The Fresh Loaf

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Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast - Stiff Dough w/ Canadian Flour?

Canadian_Bread_Guy's picture
Canadian_Bread_Guy

Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast - Stiff Dough w/ Canadian Flour?

I'm new to bread making, after recently buying FWSY.

 

I've successfully produced a number of the instant versions of the recipes, mainly the Saturday White and Overnight White breads.

 

Something I'm confused / concerned with is why the flour I use up here in Canada (Robin Hood - one of the very few brands on the shelf where I am) seems to stay very dry and firm compared to Ken's "slack" dough images and descriptions.

 

Here's a photo immediately after mixing the water with the flour prior to the autolyse, so you can see how dry and stiff it looks after mixing: https://i.imgur.com/0OCMsPo.png

 

At this stage, the dough has basically zero give to it and if I pick it up it will stay in place like a sculpture with zero "wetness" to it - no slipping, sliding or moving.

 

After mixing the yeast in I can fold it successfully but it's hardly the same kind of folding that Ken's videos and descriptions imply. Ken's is like folding over a thick slurry that almost melts over itself while mine is, again, quite stiff and almost like a stiff elastic. After each fold I can see (and feel) the dough wanting to pull back to it's original position.

 

For reference, the Robin Hood dough has a 13% protein content, and ingredients are listed as: Wheat flour, benzoyl peroxide, amylase, ascorbic acid, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid.

 

It's worth noting that by the time the dough has tripled in size, it's very bubbly and strand-like and a lot more "slack" than when I started. It also makes very delicious bread that nobody has any complaints about. My concern is more academic and curiosity - clearly there's a significant difference going on and I'd just really love to know what that is.

 

Also, it's worth noting that I measure everything meticulously, so this isn't a case of "using too much flour" or "too little water" - I'm using the exact amounts of both to the gram and degree as Ken's recipes imply.

 

Any insights?

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I've always heard that Canadian AP Flour is higher in protein than US AP Flour.

I've gotten better results with Rogers or Anita's Organic than Robin Hood, but availability varies depending on where you are, obviously. I'm in BC.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Elasticity, and it's opposite, extensibility, are generally not reported for North American flours, like they are for EU flours.  The figure they use is P/L ratio.  See http://www.theartisan.net/Flours_One.htm  for an in-depth explanation.

Elasticity is when the dough resists being stretched, and when it is stretched, it either tears or it snaps back into it's previous shape.

Extensibility is when the dough is stretched, it stays stretched.  Example: Extensibility is more important in making and shaping pizza crust dough, you want it to remain stretched out into a disc. 

High protein dough is generally more elastic, so that's likely your siutation.

--

Suggestions:  If you want the dough to be a bit more extensible, not resisting/tearing when doing the stretch-and-folds:

- use a tad more water.   Your RH bread flour is just plain "thirstier" than US All purpose flour.  Adjusting hydration (or other factors) for the characteristics of _your_ specific flour is something that all bakers do.

and/or: 

- I assume your 13% protein flour is RH _Bread Flour_.  So... try a mix of Robin Hood bread flour and all purpose flour.  Maybe try 2/3 Bread Flour, and 1/3 All Purpose. And also try 1/2 Bread flour, and 1/2 All Purpose.  

I suggest this because... on page 82 of FWSY, the Saturday White formula, Forkish says to use all purpose flour, as described in Chapter 3.  On page 49 of Chapter 3, he says the kind of All Purpose flour to use is between 11 and 12%.   So your 13% flour is out of the range that he intended. 

and/or: 

- alter the timing a bit. Let autolyse 30 minutes more.  And don't add the salt with the yeast, as salt tightens up the dough.  Add the salt on the next, or 2nd of the 3 stretch-and folds.

- BTW, Forkish recommends unbleached flour where possible.

Canadian_Bread_Guy's picture
Canadian_Bread_Guy

Insightful response, thanks!

I actually am using all-purpose flour. I got the protein % by looking at the nutritional information (4g protein in a 30g serving = 13.33%). I'm assuming this is correct, unless protein percentages are calculated differently for flour. Even if it's rounded up from 3.5g of protein, that's still 11.66% which seems perfectly in line with most high quality flours down south from my understanding. 

 

 

I haven't tried adjusting hydration because the bread so far has turned out fine despite the differences in working with the dough leading up to the baking, but I'll experiment with it as others have also suggested to see how the results change. Using a blend of lower protein flours with the high protein all purpose might also be an interesting experiment. 

I have noticed that letting it autolyse for an extra 10 minutes or so helps make the bread a lot more workable in the following steps so I do already do that much. 

 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Since Nutrition info labels  almost always use whole numbers, the +- .5 rounding error out of 4, is a huge amount of wiggle room.  but  as you say, 11.6 % is still good.

I think mwilson keyed in on the culprit:  benzoyl peroxide.

So the Unbleached RH AP, which doesn't have the bleaching/oxidizing benzoyl peroxide , might work out. 

 

cfraenkel's picture
cfraenkel

I have done most of the FWSY recipes at some point with different Canadian flours.  I find that they are generally thirstier than what Forkish shows, but the recipes still work which is the same experience you have.  When I bake his sourdough recipes I usually add more starter (10g or so) to add hydration and watch the timing carefully - I think his kitchen must be much warmer than mine.

Happy baking!

mwilson's picture
mwilson

The peroxide (oxidising agent) is probably a significant factor along with the ascorbic.

In the extreme where there is excessive oxidation dough can seem very dry and feel "chalky" and will be difficult to work with because of its high tenacity and super poor extensibility. And yes it will take on a lot more water.

cfraenkel's picture
cfraenkel

I have done most of the FWSY recipes at some point with different Canadian flours.  I find that they are generally thirstier than what Forkish shows, but the recipes still work which is the same experience you have.  When I bake his sourdough recipes I usually add more starter (10g or so) to add hydration and watch the timing carefully - I think his kitchen must be much warmer than mine.

Happy baking!