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The Right Flour for Baguettes: All Purpose Flour or Bread Flour

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DonD's picture
DonD

The Right Flour for Baguettes: All Purpose Flour or Bread Flour

I have looked at a lot of recipes for Baguettes and there is no concensus as to whether All Purpose or Bread Flour is the most appropriate. The breakdown is as follows:


Jeffrey Hamelman: BF


Peter Reinhart (Crust & Crumb): AP


Peter Reinhart (BBA): 50% AP & 50 % BF and also either AP or BF


Daniel Leader: AP


Dan DiMuzio: BF


Michel Suas: BF


Joe Ortiz: AP


Richard Bertinet: BF


Personally, being a Libra, I compromise and mix 2 parts AP to 1 part BF and have had good results. I am curious to see how most people feel.


Don

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Don.


Let me start with my conclusion: I haven't reached one yet.


That said, the AP flours I tend to use have a higher than average gluten content, so are probably in between many AP flours and BF. So, I don't use BF for baguettes.


I have two thoughts that push me toward using AP flour: First, the French use T55 which, as I understand it, is most like our APF. Second, a lower gluten flour makes a crackly crust whereas a higher gluten flour tends to make a crunchy crust. 


I haven't made baguettes for a while. Maybe I need to make some this coming weekend.


David


 

DonD's picture
DonD

From what I have read, a lot of French bakers add gluten to their T55 flour so essentially they are baking with the equivalent of our Bread Flour.


Don

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

...pastry flour along with AP flour as the closest you'll come to the flour used in France.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I'm with you DonD.  Although I do sometimes make baguettes (and other breads) using only AP flour, I usually mix it 2:1 with bread flour.  I just like the results of that mix better than either flour used exclusively in bread making.


My starter (100% hydration) is 100% AP flour and that's factored in for the 2:1 mix.

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

I am also curious as to the differences in the flours and what advantages each might offer.  I have been on Organic All Winter Bread Flour for my last 50lbs, and am just now switching over to Snowflake AP.  I'm not sure the gluten content in each, but will see if I notice any differences.


As I understand it, you don't want to much gluten for baguettes, as it makes it less extensible. On the other hand, more gluten would hold together better for a larger rise. My guess is depending on your shaping skills for baguettes, you would want different feels in the flour.


Interested to see what others say on the matter.


Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

wally's picture
wally

Don,


A clarification may be in order.  What is called "bread flour" in Hamelman's book is actually AP flour.  My understanding from a series of emails I exchanged with James MacGuire (who reviewed Hamelman's book) is that this was an editorial error - the editors of "Bread" assumed that "bread flour" should be used to designate flour used in bread baking.


The flour Jeffrey used during our course on classic French breads this past July was KAF's Sir Galahad, which is also packaged as their AP I believe.


Hope that helps!


Larry

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I sort of wish that millers of retail flours in America were required to speak the same language.   Of course, they aren't.  So the "All Purpose" from a place like King Arthur is strong enough to exceed the specs for many other "Bread Flours" from other mills.  And White Lily's "All-Purpose" is milled entirely from soft wheat, which makes it practically a pastry flour.


Truly -- and I don't mean to be obnoxious here -- "All-Purpose" is purely a marketing term, and not something to be relied upon when choosing unfamiliar flours.  You and I both sort of know what is meant there, but that's just not specific enough to be useful in assessing what it will or won't do with bread.


Jeffrey does use Sir Galahad for baguettes, and KA's retail designation for that flour is "All-Purpose", just as Larry said.  I use it a lot, and it's a great hearth bread flour for mostly-white varieties.  Your best bet, I think, is to try different flours until you get one you like and don't get too caught up in whether the flour is "AP" or "Bread Flour."  It's a marketing guy who may not even bake who came up with the name.  No offense intended toward marketing professionals -- they're just often divorced from actually using what they promote.


Look more at protein levels, and, better yet, hard vs. soft wheat as the flour's base, or winter wheat vs. spring wheat (winter is probably better for extensibility).  Research the flour specs as much as you can.  Protein levels of around 10.5 to 12 percent or so give you lots of wiggle room, but for authenticity's sake I wouldn't go higher than that.


And adjust the water level in ANY formula when necessary to account for differences in absorption levels between different flours.  As long as you make your adjustment decisions in the first minute or so of mixing, you can hold back maybe 5% of your water at first to be certain that your new flour can still hold the same hydration.  For that matter, if the new flour looks more absorbent than before in the first minute, add more water.  Don't feel completely tied to specified water weights or hydration percentages in any formula -- they only have meaning in relation to the flour used by the recipe tester on the day it was tested.


--Dan DiMuzio

wally's picture
wally

Dan -


That was a really helpful response - many thanks!


Larry

DonD's picture
DonD

Your explanations are clear and concise just like your book and very helpful. I have narrowed my choice of flours to 2 or 3 producers so I know what to expect more or less each time I mix a batch of dough even when trying a new formula.


