The Fresh Loaf

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unbromated flour vs. regular flour

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tgw1962_slo's picture
tgw1962_slo

unbromated flour vs. regular flour

Hello,

About two months ago I discovered "unbromated" flour. I had never heard of this before nor did I know what it meant. So I did a little research about it and found out what the difference is. Based on what I learned, I decided to buy a bag of it to try. I made a focaccia using some of this and was really amazed at the difference. The focaccia came out soft and chewy (but firm). I was really happy with the results. A week prior to this I'd made a focaccia using what I'll call "regular" flour and the results weren't as good. The crust was rather hard and crunchy (kind of hard to chew).

So I guess I'm wondering if anyone else here uses unbromated flour? What your experience is.

Please let me know. Thanks.

 

Tory 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Tory,

Let me say first that I am not an expert in this area and am just getting a feel for the make up of various flours.

I believe that the mills bromate and bleach their products for two reasons. First, the US market wanted white breads and not that creamy off color that occurs naturally in grain. White breads were all the rage so some genius came up with a process to whiten up the flour. Second, The mills decided that they could temper or age the newly ground grain chemically using bleaches and bromates. The industry became convinced that green (freshly ground) flour needed to age for up to two Months to produce good bread. The large mills produce over a million pounds every day so you can imagine what they thought about storing 60 million pounds of rodent bait while it aged. Adding bleaching and bromating eliminated the wait.

If you want to understand a little about this subject from a historical point, please take a few minutes to read this article. Scroll down to ADULTERATION OF FLOUR

The entire paper is quite interesting and shocking in some ways. If you care about the health of your family (and who doesn't) you should read this paper.

Many of the members here grind their own flours or use unbleached and unbromated flours exclusively. Most of us got started doing so while learning to bake artisan style breads because they are so much better tasting. The myth about aging seems to have been blown recently by the owner of Guistos Flours of San Francisco. They are one of the largest mills in the US and produce a very good artisan grade flour and he says aging is a myth.

So, short question, long answer. Sorry but this is an area that all of should understand a little better and I hope others will check out the report at the link above.

Eric

Farmer Brown's picture
Farmer Brown

Hello all, 



'The myth about aging seems to have been blown recently by the owner of Guistos Flours of San Francisco. They are one of the largest mills in the US and produce a very good artisan grade flour and he says aging is a myth.'



Not true. Unbleached flour should be aged a bit. At our mills, we think the sweet spot for aging flour is about 14-20 days. During bake tests, there are no noticeable differences between flour aged 14 days and flour aged 30 days. But if you use our flour that is aged less than 14 days it tends to be very yellow and creates a slightly stickier dough. What can be deduced from these tests is this: natural oxidation lightens the pigment of the wheat and increases protein strength. Most texts agree with this. And after longer aging, some enrichments - such as malt - begin to loose strength.


No two mills are built the same. Every mill will expose their flour to different levels of oxygen during the milling process. What I mention above is an age range that works for us and may not apply to other mills in other parts of the country. 


And for what it's worth, Giusto's is actually one of the smaller mills in the country. But, they are a very large distributor.

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

bromates are used in very small amounts 8 to 16 ppm and for good reason.  although they are used in flour as a dough improver bromates are a known cancer causing agent and have banned in many countries.  they are still permited for use in the US in all states. CA however has a law that states that any baked goods that contain bromates must have a warning lable on the package stating that bromates have been used in the item.

bleaching will whiten the flour which will give the finished product a very white look (see the inside of a wonder bread)  but does have a weakening affect on the gluten. so a bleached flour will be not as strong as unbleached.  this can affect the bread resulting in a more dense loaf.  also when using bleached flour you should watch how much proof you give before baking, because the gluten is weakened the bread that looks like it has the right amount of proof could colaspe in the oven.   as it rises in the oven it will not have enough foundation to support its self and fall completly or sink in the middle.

dougal's picture
dougal

Quote:
bromates are used in very small amounts 8 to 16 ppm and for good reason. although they are used in flour as a dough improver bromates are a known cancer causing agent and have banned in many countries.
Bromate has been banned since 1990 from use in the UK. Its also banned throughout the entire EU.

Since 1991 the US FDA has been advising US bakers not to use it. (There's a daft legal technicality that prevents them banning it.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_bromate

The use of other chemical bleaches has been banned in the UK since 1999.

However, I gather that the functionality is being replicated by adding specific extra enzymes to flours that are not described as 'unbleached' (so they are kinda differently bleached). I'm not entirely sure this is progress!

