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5 Flours, 10 Loaves - A Flour Test

I hadn't planned on doing it. I'd sworn off of doing it. 5 flours family portraitTo be honest, I'd gotten so tired of flour tests I was ready to scream. And there I was, testing 5 flours. How did this happen? How did I let this happen?

I was in a bind. I was going to teach a class on advanced baking techniques for Mountain Tops Milling and I wasn't getting the results I wanted. Was it because I was grinding the flour myself? Was it the grain? I'd heard mixed reports about white wheat from a number of bakers. I felt it was time to compare red and white flours to try to narrow things down. To give myself a better basis for comparison, it made sense to compare the breads made with these to a flour I'd used before, so that added another flour, Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat Flour. Now we're up to three flours. *sigh*

Then a friend started asking if I'd ever tried GM's "new" Harvest King flour. I hadn't. It's worth mentioning that this flour has been available to bakers for quite some time and that it is very popular among artisan bakers. When we were running the Colorado High Attitude Bakery, I had wanted to try that flour but it wasn't available in this area. So, I was eager to play with it, even if it was a few years after I'd first wanted to play with it. However, once again, I needed a control. So, that meant using my standard bread flour, GM's All-Trumps, the flour we used at the bakery.

OK, that gets us up to 5 flours. I planned on making one loaf with each flour, a mini-test, at least compared to the big flour test.

So, what's the 10 loaves thing? A friend who grinds her own wheat asked me about using vital wheat gluten. So, I thought I'd make two loaves with each flour, one with vital wheat gluten, one without.

It was more bread that I wanted to make, but someone had to do it. I used the same recipe for each loaf, except for the addition of vital wheat gluten. For people who aren't familiar with vital wheat gluten, it is pure gluten extracted from wheat. It is dried and ground into a powder. Adding a bit to dough is supposed to help the dough rise better. This is especially helpful when you are working with whole grain, especially home ground whole grain, flours. The bad part is if you use too much the bread tends to develop a gummy texture. The recipe used was the 100% Whole Wheat bread recipe, converted to weight. To make sure we were comparing apples to apples, each starter was fed using the flour under test. This meant we had a handful of starters in the kitchen.

The recipe is as follows:

Volumetric Measurement (Cups)IngredientGramsBaker's Percentage
3/4 CupWater180 Grams54%
3/4 CupActiveWhole Wheat Sourdough Starter210 Grams60%
2 1/3 TBSPLight Olive Oil30 Grams8.9%
1 1/2 TBSPHoney30 Grams8.9%
2 2/3 TBSPVital Wheat Gluten (Optional)20 Grams6%
2 2/3 CupsWhole Wheat Flour320 Grams94%
1 1/4 tspSalt8.2 Grams2.4%

To keep things consistent, all the breads were made by adding all the liquids to my KitchenAid K45SS mixer, followed by all the solids. Then they were mixed using the dough hook for 5 minutes on speed 2, followed by a 5 minute rest, followed by a final 5 minute mix on speed 2. All the breads came together well and kneaded well. They were allowed to rise until doubled, formed into boules, and allowed to rise in a banneton. They were then turned out of the baskets and baked on tiles at 375F for about 45 minutes.

Conclusions and other trivia In all cases, except the Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat flour, the loaf with the vital wheat gluten rose considerably better than the loaf without. I am inclined to think that I left the vital wheat gluten out of that loaf or performed some other little mess up.

Looking at the loaves of bread, the loaves in the left columns 5 flours family portraitwere made using vital wheat gluten, the ones on the right were made without. The front left loaves were made with Hard Red Winter Wheat ground into flour using a WhisperMill. The next set back were made with Hard Spring White Flour, again ground into flour using a WhisperMill. The front right loaves were made with Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat Flour. The next set back was made with Harvest King flour and the back set was made with All-Trumps.

The rise was SO much better with the vital wheat gluten that I didn't bother tasting or testing the loaves without the gluten. I just gave them to a friend.

