The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How flours relate to hydration level, texture, and flavour

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Pablo's picture
Pablo

How flours relate to hydration level, texture, and flavour

I have been using the off-the-shelf organic, hard AP bread flour from the local natural foods store.  From reading "AP" and "bread flour" seem to be somewhat contradictory, but that's how it's labelled.  I was happy with the results, but buying in 2K packages was expensive.  I bought a 10K bag and that gave a much better price.  When I went in to order a 20K bag they told me it was unavailable, but they could get another flour with and equal protein content.  Long story short, the new flour is terrible.  The baguettes have a texture that is more like biscuits than bread.  The store is unable to tell me the difference between the flours and the original one was an OEM packaging without a specific protein content on the bag.  The new, bad, flour is 10% protein.  Now I'm on the road and baking at my brother's house.  I bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill organic unbleached white flour with >11% protein content.  A totally different animal.  Bread made with 100% Bob's has a wonderful flavour and texture.  Amazingly different, really.  I did a 75% hydration with 100% Bob's and was unable to do the slap-and-fold technique because the dough held together so strongly.  Now I'm at another stop and was running out of Bob's, so I used it for the poolish and then an AP flour for the other 2/3 of the total flour for the dough.  With this mix the slap-and-fold technique worked fine.  So, I'm kind of shocked at the vast differences in handling betweent he different flours.  It kind of puts the whole hydration level thing in perspective.  One person's gooey 70% hydration makes sense as does someone else's almost dry 75% hydration.  I will be much more careful about my flour selections in the future.  I thought it was interesting.

:Paul 

redcatgoddess's picture
redcatgoddess

Paul...

rule of sum.. AP flour's protein contain can be between 11-11.5% with .39 - 4.4% ash (reminder if burned).  Now... ideal bread flour has 11 - 13.5% protein contain & .35 - .55% ash.  Different protein contain will determain your hydration rate & the gluten development, of which, will determain if you can do your "punch & fold" successfully or not.  Ash rate will determain the color of your bread (higher ash, darker flour, higher mineral contain).  Also keep in mind, the mineral contain of your water also plays a fact of your bread.

As you can see.. your NEW, bad, AP flour has a lower protein contain than average AP (only slightly stronger than pastry flour, 9%).  Which totally effect your gluten development, henece, the biscuit like texture. 

You still can use your NEW, bad, AP... just make tons of pasties & crepes!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I've heard the same term used when the sourdough didn't come out sour.

You can still make bread though, I have baked with less protein. You can also add some Vital gluten to it or an egg white. You'd have to check on the amount for vital gluten. Makes good pizzas and kaiser rolls!

Redcat, introduce yourself and tell us more about what motivates you? Your recipes just seem to have popped up. Did you create these yourself?  

Mini o

redcatgoddess's picture
redcatgoddess

I am a once frustrated home baker turn pro... I used to run a small pastry/bread business out of my home kitchen and will get frustrated from time to time when my result very by the weather or condition of the flour & etc.  Working at home kitchen, I have my make-do method on how to get the right result, which works 99% of the time.  After 6 yrs of playing at home kitchen, I decided to open my own shop.  so.. I decided to get classic training at Le Cordon Bleu... to see how I measure up w/ the Pros.

I had looked at couple of the recipes that posted online, however, I keep on noticing some of the common mistake home baker makes, so I decided to post what I had learned from Le cordon Bleu & hopefully my posts will help some of the 'frustrate' home bakers (like I once were,)...

Personally, since I am classically trained.  I only do true Artisan Bread, which means strickly handmade, no chemical additives or whatsoever, so I personally don't use dough conditioner or vital gluten. 

Those receipes are classic, applied to French bread law (yes, there is a law about how long your baguette should be & how many slashes it can have).  Receipes are modified somewhat, depends on your climate/weather.  I am at OR, so you might have to play with the recipe a little to get the right result for your location.  Those recipes are well tested.  You will like the result.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you haven't read much of TFL.

Welcome to The Fresh Loaf!  Hope you find us a little less frustrating than your turn with bread.

Mini-O 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, goddess.

Welcome to TFL.

There is a forum section devoted to introductions. I suggest you post your message there, so you can make yourself known to more members.


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Redcat,
I'll tell you a story about a time when I was younger and thought I was a big deal Karate Black Belt. I had been training for several years while in the service and had won a few titles and gained my Black belt. I was reassigned to a base in South Korea and had an opportunity to join an elite Korean Tiger squad who trained at a facility off base. The Master asked me to join in for a sparring exhibition. My first opponent was a teen age girl around 16 who was a lower belt. The short story is that she destroyed me in just a few minutes. It was the worst ass kicking I have ever taken.

I had thought I was a classically trained martial arts athlete. In fact I was the least talented person in the room at that moment. I discovered that my new friends would take me in and help me learn this ancient art form, if only I could show humility. Eventually I gained their friendship and respect.

Oh, the young girl was the Masters daughter. What a mismatch!

I hope you will enjoy your experience here. There are some very experienced bakers here who always seem to find a way and the time to help those of us who need it.

Eric 

redcatgoddess's picture
redcatgoddess

Tust me.. I know how you feel when you recvd that ass kicking...

My 1st day at Le Cordon Bleu.. I was beat... I thought my 6 yrs of baking experience will give me somewhat easier time, however, not so true.  I pick Le Cordon Bleu bc of it pastry & dessert training and bread is just a small part of it.  I like to know the HOW & WHY of things.. I do enjoy the grilling experience there.

Mini O is right, I had only recently come across the post if not for my research for some of the older receipe (i.e 200 yr old stollen receipe).  I do enjoy reading the TFL & know how some of you felt when a stupif loaf of bread doesn't come out correctly.