Don

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

As a relative beginner i often don't realize whether my flour needs more water until I've tried kneading it, at which point it is certainly over a minute after the initial mixing.  Is it detrimental to the bread to add water as I knead?  I typically just put the dough back into the bowl, add water until it is absorbed, and then take it back out and continue kneading.


Thanks,


Summer

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Hi Summer,


Just so I'm certain we're talking about the same thing, I'm assuming that you're talking about a hand-mixed and kneaded dough, with no use of an electric appliance at all.


As long as the water is being successfully absorbed during kneading, there should be no major problem.  I do recommend that you mix with your hands completely just until the dough mass is homogenous, and then cover and allow to rest at least 15 minutes before proceeding.  That'll give the flour time to completely hydrate and the gluten bonds to form before you proceed with development of the gluten.


Your goal should still be to correct for hydration, if necessary, while the dough is rough or even shaggy.  The water might be absorbed later, but there's no good reason to wait very long when you think the dough is dry.  Don't be afraid to make a bad call here or there -- even experienced bakers still have goofs.  You won't be able to judge what's enough or too much reliably until you run into it -- or over it.


Dan DiMuzio

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

Thanks Dan.  Yes, I was talking about total hand kneading apart from the initial mixing with a dough whisk (obviously not electrial!).  I'll definitely try letting the mixed ingredients rest for 15 min. and then check for proper hydration again.  It is definitely true that I haven't made enough loaves to know by feel right away.  By the way, if I were afraid of making bad calls I'd be pretty disappointed by now but it's nice to hear the reassurance!


Summer

DonD's picture
DonD

Hi Larry,


Thanks for the helpful clarifications.


Don

copyu's picture
copyu

This may not be helpful, as I live in Japan, but I would go with respondents who suggest 50-50 or 60-40 AP-BF, respectively.


Here, 'regular' supermarket flour (or plain or AP flour) just has the word "flour" on the package. It's always sourced from either the USA and/or Canada, often without percentage of 'protein' info. The package has info that says what it's good for...cakes, pancakes, cookies, tempura, etc...


The other option is something called "Camellia" flour, recommended for 'French bread', and a few other options.


In my experience of baking French style breads with the 'Camellia' flour ("flower"?!) it seems to be a mix of their regular flour and stronger bread flours. I'm guessing, but I'd say its around 11% protein or a tad lower, maybe 10.5%, so that's what I'd aim for. 


I read somewhere [but WHERE? I can't recall the source!] that most French flours contain a small percentage of rye, as stray rye seeds thrive in the same fields as the wheat, so a tablespoon or so of the rye flour might give you some 'authenticity'...just a thought...


Best,


copyu

DonD's picture
DonD

to get a different perspective from someone in Japan. I know that a lot of Japanese are big francophiles so I would think that French style flour for baguettes would be available there. I have added a little rye to my baguette flour mix before but did not know about the wild stray rye in French flour.


Don

copyu's picture
copyu

The Japanese are great francophiles! We're lucky to have a chain of Boulangier Paul in Tokyo and Saitama. They do a few amazing items, my favorite being their flute ancienne, a very long, thin baguette, only available late in the afternoon, which is very chewy--the taste is absolutely superb.


I notice that there are tiny dark specks in the crumb, which, I suppose, is the wee dash of rye they include. I can say (almost) for sure that it's not wheat germ or bran, which one would probably be able to spot by eye or by taste. (These 'specks' are absent from their regular baguettes, however, which are marginally better than most other Japanese bakeries, but not a real 'necessity' for me...) 


I imagine for the more 'rustic' or 'antique' ['re-to-ro' in Japan] baguettes, the rye flour goes without saying...I'm still searching for that reference, though.


Best,


copyu

Elagins's picture
Elagins

French Type 55 flour is about 8.5-10% gluten and 0.55% ash at 0% humidity, which works out to about 0.47% at the standard US 14% moisture rate. Since the average bread flour is about 13/0.53 and the average AP is around 10.5/0.52, both differ considerably from Type 55. Both high (>70%) hydration of higher gluten flours and softer wheats at normal hydration will provide the open crumb. It's just a matter of how, if at all, you want to compromise.

Of course, a good Type 55 clone will behave better than either AP or BF ....

Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com

pncc's picture
pncc

Any thoughts on using Caputo 00 as a substitute for French Type 55 baguette flour? Caputo 00 has about the same protein & ash as Type 55.. Of course it has more moisture, but it still looks like a good sub that is a lot easier to find than Type 55.

Elagins's picture
Elagins

the 00 has this wonderfully soft and open crumb, crunchy crust at mid-high temp (450F/235C), and amazing flavor, esp if you retard for at least 8 hours and let it proof to almost full proof.

Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com