The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

European flour vs. North American flour

leyla's picture

European flour vs. North American flour

Hello Everybody,

I am a new member and have been searching the internet for an answer but haven't found one.  i thought i would post and see if anyone knows?

I lived in Germany for 10 years and for 10 years i enjoyed their lovely buns and breads and their pumpernickel breads without any ill effects.

I have been living in Canada for 20 years now and at first i was able to tolerate the bread here, but now for a few years now, the bread upsets my stomach and it bloats me...not good...

has the flour changed?? why are so many people allergic to wheat these days??is european flour just different??

Any answer would be AWESOME

Mebake's picture

Hi, Leyla, And Welcome to TFL.

Are you referring to the mass produced commercial cotton like bread? or you are actually eating real bread from artisan bakeries? It could be that the bakery you are buying bread from uses bleached flour, which is totally unhealthy.. and does cause bloating. Chemical additives such as preservatives, enzymes.. and emulsifiers also cause bloating for many.

Source of flour has nothing to do with it, As north american flours are renown for their world class quality, especially for breads. Rather, it is the type of bread you are eating. Properly made, white breads are flavorful, and cause no indigestion. Try Whole Meal breads. Do you bake at Home..?


nicodvb's picture

Khalid, can you elaborate on the bloating effect of enzymes and emulsifiers? I never heard of it.

MRK13's picture

Also look into this, as this may be an explaination for how you feel:

Most breads contain "enriched" wheat.  Enriching it with vitamins and one specific one, folic acid.  80% of society has the MTHFR mutation(most have no clue they have it) of some sort in which your body cannot properly methylate folic acid into folte.  The body's inability to do this can cause bloating, and digestive intolerance.  Those with this mutation should avoid all folic acid or "enriched" products.  Going gluten free is also an option.

Mebake's picture

I'am a firm believer of the detrimental long term, and cumulative  effects that chemical additives have on our digestion systems. Though i'am an amateur when it comes to baking science, i know that Enzymes aren't harmful by what they are, but rather with what they cause.. again, on the long term. The long term harmful effects of Sucrose (refined Sugar) on our body has been realized through the excessive type 2 diabetes, along with Cancer cases that humanity has been plagued with. Similarly, Adding enzymes that help release different sugars into the dough, leaves multiple unfermented sugars that will cause bloating as fermentation will continue in the bowl system. Leyla mentioned the bloating effect in recent years, i say its the cumulative effects of years of inferior breads consumption appearing nowadays. I'am talking a bout a whole generation brought up on such breads.

Emulsifiers, as i understand, are fat binding chemicals that help retain fat molecules into the structure of a solution, thereby enhancing its integrity. In a dough, emulsifiers retain fat molecules.. such as in milk or oil and helps keep them integrated into the structure of the dough, thereby strengthening and softening the dough. i don't know of the harmful effects, if any, of emulsifiers such as lecithin, but i wouldn't want them in a daily consumed food, such as bread.


hanseata's picture

Khalid, if your comment were on facebook, I would "like" it.


lumos's picture

As Khalid, not sure what sort of bread Leyla is talking about, but if it's mass-produced bread,  on top of those additives Khalid mentioned about and its cumulative effect, the method they use to produce them is another huge culprit; the biggest reason why so many kids (and some adults) suffer from wheat allergy, gluten intolerance, etc, etc. is because of this modern breadmaking technique of very short fermentation process.  I'm not articulate enough to explain it myself, so here's an article which explains about it.

Chorleywood Industrial Bread Making

It's quite frightening.....

leyla's picture

Thank you so much for all you feedback.  What brand of flour do you recommend above all?  I will go experiement in my kitchen with your recommendation.

The bread i was consuming in germany was predominantely rye, and in luxembourg was thick white bread i can't even get unbelievably DELISCIOUS.

In Canada, I did consume your regular white bread from a grocery store...even the baguettes that are freshly baked cause me grief, so i thought it must be the flour...??

ananda's picture

Hi leyla,

It is the gliadin fraction which causes all the problems in the gut which can lead to coeliac diesease.   This is one half of the component proteins which combine to form gluten during dough mixing.

As the others have pointed out above, the most likely source of your problems is industrially-produced bread which utilises high yeast quantities and extremely short fermentation time.   Long fermentation is widely considered to aid digestibility of the bread.   For sourdough eaters, the news is even better, as the long fermentation of the wild yeasts and the bacterial activity helps to break down the gliadin fraction and thereby alleviate much of the suffering to those who suffer gluten intolerance problems.

If you really feel the problem stems from the flour, then you need to find a source of local flour milled from traditional and untampered wheats.   Canada is a very big place, but if you look out for posts by Franko and breadsong you will note that both these TFL regulars come from Vancouver Island and have traced a supply of Red Fife wheatflour.   You could chase that up.   However, I would advise the more important factors are the breadmaking methods, not the choice of flour.

