The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Good flour

leemid's picture
leemid

Good flour

I recently purchased a 50 lb. sack of ConAgra Mills Harvest Bread Flour, white and bleached (!) from Costco because it was WAY cheaper than the last time I bought my favorite flour and considering the economy I had to give it a try. A couple of weeks into using it I am pretty certain I will never buy it again. It seems to be noticeably higher in protein than the other bread flour I use. I would never choose bleached flour over un- for bread purposes but it was cheap...


So I go looking on their website for analysis but they don't even own up to the 'Harvest' name so I guess I will have to call them up next week.


Bottom line is it makes tougher bread, soaks up more moisture and 'tightens' up faster when kneading than the other flour. Oddly, it won't hold structure as well when over-proofed. Go figure.


So if anyone else is tempted, I would not endorse it. BTW, I normally use Pendleton Mills MorBread.


I just made a sour-dough pizza dough with this ConAgra flour. I may post the results later if there is anything better  than disappointment.


That's my sad story, and I'm stuck with it.


Lee

Dwu3193's picture
Dwu3193

Since you buy ConAgra Mills Harvest Bread Flour at Costco, you might find Central Milling Organic, Unbleached, All-Purpose flour there too. It's just amazing, and relatively cheap considering its quality and that it's organic. If not, maybe you could try store-brand unbleached flour. Floyd has said that he regularly uses it (with some King Arthur, Bob's Red Mill, etc.) and gets good results. It's still probably cheaper than Pendleton Mils.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

It was not I who said I use Central Milling Organic.  I don't think I've ever bought flour at Costco. It may be good, I've just never tried it.


Depending on what I'm doing and what is on sale I use KA, Bob's Red Mill, Kroger store brand unbleached AP, or Stone-Buhr.  I've also used the Pendleton Mills MorBread that Lee recommended and been quite pleased with it.

Dwu3193's picture
Dwu3193

Yeah sorry, I meant you said that you use some store-brand flour with KA, etc. Sorry about that.

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

Why is unbleached so expensive?  I was buying unbleached all-purpose, Weston brand, in Montreal until Thursday when the price suddenly shot up to $17. 98 for 10 kg.  I went back to Five Roses bleached at $13. for 10 kg.  I don't think it makes that much difference, but I did like the Weston's.

PJ Hamel's picture
PJ Hamel

Hi - It's not that unbleached flour is so expensive, but more that bleached flour is so cheap. to make bleached flour, the miller grinds inexpensive (lower quality) wheat, then adds powdered bleach, to whiten the flour and make it try to act like unbleached flour (made from quality wheat). While adding the bleach, the millers have to wear full protective gear; yes, it's THAT kind of bleach, like you'd add to your laundry. As you can read here, you're not likely to get as good a result with bleached flour in bread as with unbleached; you get what you pay for. I'm a baker at King Arthur Flour, so know a lot about the milling process and what it takes to make a good bag of flour. I figure it's cheaper in the long run to guarantee yourself success by using a quality flour, rather than paying less for a flour that doesn't please you, right?

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

...if you're on a fixed budget as I am, then buying flour in 10 kg bags can be expensive, short or long-run.  It's so nice to see you here, PJH, it makes me feel connected to the best of the bread-bakers.  I'm going to be making the buttermilk sourdough bread today, so I'll see if the bleached all-purpose makes much of a difference.  For years, I used the store brand bleached flour to make bread; it wasn't until the advent of bread machines that the 'best for bread' flours and specialty flours started appearing on supermarket shelves.

BellesAZ's picture
BellesAZ

I wish KAF flour was more available to bakers in larger quantities.  Have you considered talking to Costco or Sam's Club about carrying your flour?  Having 25 lb bags would be fantastic.  As it is, I am only able to buy it in 5 lb increments in my store.. and it's not cheap, but it's good quality.  I'm a huge KAF fan and grumble if I'm stuck using something else. 