All trumps uncut BouleComments on flours and breads - All-Trumps I used the unbleached, unbromated version of this flour available west of the Mississippi. It was the standard flour we used in the bakery, and I am very familiar with it. The flour handled pretty much as I expected. There were no problems, the dough came together nicely and handled nicely. The finished bread has a

All trumps crumb shotslight yellow/cream coloring because the flour is unbleached and I didn't over mix it. The crumb is irregular with small to medium sized holes. A nice sandwich or all around bread. The slice has a mild, but definite, sourdough aroma. The crust is a little thick, fairly crisp. The crumb tore nicely. A nice balance of sourdough, wheat and toasty crust tastes. The crumb feels slightly gummy to the palate, so perhaps a touch less vital wheat gluten should be used next time. All in all, an excellent bread.

Harvest King - this flour has been available to professional bakers Harvest King Boule, unslicedthrough supply houses for years, though not here. As a result I was curious about how it would handle and taste. It has the slightly less protein than Harvest King boule, crumb shotAll-Trumps and looks and smells about the same. The dough came together nicely, forming a somewhat wetter dough than the All-Trumps. I think I'd cut back on the amount of water just a bit if I were using this flour regularly. The crumb is very nice, with holes that are slightly smaller than those in the All-Trumps loaf. The crumb was ever so slightly gummy, which suggests a bit less vital wheat gluten might be in order next time. The Harvest King loaf rose just a bit more than the All-Trumps loaf, which could be due to the wetter dough. The crust is slightly thinner and less crisp than the All-Trumps loaf. In tasting it, it was very similar, but more subdued than the All-Trumps loaf. If this was the only bread flour available to me, I'd happily use it, but I still prefer the All-Trumps.

Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat Flour The dough HUngarian Whole Wheat uncut boulecame together more slowly than the white flours, mentioned above. However, it was together by the end of the mix, and kneaded nicely after its rest. There was Hungarian WHole Wheat Crumb Shita slight flying crust, which suggested that the dough should have been made with a touch more water, which would have also improved the rise. The crumb was very tight and surprisingly uniform with lots of small holes. I was surprised that this flour had the least rise of any of the flours used, since it rose well in our big flour test. The crust was fairly thick and crisp. The bread had a very nice aroma with lots of wheaty notes and it also had an excellent depth of flavor, wheat was very forward, with only a slight sourdough taste, and that at the back of the palate. The gummy quality commented upon in the two white breads was not present in this bread. The sourdough taste grew in the aftertaste of the bread, but never became overwhelming. The honey in the bread was very noticeable, which it was not in the white breads. A nice bread.

Hard Winter Red Wheat, Home Ground - this was a bit of aHard Red Winter Wheat Boule surprise, since it rose almost as much as either of the white breads. While I don't think bread has to be light and fluffy to be good, I do like a fairly light Hard red winter wheat crumb shotcrumb. The crust was fairly thick and pliable. The crumb was fairly uniform, but with a range of holes from very small to medium sized. There was a slight flying crust, which suggests the loaf would have benefited from just a bit more water or kneading. Maybe both. The crumb tore nice and straight. The aroma was milder than that of the Hungarian High Altitude and more wheaty. The gummy texture found in the white breads was absent in this bread. If one wanted a better rise, more water, more kneading and a touch more vital wheat gluten might just do the trick. The sourdough and honey tastes were both subdued to the point of being absent. If one wanted more of a sourdough taste, a longer rise might accomplish that.

Hard Spring White Wheat, Home Ground Having beenHard white winter wheat, boule disappointed in this flour's rise in past bakes, I was surprised that it rose better than the Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat Flour. The loaf was well formed, which leads me to believe the hydration was close to optimum. The crumb was very tight and uniform, with very consistently sized small holes. I'd have preferred a more open crumb, which might have been achieved with Hard Winter Wheat, Crumb shotmore hydration. The crust was thinner than that of the red wheat, and more flexible. The aroma of the crumb is subdued and entirely a very mild wheat, with little or no sourdough hints. The crumb tore cleanly. The bread was bland. There is very little going on there on the front, back or side palate. This bread is best for children of all ages who don't like foods with much taste. I have heard other bakers express concern that more and more white wheat is being produced, and that soon there will be little to no red wheat available. That is the situation currently in Australia. I can only hope it won't happen here!

As a final picture, here is a picture that will let you compare slices of5 Flours, comparative crumb shots all the breads. The pictures are slightly larger than our usual pictures. From left to right, these are the white wheat, red wheat, Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat, Harvest King and All-Trumps flours. As you can see, my knife wielding hand slipped a bit on the Harvest King slice.

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