The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Clear Flour

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Clear Flour

What can you tell me about clear flour and its uses?  I have to chuckle at myself.  I recently found this on King Arthur baking site and thought - oh great - a clear flour to use for dusting my bannetons!  It won't even show!  Oh my goodness.  Well, at any rate I bought some and now I'm not sure what to do with it except that I know it is used in rye and pumpernickel.  I have not made these types of breads yet however am always on the lookout for some great tried and true recipes.  In the meantime this is what King Arthur says about it but please feel free to add all your knowledge on the subject with any suggestions on what to bake using it.

First Clear Flour

This is the flour New York City bakers have always used for their signature Jewish-style rye breads.
  • High-protein, high-mineral (extra flavor) wheat flour.
  • Use in combination with rye flour.
  • Also an ideal flour for feeding your sourdough starter.
  • In a 3-pound bag, recipe included.
BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

One use is in M.Glezer's 'Artisan Baking' for one of the French Country loaf (Tom Something's Country Sourdough) ... and P.Reinhard is also refering to it in one formula. Supposedly the taste should be 'special', somewhere between AP and WW. I received a couple of pound a few days ago and plan to use it over the weekend.

I don't have the books with me right now, but if you wish I could look up tonight the exact names of the formulas I was suggesting.

BROTKUNST

zolablue's picture
zolablue

We were just discussing the Thom Leonard bread again (a couple posts down).  Are you telling me that this is a high extraction flour and that I can use it in the Thom Leonard because I'm planning on making that tomorrow.  (Does high extraction mean high gluten?)

Have you actually baked with it yet?

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...thanks to you again Brotkunst for the heads up.  I checked my BBA book and on page 30 Reinhart says the following:

“…Professional bakers use the designations clear flour and patent flour for types of white flour (as opposed to whole-wheat flour, a category unto itself in which the entire wheat berry is preserved in the flour).  They indicate what part of the wheat berry has been sifted through and packaged.  Clear flour, which means the flour that clears the first sifting (to separate out the bran and germ), still retains some of the finer bran fiber from the outer endosperm of the wheat berry and is thus coarser and contains higher levels of ash.  This flour is often used in rye breads and is usually made from very strong, high-protein wheat.  Rarely is clear flour sold in regular markets, but it is a good value for professional bakers who can use it in whole-grain and high-fiber breads.

 

Patent flour, sometimes called “second clear,” is flour that has passed through a second sifting, thus retaining only the pure inner endosperm, or white interior, of the wheat berry.  It is the purest grade and shows up in stores as bleached or unbleached all-purpose, pastry, bread, or high-gluten flour…”

  

Based on that I think I will try making the Thom Leonard boules tomorrow with this flour.  It can’t hurt and will be fun to compare flavor as I mentioned to Mountaindog in the other thread regarding using a traditional WW flour and not sifting for that recipe.

 
Elagins's picture
Elagins

I think clear flour is probably what the NY Jewish bakers used for bagels and bialys also. I've been using a fairly high gluten bread flour (13% or so) for my bagels and they come out nice and chewy, but Nancy Silverton (Breads from La Brea Bakery) quotes her old Jewish baker friend Izzy to the effect that bagels aren't bagels unless you use "high-gluten flour", which I take to mean clear flour.

I just ordered about 12# of the stuff from King Arthur and intend to experiment with pure clear and 50-50 clear/bread and see how things turn out.

Incidentally, I've also begun using food-quality lye for my boiling, along with about 1/2 tsp of malt syrup in the water (as well as malt syrup in the recipe). The trick to killer bagels, I've found, is not to use more than 52% water, not to ferment beyond about 10 minutes, and to refrigerate the formed bagels overnight as soon as possible. I've also read that 550 is the best baking temp, and that the old-timers used burlap on top of cedar planks as a baking surface (which I remember seeing as a kid in Brooklyn and also intend to try).