Crider's picture
Crider

It's a private label name just for Costco. The label says 'serving size: 30g, protein 3g, but an informed person told me the numbers are rounded off and that the Harvest brand is actually Conagra Minnesota Girl brand flour.

I really don't prefer bleached flour, but at $13.45 for 50 lbs. going with 'industrial ag' is all the rage in this time of economic strife. My wife says it was down to $12 last time she visited that same Costco. Personally, I like the way it handles and it reminds me of a bread flour with much higher protein content. I wish Costco would carry some good whole wheat in at least a 25lb. size too.

Crider's picture
Crider

It seems Costco does carry stone ground whole wheat and several other types of flour -- just not at our nearest store (already 1 1/2 hours away).

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I use Central Milling Organic flour with diastatic malt available through costco.  It's now $13.99 for 20 lbs. Central Milling is currently owned by the Bay Bread Group (a consortium?).


Steve Sullivan (Acme Bread) and Giusto's also had an interest in the orginal buyout deal but that seems to have changed in the last several months (as have a lot of things).


I once spent a year one week in Logan, Utah where Central's located. . . ,


Costco has specific "business center" stores that cater to the restaurant trade.  You can find them by going to the Costco online site. 


As a home baker I'd be fairly careful before committing to a 50 lb. sack of flour even if it is $12.99. . . ,


+Wild-Yeast

Aprea's picture
Aprea

Could you please clarify why you would be cautious about buying in bulk?


For instance, in the last 3 weeks alone, I have bought 34 pounds of flour - I have been thinking that buying in bulk is the way to go  (home baker).

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Hi Anna,


The amount of time required to adjust to a new flour can really mess up a build routine.  I follow a time tested method of using a "test coupon" wherein several batches are made from a new flour before the decision to buy in bulk volume is made.  I noticed that this is graphically explored in several of the other succeeding posts.


One other item is that I think Costco is hard to beet on price for the home and small business baker.  I am almost completely addicted to the Central Milling organic flour and fret that Costco being Costco they'll stop sourcing it. By the way, it doesn't make good cornbread for some reason.  The following story from the NY Times cornerstones the problems of maintaining flour consistency:


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/18/dining/18flour.html


+Wild-Yeast

Aprea's picture
Aprea

I just wish I could get my hands on some of that Central Milling organic flour.  I know it would make a difference in my formulas - I just can't seem to find any sources of such a product in this region.  If I had more space, I would start a co-op.  It is the same flour used by Acme in the Bay Area.


I emailed the contact (Nick Guisto) without any response.


 


Good baking,


Anna


 


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Anna, I think I have seen that flour in my Costco, although it wasn't there when I went last week. I didn't purchase it because it wasn't "bread" flour. So are we talking about the same product?


On Guisto flours: They have everything imaginable in bulk (25 lb. bags). This includes wheat berries, whole grain corn, all their various flours, etc. I phoned them about a month ago. They were very helpful. The problem is they don't sell their bulk items to the public. You have to go through one of their distributors. The person I spoke to gave me several distributors in my area. I called one of them and they were perfectly happy to sell to me, but it was $150 minimum. I had just placed a big order with KA and Bob's Red Mill, so I'm waiting until I use up my stock until I order.


Give them a call and explain what you are looking for and find out who the distributors are in your area.


--Pamela

Aprea's picture
Aprea

Since you are so close to the main distributor, your local costcos probably get this from time to time.  Jacksonville is too far - and the demand is too small.  It would probably go bad before they sold it.  I tried the website with no luck - so I will take you up on your suggestion to call directly.

jdorf's picture
jdorf

FYI - Giusto's actually mills their flour in South San Francisco - it's not from Central Milling.

MrsMay's picture
MrsMay

Hi Anna,

The people at Central Milling have been very communicative with me despite not having a white wheat bread flour that's not whole grain... but you should give them a try again.

dwcoleman's picture
dwcoleman

I only buy flour from Costco now here in Ontario.  I just bought 100lb's of Dover unbleached flour which is performing exceptionally.  I wasn't worried about the quality of the flour since I had heard of others on TFL using it.