Best wishes


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

will help aid digestion.  Try soaking the flour, combining the flour and water until mixed and let it sit from 8 to 24 hours before adding yeast and other ingredients.  This makes a much more agreeable bread.  

On the other hand, it is known that grain carbohydrates do ferment in the intestines and contribute to gas and bloating.  If you are on a low carb diet (less that 50 grams of carbohydrate a day) any increase in carbohydrate consumption leads to gas, bloating and being somewhat miserable.  :)


senara's picture


Another issue that gets over looked is the fact that we are not cooking our bread enough.  The Germans are known for their dark, crusted breads.  All you have to do is look at your local farmer's market or bakery and you will see loaves that are nearly white.  Flour must be cooked thoroughly to be digestable.  I've been served pastry in good restaurants where the crust is nearly raw.  We have become accustomed to mushy, pasty breads and pastries and our digestive systems are paying for it.  Just say no to undercooked baked goods and your tummy will thank you.


Chuck's picture

Yep, the issue is almost certainly how the bread is made, rather than what flour it's made from. North American and European wheats mostly trace their ancestry back to the very same seeds; the results of course differ somewhat because of climate, but not all that much genetic divergence has occurred in the last century or two. (In fact the origin legend of the old Canadian "Red Fife" strain is: "...a load of wheat grown in Ukraine was on a ship in the Glasgow harbour. A friend of Farmer Fife dropped his hat into the red-coloured wheat, collecting a few seeds in the hatband, which he then shipped off to Farmer Fife.")

The other likely possibility is the remembered European breads were frequently made from some non-wheat grain  ...particularly rye, which isn't as common in North America. (It's quite possible you've always been a bit sensitive to wheat, but never realized it when you were living in Europe because the diet there didn't include enough of it -especially underbaked and highly yeasted- to cause a problem:-)

(Unfortunately "pumpernickel" is seen by all too many North American bakers as an excuse to do dastardly things with additives and even food coloring, and is seldom even remotely like the remembered European breads with the same name. It's one of those things I suggest not buying commercially unless you can "see it being made". There are plenty of good recipes for baking your own good pumpernickel though -- check out especially Jeffrey Hamelman's recipe for 'Horst Bandel Pumpernickel' in his "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes".)


leyla's picture

Thank you for this...i had no idea about the wonder it tastes NOTHING like what i remember in germany...i can hardly swallow it here in Canada...and i have bought so many different brands and all have been disaster that i just gave up :(  I will try to make my own though.

tsaint's picture

I'm not sure if this matters, but Canadian bread flour is really high in gluten percentage, American bread flour supposedly has the same percentage gluten as Canadian AP flour. Wheat grown north has more gluten. Not sure about European flour but I'm guessing it's lower than Canadian. So.. maybe you are slightly sensitive? I don't know, just putting that info out there! :)

maddylillie's picture

My granddaughter has an allergy to wheat grown here in the United States.  Which has been cross bred into dwarf and semi-dwarf strains that have an altered gliadin.  She does not have celiac disease but her sever headaches have gone away since she has been on a gluten free diet and is triming down with no dieting.  We recieved some cookies from Germany and she had no reaction.  Perhaps Candian wheat is grown from these same strains and that accounts for your bloating.  The person who told me about the altered wheat problem, had IBS, bloating and headaches which(but not celiac disease)which went away when she stopped eating wheat.  Does anyone know if German wheat has been crossbred to produce this profitable, nearly indistructable wheat? Can I purchase flour from Germany and be assured that it is a different strain so that I can make bread that is not from gluten free flour which is not nearly as good? Daily bread is quite different from a cookie or two. I really would like to bake "real" bread again.

gretel's picture

I agreed w/ Senara's comment but was surprised no one else responded to it. Here in the midwest, I can't tell you how often I experience undercooked foods. Freshly baked cookies at most places are raw in the middle, pastries from the supermarket such as bear claws my husband brings home are inedible, fruit tarts at bakeries taste underdone and  most of all bread everywhere tastes undercooked. I have only found a few artisan breads that are baked thoroughly and browned on top in my area, and I must drive far to get them. I also order German breads from Germany that are shipped frozen to the U.S. Sorry to sound critical but I am wondering if others feel that so many baked goods they are coming across are simply not given enough time in the oven! Was it my years living in Europe? Not sure, but the undercooked American baked goods are definitely contributing to tummy aches and general digestive problems. As another ex., I find that the breads at Subway taste underbaked, I can not down their sanwiches nor their "pita" which tastes like wet dough after they "toast" it. Are Senara and I the only ones experiencing this regulary? Could it be that all of this undercooked bread and pastry is making us ill over time? Any feedback is welcome!

