The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Have you noticed any difference in bread flours?

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allenwrench's picture
allenwrench

Have you noticed any difference in bread flours?

Have you noticed any difference in bread flours?

My stuff is gummy and hard to mix lately. Use same brands of flour. 

Have they screwed with the wheat GMO style or done something else to it?

Also could be moisture and season..I don't know.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Over the weekend I baked Peter Reinhart's Pain a l'Ancienne baguettes for friends who came up to their cottage for the holiday weekend. I've always used King Arthur BF for these baguettes but given the price rise, decided to try Harvest King instead.

I gave them five baguettes and held one back for a taste test and found a pronounced difference, as did my daughter. The Harvest King flour just didn't have the same wonderful flavor of the KA and I won't use it again for these baguettes for my own consumption. My friends liked them and didn't notice any difference, but I don't bake the baguettes for them regularly.

As to the effect of change of seasons using the same brand of flour (KA BF), I have noticed a major difference and am still struggling with finding the correct hydration. My first attempt of the ancienne baguettes last weekend turned into ancient ciabatta. They tasted fine but the dough was a gloppy messy mass. Over the weekend I wanted to mix up a quick no-knead sourdough. That dough wound up being underhydrated to the extent I didn't need to bake it in a pot. It tasted fine but the crumb was denser than it should have been.

Springtime baking has been much more challenging for me than winter, when it is always very dry in my home. My issue seems to be hydration, so I'm going to pay more attention to the total water I add. And check the barometer.

 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Hi Lindy,

Changing flours without couponing can be disastorous.  I've had the taste that I have become accustomed to turn to one that more remeniscent of store bought and the only difference was flour.  This is a dilemma for the home baker.  I coupon flour before changing over to it and don't want to store too much due to spoilage concerns.  TFL is one of the best places for exchange of information on flour that I've run into.  This might be the seed of a special forum topic on flour couponing.  Prices being as high as they are we need to unite our collective experiences regarding the adequacy of the available supply...,

 Wild-Yeast

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Wild-Yeast, sorry to be so dim but can you please explain flour couponing? I have never heard the term - coupons were what we used to buy food and sweets in England during the war. I did think the bread I took to a family dinner yesterday had a different taste, but I figured it was my imagination. I had used Harvest King instead of KA bread flour because of the difference in price. Maybe false economy? A.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Blase, definitely not. Naive most likely, as I've never heard of flour couponing, Wild-Yeast.

Coupons in my world mean cash discounts on the price of the item being advertised. Alas, I've never seen them issued for KA bread flour.

I look forward to learning about this concept to avoid future disappointments (and wasted flour).

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

before purchasing a large bag?   I'm also curious. 

Mini O

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

A coupon is a test sample of a substance or a small portion intended to represent the whole. 

Examples:

A welder may take two pieces of steel used in a structure, weld them together and submit the "test coupon" for analysis. 

An aircraft manufacturer samples incoming expoxy by mixing a small batch and bond two aluminum structual elements with it submitting the assembly for analysis.

The baker takes a sample of incoming flour and tests for signs of sourdough fermentation after three days. 

It's simply a quality assurance tesing procedure that averts using substandard materials...,

Wild-Yeast 

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Thank you. Not as exotic as I imagined, A.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

"The baker takes a sample of incoming flour and tests for signs of sourdough fermentation after three days."

I don't see how that would have helped me with the baguettes, Wild-Yeast. As a cost cutting measure I've been using the Harvest King flour for my sourdough and it ferments just fine. The baguettes using HK rose and baked well. They just lacked the great taste of the same formula using King Arthur BF.

Maybe there is a taste test involved with flour couponing. My palate isn't that sophisticated and I'm not sure if it would matter because my HK starter produces some quite tasty sourdough bread. But then, I use KA for my own breads.

My consolation is they still tasted better than supermarket breads and my friends liked them.

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

...if you've already bought a bag of flour, these days very expensive flour, you test it and it doesn't ferment in 3 days, then what?  Wouldn't flour be more likely to ferment quickly in a bakery full of wild yeasts anyway?  I couldn't afford to be going around buying different brands of flour at the prices they charge these days.

edh's picture
edh

LindyD and AnnieT,

I've found the same thing as you about Harvest King, in fact I thought I was going a bit nuts because I thought it even smelled a little funny in the bag. Not rancid funny, just different from what I'm used to with KA or CVM. I thought it also felt odd as I was working with it, granular almost, compared with the silky quality of the two I usually use.

So I've concluded it is a false economy. Even with the higher prices, it's still cheaper than store bought, not to mention far better for us and far better tasting!

edh

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I think you've all just completed the first couponing of Harvest King flour.  The fermentation test was only to demonstrate one type of couponing test.  I think edh has performed the important coupon for us and that's a full baking experience that didn't live up to an expected standard. 

Wild-Yeast 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

People have an amazing ability to delude themselves.  When things can be measured analytically, they do OK.  "Which loaf rises higher?"  A ruler answers that.

 

Which loaf tastes better? is a tougher one.  If we know what we are tasting, and we know we have a preference, we tend to find what we expected.

