The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Canadian flour VS European Flour

Melian's picture
Melian

Canadian flour VS European Flour

Hello everyone,


I am into sourdough baking since a couple of years and this forum always gave me great ideas and information, so thanks to everyone for writing about your experiences. At the moment I am living in Canada, and I am baking mainly with "La Milanaise" flour, which I found very good. In a couple of months I will be back in London and considering that the flour is very different there, I am a bit worried about how to convert the recipes that I got from here into "european" recipes. In Europe we have the white flour, and the white "strong canadian" one, and of course whole grains and so on...In the recipes that calls for all purpose flour, shoud I use the strong canadian one? I have noticed that the flour here requires much more water than the one in the UK, so do you think is just a matter of adjusting the flour amount? If Anyone who have been in both places and baked could give me some hints I would be very happy! Have a nice baking day!


Sam

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

not the flour amount.  Because the salt and other additives are usually based on the amount of flour.  Water can be held back or added as needed depending on desired dough consistency.  Changing the water amount is simple.  Changing the flour amount may mean changing the salt amount, sugar, spices, yeast etc, etc. to get the same flavour.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Sam,


You should find that flour labelled as "Strong" here in the UK will give a performance reasonably consistent with Canadian mainstream bread flour.   There are also "super strong" flours available, largely developed in response to the burgeoning bread machine baking market at the time.   You should not need to use these for regualr sourdough baking.


One caution you may want to take on board.   There really is no equivalent to the "All Purpose" flour used by many American bakers here on TFL....well, at least at retail level.   I've used commercial "Baker's Grade" flour, which would have a similar specification to North American All Purpose, but I didn't like it very much at all.   On the High Street we are offered "Plain Flour".   The protein content will generally be around 9%, and if it gets up to 10% you are doing well.   UK wheat is soft, and the gluten content is low.   So, unless you buy flour labelled as "Strong", or, "Bread", you should be prepared for poor results in terms of bread quality.


That said, it is perfectly possible to mix Plain and Strong to come up with an equivalent of "AP"


There are also some great local speciality flours being produced.   These have nothing whatsoever in common with the mainstream and standard industrial flours available in the big supermarkets.


Hope this helps; welcome to the UK, when you get here!


Best wishes


Andy

Melian's picture
Melian

Hello,


Thanks you very much for your hints, I will for sure stick with strong canadian flour for the bread and mix the white and strong to create an all purpose. I will try to find mills that sells organic stoneground flour to the public. When I left the Uk I was very new to bread baking (I have lived there for 1 year and half) and when I got to Canada I immediately realized that the flour was very different. I will try to bring some flour from here, but it will be enough just for few batches, plus my sourdough loves the flour here...sigh sigh I hope my return to Uk does not mean the end of my baking experiments. I might need the help of some expert baker here for some conversions ;)

Melian's picture
Melian

Oh if Anyone has some brands to suggest, I would be glad to try them.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi melian,


you really don't need to worry about not being able to find good flour here.


Mainstream ,eg. Sainsburys, sell Allinsons Strong flours which are good, and my preferred bread flour from Carrs.   Retail, it's called "Breadmaker Flour", commercially, I buy it as "Special CC".   Hovis also make good quality bread flour.   Waitrose do a Strong Canadian flour should you get really homesick!


For more specialist flours, try Marriage's, who produce very good organic flour.   Shipton Mill in Gloucs are at least as good.   For Rye, my colleague on TFL, Daisy_A, and I are quick to rave about a stoneground organic Dark Rye flour from Bacheldre Watermill in Wales.   More local to me [I'm based in the far north of England] is Little Salkeld Watermill which mills only organic English wheat, and Gilchesters which grows and mills their own tall-stem variety sourced from sativa wheat in Switzerland.   I have a colleague based in Dorset running bakery courses from the Cann Mills site: great flour by all accounts.


Just a few for starters


BW


Andy

Melian's picture
Melian

Thanks so much!


