The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Organic flour vs. regular flour?

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pseudobaker's picture
pseudobaker

Organic flour vs. regular flour?

I recently bought a 20kg bag of organic unbleached white flour, and have loved it so far.  However, I was trying to make a pre-ferment for the "Pane coi Santi" recipe in Maggie Glazer's Artisan Baking book (I haven't got a sourdough starter ready yet, so I'm making a preferment with yeast instead), and I found I had to add WAY more water than it called for in order to get the stiff dough to stick together into a ball.  For those Canadians out there, I'm using flour from Anita's Organic Mill in Chilliwack, BC.

 UPDATE: the preferment was a disaster - waaaay too dry, so it didn't do anything.  I'm going to wait until I have a sourdough starter and then proceed.

 Anyone else out there had a similar experience with organic flour?  Do I just add more water until the consistency feels right, then proceed?

pseudobaker's picture
pseudobaker

Anyone?

jm_chng's picture
jm_chng

Hi,I made two loaves last week, I used the same recipe for each but one was plain bread flour the other type 55. The type 55 absorbed less water than the plain bread flour, I'd have guessed about 4% difference in hydration had I not weighed up myself. Different flours absorb water differently. It depends how the flour is processed and the mix of grains though they all may look the same. It's nothing to do with atmospheric conditions. Well not in my experience or my family who have run a bakehouse for well over a hundred years. Check out Mike Avery's site for more info or search flour types and hydration.
Jim

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

I use organic flours exclusively, mine are from Millbrook which is milled in Toronto, Oak Manor from Tavistock, and Milanaise from Milan Quebec.

Each one behaves differently, so play it by what you need 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Hi Pumpkinpapa - how do you like the Milanaise flour, and what kind have you used? I'm curious about it because I can buy a 50lb bag at a good price from the Bread Alone Bakery down the road if I want to, but thought I'd find out more about it before buying that much. Bread Alone carries 3 types from Milanaise: the organic whole wheat bread flour, the organic unbleached white flour, and the organic 6 grain cracked cereal mix. I'm surprised to learn from the Milanaise website that they are located in far Eastern Quebec, near the border of Maine and New Hampshire! I never knew wheat could be grown in that area on a large scale, I always think of that as a crop grown in more arid conditions than the Northeast.

 

Right now I use King Arthur organic artisan white and organic whole wheat. I have not noticed much difference in hydration since I switched from King Arthur AP to Organic, but they have the same protein level. I read in various bread books that the higher the protein in the flour the more water it will absorb, and I'm sure surface area and milling methods also impact that. I also add enough water until the consistency feels right after mixing any kind of dough rather than adhering to the recipe, since there can be so many variables with flour.

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

I bought the pastry flour first when I couldn't get my regular and it was nice, good to roll out for pie.

I've used the unbleached white with good results. I'm not good on any technical ratio's or numbers but it feels good.

I can only get KA through the mail, there is no Canadian distribution, likely because KA isn't a mill itself, but I would still like to try them. Probably in the spring when my experiment budget is more flexible :)

Also some organics are pure with no added barley flour (for enzyme development, I think) so absorption is different there too. There is a Mennonite farm nearby that stone grinds there own wheat and rye and sends most of their crop to needy third world nations after their church takes there, I have to get in touch with them before the spring to see if I can buy some flours from them.

I used some spelt from my freezer last night, I've got moths so the freezer protects the flour, and it took a lot of water as I didn't let it warm up I think. That or I'm getting old and losing my memory :)

 

dina's picture
dina

Where do you buy the Millbrook flour? I tried to find some information on the internet but I couldn't get any...

I don't know where to buy or order it.

Can somebody help with some information.

Thanks.

estudiorudolpho's picture
estudiorudolpho

I used to cook out of a portable 5 ton truck kitchen for film cews and actors, so often I had to fly by the seat of my pants.  I bake my own breads and only use organic flours. The problem with most cookbooks is that they make you feel like you have to follow the recipe strictly...you don't! Most recipes call for finely pulverized white and/or whole wheat flour. I avoid using wheat as it has been overdomesticated and has the highest gluten content. I use spelt which I believe has a nicer taste and is basically "wild" wheat. Experiment! Usually you have to adjust the water and other ingredients, but to me the fun is in altering a recipe and seeing what happens.  I've had a few flops but mostly great success with this approach. Don't get hung up on a brand name, I have found that any and all certified organic flours I have used ( I use mostly whole splet, rye, rice, and kamut ) are all excellent. Just be aware that when you substitute whole grains that have less gluten, you may have to add a little more yeast, sugar, and water.  For my rye breads I add a couple of spoonfulls of organic cacao and fine ground organic coffee which gives it a lovely taste and colour. Go out on a limb and experiment, it's well worth the effort. I never measure or weigh anything.  I adapt recipes mostly from my two favourite books, the Joy of Cooking and Cook Right 4 Your Type....( as in blood type ).

 

estudiorudolpho's picture
estudiorudolpho

I have used Millbrook, Oak Manor, Millenaise, Big Red, etc.... I don't believe it matters. I'm originally from out west and a farming background and I can tell you that grain berries differ from year to year, and that most mills grind and mix different berries from all over Canada and the U.S....you're dealing with nature, just like grape crops and other crops, the taste and flavour and mineral and guten content will vary depending on the type of soil and climate and harvesting and storage. Branding is largely about marketing. The quality of what's inside the bag has little to do with the label.  Hopefully a good label gives you as  much accurate information as you need.