The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

flour questions

Susanmarie's picture
Susanmarie

flour questions

  I am a novice with a lot of questions, so please bear with me...I have been using King Arthur all-purpose flour and saw KA bread flour the other day.  What kind of changes would the bread flour make in my finished bread, if any?  What is the difference between the two flours?  Is Montana Sapphire a good brand?  Does the brand really matter? Also, what kind of comercially available flour do you prefer and why?

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Bread flour is higher in protein than all-purpose flour. You can get larger, more irregular holes in your bread using bread flour than you can with all-purpose flour. Bread flour is "harder" though, so it does create a tougher loaf. So depending on what kind of bread you are making a particular type of flour may be more appropriate. I tend to use a 50/50 mix of bread flour/all-purpose flour when making French bread but all AP flour when making something softer, like a sandwich loaf.

As you gain experience, yes, you can tell the difference between different brands of flour. I find this to be particularly true when making lean breads that *only* contain flour, salt, yeast, and water or between different brands of whole wheat flour. If you are baking something like a buttermilk sandwich bread with honey in it, it is much more difficult to distinguish between the brands of flour.

I wouldn't worry too much about the brand of flour if you are just getting started. King Arthur's is always good, but a bit on the expensive side. I still use the store brand unbleached AP flour for the majority of my baking, supplementing it with some flour from King Arthur's or Bob's Red Mill as I see fit.

RFMonaco's picture
RFMonaco

Hi Floyd, what happened to the second half of the 10 Minute Banana Bread recipe.

It doesn't show up on the thread. Thanks.

 

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

Hodgson Mill makes some excellent flours.  Cooks Illustrated magazine waxes almost poetic about the flavor of the breads that they make with Hodgson Mill flours.  My wife loves the rye bread that I make with it;  however, it's too soft or "cakie" for me.  I still eat and enjoy it, but I'd rather have a rye bread with some chewey bite and spring to it.  Hard wheat flour is what the commercial bakeries use for their breads for the most part.  There are exceptions of course.  The difficulty is finding it on your store shelves.  I finally found one 2 weeks ago, tried it, and tossed the bread and the flour out.  It was not good.  Now I've got a Nutrimill and 50# of hard wheat and rye grains ordered.  We'll see what happens.

The bottom line is that it's all personal taste.  Experiment with different flours and mixtures.  Then when you find something that you really like, stay with it.  The nice thing about baking bread is that the monetary costs are low.  Boo-boos can end up in the garbage quickly without any great loss - sort of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing, and move on to the next batch.  It does take some of your time, but that's part of the fun too.  Enjoy.

 Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

I've been thinking about purchasing a Nutrimill for a while now.  Fortunately, I've got a variety of flour available locally, so I'm still experimenting with what's available (and spending more of my efforts just on baking more bread).  

I'd like to hear how users like this mills, and if the flour they produce is really that different.  Thanks. 

Sylvia

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Will you grind your grains and then give the flour time to ripen? I've read some posts here about doing that. I never did but wonder if I should. I have a Nutrimill and I love it.
weavershouse

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

From what I've read flour is best used within a day or so of grinding.  Deterioration of nutrients is rapid.  That's why commercial mills don't use the whole grain.  At my age I need every advantage that I can get...lol...  Glad to hear from a Nutrimill owner and that you like it.  Mine got shipped today.  My organic grain order arrives a week from tomorrow.  The wait for the next week will be...aaargh...

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

Cooky's picture
Cooky

I have tried several varieties of AP and bread flour in my own novice baking program, and have settled on KA bread flour as my prohibitive favorite. As Floyd notes, bread flour gives you more gluten, which is great for airy/chewy artisan textures.

 

Personally, I love KA for the color. It has a beautiful creamy tone that I find utterly appetizing. Some people, on the other hand, prefer a pure white crumb. 

 

Cliff is absolutely right that ultimately it comes down to your personal tastes. But I'd say "what?!" to his advice about throwing out bread you don't like. 

 

I have discarded exactly one batch of bread in eight months of at least weekly -- and often imperfect -- baking. If I don't want it, I take it to the office or give it to the neighbors. Apparently everybody loves homemade bread, and they gobble up loaves that I find totally subpar. (For instance: I forgot to add salt to a large batch, thought it tasted awful. Took that to work. It didn't last till lunch.) I guess the audience is never as critical as the composer, eh? And if all else fails, there are always birds to feed!

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

Cooky,

Yes, I should have been more specific when I said that I throw out sub-par loaves of bread.  The birdies here just love them.  I've seen sparrows act like vultures (or is that just the way our Texas birds act?). 

Waste not, want not...or something like that.  I hasten to add though that the birds around here would starve to death if they had to rely on my "flops", lol, the most recent being last month when I ran out of caraway seeds and tried a loaf of rye without them.  Never again!  I now buy my caraway seeds by the pound (see Ingredients forum).

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

Cooky's picture
Cooky

Hee! Cliff, I hear you. I've had a string of not-so-hot results lately. At this rate the local feathered friends are going to be so stuffed they won't be able to get off the ground.

