BREAD BAKING TIPS - About Flour

Sweet Rolls           Flour is the most important ingredient in a loaf of bread. You get what you pay for with flour. You pay more for high gluten content, unbleached flour, stone ground flour and freshness.

            Flour is grown all over the country and the world. Some areas produce high gluten content flour. Spring and winter wheat are known to have high gluten content in some areas like Montana, North Dakota and Texas. When a farmer brings his wheat to market it is tested for gluten content and then packaged and sold according to the test results. Soft wheat has a low gluten content and when milled is sold as cake flour. Wheat that tests out at 11 grams of protein per cup is milled and sold in grocery stores as all purpose flour or to restaurants and hotels as general purpose flour. Flour that test out at 12-14 grams per cup is milled and sold as bread flour. The best of the best wheat tests out at 14 grams of protein per cup and above and brings in the most dollars for the farmer. It is known as bread flour/high gluten flour. Some brand names I'm familiar with are Power Flour, Full Power, Kyrol and Montana High Gluten. I currently use a Pendleton Mills product called "Power High Gluten Flour". I live in the northwest and that is what my supplier carries.

            The Power Flour I use is unbleached and enriched. Unbleached is a real plus. The all purpose flour you buy in the grocery store has been bleached with chlorine bleach to make it white and to remove all the nutritional value for storage. Before it is sold, the nutritional value is added back and the flour is then enriched. I always buy unbleached and freshly ground flour. Commercial bread flour gets to market fast and is sold quickly. It is a fresh product. I don't mind the mill enriching my flour. They know what they are doing and are adding all good things. They actually enhance the flour. Vitamin C, Niacin, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folic Acid and enzymes to improve baking are added to my Power Flour. The only thing this product is lacking is that it is not stone ground. Stone ground is best because commercial flour mills use steel wheels in grinding. The wheels heat up and bake off some of the nutritional value in the grinding process. Some purest baker's will grind their own flour fresh as needed. I personally prefer commercial bread flour. It's fresh and it's done right.

            The real value of high gluten flour is in the baking. High gluten flour produces bigger fuller loaves than AP flour. The Gluten is the "glue" that holds the dough together and allows the gas produced by the yeast to stretch the air pockets to the fullest without breaking. You need to locate a source for high gluten flour to advance in your bread baking and become an artisan baker. It is a must!

            A good example is pizza. I made a pizza with AP flour recently because I was out of bread flour. It was not all as good as I am used to making. The crust was just not right. It did not taste right to me and it did not have the right chew. I make pizza like the best pizza shop and this was sub-par. A lot of people have never used bread flour in pizza and probably think you just can't make really good pizza at home. Wrong! Also, the "bread flour" sold in five and ten pound bags in the grocery store is not what I'm talking about. Sometimes I think it is no more than AP flour with gluten added. It stiffens up too soon when kneading and is just not the real thing. Any flour can be used by the beginner for making bread. An artisan will only use the best available. You can't go wrong with a 50 pound bag of commercial bread flour. Again, the most important ingredient in bread baking is the flour.

More Tips at the following links:

Economics of Home Baking

Temperature and the Craft of Bread Baking

Pizza: Thick Crust vs. Thin Crust

Shaping Hot Dog/Hamburger Buns

Artisan Breads

It's Always the Yeast

Using Enough Yeast?

Buying Yeast

Baking Issues & Stones

Active Dry vs. Instant Yeast

Coloring Your Loaf - Dark Bread

Artisan Sponge Starter

Wholesome Ingredients

Whole Milk Mozzarella for Pizza

Elusive Oven Spring or Oven Shoot

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