The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Strength of american flours?

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Strength of american flours?

Hi,


I'd like to  understand what are the characteristics of flours generally used in USA and Canada. I'm aware that very high gluten flours are generally obtained milling hard wheat grown there, but are all american and canadian flours so strong?


For other pastries than bread and leavened in general do you use weak flours? I mean, is all-purpose flour equivalent to the weak italian, french and british flours generally used for cakes (00, T45) ? Or are they generally stronger and yielding a more elastic dough?


Thanks.

Dillbert's picture
Dillbert

>>but are all american and canadian flours so strong?


no - but the first question that comes to mind, when you say "american and canadian flours" do you mean brand names, millers or wheat types?


depending on where one shops,


pastry
cake
all purpose
bread


'grades' are common altho at least in USA there is no regulation / label law that defines the protein / gluten levels for those descriptions.  so what one miller labels 'all purpose' may be another millers 'bread'

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Nico,


The short, hot and dry summers in the favoured growing areas of US and Canada, together with very cold winters, tend to produce a harder wheat than the maritime climates of the Mediterranean countries.   This results in wheat with generally higher levels of insoluble protein, ie gluten forming.


Referring to  "00" and "T45" is probably not that helpful as a comparison, since this is a reference to the ash content of the flour, and not anything to do with the "strength".   Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure I have bought "00" flour suitable for bread, and also types suitable for pastry, and for cake.


Your last assumptions are key: Plain flour found in Italy, France, UK is indeed low protein and suitable for cake.   It is not the equivalent of US All-Purpose flour, because of the explanation given in the first paragraph.   Commercially, in the UK we have a Bakers Grade flour, which would be a nearer equivalent to All-Purpose.


This is why some TFL posters based in the US largely use All Purpose flour for their long fermented bread, rather than very high gluten flours.   I'd venture to suggest they would not enjoy the same success using UK Plain flour?


Best wishes


Andy

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Yes Andy,


I chose the wrong terms to identify the flours. The milling fineness doesn't relate to the strength. I referred to "00" and "T45" because generally they are weak, but -as you wrote- the cause is inherent in the wheat variety and cultivation rather than in the milling grade.


Well yes, I agree that a long fermented dough made with flours common in the mediterrean area would collapse miserably.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Nico,


I'm sure I've sourced Tipo "00" organic Italian flour with a quoted protein level of around 10.5%.   This was perfectly suitable for long fermented dough...especially of the pizza/ciabatta style, as well as rustic white bread typical of the Italian regions.


However, many of the Tipo "00" flours available probably have protein levels nearer the 9% mark.   Using these would indeed not be conducive to successful long fermented, or any other type, of dough making.   The same would be true of typical French wheatflour.


BW


Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

 

Hi Nico,


I went to the Horizon Milling Canada site where they list all their products and provide a nutritional breakdown for each of them. This is one of the largest millers in Canada so it should be fairly representative of typical Canadian flours The all-purpose flours have a protein content of 11.9 %, the bread flours have a 13% PC except for an 'artisan' flour which is 11.8 the pastry flour is 8% and the cake flour is 7%. I've copied the link below so you can have a look. It has a recipe section as well.


http://www.horizonmilling.ca/index.html

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Franko,


Those numbers you quote are very instructive, although I readily accept that the % protein does not necessarily indicate the provenance of the flour from a quality point of view.


However, what you have unearthed as All-Purpose", labelled as 11.9% would almost definitely be sold in Europe as strong flour.   The commercial grade of "baker's" flour, I mentioned above would have protein content about 10.5%.


However, any plain flour sold in EU would have a protein content from 7 to 9%, on average.   Anything at 10% would be exceptional; so it is not right to equate this with North American A-P.


I'd quite like to have an opportunity to use the North American All Purpose grade to make bread; however, I suspect it would be much like the regulation strong bread flours on the shelves in the UK.


But, I do like having easy access to different flours suitable for different purposes.   I started using a Baker's Grade flour in the College when I first came in to lecture.   I dropped it because I did not like the products that came out...totally ordinary.


Best wishes


Andy

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Thanks Franko and thanks Andy.


Maybe dealing with american flours would give me different results, but based  on my limited experience with a limited set of flours (none of which is american) I learned to ignore completely the protein content because it just doesn't say anything related to gluten quality and quantity.


I have flours with a protein content of 9.5% that are definitely much stronger (and reliable for long fermentations) than flours  rated at 12%. Even the most trusted high gluten flours available here indicate a 11-11.5% of protein, so either italian sellers lie on the protein content (that wouldn't remotely surprise me) or I have to accept that proteins percentage don't say anything useful.


Sometimes I even made at home some seitan and the amount of product obtained from 1 kg of different flours was surprisingly unexpected.


 


BTW, here we have a system to indicate certain characteristics of flours: W indicates the strength measured with the Chopin Alveographer, P/L indicates the extensibility/elasticity ratio and so on (stability factor and more). Do you use something similar in USA and UK?


That Robin Hood catalogue seems very interesting...

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

Hi  Try kingarthurflour.com.  They explain the origin, percentage protein, (sometimes the ash content) of their flours.   This will give you something with which to compare other UK, US and Canada flours.  They have a very informative website and catalogue.  highmtnpam