White Amaretto 10.5% 3 Months On & Power of Oxidisation
I’ve been posting recently about white stoneground flour I’ve bought from Anne in Felin Ganol watermill in Wales and the first flour I tried was this amaretto from a 2010 harvest which yielded a low protein flour of 10.5%, too low for making bread on its own it was believed, but I proved in this post here it can indeed make good sourdough loaves successfully if handled right.
Why am I returning back to this flour again?
Because I am at the end of this particular sack and 3 months on I can not believe it’s the same flour, it handles so differently. If someone had told me it was the same flour I would not believe them.
I’ve read about the natural ageing process of flour and how oxygen is a powerful strengthener of protein but to actually experience it myself is something quite different. The same sack of flour 3 months on has transformed into a typical strong white stoneground flour which doesn’t require special handling.
Green Flour – Freshly Milled Flour
The first time I experienced green flour was with Roland in the village of Cucugnan in France here, he uses his flour often hours after milling. The idea of using freshly milled flour is to keep as many nutrients in the flour as possible, it’s a practice Roland told me is carried out in Austria and Anne tells me the German’s also do it.
It occurred to me this morning, (thinking about flour when brushing my teeth because as you’ve gathered by now I don’t do anything else but think about flour) that the tradition of using green flour for health benefits...was it as a consequence of long harsh winters with deprived fresh produce?
Natural Ageing of Flour
Fresh flour is tricky to use, it’s not a baker’s best friend. Flour left and exposed to air is whiten because oxygen oxidises the carotenoid pigments in the flour, a chemical reaction occurs making flour appear brighter and lighter.
The other reaction oxygen has is with the gluten-forming proteins, strengthening them. When gluten forms stronger bonds the dough is easier to handle, absorbs more water, less sticky and can be stretched and manipulated without tearing.
Roland used his fresh flour with a powerful stiff levain and kept the dough cold, I could feel how fragile his dough was.
To give some idea of how much this flour had changed over the course of 3 months living in my little baking room; I mixed the dough the night before and folded it twice over a period of about 2hrs then shaped it put in the fridge overnight, took it out, left it at room temperature for 5 hours before baking it. I couldn’t have done this when I first received it.
Anne had milled the Amaretto 2 weeks prior to sending it to me. Below is a photo of the crumb of the second loaf I made using that fresh flour, good tasting crumb, but being low protein I had to watch how long I left it to rise and then as you can see, the crumb itself once baked can suffer from some tearing where the gases have expanded the air pockets but there wasn’t enough extensibility in the protein to cope with this.
Crumb of Amaretto flour 2 weeks after milling, end November 2011
The photo below is of yesterday’s loaf, same flour but with 3 months worth of oxidisation. The crumb you could feel was stronger, bouncier, held together really well even after the long proving time, no signs of tearing.
The other noticeable differences on making the dough was how much more water it absorbed.
For 500g flour:
280g water – 2 weeks old flour
315g water – 3 months old flour
Yesterday I pushed it to 315g of water but I could comfortably added another 10-15grms of water I think.
From what I’ve read if a flour needs strengthening some mills will add ascorbic acid (identical to vitamin C ). A very powerful ageing agent is potassium bromate which is no longer permitted in the EU or countries like Canada and China but is used in small quantities in the US.
Supposedly the advantage of maturing agents over oxidisation is mills not having to store flour taking up valuable space along with possible risk of mold growth. There’s also the disadvantage with any natural process of inconstancy, and the millers’ job is to provide consistently good flour to bakeries, that’s how they have a viable business.
The mills that chose not to add any maturing agents have the choice of blending varieties of flours, each adding its own characteristic and strength in order to compensate for a particular variety’s weakness.