In the past I would normally buy hard wheat flour from Arva Mills for $21.25 per 50lb bag.  Dover flour is $12.99 per 50lb bag, I'd prefer to support the little guy but I can't at almost 1/2 the price.


 

ivyb's picture
ivyb

Wow! that is a great price!  I pay $6.49 for 10lbs. of KAF at BJ's, which comes out to $32.45 for 50lbs. and I know that I would still pay more if I bought flour at the supermarket or a gourmet food shop.


BTW; my mom gave me a 5 lb. bag of a brand name flour to use up for her before Pesach, and my family asked me what was wrong with the bread! Without knowing that I switched flours, they noticed a difference! Oh, and yes, it was unbleached, but, I did feel a slight difference and the color wasn't quite the same as KAF either.


Peace,


ivyb


ny

beeman1's picture
beeman1

I have used the Central Milling Organic flour with diastatic malt which I got at my local health food store for about twice the price I could have gotten it at Cosco. Cosco is almost 30 miles from me and it is almost impoosable to find out what they have.

leemid's picture
leemid

So the real sting is that I didn't confirm the price of the Pendleton flour at the usual location before buying the Costco flour. Turns out that the old price, $25/50lbs, was reduced to just $20 which made the Costco price of $15 not as amazing. I probably wouldn't have tried it at that lower margin. I had a feeling I should have checked.


I made a 50% WW sandwich loaf using this Costco flour yesterday and the only real problem was remembering that I had it rising, amid the many diversions. So I had to punch it down once again and then it rose too tall before I gave up and baked it anyway. Turned out great, all things considered. But then it's not a lean bread like the sourdough and I jimmied with the recipe and discovered that a little more fat and molasses makes a nice tender loaf. Speaking of which, it's lunch time.


Lee

newgirlbaker's picture
newgirlbaker

I am buying my bread flour at Wal Mart, its Gold Medal better for bread, price is $2.83 for 5 pounds, works great!!!

leemid's picture
leemid

Although that WW sandwich bread I made in the last update performed reasonable well, I can't make my signature sourdough with this flour. It is intolerant in proofing times, can't stand going long, and won't hold the crumb structure. It works okay, feels okay, but something is wrong. I am definitely going back to Pendleton Mills, my old mainstay. Bottom line is I saved $5, got a little usable knowledge, and had to consume 50lbs of flour worth of sub-standard bread.


I had thought that trying something else, testing a little, would be a good thing. But it was really just rationalization for trying to save a few bucks. Bottom line is you can't substitute for quality without disappointment. It is ain't broke, like me, don't fix it.


That's my story,


Lee

mrpeabody's picture
mrpeabody

Howdy,


 


Your original post mentioned that the flour was BLEACHED.  If I remember correctly, the bleaching process results in flour that doesn't form gluten as well.  I think I heard this from an episode of "Good Eats."  The episode was about cake flour and the food scientist (Shirley Corriher?, forgive me for the spelling) mentioned that because the cake flour is bleached, it results in even less gluten formation than unbleached (something about the halide ion, maybe a chloride ?, altering protein structure).  Great for pastries and cake, bad for bread.  So, perhaps that was the problem.  I know that I always look for unbleached.  And yes, it always seems more expensive than bleached.  Probably for the reasons mentioned by others in this thread.


 


Mostly, I don't get to make bread as often as I would like but I have always made an effort to use unbleached flour (either all-purpose or bread) and haven't had a problem, even with store-brands.  Unfortunately, my wife doesn't seem to remember my preference so occasionally she buys the bleached stuff (usually because it is on sale).  When that happens, I just save the bleached flour for waffles, pancakes, and pie crusts.


 


Mr. Peabody

Hoyden's picture
Hoyden

Well, I went ahead and bought the 50# bag of bread flour (US$13) from Costco even though I'd read less than glowing recommendations.