I am still doing the "yes, Chef" daily & get my bread pick over by my Chef daily as well.  It's all a part of the process... :)

keesmees's picture
keesmees

> .... It kind of puts the whole hydration level thing in perspective...<

it puts the protein content thing in perspective: 

of course we like high protein flours to make bread and  often low ones for pastry, but a high protein content and good baking properties are not the same thing. 

so choose a flour with good baking properties. (.....and high protein content.....)

btw, what is the benefit buying cheap flour on a yearly base? 

Pablo's picture
Pablo

"yearly basis"?  I don't know what you mean. 

The benefit of buying good flour in bulk is in paying less money for it.

:-Paul

keesmees's picture
keesmees

but now you are the proud owner of 20 Kg pastry-flour.

I know, my english is a disaster. but what I meant was this:

I'm baking each 4th day with the best quality flour (23€/ 15Kg).

in a year the total amount flour will cost me 95€.

in the store where I buy my flour they also have a lesser quality, cheaper flour. = 20€/15Kg. this would cost me 82€ a year. 

so for me it is possible to save 13€ max in a year. is that worthwile? I don't think so.

 

 

protein and baking properties:

http://www.classofoods.com/page1_1.html

 

I learned a lot of this one. its a pity noël hagens translated only a part of his extensive site in english.

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I'm new to artisan baking, I'm retired so I have plenty of time and I'm completely obsessed.  I'm going through about 1500g/day of flour right now.  I give away a lot of bread and we actually eat a lot as well.  Luckily the "pastry flour" works well for my fermented fruit loaves, so I'll use it up.  Next up when we get home is to buy a used 'fridge to use for flour storage.

:-Paul

keesmees's picture
keesmees

1500/day..... ahh, an addict. ;-) 

that explains all :)

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Guilty as charged!

:-Paul

Soundman's picture
Soundman

keesmees,

The link to Noel Haegens' website was very helpful. Many thanks!

Soundman (David)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Caught you!  Ah ha! 

Ok, now tell me when did "stretch & fold" get turned into slapping around? 

Do you think "Bisquit crumb" appears more common when the yeasts are weak, flour is weak, and/or the lacto beasties are weak?   I don't know the answer, I was just wondering.....

Mini O

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Hi Mini,

I'm just seeking knowledge myself.  I'm suspiscious that the store tells me the protein content of the two flours is the same, given the vastly different results.  I don't know what any other factors are.  I'm on a trip visiting family and baking at each stop and just happened to use Bob's and was thrilled with the results, and not so thrilled when I mixed some AP flour with the bread flour.  Just poking aroung myself. 

I was shocked at the vast difference as related to hydration levels.  When we have a recipe that calls for a 70% hydration level, for instance, that will yield a vastly different dough, based on the flour used.  That's all I was saying.

I have developed an affinity lately for the slap and fold initially and then a couple of stretch and folds along the way. You did catch me.  :-)

I have 150lbs. of Giusto's flours in my truck that I picked up in the Bay Area.  I can't get Giusto's in Canada and I'm excited to start working with them with all the knowledge I've gleaned hanging out here at TFL and working at home.

:-Paul

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Well, protein is only part of the picture. There are different kinds.  They could have the same % just different types of protein.

Sometimes when I'm stuck with only one kind of flour (that happens to me often) I just play with it till I understand it's qualities to make the best out of a situation. Bake a low hydration loaf, high hydration loaf, pancakes, etc. and compare notes. The first few loaves can be quite surprising! So much so that hubby was wondering if a steam oven was really worth it. In other words, not only new flour but a different kind of oven can also be challenging. If you're baking in a different oven, more power to you! It can also be a heck of a lot of fun!

I've got peach wine brewing. The juice is in desperate need of improvement.

Looks like you're set up until Christmas.

Mini O

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Pablo, an idle question - what are you going to tell the customs officer? 150lbs of white powder? Hmmmmmmmm! A.

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I'm figuring (hoping) that the border guards will view flour as groceries.  I live close to the border and scoot down to the States often for this and that.  Groceries are not anything they're interested in.  Mostly they want to know if it's something that they can collect taxes on.  So, I'm hoping that it will be a non-issue.  We'll see....

:-Paul

noonesperfect's picture
noonesperfect

I understand that winter wheat has a "better" protein quality than spring wheat, and is therefore preferred when baking bread.  In other words, if your 11% protein was spring wheat, it would not have the same results as 11% winter wheat.  Also, higher ash content can damage the flour's ability to maintain gluten structure.  Either of those could have resulted in poor performance.

The more protein in the flour, the more water that can be absorbed, so a higher protein level will make higher hydration formulas more manageable.  After I learned that, I started using some high protein bread flour (around 13% protein) just to see what would happen.  Unfortunately, the gluten was actually too strong, so although I got a great rise, the bread was too chewy for my taste.

Personally, I find experimenting to be half the fun - try a bunch of different flours and see what happens.

brad

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I love the experimentation myself.  I like to mix the science with the art.  I want to know as much, rationally, as I can, about protein levels, types, and whatever other mysterious ingredients there are and then give free rein to my non-linear side to play.  I'm in fact-gathering mode right now.  

I wish protein content and any other pertinent facts were clearly spelled out on the flour package labels.  For instance one flour says 4g of protein per 30g of flour while another says 4g per 34g of flour.  How accurate is this?  Are they rounding 3.6g up to 4g, or maybe rounding 4.4g down to 4g?  I've not seen anything about ash content on any labels, nor, at this point, would it mean anything to me.

:-Paul