Saturday, 14 July 2018

Prelude: All about Flour

quote [ Flour Treatise - Non frames ]

Exact US equivalents for European flours do not exist. Different categories are used in each country as universally accepted nomenclature does not exist in this field. A clear and concise description of the differences in flour in France and the US can be found in a text authored by Bilheux, Escoffier, Herve, and Pouradier (2). The discussion lends itself as much to the description of the characteristics of Italian flour as to French.


Attempting to describe the differences between flour in the Italy and the United States (US) presents a number of challenges because there is no single source of definitive explanations and definitions. What follows is a review of the literature and included information excerpted from a variety of Italian and English language texts.

Additionally, we include our own breadmaking experience. We have assumed that many visitors to The Artisan do not have access to the texts that we have used as the basis for this work. Consequently, we have taken the liberty to quote liberally from the source materials. We have also provided references for these works for those who may be interested in further research. The purpose of this research is to provide enough technical information to allow a baker, whether serious home or commercial, to make informed flour choices when attempting to duplicate Italian breads.


As presented throughout the remainder of this text, the evaluation of essential factors relative to the quality of flour is more often than not made by laboratory analyses. As a rule, both commercial and serious home bakers in the US are given minimal technical information regarding the majority of the wheat flours that are available for use. They are provided the type flour, i.e. patent, high-gluten, all-purpose, bleached or unbleached, pastry, etc., whether or not the flour is made up of hard or soft wheat, or a blend, and a per cent protein content. Other information, such as the results from laboratory analyses, is not readily obtainable. It has only recently become common knowledge to the general public that the characteristics and quality of a particular flour (such as all-purpose) may differ according to geographic region.

By contrast, Italian and other European commercial bakers have a greater variety of flours and more technical information available to them than do their American counterparts. For instance, a list of the flours available from Molino SIMA di Argenta includes 8 type 00, 9 type 0, and 1 type whole wheat flour, in addition to 2 type 00 flour for domestic use. Analytic data such as the "W", "P/L" and per cent dry gluten (discussed below) are provided with a description of each flour and its suggested use. Home bakers in Italy are given short shrift as Italian law does not require information about the particular flour being used to be published on flour packaging. We have provided as much information as we could locate in the section labeled "Criteria for Judging Flour". Many reading this treatise may find it disheartening that the flour quality indicators available to European and not readily available here. For quite a while only one company does provide information: Cooks Natural Products. As of late, more mills are providing that information to professional bakers. Some will provide these data to home bakers upon request. The Artisan's position is that every mill, large and small, should provide the information. It is up to you, our visitors to demand same.

Flour Descriptions & Definitions

Quaglia of the Instituto Nazionale della Nutrizione in Rome, Italy (1) informs us that when the wheat cultivated in Canada [Manitoba], and the US is milled, the result is strong flour characterized by elevated insoluble protein (gluten forming) content and diminished starch content. By contrast, when the wheat cultivated in Italy, France, England, and partly in Australia, is milled, the result is weak flour characterized by elevated starch content and a diminished insoluble protein content. Consequently, duplicating European bread using American and Canadian flours may be an exercise in futility unless the baker, whether at home or in a commercial bakery, understands the physical and chemical characteristics of the flours available to him or her and adjusts his or her formulas and recipes accordingly.

Exact US equivalents for European flours do not exist. Different categories are used in each country as universally accepted nomenclature does not exist in this field. A clear and concise description of the differences in flour in France and the US can be found in a text authored by Bilheux, Escoffier, Herve, and Pouradier (2). The discussion lends itself as much to the description of the characteristics of Italian flour as to French. To wit:

"Flour: There are many types of white wheat flours, each having its own particular characteristics. Although the recipes in this book were originally based on French flours, we have tried to find the best possible substitutes for the flours called for in each recipe; but keep in mind these are meant to be substitutions and in no way are they to be considered direct correlations.

In France, [Artisan Note: In Italy as well] flour tends to be softer and lower in gluten and protein than in the United States. Flour milled from soft wheat does not have the elasticity required for breads. Therefore the French wheat is sometimes milled with hard wheat imported from the United States or Canada. This makes it difficult to duplicate the same flour in another country. Flour in the United States with similar specifications as flour in France may respond very differently when used. This does not mean, as many frustrated bakers have thought in the past, that wonderful French breads are out of reach outside of France. Though identical results are difficult to recreate in another country, equally good bread can be achieved. We recommend that the reader try different brands and types of flours available to find the flour that works best for them ...