I have to agree with the original poster - I don't like this flour.  I noticed the poor structure and the flavor is just meh.  Previously I was using KA or whole foods brands.


I think the bread flour is worse than the Costco all-purpose which is also ConAgra.  I bought a 25# of the AP a few months ago and didn't have as many problems with it.  It's bleached too, so I don't know what's up with that.  My Costco doesn't carry any other flour.


However, unlike the original poster who complained that the flour absorbs too much moisture and tightens up too much, mine wouldn't absorb enough.  I had a wet gloppy dough with bits of unmixed flour in it - blech.


Not worth the price - it's taken the fun and pride out of my bread baking.  :-(

leemid's picture
leemid

I REALLY don't like this flour. I will use it up, but probably making 50% WW instead of white sourdough.  No matter what I do it makes significantly inferior bread.


Lee

Hoyden's picture
Hoyden

I don't know much about the chemistry of baking, but this flour seems to be very lacking in gluten - maybe because of the bleaching mentioned earlier - has anyone tried supplementing it with vital wheat gluten flour?


 


I was at my parents house over the weekend and made bread with some KA bread flour - what a pleasure.

tsmos's picture
tsmos

I read the original comment AFTER I purchased the same 50lb bag of flour and was a little dispayed...


So, I tried to learn from your experience and made my dough a little stiffer than usual and it worked on first try!


Specifically:


My sourdough starter transitioned to the ConAgra brand "Harvest bleached bread flour" smoothly, the proofing schedule didn't need adjustments (I usually oppose to <strong>over</strong>-proofing, in my experience overproofing of any dough is detrimental to its structure), The crust browned well in the oven, the loaves' volume was good, and I got a wonderful oven-spring, and the crumb turned out to be surprisingly uniformed, but softer than I expected, with very good flavor.


No, it is NOT the same bread, but it is not a dissaster either.  I actually like this bread!


I have also mixed it with whole wheat flour for a direct-method loaf and had very good results.


I realze I join this thread a year after your initial post, but I would like to thank you for the 'heads up' and suggest that changing flour usually requires that you adapt your process.

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

I bought flour at Costco that says it is Baker's Flour NOT Bread flour.  Is this AP or Bread flour????  Thanks,   Pam

mitzi0401's picture
mitzi0401

I bought Eagle Mills unbleached 'white and ultra-grains" at my Costco a while ago.  If memory serves, it was 2  #10 bags for about $5.50.  LOVE this flour.  Beautiful to works with and gives great texture, crumb and crust.  Anyone else used this flour?

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I've been using the Eagle Mills flour and find myself falling out of like with it. The price is right, don't get me wrong on that, and it will really perk up a starter, but I don't find the flavor all that much anymore. I can find GM B4B for $2.65/5# and Hudson Cream bread flour $2.45/5# a few blocks away. The Hudson Cream AP at $2.39 is a decent flour and can be made into a good pizza crust. The next time I'm in Omaha to visit the in-laws, I should be able to find Dakota Maid flours at a reasonable cost. All of these flours suit my tastebuds a lot better.


I'm using what I have left of the Eagle Mills as a 10-15% portion of total flour in my loaves right now. When it's gone, I'll just chalk it up to learning what's right for me and buy different flour. I bake a loaf every three days, so the extra cost isn't that terrible when I factor in the time and mileage to CostCo.


 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

You might want to watch the Hudson Cream bread flour.  I've used it and had good results.  However, if memory serves (and it so often doesn't), their bread flour is simply their short patent AP with added gluten.  That kind of surprised me.  I had expected that a mill in Kansas could have their pick of wheat grades and mill to spec without having to resort to add-ins.


Paul

lynnebiz's picture
lynnebiz

Well, I bought some of the Harvest Bread Flour (white & bleached, even though I really prefer unbleached) made by ConAgra. Then I found this thread - since it's 50 lb bag, I decided to try it anyway (was hard enough to lug up my stairs, I did not feel like trying to carry it down).


