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Franci

Understanding french flours

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Hi.

Yesterday I found myself really struggling to buy flours. I know that lower numbers are associated with lower protein but beside that I found very difficult to buy flours without added levain or other ingredients. There were tons of packages for brioche or cereal or other kinds of loafs but I didn't manage to find a good, simple, high protein flour for bread making.

Is there any mill which sells on line and lists all the specifications for flour (W in particular)?

I was looking something like Tibiona for Italy. They sell very good flours, but also cereals, spices etc.

Thanks

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Head for type 55 for brioche, pizza, etc, and type 45 for other pastry. (That is the theory, see end of post for more info.) Stay away from "farine tamisée" and other fancy stuff. If you go for "farine à gâteaux" (with leavening inside), remember that it contains less leavening agents than self-raising flour in English-speaking countries.

Head for the health food stores (any Naturalia will do) for flours without additives, leavening or texture agents, etc.: there you will find grades from 55 or more frequently 60 (white flour) to 80 and up to 150 (whole flour, "farine intégrale"). Type 60 covers all the uses I need from flour.

The "bio" distribution network is by the way your only source for decent bread flour. There is no such thing as bread flour in French mainstream commerce, and even type 55 flour makes poor bread. That has to do with the type of wheats grown in France. From 60 up you'll be better off.

Edit: the link provided by Dave is quite interesting. It is true that "type 55" may yield various results depending on the basic quality. Trial and error usually does it.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

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... I know that lower numbers are associated with lower protein but beside that I found very difficult to buy flours without added levain or other ingredients. ... I didn't manage to find a good, simple, high protein flour for bread making.

Is there any mill which sells ... lists all the specifications for flour (W in particular)?

...

Right. Protein does indeed tend to be "associated" with T numbers, but that is nothing to do with their actual meaning.

The T number tells you the amount of bran, as measured by the amount of ash left after incineration!

People wanting low-bran flour generally want softer, lower protein (and finer-milled) flour, so that's what they generally get with a T45, even though its not what T45 actually specifies.

All that said, French bread flours (typically at T55 or T65) are NOT very high in protein, or "W" (dough strength). Hence French bread-making styles play to the strengths of the local flours, (which don't include dough strength).

HOWEVER, high strength/protein flour CAN be found in France (I'm not saying easily) - look for Farine de Gruau, and you could get a W of over 300 (compared with 250+ for North American bread flours and 150/200 for typical farine panifiable -- numbers from Calvel: "Le Gout du Pain", pages 14/15 in mine). If you find some, you'll probably want to blend it with some farine panifiable, rather than use it straight.

Otherwise, a little Vitamin C can help a lot. Dissolve a 1-a-day tablet in a glass of water and add a few (5?) teaspoons of the liquid to a kilo or so of dough.

A useful book for picking up French bread vocabulary (and skills) is Lalos' "Le Pain: l'envers du décor". Try FNAC for it. The text is in both English and French! (And while the translation may not be perfect, its still very useful.) Its about (French) pro artisan baking. The formulas are given very strangely though, all normalised to what goes with 1 litre of water!


Edited by dougal (log)

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

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Thanks everybody, very interesting!

HOWEVER, high strength/protein flour CAN be found in France (I'm not saying easily) - look for Farine de Gruau, and you could get a W of over 300 (compared with 250+ for North American bread flours and 150/200 for typical farine panifiable -- numbers from Calvel: "Le Gout du Pain", pages 14/15 in mine). If you find some, you'll probably want to blend it with some farine panifiable, rather than use it straight.

It's a little bit like Italy, you cut high canadian flour with 00 flour.

I'm more familiar with the US/UK/Italian market. In Italy, for ex. if you buy flour in supermarkets it's not displayed the W, only the general use for it,and the Canadian flour it's already "cut" and ready to use. However, for serious home bakers there are some mills who provide all the specifications for flour needed. I guess I was looking some online store like Tibiona for Italy or King Arthur for the US.

I'm already thinking of some Panettone baking for Christmas.

Well, thanks, I think I need to get used to the products and get familiar with what is available.

Thanks for suggesting the book.

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I was looking at a Miche formula that called for 110 French flour. I did a web search for French conversion to American flours and found this chart. I have no idea if it is accurate and if not, is it way off ? Can anyone who knows please comment.

AMERICAN: Cake & Pastry
 APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 45

AMERICAN: All-Purpose & Bread
 APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 55

AMERICAN: High Gluten 
APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 65

AMERICAN: Light Whole Wheat 
 APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 80

AMERICAN: Whole Wheat 
 APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 110

AMERICAN: Dark Whole Wheat
 APPROXIMATE FRENCH EQUIVALENT: Type 150

I also have found links to very scientific data regarding ash, mineral content, hydration levels and other data, which I cannot understand.

I am looking for what equals what and only need to know the minimum to understand why.


edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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...

I am looking for what equals what and only need to know the minimum to understand why.

There are no exact "equals".

The strains of wheat used are different, and that's just to start with.

For an approximation of a T110, you might look for an ordinary ("all purpose") wholegrain/wholemeal flour.

Probably about 10/11% protein.

Ideally with the bran finely milled rather than in flakes big enough to remove with a kitchen sieve.


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

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...

I am looking for what equals what and only need to know the minimum to understand why.

There are no exact "equals".

The strains of wheat used are different, and that's just to start with.

Yes, dougal I understand that now. You've put it most simply: the wheat, milling, packaging, and all the other differences in production from our country to France's will make it different.

Protein level can be equaled but the not the rest.

Thanks.


edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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