MrsMay's picture

Hi Leyla, it sounds like you have the same allergy/intolerance I have.  My reactions were bloating, gas, weight gain, nausea and even the killer for me... bad breath.  The effects were almost immediate for the most part. My allergy is specifically to North American Red Wheats.  I noticed it when I lived overseas for 6 years and had no ill effects to the wheat in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Norway, Morocco, Turkey... even Australia.  In face I haven't had any ill effects in ANY country I've visited outside of the Americas.  I have found that here in the US I can eat WHITE wheat.  White winter wheat, white spring wheat, hard or soft.  Doesn't matter how I bake it... no problems... even if it's underdone and in a bread machine. I am currently having trouble sourcing a hard white wheat for artisan bread making (not whole grain) that isn't prohibitively expensive... but here are the brands that I know of: King Arthur French Style Flour, The Best Flour Grain Brain White Wheat All Purpose Flour (you can get them on and the latter you can get from quite a few kosher dealers).  I use Bob's Red Mill white wheat pastry flour for my cakes, cookies, pastries etc, pancakes and thin crust pizza.  You can buy it in a 25# bag for under $20US. They have a whole grain white wheat pastry too but personally I think it's rubbish except for hearty pancakes & waffles. I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour for my bread.  It's available in a lot of grocery stores and Target (the latter is the cheapest).  Gold Medal now has a white whole wheat flour that is grainier than the King Arthur counterpart.  Central Milling has their own version or the white whole wheat as well that I hear is very good.  I haven't tried it though.  My favorite breadflour though is the Caputo tipo 00 Italian flour (actually from Italy).  You can get it on Amazon for $39 for 22# with free shipping.  I would LOVE to know where to source German or French (or any other European flours for that matter) so if anyone has any idea on that front please let me know.  PS - Triscuits (the real ones... not the knock offs) are made with white wheat.  So that'd be an easy way to test your allergy.  Good Luck!

profussion's picture

GMO anybody?




adri's picture

I can back the following:

In Germany we in general have soft wheat (weicher Weichweizen) and in North America in general you have more hard wheat (harter Weichweizen).

The high quality often refers to baking qualities, not how good you can digest the wheat.

One other thing to mention: 20 years ago in Germany, almost all bread was artisan. They were made with longer fermentation, especially the rye breads always with sourdough.

This changed a lot in the recent years. Now also more industrial bread is sold than artisan one. :(


mattprince's picture

So basically, using unbleached flour, longer fermentation (proving) and cooking for longer for a darker colour is the best way to avoid bloating?



janeb's picture

Maddylillie, we experienced the same thing- when on vacation in Germany, my wife, who is normally allergic to wheat had no ill effects from eating the bread/baked goods.  It seems like there must be something very different about the wheat- I would guess that wheat here in the US has been modified more to have a high gluten content. My wife is not just gluten intolerant, it is more of an allergy to wheat (she gets congestion, and can't breathe well if she eats too much, sick to her stomach, etc).  It was really amazing that she felt no ill effects from eating the breads in Germany.  I am looking for a way to get some German/European flour to try making bread that way.  

Sharndun's picture

Check out Dr William Davis book Wheat Belly.  He explains why people in this country are solo overweight an have health problems.   Which has to do with what has been don ti wheat in North America                                                           


pmccool's picture

if researchers were to hang out with obese Americans for a day or two and log what they ate and how much they ate?  My guess is that if they did that with several thousand people, the finding would be that the study subjects take in far too many calories from all sources.  And, even if they were to eliminate the wheat component of the foods they eat, that their caloric intake would still be high enough to keep them obese. 

Part of the basis for my supposition is that I've been overweight for much of my life but that I've been able to lose a significant amount of weight even though I've kept eating bread and other wheat-based foods in roughly the same quantities. The difference?  A reduction in total calories by greatly reducing my intake of calorie-dense but nutritionally deficient foods and an accompanying increase in physical activity to burn off some of the calories that I do eat. 

Granted, one data point does not a trend make.  It is, however, consistent with a raft of information pubished in various medical journals over the past few decades.

There are anecdotal accounts, some posted here on TFL, of persons having reduced, or even no, GI distress while eating breads in Europe; compared to what they experience here in North America.  That's an opening for some further research to try to understand how various factors affect digestive processes but it isn't an automatic justification for blaming obesity on specific strains of wheat.

If you are able to apply the thesis proposed in Wheat Belly in ways that improve your health, that's absolutely wonderful.  Just be aware that there is no magic bullet when it comes to nutrition, whether we're talking mega-doses of Vitamin C or Mediterranean diet or Wheat Belly.  We are extremely complicated organisms and though there are principles of nutrition that all of us can use, there few, if any, recommendations about specific foods that apply to everyone.