I imagine that you can use the clear flour for almost any open-crumb bread where elasticity, oven spring and flavor are paramount ... probably either a cold ferment and/or ciabatta ... real slack doughs.

I'd be interested in hearing from others.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I baked the Thom Leonard boules last week using the first clear flour.  It made a completely different loaf and yummy!  It was very difficult to mix however as that flour is a different animal to anything I've used so far.  Wow, was it ever elastic!  Like a big, giant rubber band.  The dough kept crawling up the dough hook but I persisted.  I splashed in extra water (I did not measure) and I supposed I really should have added even more.  Do you?  At any rate, I wish I'd have photo'd the bread because it was beautiful. And it was delicious.  I'm not sure I favor it made that way but I'm assuming it might be more true to how the author meant it to be.  ???

Elagins - Can you believe I have never made bagels...yet.  I really appreciate your comments and will copy them for my first attempt.  Thanks.  Oh, and why would this type of flour create more oven spring?  I did use it for Pagnotta that I baked a couple days ago and those loaves really sprung but I didn't know that might be due to the first clear flour used.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

I had the same experience, although I kneaded it by hand ... the dough extended very well but also kept it's shape (freeform). Very easy to work with. I retarded the dough in the first fermentation overnight in the fridge, took it out for 3 hours next day and continued with proofing.

For now, this is my favourite flour. I have to place another order since I only included 6 lbs in my prior shipment. The dough also released perfectly from the banneton, the freeform loaf stayed in shape and produced a beautiful ovenspring, pronounced but not excessive (orange-gold to gold-brown crust). I remember I considered more water but since it was the first run, I decided leave the Hydration as planned. In my case, after fermentation, I can say that it was not necessary since the crumb came out open and moist (used La Cloche).

 

BROTKUNST

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I'm impressed that you kneaded Thom Leonard by hand at all let alone using the first clear flour.  I did knead it by hand only once when I first started baking in December and that was using KA traditional WW flour that I had sifted.  It was a BIG job...lol.

I must check my fridge temp.  I mentioned I used this flour in the pagnotta recipe and retarded the dough after folding.  I removed it at 7:45 the next morning and it had not warmed up and risen properly until almost 4:00 pm.  That must have been some cold dough and it sure seems it takes me far longer to get my doughs to that point than others.

I notice, too, that it gives a really nice spongy texture to the crumb.  Maybe that is not the best word to describe but it is really a noticable change from other flours I've used.  I will definately reorder because I'd like to keep trying it.  Thanks for your suggestion on how to use this.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Zola, actually the Thom Leonard formula is the easiest to handle with KAF's 'First Clear' flour. When you follow the formula with 'First Clear' you'll get a dream dough, very easy to handle with perfect hydration. The dough easily keeps the boule shape during proofing.

 

Personally I use about a 1-Hour 'Autolyse' before I add the salt and my levain is composed of 140g Water, 140g Artisan Flour, 15g Rye Barm (100:125) and 35g White Barm (100:100) ... Today I added 30g Coarse Ground Barley Flour. I like to think this would make a difference, but it's just one of many possivle levains after all.

 

This is a dough I would not trust to a Kitchenaid. The Autolyse make the kneading effortless and it mostly serves the purpose of incorporating the salt. I think it would pass the window pane test right after the Autolyse actually ...I should confirm that next time.

The loaves turned out perfect ! The color of the crust is orange to gold and dark brown with hinted areas of black. Fresh, chewy crumb with a crisp crust after cooling. Honestly, I could not wish for more even if I would have a wood fired brick oven.

 

BROTKUNST

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I am going to make the Thom Leonard again using your instructions.  I've already stated I don't understand all the details of flour like some of you do but I know I liked the Thom Leonard made with this flour.  It was however extremely elastic which means I either misunderstand what todbramble stated above or this is acting very differently in this recipe.  Or I just don't understand.  LOL.

