Chronicles of A Pastry School Student

Flour Child

Freshly baked Ciabatta.

Ok, I’m not a morning person. It’s definitely becoming a challenge for me to juggle all of my life’s activities. Last month I was diagnosed with … and I have had a host of appointments and tests with my doctor. Accordingly, I have missed a significant amount of lab time this month. Even while in bed, I read my textbooks and email my chef instructors for notes and details about lab projects. Currently, I’m reading about the anatomy of flours. For the most part, AP, Whole Wheat, High Gluten, Cake, Pastry and Bread flours have only managed to put me to sleep.  It took me three tries before I could make it through the chapter without dozing off, but I’m glad I did.

I learned that the types of flour used in a recipe dictate texture, rise, color, taste and nutritional value of finished products. A few months before reading this particular chapter in my textbook, I learned about the differences in flours the hard way when I made Dutch Babies for a brunch. A Dutch Baby is a German pancake that is tall, puffy and mildly sweet, with a touch of lemon flavor. Traditionally, it is sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar and served with jam, fruit or a wine or fruit sauce. When making the pancakes, the recipe called for AP flour. With my health in mind, I decided to substitute the AP flour with Whole Wheat flour. The result? All of the aforementioned characteristics—except for the rise. While the pancakes tasted incredible, I did not get the dramatic rise I was supposed to achieve by using AP flour.

After reading more about flour in my textbooks, I learned that Whole Wheat flours do not produce as much rise in baked goods because the bran, among other things in the flour hinders rise/volume. Eureka! I thought to myself reading the chapter. I had solved the mystery of the flat Dutch Baby.

For all of you Culinary Nerds interested in learning more about flour types, characteristics and functions, check out my paper, Flours in the Attic: The Anatomy of Flour in the U.S. located under the Writings link at the top of the blog.

Country French Bread.

Country French Bread.

While I’m on the subject of flour, Bread class has become more and more interesting. Surprisingly, I enjoy the process of mixing the ingredients, proofing and baking. Some bread can be baked in one day; others take two to three days and yield more complex results. No matter the bread product, all bread making is based on a process referred to as the Twelve Steps of Baking (Learn more about the process in the Writings section/link in this blog.). We started making dinner rolls and hamburger buns, progressed to Baguettes and Ciabatta; and now we’re on to Sourdoughs, Whole Wheats and Laminated Doughs. Check out the videos of bakers shaping baguettes and different methods for kneading dough by clicking on the Videos tab. I’ve included a nifty chart below from the Canadian Wheat Board, titled From Wheat to Bread. It details how flour goes from a grain to a bread product with great diagrams. To obtain a clear PDF for reading or printing, click on the chart below or click here to go to their website and visit the library.

From Wheat to Bread Chart Courtesy of the Canadian Wheat Board.

AP Flour Dutch Baby Example Photos Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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