Below are descriptions of various types of white wheat flours available in the United States. The germ and bran are removed from the kernel when white flour is milled, even though they contain nearly all the fiber and B vitamins; they are removed because they also negate the elastic properties of the gluten, which is so vital to the texture and crumb of the bread. The flours discussed here are milled from soft spring and soft winter wheat, which are generally grown in eastern states, and hard spring and hard winter wheat, which are grown in the northern Midwest and Canada. Soft flour contains 8.4 to 8.8 percent protein, 0.44 to 0.48 percent ash, 1 percent fat, and 76 to 77 percent starch. Hard flour contains 11.2 to 11.8 percent protein, 0.45 to 0.50 percent ash, 1.2 percent fat, and 74 to 75 percent starch. The higher protein found in hard flour indicates a higher level of gluten, which results in a more elastic, better-textured bread. The ash content is the quantity of ash resulting after burning a given amount of flour. The lower the ash content, the higher the quality of the flour. The hard wheat flours most concern the bread baker.

In the United States, the improver azodicarbonamide is often added to flours to mature them. It is activated when the flour is mixed into the dough. This helps strengthen the gluten and consequently improves the elasticity and rising of the dough. Natural maturing takes from two to three months.

Straight flour is considered a good flour to use for bread making. It is 100 percent extraction flour. The extraction rate is the amount of flour obtained from wheat after milling, when the bran and germ are removed, leaving the endosperm, which contains most of the protein and carbohydrates. For example, based on 100 pounds of wheat, approximately 72 pounds of flour remains after extraction; the other 28 pounds is used for feed. The entire 72 pounds or 100 percent, of the remaining flour is straight flour. Straight flour is used to make patent, clear, and low-grade flours.

Patent flour is the purest and highest-quality commercial wheat flour available. Patent flour is made from the center portion of the endosperm. Patent flour is classified inWheatKernal.jpg (12482 bytes) five categories, depending on the amount of straight flour it obtains. Extra short or fancy and first patent flours are made from soft wheat and are used for cake flours. Extra short or fancy patent contains 40 to 60 percent straight flour. First patent flour contains 60 to 70 percent straight flour. Short patent flour made from hard wheat is the most highly recommended commercially milled flour for bread baking, it contains 70 to 80 percent straight flour. Medium patent flour contains 80 to 90 percent straight flour and is also excellent for bread baking, as is long patent flour, which is made with 90 to 95 percent straight flour. It is up to the baker to determine which of these flours best serves his or her purposes.

Clear flour is the by-product of straight flour that remains after patent flour is removed. Clear flour is graded into fancy, first clear, and second clear. Clear flour is darker in color than the other flours previously mentioned, as it is made from the part of the endosperm closest to the bran. Fancy clear flour, milled from soft wheat, is used to make pastry flour. First clear, milled from hard wheat, is often blended by the baker with low-gluten flours to lighten the texture of breads such as rye or whole-wheat yet maintain the deep color desirable in such breads. Second clear flour has a very high ash content, is very dark, and is not generally used for food.

Stuffed straight flour is straight flour with some clear flour added.

The following types of flours are made from some of the flours discussed above. They are often named by their application rather than how they are milled.

Cake flour has the least amount of gluten of all wheat flours, making it best for light, delicate products such as sponge cakes, genoise, and some cookie batters. Made from extra short or fancy patent flour, milled from soft wheat, cake flour often comes bleached, which gives it a bright, white appearance. In this book, flours are assumed to be unbleached unless otherwise indicated.

Pastry flour also has a low gluten content, though it contains a bit more than cake flour. Made from fancy clear flour, a soft wheat flour, it is used for making tart and pie doughs, some cookie batters, and muffins.

All-purpose flour is made from a blend of hard wheat flours or sometimes a blend of soft and hard wheat flours. All-purpose flour varies throughout regions in the United States; blends are often determined by the flours available and the cooking styles of the area. It is called all-purpose flour because it is intended for most baking needs for general household use, not commercial use, where having several different flours, each used for a specific purpose, is feasible.

High-gluten flour is milled from hard wheat and has an especially high protein content, making it high in gluten. It is often blended by the baker with other low-gluten flours to give them more strength and elasticity. It is also used for particularly crusty breads and pizza doughs. It does not darken the color of the final product, as does clear flour."

The information that follows reviews a variety of sources in an effort to present information relevant to the flours used in bread baking. One purpose that we hope to serve by including the detailed and technical sections that follows is to more clearly describe the properties of flour found in the US and in Italy, and to assist interested readers in developing insights into the complexity of our task --- making and baking breads. We have included this because a number of visitors to The Artisan have requested an in depth discussion of flours. Such a discussion is pbbga_Gif.gif (5747 bytes)ointless without the technical details. Unfortunately much of the test information necessary to understand the flour with which you may be working is not provided by the manufacturer. It should be. The Bread Bakers Guild of America is attempting to remedy this situation. Should you wish to join in this effort, log onto their site (Click on the logo at Right) and let them know. It is important for the baker, whether a home or a commercial baker, to realize that the information is available at the mill. Perhaps if more of us demanded this information we would not have to bake breads in what amounts to "the dark".

