The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Supermarket v Named Brand Flour

kah22's picture

Supermarket v Named Brand Flour

Supermarket strong white bread flour can be cc 50p less expensive than a named flour. For the ordinary home baker what's the difference, is it really worth the extra?

GAPOMA's picture

there is no significant difference.  Both will make a nice loaf.

pmccool's picture

I usually buy whatever is on sale.  The exception to that generalization is that I do sometimes buy a flour that I know is especially useful for a specific purpose if the store brands aren't so well suited.  Those exceptions are few and far between. 


jimbtv's picture

The reason I purchase the same flour every time from a well-known miller (King Arthur Flour in my case) is because of consistency.

I am a small home baker that sells bread locally and my customers expect a consistent product. Large millers focus on consistency first so that bakers are not constantly chasing ever-changing factors, such as protein and ash content, and varying refinements.

Large mills receive grains from different sources over different growing seasons, and each lot has different values when they arrive at the mill. It is up to the master millers to insure that the newly-milled flour lot has the same factors as the previous lots when it is finally shipped to the consumer.

Generic flour may be purchased from a variety of mills at different times so you may find that one bake run doesn't perform the same as the last bake run. At home this makes for an inconsistent product. To a production baker this can be disastrous.

The recent new wave of small, local mills has created a renaissance in flour production. The challenge is that they may have more trouble maintaining consistency from one lot to another.



kah22's picture

I get what you say Jim, but I'm talking about home baking and my gut instinct would be o go with pmccool, however, there is one Supermarket brand I do avoid

MonkeyDaddy's picture

using both the store-brand AP and more expensive stuff like KA Bread Flour or Pillsbury's Bread flour.

But where I did see a significant difference was in my sourdough culture.  I originally got it from the KA catalog about 12 years ago, and I fed it nothing but KA Bread flour faithfully for years.  Then I got cheap and lazy and figured the store-brand flour would work just as well.  But it didn't.

With the store-brand flour the culture still leavened dough just fine and appeared just as healthy as always, but it had a subtly different flavor and aroma.  After I made the connection I went back to the KA flour exclusively and after a couple months the flavor/aroma profile is back to the way I remember it.  I still change it up a bit with regard to the flours I bake with, but I now only use KA to feed my sourdough.


kah22's picture

Hi Mike, I live in Ireland and we don't seem to do sourdough bread in this country, I've never seen it in a bakery . I made a starter sometime back but have only made a few loaves, so I've really nothing to judge them by.

As regards the culture you said you use bread flour, the recipe I was working from said plain flour with some rye flour. To be honest I very rarely add rye flour ! Is bread flour what Americans normally use for their cultures?

I'd be interested in getting your bread recipe, and maybe a few more sourdough recipes from my cousins over there 



MonkeyDaddy's picture

in your SD culture.  The reasoning for my comment was this:  A while back a TFL post led me to a research paper or vice versa, and I read that contrary to previous wisdom the yeast captured in a homemade SD is NOT just floating around in the air.  The research I read said that it is more likely that the yeast is living on the actual wheat berries at the time of harvest.  Not only that, but that each region is home to particular endemic strains of yeast, which give breads the flavors characteristic of that area (e.g., San Fancisco, Black Sea, Italian peninsula, etc.).

While King Arthur must certainly contract with different farmers for their raw wheat, they make a pretty consistent product and the flavor of my SD is very steady if I use their flour.  One would surmise that their AP flour would have the same degree of consistency, even if it was slightly different from the bread flour.

As for my recipe, usual levain build is just to start with a small quantity of starter and equal amounts of flour and water enough to double the orignal mass.  I repeat twice more until it is "awake" enough to double in volume within 4 hours.

When the levain is nice and bubbly and has been able to double within 4 hours, I take 100g of it and add flour, water and salt:

  • Levain:  100g                
  • Flour:     350g
  • Water:    270g
  • Salt:         10g

Mix everything but the salt in a large bowl until well hydrated, then allow to rest anywhere from 30 min. to 2 hours (autolyse).  Then add salt and mix, using stretch-and-folds in the bowl, every 30 minutes until it begins to have some structure.  Shape and let proof until almost doubled, slash as desired, and bake with steam for 30-45 min. at 400F, or until internal temp is around 200F.