I will be based in London, and I am sure online there will be lots of sources for that.Of course if I find some interesting mills I will report here in case other british based bakers are interested. In the past I bought the waitrose organic strong flour and dove's farm, either from waitrose and a natural food shop in Chiswick. Now I am also very interested in different flours, so far I have used rye, spelt, barley, buckwheat and there are more I want to try...I so much love baking bread and it is so great to have a community that shares the same passion!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Think of it the other way around: (the "more positive" way if you prefer):  you'll be able to get "European" flours that you can't (readily) get in Canada. Bakers who want the best possible French baguette have been known to import T55 flour at huge expense; "AP" is a decent substitute for baguettes  ...but it's just not quite right.


"strong" flour with higher gluten would be really nice to have as an option (just ask an Italian baker:-)  ...but it isn't better for everything. You can easily deal with it needing a little more water. But it's harder to handle its propensity to get "tough" when slightly overworked. And it's hard to handle its propensity for producing a "closed" crumb no matter what you do.


You may very well find being able to match the gluten content and the style of flour more closely to what you're making to be a plus.


Do watch out though that north american flours almost always have small amounts of both ascorbic acid and diastatic malt (barley flour) pre-mixed right in the flour. Hence much of the use of "dough conditioners" is rendered irrelevant in north america. European flours are less likely to include these extra ingredients automatically, so you may find it more useful to experiment with small-to-tiny amounts of ascorbic acid or diastatic malt or "dough conditioners".


Also watch out for slightly different terminology (a "standardized" baking term? HA!). For example its's fairly likely that what in Europe are called "dough improvers" north americans would call something like "base mix".

Melian's picture
Melian

Thank you Chuck, your point of view is interesting as well, infact I have found easier to make baguettes in Uk than here...I am looking forward to try and see the differences. My goal is to improve the quality of my bread and I am sure I will find very good flours in the Uk as well. I will just have to adapt few recipes...Thank you so much, with all those hints I have got now my eyes are wide open towards a whole new world of baking experiment! :D Now I am even more excited to come back!

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Melian,


Chuck is correct that our flour, at retail level, does not normally have ascorbic acid added.   That is not to say it has not been tampered with, necessarily, and, unfortunately.


It is very common that the miller will adjust the amylase content by adding fungal amylase to give consistent fermentation.   This is common practice in nearly all industrial flour mills to my knowledge.


As things stand, it is not necessary to declare added enzymes in bread and flour [see UK Bread and Flour Regulations, 1996], as they are classed as "processing aids", and are therefore exempt.


In London you may very well be able to track down authentic T55, "00" etc, from interesting and local sources.   But be aware, that the mass produced flours from these countries really have very little more in character than the regular UK flour, and will cost a lot more too.   So you may want to check for authenticity in any imported flour before buying.   I have used some French wheat commercially which was very bland and uninteresting, milled in the UK.   On the other hand, I have also used organic French flour imported by my friends [see: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/16151/working-french-flour ] which is about as special as it gets...but only available because they drive through the Tunnel to collect it for their bakery.


I agree with Chuck, that you should avoid what he terms "base-mixes".   They are quite common, especially aimed at the "Breadmaker" market: look out for terms such as "bread mix", or "pre-mix".   Whilst some of the functional additives will be on the label, it is unlikely any manufacturer will go so far as to include the enzymes added in the Ingredients List of the pre-mix


BW


Andy

Algonzo's picture
Algonzo

Hi Sam - I'm in the opposite situation. Canadian but I've been living in London for around 2 years.


The strongest mainstream flours you can buy are hovis & allistons "super strong" which you can get at some tesco or sainsburys, or waitrose has that "canadian" one you mention. I think they are all similiar but nothing at all like mainstream canadian flour.


In canada I used robin hood all purpose flour (which you can actually buy at the canadian store in covent garden if you're willing to pay a fortune for a tiny sack!). The texture I would get at 80% hydration with RH flour I get at 65% with the british flours above (how I keep my starter). A lean bread made at 69% hydration in Canada I make at 62% in the UK.


I'd also like to note that you might like to try the chapatti flour which can be bought in huge sacks at asian cash n' carrys all over london. I have found this to be stronger than the supermarket flours and it could make for a good whole wheat flour.


