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Fat Guy

Flour

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This is a spinoff from the sifting thread. I've been interested in the topic of flour types for some time, but have found few non-professional sources willing to explain the situation in technical detail. Basically, I understand that the differences between bread, all purpose and cake flour primarily involve gluten content. But beyond that there seems to be a world of difference in flour: The strain of wheat, the milling process, etc. Many bakers overseas have told me the flour intheir country and in America is "just different" and that recipes therefore cannot travel perfectly. Anybody know the lowdown here?

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Here is a gem of a site--

http://www.theartisan.net/Flour_Suite_Frameset.htm

that excerpts some information from a wonderful book "Special and Decorative Breads" Volume 1 by Bilheux, Escoffier, Herve and Pouradier.  It's the bread making volume designed to accompany the 4 volume "Professional French Pastry Series," that was translated by James Peterson and published by Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Two books, published in 1993, changed the tone of this discussion in the US and remain great reads:

"Bread Alone" by Dan Leader and Judith Blahnik (Morrow, NY)

"The Village Baker" by Joe Ortiz (Ten Speed Press, CA)

Another fav:

Volume #29 of Ed Behr's "The Art of Eating" newsletter, entitled 'A Well-crafted White Loaf' is his latest on the subject and available at:

http://www.artofeating.com/back.htm

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Continuing my response to Lesley C's comment about Canadian flour on the sifting thread: Are there differences between U.S. and Canadian flour? I've heard various Canadians claim there are. Costas Spiliadis, I think that's his name (he's the guy from Estiatorio Milos), imports special Canadian flour to his New York branch to coat his fried vegetables. Others have told me there are differences in the underlying wheat used to make Canadian flour. Is this so? Why would Canadian wheat be any different from the wheat grown in the Northern part of the United States? Then again I've also been told that the flour in different regions of the United States is different. And that all the flour in Italy comes from Canada, and is then sold back here in North America at elevated prices.

As far as I can tell, the links posted by Preet Baba and Steve Klc are the same, just different ways of getting to the same info. Very interesting stuff -- though I must confess I couldn't make it through the whole treatise.

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Steven, I assume when you mentioned that Costas of Milos imports special Canadian flour to his NYC branch, it would be commercial version from one of the 2-3 national flour brands. In Canada here, they're only 2-3 flour brands, & the wheat all comes from the same area. I think all Canadian wheat comes from Manitoba, since Canadian flour is sometimes refered to worldwide as Manitoba flour.

In the US, they're quite a few national & regional flour brands & their wheat comes from different parts of the country. In general Canadian flour is different from US flour-mainly due to the higher gluten content.  However higher gluten US flour(on par with Canadian flour) is available from certain US brands. For the US consumer, the best source to find 'high gluten US flour' would be the  King Arthur Flour catalog.

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Okay Mr. Shaw, here's your answer (finally).

The difference between Canadian and American hard wheat flour is minimal. Flours from the same mill can vary from crop to crop and bag to bag. The protein content of American bread flour is typically 14%. Canadian flours run at about 13%. Many consider Canadian flour to be the superior product because of its milling process and superior grain.

We may not have winning hockey teams anymore, but we do have good flour!

Off to make some bannock,

Lesley C.

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The Canadians also grow copious quantities of wheat in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Wheat has long been an economic engine in the western provinces,  shipping east, west, and south.

Most grain is purchased from farmers by the provincially sponsored "pools" and sold on the wholesale or export market. The few farmers who defy the government and seek to grow non-standard wheat varieties or sell on their own encounter significant obstacles.

It's the same problem a dairy farmer in the US faces if she tries to bypass the milk marketing orders.

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A question of the most basic (and practical) sort--where can I find cake flour? I have looked in several supermarkets in Manhattan and have not seen it.  I have seen "bread flour" and "soy flour" and "wheat flour", for example, but I have not seen "cake flour".   Is it difficult to find or have I just not been looking in the right places.  thanks.  

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hi quinn--"Softasilk" is the one you'll find most often--in a 2 pound red and white box.  Underneath the title it says "enriched cake flour bleached." It's usually near the other flours--I guess because it is in a box, managers segregate it.  My supermarket puts it near the boxes of 10X sugar.  

