Monday, February 12, 2007

flour redux

After many more hours of internet research since my last flour posting, I'm still as confused as ever about the flour available in Switzerland/Europe. Why can't I buy high protein white flour??? It doesn't make any sense given all the fabulous bread available here. My only guesses are either a) euro flour is different and doesn't need to be high-protein to create highly structured bread or b) high-protein flour is available, but only to professional bakers or c) great mail-order flour sources exist but my terrible german/french/italian google skills are preventing me from finding them. I have a hard time believing hypothesis A or B so I'm hoping to find someone to help me with C. Is there some flour freak out there that can help me? Please!

In the absence of documentation, I'm resorting to manual tests. I started this morning by weighing my various flours (shown above), just to see what I'm dealing with. After doing this, I realized this was pointless, only motived by my sleep-deprived state. But it does provide a nice visual for this posting. I still need to purchase the "typed" flour available at Reformhaus. And I'm also still planning to drive the three hours to France and Italy to buy some of their flour, since apparently no one wants to sell it to me over the internet.

My next project is to make various recipes with different flours to see what happens, comparing structure (tightness of grain), height, and flavor. Here's my plan so far:

sandwich bread
· weissmehl 405, 550, and 812
· zopfmehl
· halbweissmehl
· ruchmehl

ciabatta and pizza dough
· weissmehl 812
· halbweissmehl
· ruchmehl

Random lingering questions:
· What is the difference between regular weissmehl and zopfmehl? The protein level is the same.
· What exactly are halbweissmehl and ruchmehl? I know they are part whole wheat, but what does that mean? What percentage whole grain is in these?


Astrid said...

Interesting scientific approach! I'll read your results with interest. I actually used habweiss mehl for a long time thinking it was just white flour with extra vitamins added back. I used it for cakes and cookies alike, for which it was probably way too "sturdy" a flour. It certainly doesn't taste like whole wheat flour though.
Good luck with your research!
(I'm currently similarly obsessing about another subject: probe cooking thermometers. I bought a lovely one which died on me shortly thereafter. I looked on Amazon and found out it's a recurrent problem with all probe thermometers, the probe being very fragile. But I'm trying to find out if there is one, perhaps expensive, but super sturdy one out there. No luck yet, even though I nerded out on the internet for 2 hours yesterday afternoon. But you'd think the word would be out about how unreliable these things are, especially when they cost some $20 in the US and more like 30 euros in France...)

Robert said...

Dear Tanya,

In a nutshell, European flours are not directly comparable with North American flours. There are a number of reasons for this. In the States protein and ash content are measured at a 14% moisture level. In France (and I assume in Germany and Switzerland) the measures are done on dry matter.

Further, a number of components can be counted in a flour's protein level: albumin, globulin, glutenin, gliadin. Only the last two, which combine to form gluten, are of interest to the baker.

Then again, different varieties of wheat are grown in Europe and the States. American high gluten flour is milled from dark (red) Northern spring wheat. It is not available in Europe. And since the proportion of glutenin to gliadin is different in spring and winter wheats, the "protein content" of a flour does not tell you very much.

If you truly want American high gluten flour, you will probably have to order it from King Arthur Flour. I am considering this myself, but I don't know if the expense is worth it for the dozen second-rate bialys I would make.


Tanya said...

Thanks Bob, for all the helpful information. My step-mom is bringing me a bag of high gluten flour on her next trip so I can make my second-rate bagels. Why do I bother? :)

Rika said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rika said...

Hi Tanya

I just got back home in the US from Zurich. My Boyfriend is Swiss. We are living in the US but discussing to move there in the future.

And, I love baking just like you!

The bookstore off the main street (banofstrasse (sp) near St. Annos (or something) had a baking book "scweizer backerei" which i bought had a great info. It's expensive so go there and read some up.

When Volkornmehl typ 1900 is 100% whole wheat, Ruchmehl typ1100 is 85%, Halbweissmehl Type 720 is 75%, Weissmehl typ550 is 65%, and Weissmehl typ400 is 30%. Weissmehl is more refined as you can see.

All of the flour's base protein value is 14%, which is quite high compare to 11-12 for all purpose flour. They do have cake/all purpose flour there so if you have American recipe, you can use them (marked as for cookies etc). But mnimum values are 13, 12.5, 12, 11.5% accordingly.

Zopf flour, focaccia flour have other stuff like powdered egg, so like pancake mix.

There are way to extract gluten and measure the percentage. Let me know if you want to know and I love to keep in touch with you.

topazsfp said...

Hi, Tanya. Bar none the consistently best bread flour I've found is a local (for me) stone mill called Weisenberger Mills. The website is here: and they have high gluten bread flour in their product section. I started using it on the advice of my grandfather, who made yeast breads from a sourdough starter every week for decades, and said this flour gave him the best bread he'd ever managed to make.

cicci said...

Zopfmehl is a mixture of spelt flour (around 10%) and white wheat flour. Spelt is just another kind of wheat with high protein and low gluten, so it's NOT like a pancake mix.

The flour in Europe indeed contains lower gluten level comparing with north American flour. But this feature is essential to get the good open-crumb European style bread!
In fact, I find they are also much easier to handle while kneading and contribute better flavor than their NA counterpart (this is rather evident in any lean dough bread). So unless you want to make American toast bread, it's really not necessary to use any imported American flour.

Tanya said...

Thanks Cicci for your comment. I've learned to like the flour here too, but it still seems a little mysterious. Thanks for the information.

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