The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bleached flour in starters

sadears's picture
sadears

Bleached flour in starters

I had a major brainfart when I last bought flour..bleached flour.  I bought two ten pounds bags.  I just realized it yesterday, when I fed my starter, then as I waited for it to rise just a bit more before I started using it, it fell.  Same thing today.  I wonder if it because I used bleached AP flour?  I went out today and hoped it would be ready when I got home.  It fell.  I did the same thing I always do.  Half cup starter (I don't weigh it...just go by the line on the mason jar), 4 oz flour, and 4 oz water...I weight the flour.  Starter behaved as expected until I started using the bleached flour.

 

I did see somewhat of a difference between bread flour and AP flour (bread flour behaved better), but unbleached AP flour performance was acceptable.  With bleached, it seems I have to park the jar in front of me and the minute it looks as it should, start using it.  That's unacceptable considering my high drift factor.

 

I googled it...bleached v. unbleached.  Clorine is used to bleach flour.  Could this be why many say that only tap water with little clorine treatment be used otherwise use bottled/distilled water?

 

Any thoughts?

 

Steph

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

Well thats the idea i got when we use to let the aquarium sit over night before putting the fish in.   It's really hard to find unbleached flour around here, and this isn't a small town, so bleached must be good for something.  No, as far as my starters are cocerned, i haven't noticed much difference.  I don't have time to refresh it much more than once a day, and unless i overproof the loaf, or add way to much salt, it comes out.

 

Why is it bleached any way, does anyone know?  One would think that bleaching flour would raise the price, yet the opposite seems to be true.  How come all the grociers have ten brands of bleached flour, and maybe if your lucky, have one unbleached, for double the price?  Is healthy food only for the well to do?

 

ok end of rant, but perhaps someone here might know.

 

jeffrey

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Flour is bleached for two reasons. First, it makes it white. Really white. And second, it allows the flour to absorb more water, which makes cakes, muffins, etc. more moist. Cake flour is almost always bleached.

But bleaching also damages the flour so that it makes pretty lousy bread, and removes nutrients. I avoid it, myself, even for cakes.

Susan's picture
Susan

Okay, I'll join the rant with my experience:  At Costco the 25# bag of bread flour was not marked as to bleached or unbleached, so I pulled out my trusty cellphone and called ConAgra.  The woman who answered the phone was helpful.  After checking their records, we found out that it was, indeed, bleached flour.  So I didn't buy it.  Smart & Final sells only bleached bread flour in large bags.  Didn't buy that either.  I have to assume that restaurants want to buy bleached flour.  One more reason to eat at home. 
SD Susan

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

I can't swear to it, but I think that bleaching prolongs the shelf life - it removes some of the oils (i.e. nutrition) and makes the remaining gunk more stable. I believe flavour and nutrition suffer a bit. But if it keeps longer - it's good for the manufacturer - less spoilage, less dumped, greater profit. Hence - cheaper. I'm pleased, Sadears, that your little yeasties are discerning enough to reject it!
Andrew

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

Okay Ladies and Gentlemen-

Can someone talk to me about organic white flour?  I had a gift certificate to my local Mennonite store and got organic AP white flour.  It is a beautiful creamy tan color and my breads bake up that way but I am getting very little oven rise with any of the loaves/rolls I have made.  I get great activity with my starters, get decent fermentation but when I go to bake I do not get much of a pop at all.  I think I am going to go back out and get some more of my trusted KA flour and only use that.  I plan to buy at least 25 pounds when I am up there next weekend but may have to break down and get a 5# bag to hold me over.

Have any of you had less than stellar experience with organic flour?  I am getting frustrated to say the least.  Any and all help appreciated. Thanks.

Rena in Delaware

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

It's probably not the organic part that's hurting the rise of your bread, but the strength of the flour. Ask the Mennonite store if they can tell you the flour's protein content. You want flour that's about 11% protein or better for a good rise. 10% will do, but it's not going to rise as high as 11%

If you can find it, King Aruthur Flour makes a great organic AP flour that's just perfect for bread. It's a bit pricey, but if you want organic and performance, it's the best I've found, personally.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Rena - I agree with JMonkey, it is probably the protein content in your flour. I've been using the King Arthur Organic Artisan flour for the past few weeks (11.7% protein, 0.56 ash) and I love it, it's supposed to be the most like French artisan bread flour due to the ash. I don't know if it's that my technique or starter is getting better, or it's the flour, by my bread has never tasted better. If you go to KA in VT you should be able to buy a 50lb bag of the organic artisan AP flour for a very good price, but call ahead to make sure they set aside a bag for you, as that is not where their warehouse is. I was able to buy a case from my local health food mart at a case discount, but next time I travel to VT to visit family, I'd like to stop at KA and get a 50lb bag. Enjoy your class there next month, I'm jealous, wish I could take the time out to take one there too.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I haven't looked it up yet, but I bet it has more to do with killing microbes as a standard procedure for storage of the grain before it is ever ground into flour.  Unbleached therefore would require special storage handling and control (more labor hours) to prevent invasion of microbes (maybe microbes affect bread quality) without the help of chlorine and thus more expensive.  That's my guess.  Mini Oven

sadears's picture
sadears

From what I've read, bleaching does just that.  Makes it white.  Can't really find any other useful purpose.

 

So, that being the case, why would my starter go flat shortly after it rises?

 

Steph 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

I believe that originally bleaching of flour was just part of the general 1870-1920 movement to remove "contaminants" from natural foods, make them "better" and "more appealing", differentiate the products into low-brow and high-brow (premium prices!), and finally increase the time the product could be in storage/shipping/shelf before sale.

 

Some of those efforts had good results overall (pastuerizing milk; sorting of eggs), other served no purpose or did actual harm (partially hydrogenated fats) but have hung on ever since as part of our culture.

 

sPh

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

I am not sure that they would know what the protein content is in the flour but next time I go out there I will ask. Do you think that adding vital gluten will help in the mean time?  I have pretty much stopped adding it but in this case wonder if it might be a temporary solution until I use up this flour.  

I will be going up to King Arthur weekend after next to take a class and plan to buy flour in bulk while I am there.  I know I am going to get the unbleached AP flour but not sure if I will go all the way with the organic.  I am pretty happy with the results I get with the KA AP flour and will probably stick with that. 

I appreciate your answering.  Thanks again. 

Rena in Delaware

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

You could probably add vital wheat gluten, but I'd recommend going easy on how much you add. Maybe 1.5 tsp per loaf to begin with. Bread gets most of its flavor from starch, and adding too much protein (gluten) can give your bread an unpleasant "cardboard" texture and flavor.

I envy your trip to KAF. That's a great place -- whenever we travel to Vermont, we always have to stop at the "toy store." So much fun.

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

Steph,

 

Just because it deflates, does not mean that the yeast is dead, maybe the gluten in your AP flour petered out.  Just go ahead and use it, most likley it has plenty of yeast in it.  Before i ran out of AP Bleached flour, this often happened to me, we thought it was the norm, so used it anyway.

 

It seems to me that the yeast is still going strong long after prime, bubbles or not.

 

hope this is the answer this time.

 

jeffrey

sadears's picture
sadears

Okay.  I'll feed it before I go to bed (I fed it earlier and it fizzled yet again) and I'll use it in the morning.  I'll keep you posted

 

Thanks,

 

Steph

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Did you know that bleached wheat flour could be better for you than plain white wheat flour? Read this and comment:
http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6497909-description.html