The Milling of Flour

The following discussion of the milling process is quoted from Pyler (3). A full description of wheat types, wheat class differentiation, wheat grades, and the structure of the wheat kernel, is beyond the scope of this presentation. The following information is presented as background to the topic of the classification of flours in the US and Europe. The botanical species under discussion is Triticum aestivum (T. vulgare), or common wheat:

"The wheats selected for milling must be adapted to the requirements of their intended end uses. Thus, bread flours are milled from hard wheats, cake and pastry flours from soft wheats, and pasta flours from durum wheats. Moreover, given the variations in character among varieties within the major wheat classes, another vital operation of the miller is to blend wheats of different varieties and from different sources to yield flours of the desired protein content and uniform baking performance…

The series of individual break and reduction operations in the milling process gives rise to as many as 150 different product streams in a modern flour mill…

Depending on which flour streams are combined to yield the final product, [Artisan Note:the separation of the grades of wheat is accomplished by a sifting process] different commercial flour grades are obtained. When all the streams are combined, the result is a so-called "straight" flour. Frequently, the more refined streams are kept separate and sold at a premium as patent flours, while the remaining lesser streams yield so-called "clear" flours. The most common types of commercial flours include "fancy patent," which contains 40 to 60% of the total flour yield; "short patent," which comprises [the next 20%] or the 60 to 80% [percentile] of the straight flour; "medium patent," with [the next 10%] 80 to 90% [percentile] of the straight flour; and "long patent" with [the next 5%] 90 to 95% [percentile] of the total flour. The clear flours that remain after each separation of the patent flours are designated as "fancy clear," "first clear," and "second clear," respectively, the degree of refinement decreasing in that order. The lower grade clear flours are too dark in color and too poor in baking quality to make satisfactory bread flours. Some of the better grades are used for admixture with rye flour, while the lower grades find uses outside the baking industry. The various grades of flour differ in their chemical and physical characteristics and require different treatment in the bakery…

The relationship and the percentages of the various flour grades obtained from wheat can be seen in Chart 1 by clicking on the "Extraction Rate Sample Window". [NOTE: To print the contents of the window, right click your mouse, then click "Save image as..". Once saved the image can be printed as usual.] Of interest is the fact that 100 lb. of cleaned wheat yields 72 lb. of flour and 28 lb. of feed material. Wheat, on an average, contains about 85% of endosperm. It is evident, therefore, that an extraction rate of 72% falls short of the potential yield. This failure to extract all of the endosperm as flour, even with advanced milling methods, is caused by the fact that the peripheral zones of the endosperm adhere so firmly to the aleurone and bran layers that complete separation is not practical under commercial milling conditions…"

The following information relative to the ranges to be expected in various batches of wheat flour was obtained from Quaglia, in the Manuale del Panificazione (3), and is summarized in Table I. It summarized by Professor Quaglia as follows:

"The chemical composition of the flour depends upon the characteristics of the wheat and the extraction rate; in general the variations can range in the following manner:

Table I


64 - 71%

Insoluble Proteins (Gluten)

9 - 14%

Soluble Proteins

2 - 4%


1 - 2%


1 - 2%

Mineral Substances

0.3 - 0.7%


1 - 15%

Manuale de Panificazione (1) and Professor Quaglia's book Scienza e Technologia Panificazione (4) are gold mines of information about bread making and flour. Neither has yet been translated into English.

The information presented in Table II was excerpted from a text by Capello (5) and displays these variations according to specific rates of extractions:

Table II


50% Extraction

72% Extraction

80% Extraction

85% Extraction

Whole Wheat Extraction








6 - 7.5

8 - 11

8 - 13

9 - 14

10 - 15


72 - 74

65 - 70

64 - 69

64 - 68

60 - 65


1 - 2

1 - 2

1 - 2

2 .0- 2.5

1.6 - 2.0


0.4 - 0.6

0.8 - 1.0

1.0 - 1.5

1.2 - 2.0

2.0 - 3.0



0.15 - 0.20

0.2 - 0.4

0.6 - 1.0

2.0 - 5.0


0.2 - 0.5

0.3 - 0.6

0.6 - 0.8

0.7- 0.9

1.5 - 2.5

The variations above, while seemingly small are not insignificant and are responsible for some notable differences found in flour quality.