I didn't love it in the pagnotta and I don't think I would ever use it again for that recipe.  It was even harder to mix and it was crazy elastic.   I mean, I thought it was going to jump out of my mixer and get a strangle hold on me!

Thanks again for the tips.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Zola, if you can arrange for it, try a 1-hour Autolyse - combine the levain with the water and the blend it into the flour (no salt!). Mix it briefly to a coarse ball. It won't look too promising at that stage but it will one hour later. Then blend in the salt. If necessary (when the dough feels like tightening up too much) let the dough rest -covered tp prevent drying- for five minutes. It may take about 5-10 minutes to get the (23g) of salt incorporated.

I baked a 2lb loaf and two 1 lb loaves of that batch. I rub the loaf with rice flour before I slash it ... I like the spiral slash and a "( )" slash the best. I get exceptionally good results with the 2lb-loaf by pre-heating the oven to 500F with a baking stone. Steam. Place the loaf directly on the hot baking stone and cover with LaCloche. Lower the temp to 450F for 20 Minutes. Remove LaCloche (the loaf will be yellow with hint orange). Continue baking at 450F for 20 minutes with the door cracked about 3 mm (1/8"). The result will be a brown loaf with shades of black under a white-yellowish dusting of flour with pronounced orange-golden areas around the loaf.

The 1lb-loafs I bake 18 min covered plus 10-12 minutes uncovered and door cracked open.

 

I took some pictures after they came out of the oven (for my notebook) ... I'll see that I post them here sometime soon.

 

BROTKUNST

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

I thought I'd post some pictures of the 'First Clear' loaves ... nothing special but since we talked about it, it may help to get a visual of "the little flour that could".

 

 

 


 

BROTKUNST

 

kjknits's picture
kjknits

Ooooh.  Ahhhh.  Lovely loaves, brotkunst!

Katie in SC 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Wow, those are really impressive! What a beautiful crust, shape, and slashing job, BROTKUNST! I also like the spiral slash a lot, I think it makes the loaf rise taller than usual...I may have to try some of that clear flour now after seeing these...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mini

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Those are really well done BROTKUNST! Your sense of artistry and drama combine to make a very appealing bread.

Do you suppose you could post the entire formula as you make it all in one place? I don't have the first clear yet but I would like to try this with the buffalo prairie.

Eric

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Thank you for your kind comments. I will post an outline of the formula later. As far as appearance is concerned the major factor is how to bake the loaves. I will detail that then as well as I outlined it in an earlier post. I cannot stress enough the advantage of LaCloche or a similar device when baking bread in an consumer-style electric oven. It makes all the difference in the world and is worth the $50 you have to invest. But then it took me some time to figure out how to use the LaCloche to bake loaves that compare well to wood fired oven results.

So all that is to come as soon as I can free up some time within the next days.

Again, I appreciate the nice comments from you guys because you all know well how to bake - so your feedback carries alot of weight.

BROTKUNST

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Wow, Brotkunst, thanks for posting those.  They are gorgeous!  I would love to know how to get that spiral slash.  I am a super bad slasher and I only marvel at my luck when I get good ones, which does happen occasionally but I always feel lucky when it does.

I have a question about color though.  I have made this bread a bunch of times since it is one of my very favorite recipes from Glezer's ABAA.  The one I have pictured on my webpage was actually made with the Hodgson Mills WW graham flour I love so much but I sifted it to get the dark stuff out.  I did not have my first clear flour at the time but I still got that incredible color variation you are describing with the orange, gold, brown, black.  Why do you think that is? 

I'm so hungry for this bread again I'm going to make it this weekend using the first clear flour and your tips.  I'll report how it comes out.  I just wish I had taken photos the last time I made it when I did use the first clear flour.  It was soooooooooo good.  I bake it in four boules so I can give 3 away and hubby and I actually scarfed most of the first one that night because it was so darn good.

