The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

German bread flours, please help!

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

German bread flours, please help!

Bakers and home bakers in or from Germany: can you recommend a brand, supplier or shop for proper wheat bread flour? I'm talking min. 13% protein, doesn't matter if it's organic. Just good for baking artisanal breads.

I'm just so sick of those cheap, high extraction type 405 and 550 with max. 10,6% protein, often even under 10%. Great for pastries, but absolutely terrible for breads. Often they write even some nonsense like "Great for baking bread" on the package - yeah sure, with 9,8% protein.

The best I could find was a type 405 with 12,8% in Edeka (which I'm currently using) and it's just on the edge of being useful...although the difference between that and other cheap flours is already huge. I usually add some whole wheat and a little malt to make it somewhat nutritious.
It just baffles me that in a country famous for over 1000 types of breads you can't get proper bread flour in supermarkets. Even in bigger organic shops they are pretty bad. Organic, but still bad baking properties. Apparently they are widely available everywhere in the US and many other countries? 

Is there any obvious source I'm overlooking? I would like to avoid ordering stuff online, so anything inside or around Berlin would be wonderful!

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

Hiya!  My experience with flour in Germany is not expansive, but I am guessing you will have to either order online, reach out to a local bakery and see if they will sell you some flour or you might have luck finding a local mill that might have what you are looking for.  The term 'proper' wheat bread flour for a German is probably much different than what you are looking for...whole meal bread in Germany is often heavy and dense, but that is their specialty and what makes it so nutritious, chewy and delicious.  I'm wondering if the small difference between 12.8% and 13%, if important, could not be mitigated with a bit of vital wheat gluten?  Good luck in your search!

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

Yes, we have amazing breads, no doubt! And yes, open, lacy crumb is actually fairly uncommon here unless you go to an artisanal bakery specialized on that. So I can see why it's difficult to find "the right" flour. 

I also get amazing breads, no doubt. But I wanna be even better!

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

A quick search on the Internet looks like you might want to look for type 812 or 1050 if you can find it.

http://www.germanfoodguide.com/flours.cfm

Also found this store...not sure what kind of hours they may or may not have, but their brochures (PDFs) down the bottom of their Mehlsorten page indicate the have the higher protein flours you are looking for.  

https://www.mehlstuebchen.de/

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

Thank you so much, I will definitely check that out! Maybe they even have some 812 left, 1050 I can get everywhere, it's just whole wheat flour.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

W700- W960 bread flours. and allow time for the flour to hydrate before kneading.  The W550 will also make bread if you learn to tweak North American recipes.  Quite a rant you're having.  How long have you been in Germany baking?  The protein written on the package is not the A&O of gluten content.  There are differences in types of protein.

I can't count the number of times I've been outside of Europe and wished I had supermarket flour from Austria.  Rye flour, Einkorn, Spelt, bread spices, seeds, all the variety of grains!  Golden Semolina, and all the nut flours!  You have got to be kidding me!  Have you tried Griffig wheat?  Reformhaus will grind fresh.  Do let the flours hydrate for 30 minutes, same goes for Spelt/Dinkel  (a wheat) and Einkorn.   You might find the finer,lower numbers in Spelt helping you out more than the higher numbered flours.   Depends on how much fiber you want. Check Aldi for whole grains and their bread flour mixes are not bad if you add more plain flour to them to cut the salt.  400 to 100.

The convienient thing I find about everyone stocking up on AP flour is that it is now easier to find the higher numbers. Check with Spar, if they dont have what you want, just ask the manager.

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

I always do an autolyse (usually 1 hour) and almost exclusively use starter, so there is my preferment too, giving me more gluten strength.

I am German, but I've started baking and paying attention to flour just about a year ago. And I know protein content doesn't equal gluten content. But the difference between say 10.6% and 12.8% is tremendous in terms of kneading, dough handling and oven spring, so it must make a difference, right?

Sorry for my rant, it's just that due to the cheap quality of most commonly available flours, I am locked behind a certain hydration (can't really go over 70% or it turns into a puddle, no matter the amount of kneadin) and therefore can't reach that beautiful lacy, open crumb.
I know it's more for aesthetics and also not really common at all in Germany, but for me it's a milestone, signaling that you understand the craft and how to manipulate doughs to you advantage.

