The Power of Flour – And a Reverse Haiku

You know, I’m just realizing that it has been a long, LONG time since I’ve written a reverse haiku. And never before here at Contemporary Insanity. So, I give you, Reverse Haiku (not Thursday):

hello chill grey wet winter
bring it if you can
my war song is prepared

I tried to make it flour related, especially because the Rhyming Dictionary pushed ‘meteor shower’ as a 5-syllable match. [Also: devour, staying power, happy hour(!)] Dudes! How can you NOT use that?? But anyway, I couldn’t cogitate fast enough to make it work, and here we are. Add yours to the comments, you know you want to!

So… let’s talk flour and protein content, my newest learning about BREAD!

As I’m reading up (particularly in Ciril Hitz’s book Baking Artisan Bread), I am beginning to understand why I may have had less than great success.
Even before I’d wet any ingredients I’d already bungled the whole thing. I had no idea. I’m sure at least some of my problems were due to using:
  • The wrong flour, very likely old & out of date (thankfully not rancid, but that was just luck with the whole wheat)
  • Dry yeast, while not bad, not the best to use either. And I most certainly used water that was too hot.

Now I am starting to learn better.

Turns out, there’s a reason why there are all-purpose flour, cake flour, and bread flour. (Yeah, I know. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake.) For bread like the type I want to make, you need gluten. And the best way to develop gluten is to use a high-protein flour.

This was something I had no idea about. Different types of wheat have different levels of protein, and, in fact, are grown and processed particularly to take advantage of that fact. Huh. Cool.

Hitz includes a great intro to flour in his book. Winter wheat (meaning it is planted during the winter, in milder climates than Spring wheat) has a typical protein content between 11 and 14 percent. Hitz claims “the most ideal protein content for artisan bread baking being 11.5 to 11.7 percent.”

Here are some related stats:

Gold Medal unbleached all purpose: 10.5% protein

King Arthur Flour all purpose: 11.7% protein

KAF European Flour: 11.7% protein

KAF Bread Flour: 12.7% protein

Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat: 13.5% min. protein

KAF Sir Lancelot Flour: 14.2% protein

Not rocket science, eh? Can you tell why I’m excited about using the specialty flours provided by King Arthur Flour, as well as using their Bread Flour as a baseline?

OK, that’s enough flour science for today. First up, Pane Francese from Baking Artisan Bread (check out this site for some excellent pictures). I’ll be making the Biga in the next 24hrs and baking this weekend. WOOT!

If you’re looking for more, check out the wonderfully-related recent posts on KAF’s Baking Banter blog: No-Knead Harvest Bread and Honey-Out Pain de Mie. Mmmm.

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Flour – And a Reverse Haiku

  1. MOM says:

    You have left me in the dust. How did I manage to cook for the three of us for over 20 years and not “need” to know about how much protein was in a flour or that using something than “all-purpose” flour was even important. I had a degree in Home Economics! How come they didn’t teach us stuff like that? I’m beginning to feel that I was cheated in my education!

    • Shawn says:

      I think food science today is quite a bit different than it was in the 60s. If you took today’s equivalent of Home Ec to get a B.A., I’m sure you’d be taking food-related chemistry classes that broke down the protein content of wheat and measured the acid levels during cheese processing. You can also thank Amazon and the Internet in general for what food-passionate people can learn today – there’s no WAY I’d ever know any of this without the sheer volume of info that is available on the web.

  2. MOM says:

    And the frosting on the cake…….what the heck is a reverse Haiku? I was never even taught what a haiku is!! Boy, did I get a lousy education! Those Tacoma Public Schools should be throttled for the educations they handed out.

    • Shawn says:

      Reverse Haiku is a little shout-out to my old Facebook clan. Haiku wasn’t big till the 80s, was it? I’m sure you know more about Beat poetry than I ever will. 😉

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