If anyone knows, I'd love more specifics on how to find specialty flours in London (milled from local, perhaps heritage wheat). Thanks!

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi,


can someone tell me if the flour in the link is really very strong?


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Marriages-Strong-Canadian-White-Flour/dp/B0043RQ01O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303125767&sr=8-1


If the shipping were free the cost would be good.


I wonder if an excessive milling weakens the strength of the flour. I ask because italian millers have begun to sell 00 flour (very refined, just like cake flour) made from canadian and american hard wheat, but to me it seems to be not at all better than the 0 manitoba flour (less refined) I've been using so far. This 00 manitoba seems to absorb less water and to develop less gluten, overall the dough comes together less firm than with the 0 manitoba flour.

Melian's picture
Melian

Are you Nico from Cook? If is you it's so nice to see you here as well!


I have never used that flour when I was in the UK, I was usually buying Waitrose organic flour, it was ok for what I have done, but I was using one flour for everything (bad me), but now I am more interested in using different flours for different breads and other baked goods so I am starting to look better into what's available. If you live close to where I live in Italy I will be able to order a bad of Marriage's for you so you can try it..I will probably try pick up a test recipe and try the same thing with different flours and see which one gives me different results.

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi Melian, yes it's me, but I don't remember I met you on Cook, sorry! Maybe with a different username? Where do you live in italy? I live in Bologna. Generally I use strong flours for sweet breads that require a lot of butter and sugar and two or three fermentations.

Melian's picture
Melian

Hi Nico, on Cook I am registered as Samanza :D but do not worry if you don't remember me, there are so many people there! I was just wandering how small the world is :D


Anyway I live in Piacenza so if happens that you are passing there I can bring some flour when I board the luggage...if I am not flying with Ryanair eh eh


I will send a PM when I will be back to the UK just in case :)

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Ciao Samanza, ricordo benissimo!

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Algonzo


For Heritage wheats try these links:


http://www.brockwell-bake.org.uk/ and http://www.oxfordbreadgroup.co.uk/index.php?page=how-to-buy


Hi Nico,


"Long time no hear", really good to catch one of your posts again.


I've used this flour a couple of times only.   I believe Daisy_A has also used it from time to time.   Personally, I wasn't that blown away with it, even though I believe the protein quote is 15g/100g flour on the nutritional information.


EDIT: Nico, I apolgise, I thought you meant Waitrose own label Strong Canadian.   I have used Marriage Organic flours a lot, and they are superb.   That said, I believe Marriages have the contract to mill all Waitrose own brand flours, so, it is possible these 2 flours are one and the same!!!


Maybe stick with the Manitoba?


Have you thought about trying the Hovis or Allinson Super Strong varieties?   I don't know if they are available to you in Italy, but it might be worth a try for what I think you are seeking.


Very best wishes


Andy

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Thanks for your feedback. I try to test all the flours I can get my hands on, provided they are available without too many twists.


Unfortunately I've just seen that the seller doesn't ship to Italy, so my order was cancelled. What a pity.


Bye,


  Nico

KeithT's picture
KeithT

Hi I'm new here but would like to say how great the Waitrose Canadian very strong white flour is.  I have always used a flour produced at a local mill but they recently changed their wheat supplier for a more localised organic wheat.  I had real trouble with this flour, with the crumb always turning out very dry.  I did all the usual things to adapt my recipe, but to no avail. Obvious the wheat was of poor quality.  A good friend of mine suggested I try the Canadian wheat flour from Waitrose and to see what I thought about it.  I prefer white bread flour with about 20% wholewheat added.  Well I made two 2lb test loaves today and they have both turned out to be fantastic with a nice springy crumb.  Canadian wheat is by far the best I have used so far.  I don't use a machine and have to say that the dough was the easiest to knead that I have used too, with less than the usual 15 minutes knead time required. Well done Waitrose! I will be buying again in the very near future.

KeithT's picture
KeithT

Whoops....! That should have read 20% wholemeal added