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Brotkunst:  I am interested in trying the Thom Leonard Country French loaves with clear flour this weekend.  Did you use all clear flour for the specified 750 g of bread flour or did you combine it with another flour?  I like this bread and am curious about trying it with clear flour.  Your loaves were certainly impressive and your comments about the handling and taste of clear flour caught my interest.  Thanks!

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Fleur-de-Liz, I used just the KAF First Clear for these loaves. I would not skip a 1-hr Autolyse (as usual without salt). All in all a very pleasant dough to work with - in a KA or by hand.

I hope you'll like it. I'll pay attention to any question you may post during that process.

BROTKUNST 

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Brotkunst:  Thanks for your prompt reply to my question.

 I will use only clear flour for the white flour portion of the recipe as you suggest. I did note all your other previous instructions, including the 1 hour autolyse, baking times with cloche and how you mixed your levain.  I will also use some rye starter along with the white starter (both are refreshing as we speak).  I really like the taste that the rye starter imparts to the finished loaves.  After reading your's and Zolablue's posts about clear flour, am anxious to see its texture and feel.  Will probably work it by hand as you have done.  Baking will begin either Friday night or early Saturday morning -- thanks for agreeing to stay tuned!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Brotkunst, I'm sure you are simply a better and more experienced baker than I am at this point.  I just cannot make myself like this first clear flour now that I've been working with it more.  Perhaps I am not using it correctly in some recipes however I followed your instructions to the tee using the one hour autolyse and still I had to add about a cup more water and then it was still this extremely elastic dough that wanted to crawl up the dough hook.  This time I nearly cried from frustration! (chuckle)

Whatever you are doing is definately working but for me I just don't care for how the dough feels and it makes the process so much more difficult.  And each time I've used it I have been forced to add really a lot more water.  I don't even think I'll reorder this flour.  I feel defeated (boo hoo).  :o)

So, please, to anyone else wishing to try this flour please report your results.  I am really interested to find out if it is just me. (Am I just baaaaaad?)  Or is this a flour that also causes some others of you a bit of angst and not the best results. 

Oh, btw, Brotkunst, my hubby and I stopped at Wheatfields on the way back home from KC yesterday afternoon.  OMG!  What a wonderful looking little bakery and incredibly gorgeous breads that we saw.  I bought a loaf of the Country French (to die for) and a batard they just called sourdough.  I took photos of loaves and crumb so will have to post them.  The bread was absolutely fantastic!  You are lucky to be so close - definately make a trip there.  Thom was not in but I told them to tell him hello and that he has some very big fans. :o)

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Elagins@sbcglobal.net

First Clear Flour BagelsFirst Clear Flour Bagels

After days of anticipation, I finally got to make bagels with KA First Clear Flour, and I must say, the difference between these and my normal bread flour bagels was dramatic. These were much chewier, with deeper flavor and lots more texture; in all, my best effort in over a year of bagel-baking.

There are a lot of different things going on in this recipe, which is about 35% water, 2% salt, 0.5% active dry yeast, 2.5% malt syrup (although i used a lithuanian kvass concentrate, which includes both barley malt and rye malt), and 75% 1:1 sponge using a wild yeast starter, which in all results in about 52% hydration.

The dough was very stiff and somewhat sticky, probably because of the elevated gluten. After kneading it the night before for about 10 min in my Kitchen Aid, I let it rest for 10 minutes or so, then shaped the bagels -- I eyeballed them and they came out to about 3 1/2 oz. each -- and immediately refrigerated them, uncovered, in my wine chiller, which is about 10 degrees or so warmer than the fridge.

Next morning, I boiled them for 30 seconds or so in water to which I added about 1/2 oz. of kvass concentrate (to improve color) and about the same amount of food-grade lye solution (available in my local Asian supermarket). I've found the lye gives a better sheen than baking soda, which I've used in the past.

After topping, I baked them at 500 degrees on parchment on top of my stone for 7 minutes, then turned them front to back and gave them another 6 minutes.