I'm glad I did - the pizza and bread I've been baking since have been awesome. Since it was so inexpensive, I figured I'd take a chance - maybe it wouldn't be that great, and I always use unbleached - but I stopped & realized that when I don't bake our bread (in the smoldering heat of the summer), I buy whatever I can - and if it's not whole grain, then it's bleached anyway.


I figured this would last me forever - I bought it about a month and a half ago, and I'm down to about 15 lbs already. Yes, I make a lot of bread, and pizza is my 'thing' to make whenever someone (that means my kids) comes over, or if I'm down to nothing, food wise. It's my go-to economical meal.


My daughter (who lives in New Haven, btw - too funny) insists on me making my pizza whenever she visits. Now I'm sticking to thick crust, just for something different for her (besides, I will not even think of trying to compete w/Pepe's or Sally's, hahaha). Last time she said it was the absolute best thick crust pizza she's ever had (and I've been trying to perfect my pizza for a long, long time). I think I took a couple of photos - will post them when I can.


Now I don't measure - or even weigh - my ingredients anymore. I go by feel - so if there is a difference w/the flour, I was/am automatically adjusting to it. I also use a very hydrated dough. I've been paying more attention, and I'd say it's about 75% (at least) water. But that's a guess-ti-mate.


I live on a fixed income, so finding flour at this price is fantastic for me. Oh, one of my dogs likes it too - I decided to keep the bag of flour in a garbage bag on the flour - because, afterall, why on earth would a dog be interested in that?


Well, I came in the kitchen last week to find both bags torn into. Emma told me she didn't do it, but the two flour smudges that hardened on her nose in the drizzle weather we were having, said otherwise.


Lynne

mitzi0401's picture
mitzi0401

Not familiar with Hudson Cream flour or GM B4B -tell me more.  

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

The Hudson Cream flours are out of Stafford County, KS and primarily have a Midwest distribution with some going into the northern Appalachian states. Their website can give a better listing. Their flours are also packaged for bakery use. Wheatfields in Lawrence, KS, one of the best bakeries in the US, uses some of their flours.


The GM B4B is General Mills Better for Bread flour which should be available through the US. There's a General Mills mill site in KC, Mo I believe, so the bread flour I get here in Leavenworth, KS is usually reasonably fresh. The supermarket distribution hubs are farther away from me than the mill. I find B4B takes a little adjustment on my part or the crumb gets a little chewy.

mitzi0401's picture
mitzi0401

I checked it out, not available in Michigan, but thanks for the info!

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Check your supermarkets for Dakota Maid flour. It's a good flour and competitively priced. The mill is in N. Dakota. I found it at a Festival market outside of Green Bay so there might be some distribution in Michigan.

mitzi0401's picture
mitzi0401

I've heard praises of Wheat Montana's products.  I've found a distributer in Battle Creek that carries both the flours and wheat berries.  I'll be checking them out soon -- anybody used these?  

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

At home, I have used their Bronze Chief and Prairie Gold whole wheat flours.  The former is milled from red wheat and the latter from white wheat.


I also used their AP while interning at The Back Home Bakery.  It actually has a higher protein content than a lot of "bread" flours.


All have been very consistent and produced good bread and pastries.


Paul

mitzi0401's picture
mitzi0401

Good to know, Paul.  Now I'm looking forward to checking them out even more!  I have both Bronze Chief and Prairie Gold (both flour and berries) on order!

EvaGal's picture
EvaGal

I wonder if someone should contact Costco about the Con Agra Flour to see whether we could get them to add another flour product and carry our ideal Flour?


I used the Con-Agra for homemade biscuits and gravies and waffles for a while and was satisfied, but for the artisan bread most folks on the Fresh Loaf are trying to make, it seems to lack some desirable features. For me, it was lack of taste and rock-hard crust.


EvaGal