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Protein in flour and effect on bread

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I have heard that an important bakery in Montreal is trying to find/develop a local and organic flour with a lower protein content than what is currently available in Canada. The goal, as I recal, was to obtain a lighter, less dense, crumb for their baguette and other French breads.

I always thought that a high protein content was a good thing when making bread. Most Canadian flour IS very high in protein and would probably be considered "bread flour" in most part of the world.

Any clue as to how a high or low protein content in the flour used to make bread effect the final product? And why would a bakery avoid using a "bread flour" to make bread? Does this have any impact for home bakers?

What I found online so far was more confusing than anything else but then I am a very novice baker.

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It is complex.

Higher protein lets the dough adsorb and bind more water = more profit.

High protein doughs can stand rougher handling, have a wider window in terms of proof time and temperature and go stale more slowly, so are ideal for machine manufacture, and breads that last for several days.

Low protein doughs are more tender but can give a more open crumb although there are many other factors that govern crumb texture, and they need gently handling and are quite time critical.

Each culture developed breads that reflected their local wheats and demands. The soft flours of Europe lead to baguettes and European artisan breads, but baguettes stale within a few hours, so must be baked fresh and locally. The hard wheats led to...wonderbread with its tight even crumb, large bread factories and centralised distribution.

Crudely, when there is lots of gluten and its strong you get many small bubbles; weak and some of the bubbles coalesce to give bigger holes and a more uneven crumb, but overhandling or overproving can lead to total collapse.

However recently machines have been developed that can handle dough gently to produce artisan style breads.

Personally I prefer to use pastry flour at around 9.5% protein

for all my breads. I prefer the texture.

AP is around 10%-12%, and hard bread flour around 14%-15%

French Flour type T55 is around 10.5% protein, often used for baguettes. US AP flour roughly corresponds, but read the small print on the bag.

However T55 refers to the ash percentage, and does not correspond directly with protein content. Professionals measure many other variables that affect flour performance, such as moisture content, particle size and "Hagberg falling number", roughly a measure of enzyme activity. Flour is complex stuff!

Even notionally the same flour from the same supplier may vary from bag to bag

For example General Mills GMKT Organic specifies protein content may vary from 9.8% to 11%, with average 10.5%/

With the price of flour rising so steeply many bakers and mills are switching flour and wheat supplies to the cheapest available, and often have to reformulate their breads.

Experiment! Try making your usual bread with different flours, adjusting the water content so that the dough feels the same, and see (and report here) what you like.

For example when I use spelt flour I have to reduce the hydration by 10% to compensate for the extras enzyme activity and weaker gluten.

Edited by jackal10 (log)

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Interesting. I've never thought of baking with straight pastry flour.

One way for home or small batch bakers to use a higher protein flour and still get an uneven crumb with large holes is to adopt a no-knead technique.

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Thanks for the quick reply. I have been experimenting with Canadian AP flour which I believe offers about 12% protein and with bread flour. One of the reason I have decided to dig a bit further after hearing about that bakery in Montreal is that I always find that my bread are too chewy for my taste. I have tried the no knead technique as well as the 5 minutes a day technique but got the same chewy texture. I will try using pastry flour and see what happen.

I think that I really need to learn more about flour! I have been trying to make chinese stretched noodles for a long time without success and I think part of the answer might also be found in the flour itself.

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No knead is a useful technique. YOu can also get bigger holes by using a very wet dough. However I think this makes pudding-like bread, wih thick webs between the crumb cells.

Lower gluten allows thinner cell walls

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No knead is a useful technique. YOu can also get bigger holes by using a very wet dough. However I think this makes pudding-like bread, wih thick webs between the crumb cells.

Lower gluten allows thinner cell walls

jackal10, do you mean that the high hydration gives you the "pudding-like" bread...or that the no-knead technique gives you the pudding-like texture?

ciabatta is a very high hydration dough and i don't get that texture...

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High hydration can give pudding like bread,

Just increasing the dough's wetness does not compensate for poor technique or too strong a flour.

Ciabatta is a very wet dough with its own unique technique and crumb texture. Italian ciabatto flour is around 14% protein.

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thanks jackal10, makes sense.

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A couple of points.

As Jackal10 points out, the "T55" grading has nothing at all to do with the protein level (just the bran {=> mineral/ash} content) - Calvel says "farine panifiable" T55 (T55 breadmaking flour) would be between 11.5 and 12.5% protein, and then gives Avleograph curves for two examples - one of which is 11.5% and the other 11.2% ... :hmmm: Lalos (Le pain envers du decor) says T55 can be 8 to 12% "gluten".

So its a lot lower than North American "bread" flours - Lalos actually says "Le blé tendre est utilise pour le fabrication de pain" (soft wheat is used for making bread) ... hard wheat is for pasta!

So if a Montréal bakery was wanting to make their bread closer to French, then they'd need a lower than usual-in-North-America protein bread flour.

The industrial bread here in the UK is actually made with rather low-protein flour, intensively mixed to strengthen it by oxidation, so needing the fermentation time to be very short, which calls for lots of yeast, and the process then requires the presence of a cocktail of additives to delay staling.

So not all supermarket pap is made with high protein flour, and low protein flour is used for rubbish bread as well as artisan baguettes!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Since it seems that a few people can read French on this forum, here are a few articles about the whole thing:




None of these articles mention proteins but I have heard it both on TV and radio (I listen to a lot of farming and food programming when I have the time).

The mill's website can be found at http://www.moulinsdesoulanges.com/

I thought I found the solution to my overly chewy bread but after reading both on the web and on this forum, things seems a bit more complicated than I thought!

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As dougal was touched on, what is a quality flour to one baker is not a quality flour to another. Depends on the desired product.

To confuse matters, Europeans love the high protein flours from Canada (Manitoba to be specific) and consider the flour to be of very high "quality." They would, however, not make "the perfect baguette" from the above referenced high protein flour.

In summary, it is used as an "improver."

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I just tried using 50% AP with 50% pastry and adjusted hydration levels accordingly. The result was alright but still far from the the lite crumb I am looking for. Holes (big and small) are there and the density is great but the crumb is still too chewy for my taste... like munching on rubber foam.

Should I try using 50% pastry flour only? Should I lower hydration levels even more? Should I lower the temperature of my oven and cook for a longer time?

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