The Fresh Loaf

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King Arthur All-Purpose Flour Bafflement

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pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

King Arthur All-Purpose Flour Bafflement

I hope someone has an answer for this, because I'm baffled.


I've used KA all-purpose flour a lot, both with bread flour and alone. I haven't kept notes or done any experiments, but I've never noticed what I noticed in today's baking. I chose it instead of the Guisto bread flour I've been using because I was doing a number of things that I thought would benefit from a slightly softer flour. Fougasse, bread sticks, epi.


I retarded the dough overnight. Simple baguette high hydration dough leavened with yeast. I beat the peewaddin' out of it in my KA mixer, but a great deal of the dough stayed on the bottom of the bowl-more than when I made Jason's coccodrillo ciabatta. It seemed wetter than that dough even though I used 500 g flour and 350 g water. I added a couple of small handfuls of flour while the dough was mixing to try to get it to look right, but it never did. I probably beat it 12 minutes total at speed 2 and above trying to get it to look right.


I then folded the dough several times over the course of an hour and 15 minute rise and put it in the refrigerator. I refolded it right before bed because it had doubled. In the morning, the dough looked great and acted like a high hydration dough--in fact, it was very sticky and showed no signs that I had added extra flour. I had a hard time handling it, and when I tried to shape baguettes, it never made a tight skin. The surface of the bread stuck to the counter and had wavy lines on it in spite of flouring my hands often. Several of the loaves I rolled into a batard, relaxed, and started over on because they looked so bad.


They had great oven spring, but the crust was dull and didn't turn golden or gelatinized. It looked a lot like organic flour crust does, but it wasn't organic flour. I did spray the crusts right before baking with water and steamed as usual with a tray with lava rocks and a cup of water.


I have had great success with this recipe and technique in the past, and I'm baffled. Anybody have any ideas or experience with this flour that's similar? I keep going back and forth between "Did I over knead or under knead?"


Thanks,


Patricia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Patricia.


Are you comparing KAF AP to Giusto's Baker's Choice or High/Ultimate Performer flour?


If you have been using Baker's Choice, it is actually lower protein than KAF AP. Ultimate or High Performer is slightly higher protein than KAF AP. In either case, I suspect your experience was not entirely due to your flour choice. 


You say you were mixing a "high hydration" dough for baguettes. How high? I find that higher hydration doughs need longer mixing. Using an autolyse makes a big difference, though. Did you autolyse? (Is that a legitimate verb?) Even if you didn't, the extra folds should have resulted in good gluten development. Did it seem good to you?


I have had problems with cold retardation of dough getting really slack and sticky, presumably due to proteolysis. It has still been manageable, but has much reduced elasticity. And this has been with Giusto's Baker's Choice, as it happens. I am thinking that the best strategy is to refrigerate right after mixing. The yeast will not be as active and neither will the proteases. The dough will rise less in the refrigerator, but you can let it double as it warms up before dividing and shaping, if needed.


I'm still working this out myself, so I can't say this works better for sure, but it's my impression it does.


In any case, how did the baguettes turn out?


David

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Yes, David, I was comparing KAF AP to Giusto's Baker's Choice. Funny, I had always assumed the Giusto's had more protein because of the way it acted for me!


But I must say that I have used the KAF very successfully for baguettes before, so I had no reason to suspect beforehand that it might not have enough protein. As you point out, that probably wasn't the problem.


High hydration-350 g water to 500 g flour.  I autolysed for about an hour. (Surely that's a verb!) No, I never saw the flour develop good gluten. That's the source of my bafflement.


Yes, the cold retardation seemed to make it slack and sticky, but I haven't seen that before except on sourdough bread, and yes, reduced elasticity describes it. While rolling the baguettes, they'd just get to a certain point and the tight skin would break and I'd have sticky, mottled dough. It actually did act as if it had broken down a little too much.


The bread was okay, seemed not to rise as well as it should have given the hot day, and the oven spring was ok. All in all, the bread was ok. Period. Matte surface.


A friend who bakes for a restaurant told me today that she had experienced a similar problem when a monsoon was rolling in, as it was yesterday afternoon. Our normally dry weather was muggy. Any comments or experience on this?


Thanks, David, for your comments. Bread and gardening. They'll keep you humble.


Patricia

meryl's picture
meryl

Was this bake done during a time of excesses of heat and humidity?


Meryl

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Thanks, Meryl, I think that may be it...see comment above.


Patricia

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I use KA's AP all the time for European-style breads, but it works better for baguettes (in the summer) with a hydration of around 67%, I find.  Now, I live in an area (Cincinnati) where summers are humid.  I can't say with certainty what hydration would be appropriate for you, but 70% hydration is an upper limit for baguette dough made with this flour, in my opinion.


