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How We're Testing Flour
Part Of The Big Flour Test

Flour Test Time Line #10
Last Revised January 27th, 2003

This details the order of the steps in the flour test. This lets us do the same things again and again without forgetting things. This time table lets you finish the flour test in 2 days using a single 5 lb sack of flour.

The recipe information here is summarized, so it will fit in a reasonable amount of space. If you have questions about the recipes, please refer to the recipes - the column headers are pointers to the recipes.

Even though we are still fine tuning some of the recipes for our own enjoyment, we will not change these recipes for testing purposes.

Note from 2019 - if I were to embark on this sort of project again, I'd do it differently.  Out with the cups!  Measure in grams!  Fewer breads as several were too similar.  Make one bread a yeast bread as that would help us learn more about the flavor the flour adds to the bread.  Also, I'd do at least two bakes.  One with the recipe/formula as given, and then additional bakes to improve the loaves.  While I am interested in how the flours perform, what I am REALLY interested in is how I can make the best possible bread and using the same formula for all bakes doesn't really address that.  Will it happen?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  We'll see.


Time The warm up Three Stage French Bread - Pain au  Levain Ciabatta Bohemian Rye Simple Sourdough
Pan Bread
Day 1
7:00 AM
Mix 2 tbsp starter,
1/2 cup water, 3/4 cup flour under test
See note to right
Note - if your starter hasn't been used in more than a month, break the first feeding in half,and start it the night before. A long dormant starter can take longer to get going than one that is used frequently.

Mix this in the bowl you intend to use for the Bohemian Rye bread.

Day 1
5:00 PM
Add 1 cup water, 1 1/2 cups flour under test
Day 1
8:00 PM
You should have three cups of active starter now. Use this in all the recipes that follow.
Day 1
8:01 PM
Mix 6 gr of  starter ,
21 gr water, 21 gr flour
Day 1
8:05 PM
Sift 1 1/8 cup flour into your mixer bowl. Spray the mixer's paddle beater with baking spray (PAM or whatever), attach the paddle to the mixer and set to speed 2. Add 1/2 cup of active starter and then up to 1/4 cup of water gradually until you get a dough that starts to clear the sides of the bowl and/or balls up around the paddle. You want a nice firm dough here. Spray the dough hook with baking spray, remove the paddle, attach the hook, and knead for about 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Day 1
8:10 PM
Mix 1/2  cup active starter, 1 cup water, 1 cup flour. Mix and let sit, covered, for 12 hours.
Day 1
8:20 PM
(Note - the next steps for the Bohemian Rye are there to remind me to take pictures of the flour at different hydrations early in test process. If you are not interested in repeating the dough hydration experiments, just skip ahead to 8:35 instructions.)
Day 1
8:21 PM
Measure the 1 cup of water and 1 cup of the flour under test called for at 8:35. The next few steps will use this water and flour.
Measure out and mix 60 grams of the reserved water and 60 grams of the reserved flour under test. Photograph this as the 100% hydration mixture.
Day 1
8:25 PM
Add 15 grams of flour from the reserved cup of flour to the water/flour mixture from the above step. Mix, and then knead. Photograph as the 80% hydration mixture.
Day 1
8:30 PM
Add another 25 grams of the reserved flour to the water/flour mixture from the step above. Knead. Photograph as the 60% hydration specimen. This information should give you a good idea how the flour will handle.
Day 1
8:35 PM
To the approximately 2 cups of starter remaining in your mixing bowl, add 1 cup water (see note below), 3 cups rye flour, 4 tsp salt, 2 tbsp softened butter, 1 tsp caraway seeds, 1/4 cup sugar. Mix, add 1 2/3 cups flour under test (see notes below). Knead, form ball, and let rise.
Note 1: If you performed the hydration test in the steps above, add the flour/water mixture from the previous step as well as the reserved water and flour instead of the water and 1 cup of the flour called for above.
Note 2 - this bread may not require the full 1 2/3 cups of flour under test. Start with 1 cup and then knead in more flour as kneaded. If the dough gets too dry, you are likely to have upper crust separation. This is a minor flaw in the USA, but a cardinal sin in the U.K. If you think your dough is too dry, you can often avoid the separation by slashing the crust.
Day 1
10:01 PM
Add in 24 gr water, 36 gr flour
Day 1
10:05 PM
Punch down, knead a bit, form rough loaf, allow loaf to sit 30 minutes or so. Form final loaf, cover and allow to rise overnight.
Day 2
6:01 AM
Mix in 52 gr water, 91 gr flour, knead, and let sit.
Day 2
8:01 AM
Add 294 gr water, 456 gr flour, 11 gr salt, mix, knead, let sit
Day 2
8:10 AM
Mix in 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 cups more flour, machine knead for 10 minutes at low speed, while adjusting consistency by adding approximately 1/2 cup more flour, until dough no longer sticks to the bowl or your fingers.
Day 2
8:30 AM
Remove dough from mixer, hand knead briefly, work in as much as another 1/2 cup or so more flour. Bat the dough around in the mixer at medium speed.
Day 2
8:31 AM
Rough shape loaf
Day 2
8:40 AM
Form loaf, and reform loaf several times over 30 minutes. Keep dough covered when not playing with it. Dough should be soft enough to allow a seam to be sealed, but shouldn't stick to your hands.
Day 2
8:46 AM
Finish shaping loaf, cover, let rise
Day 2
9:10 AM
Place loaf in pan, slash, cover and allow to rise 5 to 8 hours, until an inch or two above pan (3 is possible).
Day 2
10:05 AM
Preheat oven to 450F
Day 2
10:50 AM
Slash loaf, slide into oven, put cup of hot water into oven too, bake 10 min
Day 2
11:00 AM
Reduce heat to 350F, bake another 45 min.
Day 2
11:25 AM
Add 3/4 cup of water to the mixing bowl, the biga, and 1 5/8 cup of flour. Using the kneading hook to knead for 5 - 6 minutes.
Day 2
11:30 AM
Check bread.
Day 2
11:31 AM
Add 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
Day 2
11:32 AM
Add 1 tsp salt
Day 2
11:33 AM
Cover dough in bowl, allow to rise
Day 2
11:45 AM
Bread should be done now.
Day 2
1:01 PM
Preheat oven to 450F
Day 2
1:03 PM
Sprinkle a baking sheet with flour, pour dough onto the sheet as a single loaf. It should look like slipper. A rough shape - it's rustic! Try not to deflate dough!
Day 2
1:13 PM
Preheat oven to 425F
Day 2
1:43 PM
Bake 25 - 30 minutes. Try not to over bake.
Day 2
1:46 PM
Slash loaves, put in oven with a cup of water
Day 2
2:08 PM
Check bread.
Day 2
2:16 PM
Check bread for doneness
Day 2
2:31 PM
Bread should be done
Day 2
4:25 PM
Preheat oven to 375F.
Day 2
5:10 PM
Put bread in oven, with cup of water.
Day 2
5:40 PM
Check bread for doneness.
Day 2
5:50 PM
Bread should be done.

Revisions 1 - 7 - the exact changes have been lost, but the idea was to scale the recipes so that they could be made with a single 5 lb sack of flour, and so the measurements weren't too weird. Things like "15/16 cup of water" have been weeded out.

Revision 9 - Make sure the starter is created in the bowl that will be used for the rye bread. This helps reduce the number of bowls to be cleaned.

Revision 10 - move the hydration test to the start of the process. So much depends on how the dough handles, that we might as well find that out at the onset.

Last Updated on 1/27/03
Comment added on 9/24/2019
By Mike Avery

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