 

I made a simple test bread with Harvest King and King Arthur bread flour.  As commentend upon above, the King Arthur was slightly smoother and silkier.  However, I don't know if that is significant.  A recent study of sheets pointed out that we can't feel the difference after a certain number of threads per inch - a surprisingly low number.  After that, it's money thrown away.   Similarly, what does the sikier texture mean?  I really don't know.

 

After baking the loaves, I cut a slice of each and handed them to my wife and asked her which she prefered.  The simple bread is yeasted.  She told me one bread had a sour note to it, and the other had a better taste.  She preferred the Harvest King to the King Arthur.

 

A side note... long ago on the sourdoughhome.com web page, I compared a large number of flours.  One thing I found interesting was there was no one best flour.  A few flours that weren't very good on their own made excellent  rye breads becasue they didn't get in the way of the rye.

 

Anyway, try giving the bread to people on a double blind test, you might be surprised at the results.

Mike

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

As noted in my post above, my daughter tasted the HK Pain a L'ancienne baguette. So did my son-in-law and he had no idea a different flour had been used.

I've been baking 12 of the L'ancienne baguettes for them just about every weekend this winter using the KA bread flour, so they know what that flour tastes like. They immediately noted the difference in the taste of the HK brand and found the taste inferior to that of the KA bread flour. So did I.

While shopping today I compared the ingredients of the KA and HK bread flours. The first ingredient on the KA is unbleached hard spring wheat flour. The HK: wheat flour.

I will not use Harvest King for the L'ancienne baguettes but will experiment with it on other breads. And definitely will continue using it to refresh my starter because it's half the price of the KA.

Edited to comment that there may be a regional difference in the Gold Medal/Harvest King flour. This point was raised by The Artisan in their flour testing.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

In a double blind test, two things are compared at the same time and they are presented in such a way that the person presenting them doesn't know which sample is which and thus can not affect the testing.  Alternatiively, you can put the samples out and walk away before the test subjects see the products under test.

 

When the tester (you) presents a single item to the test panel, it is somewhere between hard and impossible not to project your feelings about the object under test to your test panel.

 

If you want a better test, make two batches of bread at the same time.  Put samples out, walk away, and then ask family members to try them and let you know what they think. 

 

A few quick comments on the Artisan page.  It's been there a while.  They felt there were regional differences with the Gold Medal all-purpose.  They expressed no such observations with regards to the better for bread. 

 

On the subject of the Gold Medal better for bread, the flour they tested is not today's Better for bread/harvest king.  Harvest King has been an artisan bakery favorite for a long time.  And it was not available to the public.  Better for bread was.  About 3 years ago, Gold Medal decided to make Harvest King available to the public.  And they basically dropped the old Better for Bread flour, replacing it with Harvest King, which bears both the Better For Bread and Harvest King names.  GM's feeling was there was no reason to put two bread flours in the grocery stores under their name - it would dilute the brand.  The Artisan page had been in place for some time before GM made these changes in their product line, so I am very, very sure they did not test the current better for bread/harvest king.

 

Mike

 

edh's picture
edh

There was nothing at all objective about my experience (I can't in honesty call it a test); in fact I was the only one that noticed the difference. My husband and son looked at me like I was talking nonsense "What difference?" Hence the feeling of maybe going nuts...

As far as performance, I believe the flour behaved as well as KA in terms of good rise, ease of handling the dough etc. It just tasted funny to me, and it doesn't get any more subjective than that!

I do like LindyD's idea of using it to feed my starter. I try to use up my discards in other baking, but we can only eat just so much! (Although the recent addition of sourdough waffles to my repertoire has helped immensely; how did I not make these before! Wow!)

Another flour question; has anyone used Rex Royal flour? I think it's also a GM product so, given that I didn't like the Harvest King I probably shouldn't invest in the 50 lb bag my co-op sells, but thought I ask for opinions.

Thanks,

edh

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

I was brought up with the saying "A bad workman blames his tools" and so I am going to try another loaf with the Harvest King flour. I made one with KA bread flour yesterday (baked this morning) and my starter is ready to go. This won't be a scientific test by any means but I'm hoping to get better results from exactly the same recipe and method. Thanks to a lecture from my doctor I am eating more crispbread (aka compressed sawdust) than fresh baked sourdough - but it won't stop me from baking! A.

davesmall's picture
davesmall

I've been buying 50 lb bags of General Mills Winter Wheat Harvest King flour from a a local Houston wholesaler and have gotten very good results. The price is under $15 for a 50LB bag (a real bargain). Harvest King is described as a hard winter wheat formulated for artisan breads.


They also carry some other interesting flours in 50lb bags. These include King Arthur Sir Gallahad (similarly described as a hard winter wheat flour $18.86); GM Hi Gluten All Trump $19.27; Durum Sperry Extra Fancy $16.14; KA Springshort PA Special $15.93; GM Superlative Gold Medal $16.69


The prices are low but storage is an issue with 50 lb bags. Wondering if anyone here has comparative experience with some of these. I'm really happy with the Harvest King results I've been getting but wondering if there might be some advantages with some of these other flours.