Need I say they were a hit?

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Elagin,

usually I'd say that we are not a bagel family but your bagels actually are quite tempting ... If I could get them to look like that and have them taste the way you describe yours I am sure this would be a great experience for the family.

 

Did you get the basics for this formula from one of the major baking publishings ? If not, I think I can follow your instructions above. Would you mind giving me some details about your 100% Hydration wild yeast sponge ? How much mature culture did you use for the sponge? What TTW (Total Flour Weight) works best for a bagel batch ?

How do you feel about working with food-grade lye ... my understanding is that one has to exercise a certain amount of special care because of the corrosive properties of this substance. (We do have a large Asian Supermarket near by ... I'd prefer buying it there instead of ordering a larger quantity online ... I guess there is no 'special name' for that in the Asian Supermarket, is there?)

 

BROTKUNST

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Thanks for your kind words; it's actually taken me a while to get to this point. I started out using Peter Reinhart's basic recipe in BBA (where, incidentally, I believe he mentions using food-grade lye for bagels and pretzels), and have subsequently done a great deal more research, from a variety of sources, including Breads from La Brea, the barley malt association website, and various TV program tours of bagel bakeries, which helped me tremendously in gauging the stiffness of my dough and in my shaping technique, which involves wrapping a thumb-thick sausage of dough around my knuckles, breaking off the excess with my thumb, and then rolling the seam together.

My starter has been around for several years now, and I'm really pretty casual about proportion of starter to nutrient, although I'd say that my general approach is "less starter, more nutrient, more time." For 10oz each of flour and water, I may use 2oz of starter, so it's typical for the sponge to take 12 or more hours to triple in bulk. In Sunday brunch terms, that means I start my sponge on Saturday morning, knead/shape on Saturday night, and boil/bake on Sunday morning.

As for total flour weight (including what goes into the sponge), 3 pounds works best from both a convenience and quantity perspective (it's also pretty much the upper limit my KitchenAid 4.5 can handle): convenience because it's exactly one bag of KA Clear, and quantity because it produces about 18 4-ounce bagels or 24 3.5 ounce bagels -- 7 or 8 for brunch, and the rest for breakfast all through the week. Longer-term, they freeze very well also. If you pre-slice, all they need ia a minute or so in the toaster.

I had been looking for food-grade lye for some time, and wasn't willing to buy half a pound of the dry chemical via the Internet. I finally found it in a store specializing in Filipino ingredients, where they sell it for about a buck in 10oz. bottles of pre-diluted solution. In using it, I just exercise what I consider to be reasonable caution: non-reactive (i.e., stainless) pots and utensils, and avoiding any direct contact with the liquid, even though it's very dilute: as soon as the baqels are boiled, I dump the liquid and flush the pan/utensils with plenty of water. Also, even though I handle the boiled bagels, I haven't had any problems with the lye solution at that point, probably because most of it has reacted with the starch.

Anyway, that's everything I know. Good luck on your attempt, and let me know how they turn out.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Elagins,

Sorry if you already have it somewhere here, but do you happen to have a recipe posted for your bagels? I recently blogged my attempt, which came out well (at least we were very happy with them here at home). However, I'm interested in trying your 100% first clear flour for them. Also, are you doing your bagels 100% natural leaven, or do you also use some yeast? The recipe I did was based closely on Susanfnp's recipe, which in turn came from the Silverton book. If you are 100% sourdough, I'm interested in the rise times and temperatures. The ones I did involved making the dough and refrigerating it almost immediately, then next day boiling them almost immediately out of the refrigerator and baking after that.

Darn, I just found the post below with the pictures. Somehow I missed scanning through earlier. I guess my question would now be how to adjust the rise times and temperatures if I don't have a wine cooler. Without going to some extra trouble, I have 75F, 80F, and 40F easily achievable in my kitchen. Would you let them sit for a while at room temperature before or after refrigerating, and how long would you think?

