le 7 janvier, 2017
“Just Jot It January” – The spectacular-anyone-can-join-fantabulous-month-of-blogging created by the Super Hero Linda G Hill! If you click on the link above or the picture at the bottom of the post, you’ll find the proper link to learn all the rules !
Today is also “Stream of Consciousness Saturday” so it’s double fun! 🙂
Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday and Just Jot It January is: “coat.” Use it any way you’d like. Have fun!
Warning: long post ahead. Somewhat geeky.
It was really cold here this week, temps in the single digits (Fahrenheit – they were negative if you want to talk Celcius!) Anyway, BRRR! And I froze all week long at work, going to such exotic places as Sioux Falls, SD and Bozeman, MT where the lowest temp I got to walk around in was about -22C (I used Celcius there because it sounds colder and I wanted pity points for that 🙂 )
I didn’t work yesterday, so instead of my down coat, I put on my lab coat and did a science experiment. Ok, not really. Really, what I did was put on an apron and make a mess. But it was the good kind of mess!
First of all, I must tell you how much I love bread. I love bread and I love pastries and it’s probably a good thing that I don’t live in France, because with all the good boulangeries there, I’d probably gain about 1000 pounds.
Anyhow, as tourists in France, I never held back this love, and I ate bread at every meal and also random mid-day pastries. I didn’t really gain weight, but I was only there for a month at a time and I walked beaucoup beaucoup! While tourist-ing, both times we did it, my husband and I both noticed that even when we went crazy at dinner and asked le serveur if we could have un peu plus de pain, s’il vous plaît ? we did not feel that “bread regret” the next day as so often happened when we did this at home in the US. Was it the atmosphere, the fact that we were stress-free and on vacation, something in the water, or just that French “je ne sais quoi” that allowed us to indulge without the (sorry this is an unpleasant word) bloating that usually followed such a lapse at home? Important to note that this only occurs after we eat out, or we eat “store-bought” bread. It doesn’t really seem to happen with my home-made goodies. Now, I don’t make bread all that often because it takes a long time, so having a glut of home-made bread rarely happens chez nous.
Neither of us is “gluten-sensitive” or anything like that, but I have heard stories from friends who do follow a gluten-free type lifestyle, but yet are also able to eat lovely French baguettes in France. What’s the deal?
I wanted to find out, so I did a little light research. I am no specialist in agriculture or anything like that, so these observations are merely superficial. Anyway, there are many differences, but I focused on the flour. French (and much other European) flours are made of different species of wheat than North American flours. Of course they are! There is the question of terroir even when it comes to wheat. So the land supports different varieties. The water is different, the soil is different. So that’s one part of it. I think (I could be wrong) that the French wheat varieties are “softer” than the American ones. I really don’t know what that means.
Secondly, when I go to the grocery store and buy flour, all but the “organic” or “whole wheat” flours are “enriched.” This means that they have taken the vitamins and minerals out of it to make it white, and then added vitamins and minerals (notably B vitamins and iron) back into the flour. This is the most important difference in my opinion. Because I buy a nice Organic, unenriched flour for home use, I think this is why only store-bought breads, which use enriched flours have the “bloating effect.”
I wanted to find out. So I sought out a source on the internet to get real French flour. It wasn’t easy! The recipes I found for “baguettes” wanted mostly “Type 65” flour. There is not a real equivalent for that in the US because we call the flours differently. We have “Cake flour”, “All-purpose” flour, “Bread flour”, and “Whole wheat” flour here, with various amounts of protein indicated. For instance, “cake” flour is low-protein, which means it will make a more tender, less glutinous product, which is nice for delicate cakes. In France, the “Type” numbers refer to the ash content of the flour, and the lower the number, the more refined it is. “Type 65” seems to be more equivalent to our “Strong bread flour” which contains quite a bit of protein.
I found a couple internet sources which advertised a “Type 65” flour. The first one I tried disappointed me a little bit because it advertised its flours as “craft flours” and they had a “Craft type 65” clone. They did not say on the site, however, that this craft flour was enriched, just as most American flours are. So I was décue when I got it and read the label. I’m sure it’s a really nice flour in any case, but certainly not worth the “craft” price when I think the organic flour I get at Costco has just as good quality and is unenriched. So there you go.
Next, I found an American company dedicated to bakers of all sorts who imports actual French flour. They even mentioned on their web site the same phenomenon I encountered with the difference in French and American (even artisan!!) breads. (I’m not going to go down the road about how horrible American bread as a whole is…let’s say we are comparing the best bread made with standard-issue American flour to a French bread here. Something comparable in workmanship, ok?) Anyway, this company imports flour from a mill in Normandy, where the flour is made in France from French wheat. Alors…
The next step was to find a suitable recipe to try them with. Most “boulangeries” I believe (from watching French boulangers on YouTube) use fresh or “cake” yeast, but I can’t really do that. So I chose a recipe which focused on the particular kind of yeast that I have, which is SAF Instant yeast:
I wanted the recipe to be in French, calling specifically for this type of yeast, and Type 65 flour. That wasn’t too hard to find, so I was all set!
I make two batches of dough, at the same time with the same yeast, salt, and water (good Colorado “first-use” water!). I measured all the ingredients carefully to the gram. I used the same kneading technique. (My hands!) and I baked them on the same stone at the same time in the same oven. I tried to make both batches exactly alike. I expected, finally, to not really find a difference. But there was a difference! The dough made with the American flour was springier and less wet in the early stage. Even though I put *exactly* the same amount of water, the American flour produced a different feeling dough. After the first rise, the French dough expanded itself into a gigantic glutinous wet puddle. I thought I’d never get it back into ball-shapes, but it just took patience. The American dough also expanded nicely. Like it’s French counterpart, it was a rather wet, sticky dough, just not quite as sticky. I did not add more flour to either one, save for what I dusted the counter with in order to handle it easier, about a teaspoon or so in each case.
After dividing each dough into three balls, I let it sit for the 45 min prescribed by the recipe before shaping it and letting it rest for another 20. Again, the French dough retained more air inside of it than the American one did. When I shaped them, the French dough was lighter feeling and less resistant to my shaping efforts. The American dough wanted more to spring back to its original shape, and therefore the resulting loaves were shorter than their French counterparts. After the baking, which I did on a stone with a steam bath underneath, we did The Taste Test.
So What I Found Out, after all this work, was that there is indeed a distinct difference between the flours. Both loaves were tasty. (Hello–this is home-made-fresh-from-the-oven-bread here…what’s not to like? ) The American flour produced a loaf with a denser crumb, but still a nice texture, especially for spreading butter and jam on. The crust was a crunchy, but not crackly, if that makes any sense. It looked smoother on the top. The French loaves had a lovely crackly crust and the interior crumb was lighter, with more holes. I tried to capture the difference in these two photos:
Even more surprising was that the flavor was different! The American loaf tasted exactly like every other bread I’ve ever made. It was good, but it was the same! The French loaf, however, had a different flavor. I think the flour itself must impart more flavor in general, because to my taste buds, the American loaf tastes a bit more “yeasty” which maybe means that the flour itself gives less flavor to cover that of the yeast? I don’t know. But the french one definitely tasted different. Both were good. We did eat a significant amount of bread last night, but I can’t really say that I have “bread regret” this morning. So are the additives in the American flour causing discomfort? Well…at this moment I can’t really say. I think I need to do more “research.” I’ll get back to you.
Et vous? Est-ce que vous avez eu mal au ventre après avoir mangé des pains Américains ? Have you experienced this Bloating problem with American versus European breads? Tell me in the comments! I’m curious!
À Bientôt, chers lecteurs!