The Classification of Flour

Diverse flour classification systems exist in North America and Europe. Table III is adapted from a text by Schunemann and Treu (6). The original German edition of this textbook was published in 1986 to meet the technical requirements of the West German educational program for apprentice bakers. The English edition was published in 1988. Where appropriate, the techniques and terminology were adapted to North American standards. Table III depicts the types of wheat flour. Please note that Rye and Other Flours, while depicted in Table III, are not part of this discussion.

Table III

Flour Types

Hard Wheat Flours

Top Patent

0.35 - 0.40% ash content: 11.0-12.0% protein

Uses: - Danishes, sweet doughs, yeast doughnuts and smaller volume breads and buns.

First Baker's

0.50 - 0.55%. ash content: 13.0-13.8% protein

Uses: All purpose strong baker's flour, breads, buns, soft rolls and puff pastry

First Clears

0.70-0.80% ash content: 15.5-17% protein

Uses: A dark very high protein flour used as a base for rye bread production; poor color not a factor in finished product.

Second Clears

Low grade flour, not used in food production. Constitutes less than 5% of flour produced by a mill.

Soft Wheat Flours

Cake Flour

0.36-0.40% ash content: 7.8 - 8.5% protein, chlorinated to 4.5- 5.0 pH.

Uses: High-ratio cakes (cakes with a high amount of sugar and liquid in proportion to flour), angel food cakes and jelly rolls.

Pastry Flour

0.40-0.45% ash content/8.0-8.8% protein, chlorinated to 5.0-5.5 pH, (also available unchlorinated).

Uses: Cake, pastries and pies.

Cookie Flour

0.45-0.50% ash content: 9.0 - 10.5% protein

Uses: Cookies and blended flours. For large-scale manufacturers, flour can be chlorinated to the user's specifications.

Whole Wheat Flour

Various bran coat granulations produce coarse to fine whole-wheat

Rye Flours

Light Rye

(75% extraction) 0.55-0.65% ash content [See Note below]

Uses: Can be blended up to 40% with white flour without a major loss of loaf volume.

Medium Rye

(87% extraction) 0.65 - 1.00% ash content.

Uses: Up to 30% blend with white flour

Dark Rye

(100% extraction) Limited to 20% flour blend before significant volume reduction occurs in the product.

Rye Meals

Fine/medium/coarse/pumpernickel and flaked. Consist of a variety of broken or cracked rye grains after being classified in a series of sieves.

Other Flours

Stone-Ground Flour

(100% extraction) Usually untreated and, because of germ content, is subject to limited shelf life.

Cracked Wheat/Rye

Available in coarse, medium or fine granulations


Semolina A fine meal consisting of particles of coarsely-ground durum.


Extraction Rate is defined as the percentage of flour obtained from a given amount of grain.

The data in Table IV was obtained from Boriani, Guido, Fabrizio Ostani (7). Italian law 4.7. 1967. n. 580 establishes that common wheat flours destined for commercial use can only be produced in the following types and with the following characteristics:

Table IV

Per 100 Parts of Dry Substance

Type & Denomination

Maximum Moisture %

Maximum Ash

Maximum Cellulose

Minimum Gluten

Flour Type 00





Flour Type 0





Flour Type 1





Flour Type 2





Flour -Wheat


1.40 - 1.60



The table below is adapted from Calvel, Raymond, James MacGuire, and Ronald Wirtz, "The Taste of Bread", Gaithersburg, MD; Aspen Publishers, 2001.

Table V

Classification for Six Types of Flour in France


Ash content as % of Dry Matter Rate of Extraction (Correlative Method)

Type 45

Below 0.50


Type 55

from 0.50 to 0.60/0.62


Type 65

from 0.62 to 0.75


Type 80

from 0.75 to 0.90


Type 110

from 1 to 1.20


Type 150

above 1.40


Likewise the information below is also from Calvel et al. This chart compares North American flour grades and offers comments relative to French flour.

Flour Grade Protein Level Comments


7 to 8.5 protein

8.5 to 9.5 protein

It has been put forth in some circles that French flours can be imitated by “cutting” the extra strength of North American bread flours with weaker cake or pastry flours. The logic of this is attractive, but it does not pan out.
Hotel and Restaurant (all purpose)


10 to 11.5 protein

11.5 to 12.2 protein

No North American flour is an exact equivalent of French type 55 bread flour, and bakers must look carefully for an appropriate flour and make certain adjustments … Professor Calvel has had great success in North America with both “bread” flours on this lower end of the protein range and also with “all purpose” (hotel and restaurant) flours of above average strength. Significantly, many months of flour testing conducted by Didier Rosada and Tom McMahon at the National Baking Center in Minneapolis corroborates this, for 12.5% appears to be the maximum percentage of protein desirable for hearth breads. Much work remains to be done, and artisan bread movement has begun to spark an interest on the part of mills to produce appropriate flours.
Premium High Gluten