Thanks, Bill

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Hi Bill,

Before I discovered the wine cooler, I just put them into the fridge overnight and boiled them without letting them warm up. The boiling wakes up the yeast and the combination of domestic yeast, higher baking temp and the clear flour creates some really awesome oven spring.

Generally speaking, I'm pretty laid back about rise times, temperatures, etc. I figure that the people we're trying to emulate -- those who were close to their process 100, 200, 300 years ago -- didn't have anywhere near the control we have over the environment and had to depend on feel and experience to get consistent results. I tend to look at my baking in the same way: no two batches are ever the same; I'm continually experimenting, changing one variable or another to see what effect it has on the final outcome.

I have to say, though, that I'm not planning on straying too far from the recipe I posted, since it's the product of lots of experimentation and blown batches. I do, however, intend to go back to malt syrup and see what effect it has on the clear flour bagels.

Stan

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Stan,

Thanks, I'll have to try another batch soon. I agree that at some point your instincts have to take over. However, I find that one huge advantage of all this technology we have is that in addition to our ability to control the parameters better, we can communicate the details more precisely over the internet. As a result, I've been able to duplicate techniques and recipes I've seen here on the site without going through the blown batches you experienced doing the primary research on them. I was encouraged that my crumb looks much like yours in the picture below. I had thought my batch had a crumb that was maybe a little too open, but at least they aren't too far off from your photo. My effective hydration was about 61% because I forgot a small portion of flour. I was going to try about 57% hydration, but I see you are going a lot lower. Is this an attempt to adjust for the clear flour? Somehow, I would have thought the clear flour would need more water, not less. However, I get the impression that may not be the case based on some of the posts below. I have not used clear flour except as a small percentage in some recipes so far. If you were not using clear flour, but instead were using high gluten flour, what percentage hydration might you have used?

Bill

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Well, call me a Luddite of sorts re: my anti-technology rant. One thing I've discovered is that the old-time Jewish bakers generally used less water, rather than more. I keep my bread flour bagels at around 50-52% also, and my bialys as well (of which more another time, after I bake my next batch). Next on my agenda are clear-flour pumpernickel and Jewish rye ... I'll also post results for those when I've baked them.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Stan,

I'm an engineer by background, so it's natural for me to feel more comfortable with some gadgets nearby and to measure the heck out of everything with all kinds of neat devices. Does it really help? Maybe it helps me a little, but I've discovered while traveling that I can make pretty good bread away from home without all my gadgets, so maybe I've learned something after all this playing around that works without the gadgets.

Did you decide to use first clear flour in your bagels due to research on what the old Jewish bakers did, or is this more of a personal innovation? I'm just curious if you have any information on how authentic it is to use first clear flour in this way.

Bill

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Bill,

Far be it from me to gainsay technology: it's gotten us to where we are today, for better or for worse, and in reality, everyone measures, whether it's by eye, handfuls, or micrograms. I guess I just don't want to fall so deeply in love with measurement that it actually blinds me to the bigger, random stuff that goes on in the process -- things we really can't control very well, like temperature, humidity the moisture content of our flour and the proportion of lactobacillus in our starters.

My adoption of clear flour comes from research, and started with Nancy Silverton's old Jewish baker mentor, Izzy, who told her that without "high gluten flour", a bagel just isn't a bagel. Add to that the essential nature of clear flour in Jewish rye bread, and I inferred that the Jewish bakers in prewar Eastern Europe used either a clear flour or a hard winter durum flour (but only because that's most likely what was grown locally). So let's say it's 50% fact and 50% inference.

What I do know is that the higher gluten content makes for greater chewiness and oven spring, while the higher ash content gives the flour a more interesting taste.

Stan

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Zola, I am sorry to hear that you felt some frustration with the first clear flour. I have to think about what could be the reason for the different experience. Maybe I should take some pictures or  I have to try to make some closer observations (times, description of the dough with relating photographs). I am certain there must be a reason, a difference in procedure that may appear possibly insignificant at first ... I am sure I will bake that loaf again soon. I'll keep you in mind and I will do my best to come up with something that may help you out.