DerSchuhmacher's picture
DerSchuhmacher

I am researching flour the last couple days and I read much prejudice about King Arthur flour.  I read that it is one of the worst tasting flours out there and more unmanageable than most.  I have always bought Gold Medal AP flour and want to get away always using AP.  But does anyone know about the KA being a less desirable flour compared to other brands, especially for bread flour etc?

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

DS,

I don't have first hand experience with KA flour, but I've read several articles in which it did not compare favorably to some other flours.  One of the consistantly top-rated flour lines has been Hodgson Mill.  I've used it very successfully until I bought a Nutrimill and started milling my own flour.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

DerSchuhmacher's picture
DerSchuhmacher

Hi Cliff,

 Thanks for such a quick repsonse!  I will look them up for sure.  I saw you were talknig about them before and I am single-and not feeding an army so I do not need 50#+ of grain around unless I want to invte all the woodland animals to come visit ;-)

Thanks!

DS

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Really? Actually, my experience and most of what I've heard has been very positive about KAF's AP flour, for making breads at least. It's got a higher protein percentage than most AP flours, so it's not as good for quick breads or cakes, but for breads, I've found it to be just about perfect.

Their whole wheat flour is the best I'd encountered before I started grinding my own.

Just my $.02.

DerSchuhmacher's picture
DerSchuhmacher

Hi JM,

 Maybe their whole wheat would be ok, I only know what the hype that is being said about on the AP and bread flour.

 I am definitely willing to give the wheat flour a try since you like it. 

 

And I will try the other brand Cliff mentoned as well

Squid's picture
Squid

DerSchuhmacher, could you tell me what sources gave KA flour such a bad review? I'm taking a course there this weekend and I was planning on stocking up on their flour since everything I'd read about their flour was favourable.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Some folks have complained about KA Bread flour -- it's high in protein which can make the crumb a little too chewy for some people's tastes. I prefer the AP flour for bread, myself. But if you're making bread with a lot of other stuff in it -- nuts, fruits, etc -- I'd recommend bread flour. The extra heft will help with the rise.

DerSchuhmacher's picture
DerSchuhmacher

Unfortunately I did not save any of the links I was reading but I will do my best...

 OHH! They were talking about the movie!!!

NOO...sorry...I have a bad sense of humor sometimes...

Hold on here...

Chow Hound was one that was talking about flour

 Hmm I cannot remember all the different sites I was on where they discussed KA brand in the board when disccussing pastry, bread, crust and so on...

But after I got tired of searching for them and not finding them again...I decided to do a google search for bad revliews for King Arthur Flour and I am not finding anything but praise...

Go Figure!

 

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

Cooks Illustated did some comparisons while doing a bread baking article.  They did not rate KA too well.  They really liked Hodgson Mill - that's how I got started with it.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

I couldn't find the original article that turned me onto Hodgson Mill flour, but I did manage to find a couple of other items - both favorable to KA!

"We had the best luck getting the airy rye bread we were looking for by using flours milled only from the endosperm.  These included King Arthur's white rye and Pillsbury's medium rye.  These chalk-colored flours have a light, fine texture much like white flour.  In general, bread made with rye flour that contains even a trace of bran will be heavier because the bran particles tend to slice the strands of gluten, which are needed to give elasticity to breads.  King Arthur's "medium rye" contains traces of germ and bran as well as the endosperm of the berry.  This flour produced a bread with earthy flavors and only a slight spring.  Arrowhead Mills' "whole grain rye" produced a similar bread, although it is ground from the whole berry.  King Arthur's "pumpernickel" flour and Hodgson Mills' "whole grain, stone ground medium" rye flour are also ground from the whole berry, but not as finely.  Specks of bran are visible in these two coarse flours, which look much like sand.  They prouced dense, dry, and grainy breads."

And,

"I now proceeded to round up all the rest of the nationally available rye flours to test - white rye, medium rye, whole grain, and pumpernickel.  The breads they produced were dramatically different.  I preferred the breads made with King Arthur light rye and Pillsbury medium rye, both of which had an earthy, tangy flavor with a slight springiness."

The above were taken from "Jewish Rye Bread", Cook's Illustrated, January & February, 1998, pages 19 & 20.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

Don't know what happened - somehow my previous reply got duplicated so I deleted this copy... 

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

Squid's picture
Squid

LOL..... I like your sense of humour.

Thanks for the info, Cliff. I don't get Cooks Illustrated so I guess I'll have to trust all the positive things I've read about KA flour. At the very least, I'll be able to taste test them against the flours I currently have.

DerSchuhmacher's picture
DerSchuhmacher

Thanks :)))

 AHHH!!! If my best friends could only see me now! They would be SO envious of all the fun I am having with my flour buddies!  But I better keep it a secret, do not want them to cry over me being on top of the Flour Sack!

 OMG! I tell you...

I got this nic based on a cooking experience gone bad in Austria...sighhhh

One friend likes to cook but only wants to ask me or her mother or whoever tech support

My other friend considers it's just a chore like dusting, washing dishes and vacuuming!BUT she likes to iron?!?!?! okkkkk....

I also have a confession to make...

I have fibro and kneading bread is very difficult for me anymore...so I am using a...gasp....don't kill me...a bread machine!

Finally on my own again and found the owner's manual and want to get busy today or tomorrow making some bread and getting away from that store bought poison!