Medium High Gluten

13.8 to 14.2 protein

13.3 to 13.7 protein

The high gluten flours are too high in gluten despite Professor Calvel’s mention of stronger flour for certain recipes.
Strong Spring Patent

13 to 13.3 protein

First Clear

14 plus protein

Clear flours can add strength to rye doughs when used as the wheat portion, and where their darker color is of little importance.
Whole Wheat

14 plus protein

Stone ground whole-wheat flours are of uniform granulation and contain no additives, but must be used before the wheat germ oil oxidizes and causes rancid flavors.
Ash Content

Italian flour is classified by ash content. Ash content refers to the mineral content of a flour, and is determined by burning a given quantity of flour under prescribed conditions and measuring the residue. The mineral content varies and depends on many factors, such as the variety of wheat, the terrain, the fertilization, and the climate. The greater portion of minerals found in a kernel of wheat is contained in the germ, and husk, or bran, and the least amount in the endosperm. As a consequence, if a flour contains a greater number of bran particles, it has a more elevated ash content. The determination of the ash content serves to estimate the degree of the endosperm separation from the bran during milling, i.e. the grade of flour. Generally, flours thought to be of higher quality are more refined and produce less ash.

In spite of the fact that there is a positive correlation of ash content with the extraction rate of flour, and that European bakers make great use of this indicator, Pyler (3) states:

"The ash content of flour cannot, however, be taken as an unequivocal index of flour extraction for two previously mentioned reasons: (a) the mineral content of wheat varieties cultivated under different growth conditions can vary markedly, and (b) not all wheat varieties have the same mineral content gradient from the peripheral tissues of the wheat kernel to the endosperm. Since the bran portions of wheat contribute to the color of flour, the objective measurement of flour color may be a more reliable indication of its quality"…

The following tables are provided for the readers general interest. Table VI and table VII are excerpted from Il Manuale del Panificatore (5). Table VI compares Italian and German flour types relative to ash content. Table VII describes French flour types according to ash content and extraction rate. Table VIII is excerpted from Special and Decorative Breads (2), and compares French and American flour relative to ash content and extraction ratio.

Table VI

Italian Classification

Extraction Rate

German Classification

Type 00


Type 405

Type 0


Type 550

Type 1


Type 812

Type 2


Type 1200

Table VII

French Classification

Extraction Rate

Ash Content

Type 45

60 - 70 %

250 and an "S" > 10 will tolerate long processes of varying times, while a weak flour will not. Table X compares Brabender Units and stability factors for a variety of flour qualities (9).

Table X

Excellent Quality

Breakdown of dough between 0 and 30 BU: S>10 minutes

Good quality

Breakdown of dough between 30 and 50 BU: S not less than 7 minutes

Fair quality

Breakdown of dough between 50 and 70 BU: S>not less than 5 minutes

Poor quality

Breakdown of dough between 70 and 130 BU: S>not less than 3 minutes

Inferior quality

Breakdown higher than 130 BU

All of these data are used at the mills to determine the quality of the flours produced. We have discovered only one mill which provides these data. That is Cooks Natural Products. Log onto their Internet site and see how they present their wheat and flour information. It includes, Alveograph and Farinograph data, the Falling Number, Ash content and a lot more!

Fermenting Ability and Enzyme Content

The quantity of enzymes (amylases) contained in flour determines the rate at which starch is converted to sugar and thus rendered accessible to the yeasts. Alpha-amylase is the specific enzyme measured in this test relative to its ability to liquify starch. Too high an amylase content results in high fermentation sugar values in the dough, whereas too low an amylase content results in a dough with little gassing power(2). The alpha amylase activity and its relationships to the bread baking process are measured by "The Falling Number". Another amylase, Beta-amylase is also involved in the breakdown of starch into sugars, especially maltose. Readers interested in an exhausive discussion of enzymes and baking are referred to both volumes of Pyler (3)

The Falling Number (or Hagberg Index) is indicative of the amylase (specifically alpha-amylase) activity and the fermentation process taking place in a wheat flour dough. It is based on the rapid gelatinization of flour suspended in water and measures the degradation of starch made available from alpha-amylase activity in rising temperature conditions similar to those of bread making.

The following Falling Number values are inversely proportional to the amylase activity. The information provided below (Table XI) is meant as a guide. Contact your flour mill to ascertain specific numbers for the flour you use.

Table XI

Falling Number


6- 150

Elevated amylase activity. This flour is derived from germinated grain, and its use results in a bread crumb that remains sticky and under baked. It is nearly unusable unless it is adequately mixed with other flour with a higher Falling Number.

150 - 220

Superior amylase activity to that which is normal. This flour requires a correction by being blended with flours of a higher Falling Number or using particular bread making methods during production.