 

Thanks for the Wheatfield update ... we will stop by there in July. 

 

BROTKUNST 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

This forum is getting harder to find specific recipes quickly. Earlier you said you were going to post the formula and method for the bread in the images above. If you have done that could you be so kind to point us to it. I should get my first clear tomorrow and I'm anxious to try it out.

BTW have you tried clear in a straight french bread formula?

Thanks, Eric

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Brotkunst:  Just reviewed your notes on your clear flour Thom Leonard Loaves. You indicated that you retarded the dough in the refrigerator during the bulk fermentation.   Did you do the 3-hr bulk fermentation with the three folds first and then retard the loaves in the refrigerator?  Or did you have a different procedure?

Elagins: Those bagels look divine. I grew up in New York City but have been living on the West Coast for years. Although we have reasonable bagels here, they are not as plump and chewy looking as yours.  Clearly, I will have to start baking bagels!

Elagins's picture
Elagins

liz, the reason I started baking my own bagels is that I haven't found a decent bagel in Southern California (San Diego here); and even in New York, where I, too, grew up, the old-time bagels are being rapidly co-opted by the franchisers' bread doughnuts. Having grown up with the original, I'm trying as hard as I can to get back to the roots, using traditional methods and ingredients (except for the kneading) as much as possible; I think I'm getting close. Glad you liked them, they're even better in person.

ericb's picture
ericb

I just ran across this fascinating thread about First Clear flour, and thought it deserved a "bump" so that it shows up again in "recent forum posts." One of the contributors works for KAF.

bobm1's picture
bobm1

many thanks for the 'bump', ericb. this is a fasinating thread.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

First clear is not only high in protein. As I understand it, it's also high in ash. This adds to its "performance."

Stan, have you ever used First clear for anything besides rye bread? I have. I use it where the formula calls for a high extraction flour. (Yes. I know it's not exactly the same thing.) I have made many miches using 100% First clear. It has a distinct flavor of its own which I happen to like. I have preferred it to a mix of white and whole wheat, for example.

I've never made a Jewish sour rye without First clear, so I don't know if I could distinguish one made with First clear from one made with BF in a blind tasting, but it wouldn't surprise me if I could, given the high percentage of wheat flour in Sour rye.

I share your understanding that, historically, the reason bakers used First clear was that it was cheaper than patent flour. It was also called "common flour." It is no longer cheaper. Au contraire!

David

Elagins's picture
Elagins

and the results are further down in this thread. again, i was hard-pressed to find a difference between the first clear bagels and high gluten ones, largely because i retard my bagels for anywhere from 18-24 hours. as i was writing my last post, though, i was also thinking about French flours, which are typically higher extraction than US flours, and so using first clear for miches makes a great deal of sense. in fact, i'd argue that first clear is the perfect additive flour when one needs to strengthen a dough, especially when using lower-gluten or more fragile flours like buckwheat, barley and spelt. 

as for "cheap," first clear is still relatively inexpensive, when compared to, say, an All Trumps or Sir Lancelot. the problem is finding it, particularly since demand seems to be largely concentrated in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, and (more significantly, i think) the big mills use a lot of it to strengthen weaker flours, where they can take bigger margins.

Stan

varda's picture
varda

<<<I've never made a Jewish sour rye without First clear, so I don't know if I could distinguish one made with First clear from one made with BF in a blind tasting, but it wouldn't surprise me if I could,>>>

It would be cool if you could try this.   I could do it, but my baking skills are considerably less advanced than yours, so many more factors than suitability of flour could come into play.  Of course, I'm the one who wants to know, as you sound quite happy with first clear.   Maybe I'll try a side by side test in a few months when my bread learning curve has flattened out a bit.