Even then, the 70% level (a very wet baguette dough) is more appropriate for what's called the "short mix" mechanical method, which more or less approximates the level of gluten development in hand mixed doughs.  This is illustrated pretty well by Jeffrey Hamelman's "French Bread" dough on p233 of his fine book.  Loaves made with this method won't usually have the same level of gluten development as with dough mixed 3-5 minutes or more on second speed, and they aren't expected to get great volume or nice cut openings, either.  As baguettes go, they can be downright ugly, but they usually taste better than most if the bulk dough is given a good, long fermentation of 4-5 hours.


The hydration level of a dough has meaning mostly in the context of the absorption capacity of a flour.  A 68% hydration with KA's AP usually yields a moderately soft (or moderately "wet") dough.  Use the same hydration with KA's "Bread" flour and the dough probably won't be wet at all.


So if you know you're using a softer flour than before, holding back maybe 5% or more of the "normal" amount of water in your formula might be a good place to start.  Then add more from what you've held back only if you need to.


BTW, I have assumed that the water and flour weights you quoted were reflective of the TOTAL water and flour in your formula.  If there's a pre-ferment involved and we haven't considered the flour and water in there, then I wouldn't know what your dough's hydration actually is.


As to what else happened after you shaped the dough and baked it, I'd say there are too many possibilities for me to suggest anything useful here.  If you get the dough consistency and development you were shooting for at the beginning, then it's easier to diagnose what happens after that.


--Dan DiMuzio

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

I have made this recipe before with KAF AP, but the weather here is usually bone dry. I didn't use a preferment or a starter.


Your comments have helped me understand that instead of interchanging AP and bread flour, I need to consider the absorption ability of the flour. I used to use the KAF Bread Flour mixed with half AP for my baguettes, but since David's Surprise and Challenge, I have been using up my Giusto order.


There's so much to learn and to remember, and just when I think I've got the hang of it, I trip myself up.


I think that your comments are right on. The problem happened from the very beginning, with the mixing and perhaps, as David points out, the autolyse. After that, everything else was bound to be difficult or a little wrong. It is amazing that the bread was edible and actually not too bad in either flavor or presentation. (That, however, is not what we're aiming for.)


Thanks for your help!


Patricia

Davo's picture
Davo

I was given some sourdough formulae by a professional bread baking instructor whose passion happens to be sourdough. The biggest qualifier he put on the quantities he recommended was that you needed to be free with water, and adjust to suit the conditions and flour, because humidity and flour type could change what was right.  Just the same as you need to adjust ferment/prove times for the ambient conditions in your kitchen. Following any recipe assuming all conditions are exactly the same every time ignores the influences that the conditions can have...


One thing about this is  that it's easier to start a bit wet and add flour - harder to find your mix is dry and then try to soften/wet it up.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

But I'd caution you about just adding flour and never holding back water. When you add water, the flavor of your bread will not really change and the proportions of salt and yeast will be the same in relation to the flour.  Adding flour is necessary sometimes to salvage a dough, but I wouldn't describe it as my "best" option.


I wouldn't suggest holding back a lot of water -- just 5% or so of the total called for in the formula, and adding it as early as you can if you think you'll need it.  It's true that the later you add water, the less easy it is to get the dough to absorb it, so deciding all this in the first minute or so of mixing is advisable.


Adding water later in the mix actually lubricates the bowl surface initially, and the dough will likely slap the sides and seem to refuse absorption.  But if you lower the speed of the mixer as much as you can, and give the dough a minute or two, water can still be absorbed evenly with little inconvenience.


--Dan DiMuzio

Davo's picture
Davo

I guess as I always do a four-largish-loaf (each about 850 grams) mix and that's way too much to mix with a mixer, I always mix by hand - so adding water after the dough has come together really is problematic. As well, the change in dough-to-levain or dough-to-salt from adding a percent or so of flour (which is all it ever is, for me) is barely going to affect the mix, compared to a range of other variables.


For me, holding back 5% of water is a lot of water to try and add to a largely mixed dough, though... It just seems to me like making likely work, that's not necessary.

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

The Giusto flour I've been using is not Baker's Choice but their Ultimate (high protein). That makes what I said in my first post make more sense. I just pulled out the bag last night to use it and noticed my mistake. It doesn't really bear on Dan's comments, but it does on David's comments re KA AP vs. Giusto...


Patricia

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I think your discovery there actually bears out my thinking even more, Patricia.  You were using a super-strong flour, possibly at a higher hydration, and then went with a moderately strong flour that couldn't absorb all that water in a similar fashion.


I'd encourage you to try the King Arthur AP again, but with a hydration in the range I mentioned before (67-68%).  Add more water if you need to, but be conservative about it.


Compare your results with those from the HG flour.  There should be a dramatic difference in texture.  Then just decide which you like more.


--Dan DiMuzio

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Dan,


Really glad you've brought all your experience to TFL!


I'm interested if you can add any general comments on the nexus of flour strength, hydration, and texture? I play with the flours I use a lot, and with hydration as well, and have been surprised at just how much textural change these variables can cause. But besides weaker flour leading to a softer crumb, and higher hydration leading to larger holes (but less oven spring at a certain point), I'm just dabbling...


TIA,


David

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

I will do as you suggest.


Patricia