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A lot of folks -- especially Southerners -- swear by White Lily flour. I'm not sure the exact gluten content, so I'm not sure if it's officially a cake flour, but it's made from all soft wheat and it's milled very fine. You can order a five pound bag from the company for ŭ. That's Ū for the flour and ū for the shipping. This is of course insanely expensive, but flour prices don't become a huge concern unless you do a lot of baking.

http://www.whitelily.com/main.html

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I thought I'd post this in the Flour Thread - even though this conversation got started a long time ago.

I need help! I need the gram weights of 1 cup of American All purpose flour, both sifted and not sifted. I have searched on the web and do not get a reliable source, the weights are all over the place. Can someone who has a kitchen scale help me with this?

I am getting ready to do some baking from new recipes. Some of my baking recipes have already been adusted, but I did that by trial and error, and I'm not sure if they have been accurately adjusted to base a technical conversion on. Now I just want to convert and bake, forget the error part. I am not sure on how much French flour I should be using per cup in an American recipe. I gather from the links on flour in this thread that my equivalent would be type 55 flour for all purpose.

Thank you for your kind assistance in this matter. :biggrin::biggrin:

-Lucy

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from what i know about canadian flour, it has a higher protein level and W, which desirable when making pan breads. but lesley c's credentials and location would lead me to believe that she is correct.

different brands of flour have different protein levels. the highest protein All Purpose flour is King Arthur according to Cook's Illustrated magazine tests. the lowest is White Lily. Note: this is normal as White Lily markets it's product to biscuit and pie dough making. King Arthur makes a specific pastry flour for such purposes.

gluten percentage is not usually correlated with gluten *quality.* this is important when chosing a flour for a specific application. experience and testing at the National Baking Center in MN has shown that for artisan baking such as baguettes etc, the higher gluten flour lack the tolerance to endure the hours of fermentation necessary. they will deteriorate after a hour or so, yeilding an unattractive result. this problem is not good for the baker's bottom line because he can put more water in the higher gluten flours, thus increasing his dough yield. same flour amount, but more bread. so, it's a little give and take.

the hard spring wheat producers in the midwest have given artisan bakers a "hard" time because we have promoted the hard winter wheat flours as being superior *quality* in spite of their lower protein *quantity.* they have traditionally catered to the pan bread industry and grown varieties of wheat according to "market needs." the artisan bread movement has caused, fortunately, certain farmers to reevaluate market needs and grow accordingly.

the french use the same flour in cake as they do in bread. Note: high ratio cakes are not made in france, exept at "american" bakeries! it's a winter wheat but not as high in gluten % as ours. i participated in a study a few years ago with a virginian group of farmers and millers who were interested in growing french varieties in the states (VA of course.) it was rather unsuccessful. most wheat grown in VA is soft anyhow if my memory serves me correctly.

1 cup flour= 4 oz= 112g (ish)

regards,

rob :)

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Ah yes, my research has revealed that Canadian flour is not the same weight as American Flour. But that's not my problem at the moment (although it might be when I go home on vacation this summer - ) I'm in France, with no access to American or Canadian flour, and getting ready to bake a from some American recipes. Woe is me.

If the recipes existed in French, I'd find them and use them. But, unfortunately, in France, home baking is not much of a pastime. And, unfortunately, no one makes cheesecake brownies with pralines. Therefore I am asking a trusted egulleter to weigh both a cup of unsifted American all purpose flour, and also to weigh a cup of American all purpose flour which has been sifted. I will take the gram weight from these two measurements and apply it with my type 55 French flour.

Some results from trial and error have been disasterous, read: sunken sog with a layer of sediment on the bottom. The flour weights by the cup that I have found vary from 112g to 165g. Yikes! :shock:

:wub:

Help me make cheesecake brownies.

one cup unsifted American all purpose flour = ____ oz./grams.

one cup sifted American all purpose flour = _____ oz./grams.

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Some results from trial and error have been disasterous, read: sunken sog with a layer of sediment on the bottom.  The flour weights by the cup that I have found vary from 112g to 165g.  Yikes!  :shock:

:wub:

Help me make cheesecake brownies. 

one cup unsifted American all purpose flour = ____ oz./grams.

one cup sifted American all purpose flour = _____ oz./grams.

