The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Evaluating mystery flours

pepenadora's picture
pepenadora

Evaluating mystery flours

Hi! I'm in Uruguay and don't have access to a large variety of flours. The main flours available here have really crappy gluten, this post by someone in Argentina could have been written by me. My doughs look very similar.

 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/33614/help-argentine-flour-wet-doughs

 

I can even get 0 and 00 flours here at the normal grocery store, which are supposedly better for bread than 000 and 0000, but my breads still turn out pretty flat and the dough is sticky, my 68ish % hydration doughs look like other people's 75-80% doughs, and that's even with using 20-30% whole wheat!! I have to go to about 50% or lower hydration to have something that doesn't cling to my (heavliy floured before each time I touch it) hands. Also, all the flours seem to be 10% protein, from the "bread" flour to the "pastry" flour. Not sure if that's the flour brand being lazy and throwing their average of all flours on every variety, or if they are actually all the same as far as basic nutrional info.

 

Besides the grocery store flours, there are a lot of little health food stores that buy in bulk and make little packages of various flours and other misc dry goods that have basically no information. So I have no way of knowing if something is hard/soft winter/spring etc wheat, or protein percentages or anything. I can buy something called "gluten" to add to the flour but I have no idea if it's similar to the 70+% gluten flour you can get in the States, or the 40% "high gluten flour" the woman in the thread linked above could find in Argentina.

 

There are at least three brands of organic/biodynamic nicer whole wheat flours, plus a bunch of other whole wheat flours of varying coarseness, but none of them talk about what kind of wheat varieties they are. It'd be nice to have some kind of criteria I could use to compare them.

 

So, what can I do to try to get an idea of what baking qualities a flour will have? Besides baking a whole loaf and crying. I thought of testing water absorption, comparing textures of a given amount of flour plus water, but I'm not really sure what I'd be looking for. Anyone have any tips or guides?

 

And on a similar subject: Rye. I want to make rye bread, but there is only one kind of "harina de centeneo" I can find and I have no idea if it light/medium/dark etc rye, so I'm not really sure how to follow a recipe for rye bread. Any tips on rye identification?

pepenadora's picture
pepenadora

Here's some pics of my latest bake. I proofed the loaf in a bowl, where it was something like 15 cm diameter, and when I transfered it to my baking sheet (an upturned cast iron skillet), it spread out to about 30 cm (and flowed over the sides). No upwards spring at all. So far I've been restricted to loaf pans (with wet, dense loaves) or flatbreads. Naan is great, but....

weak dough

 

Baked:

baked

 

And the crumb (actually the most open crumb I've gotten so far!):

 

Vitals: 70% hydration, with 35% of the total flour (including all the whole wheat) in the prefermented/starter portion, 18% whole wheat. Starter/preferment built the night before, about 4 hours of bulk proofing at about 20 C with a variety of kneading and stretch and fold attempts, after shaping put in fridge for about 20 hours, proofed 2.5 hours in the oven with the light on before baking (max temp25.6 C).

This time I used a larger amount of starter, longer proofs (including the fridge proof), and a lot more manhandling, and it's a lot less dense than previous attempts. But this spreading is driving me crazy!!!

 

pmccool's picture
pmccool

I mix up "mini doughs" of just flour and water, using 100g of flour for each dough.  This lets me assess how the dough behaves at various hydration levels.  

My initial pass is to progress in 10% hydration increments.  So, first dough is 50% hydration, second is 60% hydration, third is 70% hydration, etc.  If 60% hydration yields a workable dough but 70% hydration is gloppy, I'll make up a 65% hydration dough just to see where the break point is between manageable and too wet.  It helps to come back to the doughs in 20-30 minutes just to see if any have improved or gotten worse during the "autolyse". 

You can do either of two things with the mini doughs.  One, add a bit of salt and yeast to each of them to form bread dough, then bake them individually to see how they behave during baking.  Or, two, stir them all together, add yeast and salt, and proceed to make a loaf of bread from them so that you don't throw away good food.

This usually gives me enough data points that I have a good starting point and then can refine my understanding of the flour's behavior over the next several bakes as I manipulate different variables.

Rye flour designations are a mystery here in the U.S., too.  This link from Stan Ginsberg might be of help to you.

Paul

pepenadora's picture
pepenadora

I guess I have some playing with flour to do! I like the idea of an oven full of cute little mini loaves.

From the picture at the beginning of that article, it looks like what I have is more of a fine rye meal. If I throw it in a blender (or coffee grinder?) can I use it in recipes that call for "flour", or would I need to pass it through a fine sieve as well/instead?  I do have a blender and a coffee grinder, I don't have a sieve.

