Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Cadillac vs. Newbie

Huh? Let me clarify. I'm doing a comparison test between two types of flour.

In one corner we have my old favorite: King Arthur traditional whole wheat flour. I started using this flour b/c another baker told me this was "the cadillac of flour". I have found that this is true. I get very consistent results with my bread using King Arthur. I have never bought any rancid flour, even buying from the grocery store. I usually order directly from them so my flour is fresh, additionally I have been treated very well by their customer service.

In the other corner we have my new discovery: War Eagle Mill organic whole wheat stone-ground flour. So why change a good thing? Well I have long been interested in stone-ground flour because it is supposed to have better nutritional value & flavor than roller milled flour. There is all kinds of information to be found, I never have found any firm comparison on the matter. The National Heart Foundation does briefly discuss the matter. I have used stone ground flour before, but I never had an affordable source for quality flour. That is until I found War Eagle Mill, now I'm willing to give it a try.

So I'm pitting these flours against each other in a run of sourdough bread. This is the easiest bread to test with, because I typically run 2 separate batches simultaneously.

1. Setting up the starter dough:

KA- looks redder
WEM- more golden hue, slightly bigger bran fragments (very slightly), upon tasting is slightly sweet

2. Preparing the bread dough:

KA- typical results for this bread- flour/water proportions perfect
WEM- this flour was wetter, I had to considerately more flour to bring the dough consistency to where I like it to be. Also I had to knead this dough for longer than the KA to get enough gluten development.

3. Bread dough rising:

KA- seemed to have a better rise as you can see from these profile shots
WEM- still rose, just not as much as KA

4. Baking

KA- browned more, perhaps more tannins in bran of flour (gives red color)
WEM- once baked the two loaves seem to be the same size

5. Slice & Taste

KA- seemed to have a more sour taste?
WEM- looks identical to the KA slice, doesn't appear to be a big difference in cell structure (holes in bread)

So at this point from the wetness of the dough and the sweeter taste the WEM flour seems fresher and that is a good thing. But as far as gluten content the KA flour may have a greater amount, and gluten is vital to the bread rising.

Now I'm really not convinced either way. I like supporting a local mill especially if their flour is fresher. But I don't want to sacrifice the quality of my bread. So more tests to come.

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