220 - 280

Normal amylase activity.

>280 - 300

Weak amylase activity. The use of this flour results in bread that is not well developed, with low volume and too dry a crumb. It requires the addition of diastatic malt.

Moisture Content

If the moisture content of a flour is elevated, the flour will have a shorter shelf life and lower yield. A guide to water content and flour relative to storability is as follows: A water content greater than 16% cannot be stored. A water content of about 15% has limited storage potential. A water content of less than 15% indicates good storage potential (6).

Absorption Ability

Absorption measures the amount of water that can be absorbed by a given quantity of flour. In bread making, it is usually preferable to have flour that can absorb a large amount of water. Measurements of absorption are done to determine the amount of water the dough can absorb, which in turn indicates dough yield and shelf life. Optimum absorption represents the maximum amount of water, as a percent of the flour weight, that will produce a high yield of bread during the baking process (1). Other tests exist which measure a flour's ability to absorb water, but we shall not discuss them here. They are beyond the scope of this presentation, but may be found by examining the references provided.

The Maltose Number relates directly to the gassing power of the flour. Stronger flours have higher gassing power.

A graphic display of some of the information presented above is contained in Table XII below, which was excerpted from Baking, The Art and Science (6).

Table XII

Weak flour for biscuits,sponge cakes and tart doughs Standard-type flour for white bread, wheat/rye bread and rolls Strong or high protein flour for white bread, French bread and soft rolls.
RMT-Volume Yield 400 - 670 620 - 730 710 - 760
Protein Content 8 - 11.75 11.2 - 13.5 12.7 - 14
Maltose Number 1 - 2 2 - 3 2 - 3.5
Fall Number 200 - 300
Note: The Volume Yield is done by the RMT = Rapid Mix Test, a Standard Baking test for bread


As presented above, scientific evaluation of essential factors relative to the quality of flour can be, and usually is made, by laboratory analyses. As a rule, both commercial and serious home bakers in the US are given minimal technical information regarding the majority of the wheat flours that are available for use. More often than not, they are provided the type flour, i.e. patent, high-gluten, all-purpose, bleached or unbleached, pastry, etc., whether or not the flour is made up of hard or soft wheat, or a blend, and a per cent protein content. Other information, such as the results from laboratory analyses, is not readily obtainable. In fact, many bakers are not aware that the information derived from the various tests and analyses described here are available in the laboratories of the commercial millers. We have not ascertained why these results are not generally available, nor why bakers have not demanded why they are not made available.

By contrast, Italian commercial bakers have a greater variety of flours and more technical information about these flours available to them. For instance, a list of the flours available from Molino SIMA di Argenta includes 20 types of flours and their technical and analytic data. These data include the "W", "P/L" and percent dry gluten [gluten producing albumen(protein)] and are provided with a description of each flour and its suggested use.

American flour companies provide only sparse information about the flours they sell. The following discussion is excepted from a text by Corriher (10) regarding current domestic flour product labeling practice in the US:

"The amount of protein in a particular flour is an indicator of bread-baking quality for plain white flour alone because rye flour, oat flour, and rice flour contain proteins unconnected with gluten, as does whole wheat flour with the proteins in the wheat germ. That means reading the label on these flours relative to their protein content will not reveal much about the bread they will make."

Unfortunately, new US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations have made labels less informative even for white flour. The protein content stated on the label of a bag of flour is subject to a round-off rule, so flour labeled as having 9 grams of protein per serving actually can have from 8.50 to 9.49 grams. Under the old regulations (before May 1994), the serving size was 1 cup, and the protein content on the label effectively showed what the best use of a flour was. Thus, a flour labeled as 9 grams (protein) was indeed a low-protein flour, ideal for pie crusts and quick breads whereas a flour labeled as 14 grams protein (13.50 to 14.49 grams per cup) was a high-protein flour, excellent for yeast breads.

Under the new regulations, however, the serving size is 1/4 cup or about 30 grams. With rounding, any flour containing 2.50 to 3.49 grams of protein per 1/4 cup can be labeled as containing 3 grams of protein. This means both moderately low-protein Southern flour (about 9 grams per cup) and high-protein unbleached flour (about 14 grams per cup) can be labeled as 3 grams per 1/4 cup. In fact, most flour on the market now says 3 grams of protein, telling you almost nothing about the protein content so important to baking and to cooking.

You can call the flour company and ask the exact protein content, but in the experience of The Artisan staff what you are told by a consumer representative is not always reliable.

We have provided the following table (Table XIII) from Corriher as a general guide. This provides approximate values for protein in both grams per cup and percentages. The measure of flour strength that is used professionally is percentage protein, and this same parameter is important to home bakers.