I'm trying for the ryes I had when visiting Germany once. But the last comment at the end of the article about the differences between American and European rye make me think maybe I'll have to wait until I can travel to Europe again to have that taste again. Oh well!

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Further grinding and sieving, that is.  There are a lot of rye breads that will do well with a fine meal, so that’s another option.  

Have fun with your testing.  

Paul

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I am not an expert in rye but I have dabbled. If you want to bake a thicker,chewier type of rye loaf, I have found that to be entirely do-able with a fine rye meal rather than flour. The trick is to really hydrate the rye perhaps by using a rye soaker, mixing /handling the dough until it develops fully, NOT overproofing and baking  enough to suffuciently dry out the crumb (longer,slower bake). My rye is never fluffy. I love the chewy variety.

MiniOven has a wonderful post on baking 100% rye HERE .

Stan Ginsberg wrote what I consider to be a definitive book on rye- The Rye Baker and has a wonderful website to go along with it.        http://theryebaker.com/

Great advice from pmcool

 

 

 

pepenadora's picture
pepenadora

The rye bread I'm going for is pretty dense, anyway. Looking to make a nice German schwartzbrot. The random internet recipe I tried more or less worked, except it called for wayyyy too much salt and I just went with it even though it sounded off. And I didn't bake it long enough. But the structure and flavor came out more or less what I'm going for, if I ignore how salty it was.

The recipe called for all the flour to be mixed with the starter and fermented, then the next day adding "roggenscrot", nuts, salt, yeast, beet syrup, and spices. But since I only have the one kind of rye, I threw in wheat berries because I figured they're the most schrot-like. Probably should have chopped them a little first, though. Just going from my gut feeling that "schrot" is something like shrapnel.

I have a nice sieve now, though, so I see lighter rye in my future....

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Great advice there from Paul, you can always try contacting the flour mill /manufacturer and  see if they can give you info on their products. doing your own tests seems to be  a good way to go. Get yourself some good Jewellers scales  so you can make these small test doughs get a good notebook and keep records of all that you are doing, you will quickly build up a reservoir of knowledge that you can share. Most of the flours here in Western Australia on the shelf  of supermarkets have protein levels of a little over 10% the one i am using at the moment a supermarket home brand  says 9.5%. I have recently been trying some Italian flours that have been appearing on the shelves  but at 3 times the price have yet to be convinced are 3 times better. I did enjoy using different flours in the UK, France Italy and Spain the last 3 were more challenging reading the labels and I did end up with what i worked out was a buckwheat flour.  You can look up how to make Seitan  which is wheat gluten and add it to your mixes if you want a stronger flour. There is an old article regarding testing flour for strength http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/44022/homemade-dry-vital-wheat-glutenstrong-flour that might be of interest to you.

kind regards Derek

pepenadora's picture
pepenadora

A better scale would probably help a lot. Mine tends to drift on the order of a gram or five. The problem with contacting manufacturers is the places I get the most flour options are little health food store type places that buy in bulk and repackage it themselves, so the original manufacturer is a mystery and requires a bit of sleuthing.

The method you posted in that thread on testing gluten quantity looks handy!

pepenadora's picture
pepenadora

You really get what you pay for! I made a 50% hydration dough with three different whole wheat flours, one organic, one biodynamic, and one mystery bulk whole wheat. The expensive biodynamic flour made such a nice smooth dough, I could actually get it to that slightly tacky not sticky phase. Its label said 14% protein. The organic 11.8% flour was a little stickier but still fine to work with. The mystery bulk flour was sooooo sticky!! It was the only one with visible bran flakes and I was expecting them to sop up water and make a relatively dry dough, but it barely wanted to absorb any water. I might try sieving it and seeing how it acts without the bran, but I have a hunch it'll act like a wholer grain version of the crappy white flour i've been messing with.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that last one sounds like a spelt (I doubt einkorn) wet and sticky and slow to hydrate. Give it at least 30 min or more and then knead it again for feel.  

"..get what you pay for."   I never found that to be true.  Some of my favourite flours have been the cheap ones.  Don't forget that once you have compiled some knowledge on the flours, you can combine them and see how they react to each other.  There are also ways to improve the protein in a weak flour, simply by adding a multi-protein ingredient like egg white or milk. Salt will then tighten the protein bonds.  Your tests don't include salt, dairy or egg whites but you can play with those additions later on, esp. with crappy low protein flours.