The Fresh Loaf

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How to convert recipes for French flour?

Graid's picture
Graid

How to convert recipes for French flour?

Hi folks,

I'm in the UK, and out of curiosity ordered myself some Type 55 French flour from Shipton Mill. I have already used the majority of it on a batch of the simple 'classic French bread' from Peter Reinhart's 'Artisan breads every day'. This does not use a sourdough starter, but uses cold fermentation, and I've had decent results with it in the past.

However, I was actually rather disappointed in the results of using the French flour instead of the UK or Canadian bread flour I usually use. I understand French flour has a lower gluten content than the flour for bread generally sold in the UK, and this seemed to manifest itself in making the loaf rather dense and tight, with regular, small holes, as opposed to the larger holes and more open texture I've gotten from this recipe in the past.

I was wondering, is there anything I can do to  modify the recipe to get better results from the French flour?

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Graid,

There was a very interesting thread discussing T65 and T55 here:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10182/french-and-american-flour-123-formula

Of particular note are SteveB's reflections.  He is a TFL member who also runs the Bread Cetera site.  Not updated recently,  but still a great repository of good info:  http://www.breadcetera.com/

 Hope this is of some help.

Graid's picture
Graid

Thank you! A lot of interesting stuff there, though obviously, one issue is that I am comparing British and not US flour to French flour. I note that they seem to be of the opinion that the French flour needs less water. Certainly I do think it was slightly wetter as a dough than usual, but the main difference was its not being nearly as airy. The recipe SteveB uses with French flour is 75% hydration, there is part of me that wants to try that with what remains of my flour, another part of me that warns me that the bread will be soup! I have not had great success with anything of that high a hydration level, and trying it with flour that doesn't even need as much water as usual seems.. unwise.

BarbaraK's picture
BarbaraK

Hi Graid

I'm also in the process of trying French flour and just came across Dan Lepard's blog comparing all the different types of flour. Very useful.

I had posted a request for advice on TFL forum and Crider suggested using 65% water with French flour  rather than the 75% with high protein flour that

the original recipe called for.  Dan Lepard also says to lower the liquid by 10% /15%, reduce the rising temp. to about 21-24C and reduce the oven temp towards the end of baking to stop it burning.  I had made one batch with the 75% liquid using Anis Bouabsa's recipe using long, cold fermentation,  and it was delicious but almost impossibly wet to handle and form. I have high hopes for my next batch!  Good luck with yours.

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Hi,

I don't bake with French flour, but Czech flour is also lower in gluten. I usually have to reduce the hydration camparing to US recipes by 15% (10-20%). Final hydration is 60 - 65% depending on how much rye flour I use in the recipe. Also, you probably won't be able to keep the dough in the fridge for much more than 24 hours. Later the gluten gets too week. You may also try several brands - not only the quantity of gluten but also the quality counts. In any case you can get very nice, light loafs with any method (sourdough, preferment or direct, with or without cold fermentation).

(Actually I do cold fermentation all the time as it fits better my schedule and the cold dough is easiet to handle)

zdenka

BarbaraK's picture
BarbaraK

Hello Zdenka

Thank you for all the information. I normally use British white and rye flour but I was interested in using the French flour for baguettes.

My first baguette trial was very tasty and the crust was good but it was really too wet to handle. I'm definitely going to try the lower hydration next time, which was suggested by others on the Forum, and, hopefully, that will take care of the handling problem.  I hope it doesn't affect the flavour, which was very good and I know that if you change one thing it can affect other qualities. My recipe calls for not more than 21 hours in the frig and it worked fine. Like you I find the long, cold fermentation works well with our schedules. I use it for my no-knead wheat/rye too, only longer.

I was surprised to learn that Czech flour is lower in gluten. I know that Hungarian is high gluten and assumed that all Continental climates hadthe same kind of wheat.  One should never assume anything.

 

Good baking.

Cheers

Barbara

 

 

 

Graid's picture
Graid

Thanks again for the interesting information. And thanks for the confirmation, Marie-Claire. I tried again using the French bread recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan breads every day, using about 65% hydration. Taking into account what others said about not letting it stay in the fridge too long, I baked it about 15 hours after refrigeration. The taste was actually very good, especially considering how little time it had spent fermenting- far better than the last batch. I also think that the bread was far  tastier than a UK flour loaf would have been after such a short time in the fridge. It had a definite 'french bread' taste.

Still, however, I seem not to have solved the texture issue, though I am happy with the results. The loaf had a soft but dense crumb, not the kind of more open texture I would like.

I am going to experiment though! Tomorrow I will do the exact same process with UK flour and see how the texture and crumb and taste compares.

I did actually notice that it seemed to brown more quickly in the oven- it seemed in danger of burning after about 20 minutes of baking at full temperature.

Graid's picture
Graid

Okay, so I did a comparison test today with Organic 'Doves' Farm' British flour, and while I have gotten decent results after 2 days+ of refrigeration with British makes of flour, after only 15 hours in the fridge, the loaf produced was inferior in pretty much all ways to the French version.

There is no pleasant flavour, the bread is pretty tasteless, and the texture is if anything MORE dense and lacking in any airy holes. About the only positive difference was that it didn't burn as easily, but the crust wasn't even as good. 

I suppose it needs to be in the fridge for longer to develop much in the way of airiness. Only the French dough apparently doesn't deal with that as well. Confusing.

BarbaraK's picture
BarbaraK

Thank you so much Marie-Claire for the lovely recipe and the hard work entailed in translating everything so beautifully. I can't wait to eat it.

I only have T65 flour at the moment and I expect you will say that it would be better to wait until I have T55 which I will order.

Graid's picture
Graid

So today I baked with the first batch of T65 flour I got from Wessex Mill. The results were far better in texture than either T55 or British flour, and the flavour just FAR better than British flour. I don't know if it tasted quite as quintessentially French as the T55 stuff from Shipton mill, but still, so much flavour. Even after only 12 hours fermentation or so in the fridge.

However, I do note that the flour contains asorbic acid and malt flour as additives, which possibly give it an unfair advantage in texture and taste! In any case, pleased with it! Lighter texture than either of the other flours, and good taste.