whole grain flour add flavor to bread.

Have you tried making 2- or 3-day breads? The flavor is so much better in bread made with a sourdough, pate fermentee, or a long, slow rise or cold retardation.

I don't like a strong sour flavor in my bread, and in many of the sourdoughs that I make, the sour is almost undetectable. However, the flavor of the bread is enhanced by using a little sourdough starter in the dough. Also, making use of a rest period, or autolyse, right after the dough is mixed but before kneading enhances the flavor and color.

I'm not an expert, but here is a summary of what I do to get great tasting bread:

1) Use a small amount of rye or whole wheat (even white whole wheat or Golden Buffalo) in each recipe that calls for all AP or white bread flour.

2) Add a little sourdough starter or pate fermentee to each batch, even if the recipe calls for yeast alone. In general, I make recipes that call for starting the dough the day or night before baking.

3) After mixing to a rough texture, I let the bread autolyse for at least 20 minutes.

4) Let the dough take its time--no extremely warm rises. Fold several times during first fermentation.

You can read about the science behind why long fermentation enhances flavor in many links on TFL, but here's one to start you off:http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/9256/preferment-questions

Good luck!

Patricia