Quote:
they are still permited for use in the US in all states. CA however has a law that states that any baked goods that contain bromates must have a warning lable on the package stating that bromates have been used in the item.
The point about California is accurate. "Proposition 65" modified "The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986" to require that the use of specific, listed, (considered dangerous) chemicals (including Potassium Bromate) be publicly notified, including on product labels.

 

I find it bizarre that Suas' (San Fransisco Baking Institute for heaven's sake) book should, quite inaccurately state that the use of bromates is "banned" in California.

It isn't.

Even if it ought to be.

And even more bizarre that Suas should then explain the "advantages" (to bakers that don't bother about poisoning their customers) of using bromated flour.

redcatgoddess's picture
redcatgoddess

ok... couple of clarification here..

Flours are current bleached for 2 reasons...

  1. Color.  As Eric (ehanner) said, as some point of time.. Good citizen of USA decided that white bread should be white not cream...
  2. Spead up oxidation.  Green (freshly milled) flour is lacked of the gluten developement strength, therefore, as Alton Brown will say, not good eats.  That's why old timers often age them upto 2 months to 'rest' the flour (however, that also increase cost & spoilage).  In the process of 'resting,' flours are conditions by oxygen (oxidation of the gluten).  Nowadays, bleach is used as an oxidation agent to speed up the process & lower cost of storage and spoilage.  So you can have purchase a 5lb bag at your local maret for about $5!
You can purchase unbleached (or as this article entitled,'unbromated') flours in your local market now, which just means they were aged with any chemical.. that's all...
dougal's picture
dougal

Quote:
You can purchase unbleached (or as this article entitled,'unbromated') flours in your local market...
Using Bromate is just one form of "bleaching".

And the evidence suggests that it is the most harmful to consumers. (Its banned in Canada, Japan and elsewhere - not just Europe.)

Benzoyl Peroxide, Chlorine, and AzoDicarbonAmide (ADA) are also used as oxidisers/bleaches today in the USA -- not just Bromate. Since 1999, such chemical bleaching has not been permitted in UK bread/flour, and I believe that now we have oxidase enzymes (which are almost unknown in US flours).

 

An unbleached flour that has been naturally aged for three or four weeks should give as good breadmaking properties and better flavour and aroma (as well as a creamier crumb) than a bleached flour.

Some people argue that an absolutely fresh-from-the-mill flour is as good for breadmaking (and even more nutritious) than a properly aged one. I mention that only to insist that it is an entirely different discussion!

Incidentally, I gather (from Hamelman) that Chlorine bleaching of US 'cake flour' acidifies it somewhat, thereby improving its cake-making properties. Which might explain why I've come across a few people that add a few drops of vinegar to their cakes...

redcatgoddess's picture
redcatgoddess

Thanks for clear that up for me, I didn't think about to got into details & explain it completely..

It is true... there are many oxidization agents that are using in US market, and it is also true that the oxidaze enzymes are almost unknown to US market, currently, the majority of unbleached flours on US market is aging w/ natural oxidation.

Personally, I only use unbleached flour when it comes to bread.  Cake & pastry on the other hand... that is entirely different matter... :)

ldsmedia's picture
ldsmedia

As far as the last comment goes, who said anything about Europe being a "shining example" and what does that have to do with import rules?  All countries including the US have some protectionistic regulations for their agriculture industry.


As far as Lindy's comment goes, I don't know why you mentioned General Mills specifically I guess because they make the flour you buy.  That is not really the topic, but thanks for letting me know this type of flour is available, now I will have to find someone locally who actually carries it.


sorry, my comment was a bit off topic but I have been struggling with the issues related to corporate greed since early 2004.  Being unemployed and an older worker my chances of finding a decent paying job are very slim, so I am on a very tight budget.  When I learned about bromation it really upset me and I never liked the fact that breads contain corn syrup and bromated flour all because of a belief about what is more desireable and the cheapest way to fulfill that desire.


I wish that bromation was the only food issue I was concerned with.  As far as being educated about food labels, unfortunately many Americans are so disenchancted with the system that their attitude is well somethings going to kill you anyway so why stress over it?  and that is a quote from someone at a grocery store.

SusanWozniak's picture
SusanWozniak

I have used KA flour for years because of their declaration that it's unbleached and unbromated without knowing what bromated meant.  I have always wanted to avoid unnecessary chemicals and processes.  