Table XIII - Protein Comparisons - Click Here

In Conclusion

One of the things we have tried not to do on The Artisan is to try and convince visitors that there is a single method by which Italian style bread should be made. We have spent more years than we like to remember unlearning techniques that were presented as authentic and irrefutable in texts published in this country, and we try not to repeat that experience. To a certain extent, we have an advantage when attempting to reproduce Italian regional breads, because we have experienced these breads ourselves during numerous visits to Italy. We know how breads were made, and tasted, nearly 30 years ago, and how they are made, and taste, today. We have eaten the breads of artisan bakers, and those of a more industrial persuasion. We know the look and taste of regional breads and we know when a recipe or a bread falls short of the original. This knowledge is a benchmark for everything that we do.
Because so many of the texts, magazines, and catalog product literature prominent today "think" for us, we have shied away from thinking for you, our visitors. We have and will continue to present as many basic formulas (recipes), techniques, and variations as are available to us. It is our desire that you, the baker, decide for yourself which breads you prefer to bake time and again. That being said, we will now present our own personal preferences in respect to flour suitable for making Italian style bread.

We do not prefer organic, unbleached, high protein, or all purpose flour over other flour. We have not found that bread made with organic unbleached flour is necessarily superior any other. This surprised us, because we often read that organic grains and methods produce a tastier, higher-quality flour. It may be that organic flour production is still in its infancy, and as it develops so will its performance and consistency. We do prefer organic flour in recipes which call for whole wheat flour.

We have tried conventional flours categorized as both high-protein and high-gluten. Although high-protein flour, commonly referred to as bread flour, works well for the style of bread produced in the US, we have not found it to work well for European, and in this instance, Italian style breads. Prof. Raymond Calvel of France is quoted on this topic in Volume 1, Number 4, of The Bread Bakers Guild of America Newsletter, published in July of 1993.

"It is a common belief that high gluten, spring wheat is the best choice for hearth baked breads. But Professor Calvel questions that belief, pointing out that, although spring wheat does have a high quantity of gluten, it does not have the quality of gluten needed for the long-fermentation, non-machined, hearth baked breads made by most Guild members. Instead, he feels the gluten in hard winter wheat provides the best possible combinations of performance characteristics..."

It is on this last point that we differ from Prof. Calvel regarding Italian style bread. We have tried a variety of unbleached all-purpose flours, milled from 100% hard red winter wheat, and have not found these flours preferable, especially as these wheats relate to the texture and taste of the resulting bread.

Our preferred flour is an unbleached all-purpose flour, ranging in protein content from 9.8 - 11%. This unbleached, all-purpose flour is a blend of hard red wnter wheat flour and soft winter wheat flour. This flour has proven to be the most dependable relative to performance characteristics and consistency. It is our flour of choice when making Italian style bread

We have seen it suggested, in more than one instance, that either pastry or cake flour can be blended with unbleached all-purpose flour to approximate Italian flour. We have also seen it suggested that high-protein flour be utilized in starters, especially for breads with long fermentation. While we know the blending of a variety of flours and the use of more than one type of flour can be effective in a commercial setting, we have not found it to be the case when working with those flours available to the serious home baker.

In our opinion, the best way in which to judge flour quality is to experiment with a number of flours and determine which produces the most favorable results. We also recommend that time be spent becoming acquainted with the concepts we have presented. They are not terribly exciting in that they do not tempt one's sense of smell as a freshly baked loaf of bread might, but the end result of knowing the "W's", "P's" and "L's" of your flour may well be a better loaf of bread.


Quaglia, G.B. Manuale del Panificatore, an edition from the publishers of Panificatione & Pasticerria.

Bilheux, Roland, Alain Escoffier, Daniel Herve, and Jean-Marie Pouradier, Special and Decorative Breads, Vol 1, New York:Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989.

Pyler, Ernst J. Baking Science & Technology, Third Edition. Kansas City: Sosland Publishing Co., 1988.

Quaglia, G.B. Scienza e Technologia della Panificazione, Pinerolo Chiriotti, 1984, Italia.

Capello, Roberto. Il Manuale del Panificatore, Bergamo: Editrice San Marco s.r.l., 1993.

Schunemann, Claus and Gunter Treu. Baking, The Art and Science. Calgary:Baker Tech Inc., 1986.

Boriani, Guido, Fabrizio Ostani. Il pane, Milan: Ottaviano, 1986.

Molino SIMA, Ricettario , a recipe booklet published by Sima di Argenta. This booklet indicates that it used Quaglia, G.B., Scienza e Technologia della Panificazione, Pinerolo: Chiriotti, 1984, and Manuale del Panificatore (1) as its major sources of reference.

