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Each Bread Has Its Flour

How to choose it based on the strength (W) and the grinding of the grain (from whole meal to 00) for a good and quality bread

Not all loaves are the same, and in addition to having different shapes, loaves are usually distinguished from each other by the color of their crust and crumb, the internal cavity, and their flavor. Each cereal corresponds to a range of different flours, which will create various structures and tastes and have specific characteristics, not the same as the others, with their advantages and limits. Isn’t diversity excellent also in terms of bread making? To think that starting from any flour of any cereal, you can always get the same result, well, it is pretty misleading and very unnatural.

A Cereal For Every Culture

The family of cereals is vast; it contains within it different species of grasses that have grown, developed, and adapted to different climates and soils around the world, where each culture and civilization corresponds more or less to another cereal (as to remind us, since ancient times, that carbohydrates are not bad!). From the spelled spelled of the ancient Romans; Middle Eastern rice grown in humid, hot climates and soaked in water; to the rye of Northern Europe, raised in cold and dry environments; corn from Central America, also revered as a deity by the Maya; to North African teff, the size of a grain of sand.

We said that each cereal has intrinsic characteristics that characterize it and do not vary much, even within the various species reflected on the bread. In our case, that of conscious bakers, it is essential to know some parameters and how they influence the structure of the bread, to take note of them, and to adapt to best enhance the characteristics of that cereal.

The Strength Of The Flour: The W Parameter

Yes, I know, I’m turning around; we all know what the parameter par excellence to consider is, and that has generated hundreds, I mean, thousands, of articles and books, attracting the attention of masses of home bakers on some social profiles rather than others, on one method of kneading rather than another: it is him, the W!

The W is a value obtained from a laboratory analysis, which expresses the strength of the flour, which in turn derives from the grain’s protein content, specifically of two insoluble proteins called gliadin and glutenin. When the flour is mixed with water and friction (our hands or our mixer), these proteins are intertwined in a three-dimensional structure, elastic and extensible, more or less tenacious called the gluten mesh, or gluten, which corresponds to the supporting columns of a building, and which gives structure to the bread being processed and baked. 

The W can range from a value of 0 for naturally gluten-free cereals (which is why gluten-free bread is almost always lovely compact bricks) to around 400 for every protein flours, called strength flour or strong flours, usually, wheat tender, passing through all the intermediate values, which create that wide range of weak flours excellent for biscuits, medium for bread, medium strong for focaccia or pizzas, mighty for breakfast leavened products such as puff pastries and large traditional leavened products such as panettone. 

The more gliadin and glutenin our grain contains, the more the resulting flour will have a strong gluten mesh and be able to withstand long leavening or fatty doughs with oil and butter additions (the more supporting columns our bread has, the more structure it will have).

And this is why I was going around so much because it’s easy to talk about W, but linking it to the naturalness of the flour is a bit more complex. It assumes an intrinsic acceptance that the results of our bread can depend so much on us. as much as on the choice of our ingredients and that the beauty of this hobby/work is precisely that of finding the maximum expression of each cereal and flour without forcing or treading on the hand.

Whole Meal, Semi-Whole Meal, White

The grinding of the grain represents a different range of possibilities in the distinction of the various resulting flours: the degree of sifting expresses in percentage the quantity of ground flour that is selected for our flour in the different screening steps, discarding them from the outermost to the innermost, that is, from the bran towards the more starchy inner layers. A 100% sifting means that all the weight of the initial grains has been converted into flour, making it possible to obtain 100% whole meal flour. In comparison, a 70% sifting degree means that 30% of the outermost flour has been separated from the remaining, creating a more refined flour. In Italy, flours are divided based on critical sifting, type 2, type 1, 0, and 00; the corresponding bran and fiber content will be higher in whole meal flour and much lower in a 00, which will mainly contain starch and protein. The loaves resulting from one or the other type of flour will have different colors, aromas, structures (the fibers “weigh down” the structure but how good they are), and distinct tastes.

Semi-Whole Meal Bread With Seeds And Flakes

I leave you the recipe for one of my favorite bread, the one with seeds and flakes, which in addition to being beautiful, also has a high content of good seed oils, mineral salts, and vitamins!

For a loaf of about 1 kg

  • 500 g of type 1 flour
  • 100 g of live and ready mother yeast
  • 300 g of water (varies according to the flour)
  • 10 g of salt
  • 180 g of mixed seeds and flakes to taste (flax, sunflower, poppy, pumpkin, sesame, spelled flakes, oat flakes, etc.) soaked and left to drain.

Coarsely knead flour, mother yeast, and most of the water and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Then resume the dough, add the salt and the remaining part of water, stringing the structure well. When the dough is smooth and homogeneous, add the soaked and drained seeds, incorporate them gently into the dough with the help of a few folds, then evaluate as last thing if the dough allows you to add a little water (it depends on the flour, not from you). Let it rest for about 3 hours at room temperature.

Turn over on the workbench, shape the loaf, and then place it in the leavening basket, where it will spend two hours before being baked at 230 degrees for about 50 minutes.


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