I read this thread and did some quick research. As with most substances with names that sound like they originated in a laboratory, it is difficult to tell exactly what a bromate is.  To be honest, I am no more enlightened than I was when I opened this thread.  While I could figure out immediately what a phthalate is, bromates remain a mystery.


Aging flour is an interesting concept.  I had some White Lily flour go bad on me.  The biscuits I made tasted foul.  My question is when does flour stop aging and simply spoil, as this flour obviously did?  Is flour aged in some sort of bin or in wrapped packages?  All of the flour in my kitchen has a "best used by" date and I have no desire to hold it beyond that date, although my experience with Swan's Down (was that the name?) cake flour was very different than my experience with White Lily.  Cake flour seemed to have a longer shelf life.


For many years, I bought All-Purpose KA flour in a 25 pound bag and used it for coating meat prior to frying, baking bread, pie crusts, et al.  I would also buy whole wheat in the largest size available at my supermarket, the 10 pound, and mix it with the all-purpose for everything but pie crusts.  Recently, I became a fan of KA mellow pastry flour.  Am limiting my all purpose flour bags to the 5# size but am using several different flours.  Find that bread flour makes a tastier, longer-lasting and more aromatic loaf.


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Wheat flour to which potassium bromate has been added is bromated flour.  Practically Edible has additional details.


Abscorbic acid (vitamin C) is replacing potassium bromate, which is good news.  


Oxygen ages flour naturally; bleached flour is aged with chemicals.  Of late I've been checking the ingredients on various breads sold in local stores and note that many of them are now being made with unbleached flour.  Even better news, although they still include other additives.


I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a number of beautiful little baguettes with great scoring and lovely ears, packaged in paper bags.  Unbleached flour.  At the local Wal-Mart, yet.  They felt nice, but I passed.


Freezing or refrigerating your flour keeps it fresher longer - just make sure it is in an airtight container.  


I agree with your assessment of KA flours, Susan, especially their bread flour.  That's the only brand I use because of the quality and consistency of the product.

ldsmedia's picture
ldsmedia

Wow those are extremely interesting pieces of information and is what posting is all about.


As a far what constitutes bromation, go to Wiki and look it up they tell you there what the name of the chemical is (oops I see the above tells you the common one) that is mostly used in the US for bromating flour.


I also can't help but wonder if the differences between flour that rests and that does not rest is mostly due to a few who really notice the difference while many of the rest of us don't really notice the difference.  After all taste and texture issues vary widely between people (ie some people are more sensitive to some types of tastes and textures).  for example I know sushi is very popular and my daughter adores it but I cannot tolerate the texture of raw fish.  Even when I buy smoked salmon, it has to be hot smoked or I hate it.


I have never heard of KA flour.  Does KA stand for something?  It may not be available here in the midwest where I live.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Sorry....some of us tend to use acronyms as a short cut.  KA/KAF stands for King Arthur Flour.


The company's been around for 200 years and sells pretty fine flour.  Their website also offers some great recipes and excellent educational information.


I'm also in the midwest - about 50 miles from the Straits of Mackinac - and KA bread and AP flours are sold in just about every supermarket and box store.

SusanWozniak's picture
SusanWozniak

For the great info (I did go to wiki but the sources I found -- due to limited time -- seemed circular) about bromates for introducing me to the Practically Edible site.  I think Ascorbic Acid is a good replacement.  I have never heard of ascorbic acid linked to any form of cancer nor have I heard that it interferes with the absorption of any other nutrient.

ldsmedia's picture
ldsmedia

Yes I believe I have heard of that one.  Whole Food is now in Cincinnati, and they have bulk flours which they assure me are neither bromated or bleached.  I called after the response about Gold Medal flour on this forum.


Personally I no longer have any trust is any really big companies there has just been too much news like the news about the salmanilla(may not  be speeled correctly) in the peanut butter and the list of corporate shanigans goes on and on.  I don't even want to hear about it any more.  I wish the news would feature some companies who have done it right instead it would be a refreshing change from all of the negatives.
However, I doubt it will happen because they say negative news draws more interest (views/listeners/readers, etc.).
Thanks
I am in Ohio and I don't think Kroger or Meijer's sells it.
twgiffin's picture
twgiffin

Kroger carries KAF Bread, AP, traditional WW, White WW Just not First Clear

ldsmedia's picture
ldsmedia

Possibly.  I can find some items at certain Krogers and not at others.  So I will have to check around.


 


Thanks