With the flour I'm using I get great, chewy, flavorful breads, no doubt! And (mostly) know what my mistakes are and how to fix them. But I wanna be even better!

And yes, the variety of flours and seeds you can get here is amazing! I often add seeds in- and outside the loaf! But I wanna master the wheat bread before I do anything too experimental.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

You'd be surprised what some low protein flours can do...

A ciabatta made with 9.3% protein.
This was made with commercial yeast and and rose massively in the oven. The finished bread was very low density. Probably exceeding 4 (ml/g) in specific volume.

However, if you are working with natural fermentation then you will indeed need stronger flour, to offset the degradation by LAB.

Also bear in mind, that while an autolyse can be a useful step, weaker flours and ancient grains degrade much faster and don't work so well with this technique.

I am of the opinion that when working with unknown flours one should hydrate a sample and mix to form a test dough. This way you can get a good feel for its handling properties. Typically I would judge how long it takes to reach a smooth consistency, weak flours smooth out quickly and strong ones take considerably longer. Importantly, don't include any other ingredients in this test dough e.g. starter / levain, as this can massively change the chemistry and so handling properties.

Assess the dough then leave for one hour and assess it again. I've seen how durum wheat can degrade fairly significantly in just one hour.

Something to think about...

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

Thanks, that's a good tip! Since start of quarantine I definitely have struggled with all the different cheap flours, luckily they start having my 12,8% again. Currently I'm having a dough in the work (85% bread flour, 15% WW, 64% water, 25% starter = 68% hydration), fingers crossed. I just have to accept I can't work with high hydration when not using yeast.

I didn't know that yeasted breads can be also done with weaker flour, but it makes sense, yeasts attack only starches. Might be a reason why there is little pure sourdough bread available, mostly it's yeasted with sometimes starter added for flavor.

Your loaves look gorgeous, btw!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to read the package and discovered it was T700 wheat flour, a bread flour.  Glanzer Gold.  No added ingredients, fine, unbleached. 4.1g fibre and 11.5g protein to 100g flour.  Testing it out today and so far so good.  Using 400g flour 65% hydration for my test.  Using 1/4 cube fresh yeast.   www.kaerntner-muehle.at   (Austria). Flour smells wonderful!  

It was on sale and a good buy.  Why on sale?  Because Kraphfen (jelly donut) season is from Nov 11 to Ash Wednesday (just before Easter) and " out of season."  My luck.  

roof's picture
roof

> a country famous for over 1000 types of breads you can't get proper bread flour in supermarkets.

Or whole wheat or artisan-style crusty wheat bread of any kind in bakeries. At least not in Berlin. May be hard to believe but I've been to easily 50 bakeries including every one of the newer "artisan"-type ones. All the breads in all of them have at least 50% rye or spelt except that sometimes (not always) there will be one type that doesn't and it will be either cakey like in the picture (often embarassingly called ciabatta or baguette!), or on rare occasions there's a ball-shaped one which looks good and crusty and artisan on the outside but is soft and light and fluffy inside.

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

Yeah I feel you, I'm tired of dense crumb loaves, no matter if large scale bakery or artisanal sourdough loaf. I assume the good bakeries supply only to restaurants and not to the public.
Just more reasons to bake your own bread at home, usually with equal or better results.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Berlin reformhaus

roof's picture
roof

Are you sure that would make a  difference? Surely they'd be selling grains with the same properties as the flours because that's what Germans want (tight crumb and only tight crumb). I can't picture how there could be a bigger market for grind-your-own wheat for making open-crumb breads, than for the bread itself in bakeries. If they do have different types of wheat  I would need to know the type of wheat or the specs of the American all-purpose in order to see if they have a similar one. I went to a small artisanal mom-n-pop mill and asked about strength and gluten and so forth (in German) and showed pictures of open-crumb bread and they had no idea what I was talking about.

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

I agree, the market for milling grains for home use seems to be quite small here. And grinding only makes sense if you want it really fresh and use the whole grain (and for saying "I milled it myself", obviously ;))

I had the same experience when I bought a high-gluten flour. Even though they were offering a big flour variety and knew what they were doing, when showing them a picture of open crumb, they were surprised, like they had never seen that before. Open crumb is just not a thing here. It makes sense, we love our slice of bread in the evening and big holes would make spreading butter harder and cause all the toppings to fall through. But at the same time it's very strange.