The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Artisan baking contests

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ssor's picture
ssor

Artisan baking contests

I recall reading somewhere that the major baking contests require that everyone bake with the same brand and grade of flour.


The rationale being that anyone can make good bread with very good flour but it takes more skill and experience to make good bread using mediocre flour. The result of this little bit of information has caused me to buy only house brand unbleached flour and to concentrate my efforts on improving my technique.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

one of those contests I would have the same requirement, but not because of the same rationale.  I would do so because I want the reults to differentiate between the bakers and their techniques, methods and skills to the maximum effect, and to differentiate between ingredient choices to the minimum effect.  Regardless of the rationale, however, the rule makes sense to me.


I still buy the best ingredients I can find though.  It helps compensate for my still developing skill set.  I have a lot to learn, and I am only competing with myself.  That makes the playing field always level in my own kitchen.


OldWoodenSpoon

proth5's picture
proth5

think that in a competition it is best to have everyone use the same flour so as to level the playing field (it doesn't 100% because some of the bakers will have had more years to practice with similar types of flour than others - but all will practice with that flour for some time)  I can't quite extend that to saying that one should buy only house brand flour.


What a house brand flour is lacking is consistency.  You may hone your technique on five or ten pounds of the flour that has a certain set of specifications only to find that your next five or ten pounds has a completely different set of characteristics (not that the home baker usually has the equipment to measure this - but suddenly "somthing is wrong with my bread....")


That is not to say that depending on your goals and current skill level that practice with the house brand is to no avail (and may, indeed be cost effective for you), but I wouldn't go so far as to say "technique is all - flour is trivial" because it just isn't so.


I will tell the story about the cello.


Back when I was trying to learn to play the cello, my cello teacher was making an adjustment on my cheap factory churned cello and broke it.


Embarrased, he handed me his cello (a Vuillaume).  I could tell the difference immediately.  It was more responsive to my touch - it was "easier" to play.


Could he play my cello infinitely better than I?  Of course.  But he would never play that cheap box of wood to HIS full potential.  And when the consortium that owned the Vuillaume decided to sell it - he had to adjust to another one - which was pretty good (according to him) but not the same.


Good technique with bad tools will often do better than bad technique with good tools, but good technique with good tools beats the pants off both.


I think about that from time to time.

ssor's picture
ssor

consistancy among house brands of flour even from different grocery chains. For a period of about a year I made the same  eight loaf recipe of sandwich loaves using house brand unbleached flour and either Golf Medal or General Mills whole wheat. The week to week results were dependable and predictable.

proth5's picture
proth5

you have found that consistency.  It isn't guaranteed, by any means  (in general house brand flours allow greater tolerances in their specifications than "name brand" flours), but if you have found it to be so, and you are happy with your results, I will not argue.


Happy Baking!

ssor's picture
ssor
proth5's picture
proth5

to continue on this because obviously you have your mind made up.


However you can type "King Arthur Flour specifications" into your favorite search engine and compare those specifications with the USDA specs.  You may notice differences.  On a personal note, I'm not sure I would take compliance to the minimum of USDA spec as a sign of quality for any food product.


But by all means use the flour that you like best.  The only person you need please is yourself.