What is the difference in flours?

One of the most important choices in your baking decisions is what kind of flour to use. I have had a few baking disasters using what I thought was the right flour, but left me with a sagging, lumpy loaf of bread, which I named Mr. Sadsack. (I thought I was getting a good deal at a restaurant supply store, getting a big bag of Gold Medal Better for Bread flour for only $15 a 50# bag! Apparently it was a lower protein than I was used to and it took 3 terrible loaves to figure out it was the flour. I changed the flour, problem solved.) Let me share with you what I have learned.

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Wheat flours

There are a variety of wheat flours to choose from. Some are made from a soft (lower protein) wheat berry. Some from a hard (higher protein) wheat berry. Some are made from winter wheat, some from spring. Some are red, some are white.

Without getting into too much detail about when it is grown or how, it is the protein in the wheat that ultimately makes the difference for you. Lower protein wheat makes flour with less gluten and is good for tender baked goods that do not need to raise much such as cookies, pie crust, biscuits and cakes.

Higher protein wheat makes flour with a higher amount of gluten and is good for breads, pizzas, bagels and pretzels.

There are hundreds of kinds of wheat grown around the world. Mills mix a variety of wheat to achieve the protein level they are looking for. King Arthur flour, one of the gold standards of wheat, use an old type of wheat called “Turkey Red” in their all-purpose flour. Theirs was the first brand of flour that actually caught my attention. Back when it was sold at Trader Joes, I purchased a bag and for some reason, instead of throwing out the bag, I took a closer look at it.  They had a catalog! What? I sent for it and have been a happy camper ever since. I had no idea until then, that all these tools, tips, and tricks were available to the general baking public. Getting one of their catalogs in the mail is usually the highlight of that day. And they all have recipes in them to boot.

One of the things that make King Arthur flour special is that the flours, with the exception of their cake flour, is unbleached and unbromated. I will explain this in a minute. Continue reading “What is the difference in flours?”

Bread Baking tips 2: digging in

(This is also a reprint and update from an earlier post a couple of years ago. Since I updated part 1, why not part 2 and think about a part 3?)

Here is where we get to the fun part: the mixing, the kneading, the rising, the shaping. Bringing about life from the humble ingredients talked about in Baking Tips 1. And I got lots of pictures this time. OH, don’t miss the YouTube video!!

Really, as long as you follow a recipe, you should be fine baking any kind of bread. Most of it is in the waiting. Waiting for it to rise. Waiting for it to rise again. Then anxiously wait, hovering around the stove, for it to bake to perfection, with any luck.

But here are a few things I have learned that apply to most bread making. To help keep my thoughts in order, I will use a standard white bread recipe as an example.

Lets see. Mix, knead, raise, shape, raise, bake.

There, that pretty much covers it. Done!

Well, okay, not quite done.

This one turned out a little on the large, Godzilla of all bread side.

So lets say we assemble the following ingredients to make a learning loaf of basic white bread. We can use a bread machine to do the mixing and first raising if you want. We can use your mixer to do the manual work for you, or just dig in and do it by hand. For this recipe and for learning purposes, we will do this one by hand. It is good to get your hands in there and feel what it should, and should not, feel like. Continue reading “Bread Baking tips 2: digging in”

Flour is flour…or is it?

Or… do you really care anyway.

I mean, most people’s hearts do not go pitter-pat when their favorite brand of flour goes on sale.

Most people do not get an adrenaline rush seeing a back stock of assorted flours lining their shelves.

But you don’t have to get all that excited about it to want to know a little more about the mainstay of your baking repertoire. Anyone who bakes at all for their families has to eventually deal with what kind of flour to use  and whats the difference between this and that. I did do a post a while back, intending it to be a series on baking bread. It did mention flours. But it petered out. Okay, techniquely, I petered out. So here I am again.

And yes, my favorite brand of flour was on sale and I bought them out.

Keep in mind this is just a brief nod to flour power. You can find entire chapters in baking books going on an on about flours. But I figure you probably don’t really want to know that much. Just the facts ma’am.

So, what brought this whole flour thing on? How about  watching several loaves of my cinnamon raisin swirl bread bake up beautifully, then sink or collapse sideways after getting it out of the pan unable to sustain its own structure. And that was using bread flour! it looked like a mighty zeppelin running out of gas and listing to port.

And my white bread: soft, velvety texture, but so soft it too leans over and mushes down from its own weight.

remember sad sack?

What is going on? Continue reading “Flour is flour…or is it?”

Grannies Homemade Noodles

I remember my grandma teaching me how to make homemade noodles. The only measurements she used was occasionally an eggshell to add a little extra water for dry dough. “just a half an eggshells worth.”

They were a favorite of mine growing up, a favorite of my daughters while she was growing up. Who knows who’s next? You’ll have to pretend you are learning at my elbow, I’ll have to pretend I’m your grandma, and I’ll have to figure out the measurements as I go, except an eggshells worth of water. Continue reading “Grannies Homemade Noodles”

Sweet Dough 2, old fashioned way

So, you don’t have a bread machine? That’s no problemo because making dough is so terribly easy. I have many recipes. Here is an old standby. You can also use the bread machine version of sweet dough, (←click) but just make it by hand! Use this same basic technique: Mix, knead, raise. This recipe can also be used in your bread machine with the ‘dough only’ cycle.

Grannies Buttermilk Pancakes

Hot off the griddle!

 My all time favorite breakfast when I was a sprout, was my grandmas buttermilk pancakes. Even though it was my mom making them most of the time, it was grandmas pancakes! They were usually very thin and tender. I could eat as many as I was allowed and of course, I was a bottomless pit in those days. Like all growing kids.

I have made them for years with have no written recipe. I am going to give it to you here the way I usually do it, by the seat of my pants.(eww) Afterward, I will add measurements from another recipe I found very similar to my grandmas. Continue reading “Grannies Buttermilk Pancakes”

Rustic Bread (and why I love this pot)

This beauty comes from my Americas Test Kitchen book, who adapted it from a recipe of Mark Bittmans, who got the idea  from the Sullivan Street Bakery. This here bread recipe is groundbreaking, at least in my book. The technique is dead simple and you achieve that elusive, perfectly crackling crust. It’s almost not fair that even beginners, with no baking experience can, with this one recipe and the perfect pot, turn out this jaw dropping rustic loaf of bread. Continue reading “Rustic Bread (and why I love this pot)”