Bleu - in my experience with American All-purpose there isn't any real difference in weight between sifted and unsifted - YMMV if you're working with another type that has a lot of... er, extraneous objects in it. I think therefore that if I were in your shoes I'd be trying to match sifted weight of the local product to the standard weight for American. Which is 1 cup = 4 oz. = 113.3 grams, according to the best conversions I've been able to find. More important, I imagine, is finding a flour of similar "hardness" - if memory serves French flours vary widely and are typically softer (i.e. have more gluten, or more reactive gluten, if that makes sense) than American ones. Don't remember detail on this, but can look it up in Elizabeth David, if that is any help. Good luck with your cheesecake brownies! And... no... no, I mustn't... yes... yes, now you've made me want them too - would you be willing to share the recipe?

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Per RLB's chart in The Pie and Pastry Bible:

APF sifted 4 oz/cup 114gr/cup

lightly spooned 4.2 oz/121 gr

dip and sweep 5.2 oz/142 gr

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Per RLB's chart in The Pie and Pastry Bible:

APF  sifted 4 oz/cup  114gr/cup

        lightly spooned  4.2 oz/121 gr

        dip and sweep  5.2 oz/142 gr

bleu: ditto the above. i'm making pound cakes at the moment so just did a few measurements and came to almost identical as the above:

sifted a/p: 114g (4oz)

lightly spooned: 122g (4-1/4 oz)

dip and sweep: 144g (5 oz)

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I think we need an eGCI course on this.

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Why would Canadian wheat be any different from the wheat grown in the Northern part of the United States? Then again I've also been told that the flour in different regions of the United States is different.

I doubt that my palate is refined enough to taste the difference between these flours but if one considers the differences between coffee beans grown in different places and other agricultural products as well.... it stands to reason.

It's not unusual for coffee grown on one side of an island to have a distinctly different charcater than beans from another side. I have a Cuban friend whose family knows people in Florida who have attempted repeatedly to grow tobacco from Cuban tobacco seeds. They have the right seeds, can dulicate the growing and drying techniques used in Cuba and have the right people to craft the cigars but the taste is still different.

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It's not unusual for coffee grown on one side of an island to have a distinctly different charcater than beans from another side. I have a Cuban friend whose family knows people in Florida who have attempted repeatedly to grow tobacco from Cuban tobacco seeds. They have the right seeds, can dulicate the growing and drying techniques used in Cuba and have the right people to craft the cigars but the taste is still different.

To borrow from the wine world, it's all about terroir. :hmmm:

Edit: cause I'm an idiot, who has forgotten all her french! :laugh:


Edited by bloviatrix (log)

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You had me confused for a moment there (actually a regular occurrence for me in between epiphanies). You dom mean "terroir".... correct? "terrior" puled up lots of dog related links (alternate spelling of terrier?) but also a few fascinating articels about the concept of "terroir" in the context of wine grape growing vs "terrain", which appears ot be more suited for conventional crops. Thanks for pointing me to yet another bit of arcane information that I wil someday find useful (I am not being facetious - it's these jaunts into new territory that are oen fo the many thingss I love about eGullet).

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Ok, I've gone back and corrected my original post. Although I do have a soft spot in my heart for that stubborn group of canine perfection, I was referring to the wine term.

It's really amazing all the things that go into creating flavor. It's not just the seeds, but the earth, the drainage, the amount of sun, etc. It's enought to give one a headache. :laugh:

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It's really amazing all the things that go into creating flavor.  It's not just the seeds, but the earth, the drainage, the amount of sun, etc.  It's enought to give one a headache.  :laugh:

This is all too true to me right now, having just returned from three weeks in London where my beverage of choice is tea. Try making a decent cup of tea in Southern California with the rotten tap water (at least it is bad here in Long Beach) and milk (whole milk) that holds none of the richness that British dairy contains. As we all know, you have to start with good ingredients in order to end up with the perfect final product.

Which leads to the subject of flour, of which I am supposed to be writing in this thread. I've worked with a flour called "Irish Cream" in London. Just the physical feel of it is beautiful! I think it is somewhere between A/P and Cake as far as protein content is concerned. Has anyone here used it and know of anything comparable here in the States?

P.S. Bloviatrix: personally, I'm partial to the Kerry Blue Terroir (sounds like an Irish Potato!)

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Did you bring any of the Irish Cream back with you? I'm curious to know how it "works" out of context.

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