Finally Recognizing Differences in Flour

I have now used over 250 pounds of flour, and until today, I have never experienced any differences between the different flours that I have used. I started off using bulk “bread flour” from Rainbow Grocery, along with Gold Medal All Purpose flour when I was out of bread flour. My first 3 50 lb sacks were 3 different brands from Giusto’s, and they were all variations of bread flour. I have also used different all purpose flours, including a few that I used when I was baking in Costa Rica.

None of the flours that I have used have said what their gluten contents are, but it is generally regarded that all purpose has around 10-12%, and bread flour has 12-14%. There are other flours such as cake or pastry flour, which are even more refined, and have less gluten. On the other end of the spectrum, there is high-gluten flour, which generally has more than 14%.

I was just starting to get frustrated with my dough, because I was making it to 65%, and then even as low as 60% hydration, and I was still having some stickiness issues and not fully developing the gluten. So yesterday I ran out of my Mello Judith, and today I made my first dough using Power Flour. When I mixed my 65% hydration dough together, at first everything seemed normal. But half an hour later when I did a turn, it was already much more developed. By the second turn I had lost almost all stickiness. Then I fed Dulce, one of my starters, and I noticed that it seemed way thicker than normal (I currently keep my starters at 100% hydration). I went back to my dough, and this time picked it up and started trying to shape right there. I was easily able to stretch it and it was already smooth and shiney. I tested and got an almost fully developed window pane immediately.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the bread when I bake it. I’m guessing all of my formula’s will now come out a bit differently with this new flour. I know that bagels want high gluten flour, as they are real dense and chewy; I’m not so sure of the effect on focaccia, ciabatta, or my other breads. Eventually I will want to have a high gluten flour and a very low gluten flour so that I can blend to choose my gluten level for any given formula.

A very good explanation of different flours can be found here:
http://www.theartisan.net/flour_descriptions_and_definitions.htm

Please let me know if you have had any experience with the differences between flours, or have done any testing with your breads.

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