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Cecilia on "The Wild Magic of Blending Flours"

Cecilia on "The Wild Magic of Blending Flours"

By: Cecilia Buyswheeler-Gunther (Read Bio)

Cecilia on "The Wild Magic of Blending Flours"
Let’s talk about blending flours.

Often, on a Friday afternoon I will receive one or two calls from home bakers who tell me they have this and that and a little of this and more of that - what should they bake this weekend. So on the spot we devise a wild blend. I love this game! So let’s you and me play it.

First take an inventory of your fridge. Line all those flours up. Then get out your Janie's Mill cheat sheet (you can find the extended version here) and take note of the PROTEIN percentage and EXTRACTION levels of each flour. A higher extraction means more bran and germ is in the flour - more bran means less rise but with color, fibre, depth of taste and nutrition. A higher protein and a lower extraction generally means more gluten potential and an open crumb (except for Einkorn - Einkorn is in a class of its own when it comes to protein and gluten, more on that another time).


Here is what was in my fridge this morning.

I always have a fair amount of High Protein Bread Flour and All Purpose in the kitchen. The rest were bits and pieces. Now let's decide what kind of bread I want to eat: a hearty country loaf or an open crumb crusty modern loaf, a pan loaf, or a loaded breakfast toast loaf? What kind of loaf would you like to bake?

Think about the tastes of the flours too. For me: Rye brings rich wild honey notes. Red Fife will bring those autumnal cinnamony spice notes. Turkey Red is nutty, smokey and bright. The High Protein Bread Flour has a lovely peaty golden grown-up summer kind of tone.

Get out your old faithful bread recipe. Use this as your base recipe. I always weigh my flour and use grams because I can adjust equations better in decimals but if your recipe uses cups go for it. Stone ground flour is very forgiving. Here is a useful chart if you need to convert cups of our flour into grams. Use your initial hydration and adjust as you go. I start at about 75% hydration.

OK! I have my flours lined up and my specs written up and my recipe ready as a guide.

 

 

TIP 1 If you like a light and airy loaf use a higher percentage of the High Protein Bread Flour.

TIP 2 If you want a hearty denser European loaf use a high percentage of the high extraction whole wheat flours.

  1. Here is my first blend:This will give me a light open crumbed loaf to rip apart and eat with soup. This recipe.

High Protein 650g, Italian Style 100g, Turkey Red 250g

2. Then I will make a loaf with high hydration, lower protein baked in a bread pan, with cracked wheat and dried apples using this recipe . Here is my second blend. This will give me a hearty heavier loaf for toast.

Red Fife 200g, Dark Rye 200g, Spelt 100g


Do you see where I am going with this? Know what you want and use the flours to get you there. Get to know your dough so you can make quick hydration adjustments. And trust your instincts. I always use my notebook to write down each of my wild blends - just in case my Paddington Bear Intuition Brain slips up.

Home-made bread making and flour blending tips:

  • If your recipe calls for a bread flour use the High Protein Bread Flour.

  • If your recipe calls for Whole Wheat flours use Red Fife, Turkey Red, Artisan Blend Bread Flour, Frederick White Wheat or Spelt.

  • Whisk or sift your dry flours together.

  • Roughly mix the flour and water together. Keep a little water and a little flour back to make your adjustments during this first mix. I always err on the side of a wetter dough to begin, for me it is easier to add in a little more flour within the mixing window. Don't spend more than four minutes on this mixing and adjusting step.

  • If your loaf has a high protein be careful not drift up into a high hydration. High protein plus high hydration can result in gumminess in a loaf of bread.

  • Autolyze. Let your flour and water sit together for a while. Allow that water to soak into the flour for 30 minutes to an hour or even longer.

  • If you are using a yeast to rise a bran-heavy flour (100% extraction) make a fast poolish the night before - mix 1/3 cup of flour with 1/3 cup of water and a pinch of yeast. Add this as well as the prescribed amount of yeast to your flour in the morning. The poolish is a wonderful tool in your baking kit.

  • Add your levain, poolish or/and yeast, mix thoroughly using the dough hook. I generally mix for 1 - 2 minutes. Then rest, scoop out onto the counter, flatten then sprinkle on the salt. Stipple in with the tips of wet fingers.

  • OR Mix your flour, water and levain (or yeast) together and rest (this is a pre-ferment). Then stipple in the salt.

  • Proceed with your stretches and folds every 30 minutes for two hours on a lightly oiled bench.

  • Lightly oil your proofing bowl. Do not introduce any more flour after you begin proofing - unfermented flour inhibits the development of your fermenting flour and all these flours proof at a different rate.

  • Use wet hands if the dough feels sticky.

  • Divide dough by running a line of flour down where you intend to cut with your bench scraper.

  • I use rice flour or bran to heavily dust the proofing baskets.

  • Baking continues after you have brought that loaf out of the oven. Do not cut it hot. Stone ground loaves need to be cool before cutting or you will end up with a gummy loaf that goes stale too fast.

And let’s not stop at bread blends. One of my favorite blends for baking cakes and muffins and pastry is the Silky Smooth Pastry Flour and Janie’s Mill All Purpose. 50/50.

The secret here is to use low gluten flours. I first discovered the magic of this blend when I was working on my pastry recipe. I love New Zealand pies so, for me, it was paramount to find a pastry blend that would give me a light fluffy pastry for my steak and cheese pie. That was over two years ago now. Then the magic of this blend showed an even lighter side when I left a bag of blended flour in the fridge and my husband, thinking it was AP, proceeded to make his rolls with it. Then Graham crackers made with his favorite recipe (which he is not sharing) using the same blend of All Purpose and Silky Smooth Pastry flour.

Scones - like these ones are magical using this blend.

So - feel free - experiment a little. Grab everything out of the fridge, and have fun with your baking.



 

Posted on April 22 2021