Giorilli, Piergiorgio and Laura, Simona, Il Pane, Un Arte, Una Technologia. Milano: Franco Lucisano Editore, 1996.

Corriher, Shirley. CookWise, The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking, New York: William Morrow and Company, lnc., 1997.

Cantore, Claudio, a series of Personal Communications during 1996-1998 . Claudio's Specialty Breads, Castroville, CA.

Addendum to The Flour Treatise and The Flour Test

There have been many advances in the flour industry relative to artisan bread baking since The Flour Treatise was first written. The Introduction to The Flour Treatise includes the following: “Many reading this treatise may find it disheartening that the flour quality indicators available to European are not readily available here. One company does provide information. It is Cooks Natural Products.” We are pleased to say that this is no longer the case. Information such as flour specifications and baking test results are currently available to a much wider audience, via flour purveyor websites and knowledgeable technical and sales personnel.

The Artisan was informed that General Mills Gold Medal flour was about to launch a new consumer product, Harvest King flour. We contacted General Mills and they graciously agreed to send us flour prior to its availability to the consumer. We have been using this flour to make many of the recipes posted on The Artisan (including the recipe used for The Flour Test), as well as recipes from our favorite bread making books; Artisan Baking Across America, and Bread, A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. The Conclusion to The Flour Treatise states, “Our preferred flour is an unbleached all-purpose flour, ranging in protein content from 9.8 - 11%. This unbleached, all-purpose flour is a blend of hard red winter wheat flour and soft winter wheat flour. This flour has proven to be the most dependable relative to performance characteristics and consistency. It is our flour of choice when making Italian style bread.” As a result of our working with Harvest King flour, it has become our preferred flour when making bread.

For your convenience we have included a copy of a news release posted on the General Mills website:

Harvest King Flour Fuels a Baking Renaissance

Flour formulated for artisan baking now available to home bakers: Dateline - 05/23/2006

MINNEAPOLIS — An artisan bread renaissance is emerging with an emphasis on quality ingredients, proper fermentation, hand shaping and craftsmanship. And now, artisan breads aren't achievable just by professional bakers. They can be created at home as Gold Medal brings Harvest King flour, specially developed for the artisan bread industry, to consumers in September 2006.

"With Harvest King, we created domestic flour that is perfectly suited to the discerning style and methods of artisan baking," said Tim Bennett, Gold Medal marketing manager. `We are excited to offer Harvest King to the growing number of home bakers who want to participate in this rich tradition and create perfect, beautiful loaves of bread every time they bake."

Harvest King will now be available to home bakers. Previously available only to professional artisan bakers, Harvest King is specially formulated to produce wholesome, full-flavored artisan breads. Harvest King flour is milled from 100 percent select hard winter wheat. In addition to imparting a golden crust, winter wheat provides the perfect balance of strength and tolerance required for artisan baking's long, slow fermentation process. Harvest King wheat is specially milled to the ideal ash and protein level, which provides optimum baking characteristics and delivers the desired crumb structure and crust texture. And Harvest King flour is unbleached and unbromated, making it ideal for the unique techniques that are the key to artisan baking.

Preserving a Tradition

Gold Medal set out to create a flour that would enable American bakers to create European style artisan breads with a domestic flour. To achieve this, the Gold Medal team visited the National Baking Center to better understand the process of artisan baking and the needs of artisan bakers. Because artisan breads are hand-formed and slow-fermented, they require a flour with unique characteristics and specifications. After learning from master artisan bakers and conducting numerous tests, Gold Medal found that its Harvest King flour, available to professional bakers on the West Coast for many years, offered the perfect characteristics for artisan baking.

As a result, Harvest King flour became Gold Medal's professional artisan baking brand. After decades of use by professional bakers, Harvest King flour will now become part of the home baker's pantry, delivering the consistency of professional baking in every loaf.

About Gold Medal

Gold Medal is "America's No. 1 Flour." Founded in 1881, it was the first product of General Mills, delivering unsurpassed consistency and quality for generations. The tradition continues today in 2006 with more than a dozen Gold Medal products, formulated specifically for perfect results in every type of baking.

Gold Medal® and Harvest King® are registered trademarks of General Mills, Inc.

Technical Data and Specifications for Harvest King flour may be accessed at: Product Specifications on the General Mills website.

Gold Medal Harvest King will replace Gold Medal Better for Bread as stores across the country order flour to replenish their inventory. Please let us know whether or not you agree that Harvest King is a welcome addition to the pantry of artisan bread bakers. Our special thanks to General Mills, to those who helped develop Harvest King flour and to those who are currently making Harvest King available to consumers.
[SFW] [food & drink] [+3 Original]
[by lilmookieesquire@7:41amGMT]

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