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Comparing Flours…King Arthur's Bread Flour

Comparing three flours

Comparing three flours

After my last post about poor quality flour, I decided to see what other kinds of flour I could find locally. I found a 5lb bag of King Arthur Unbleached Bread flour at the local KTA market and also a Gold Medal Bread flour, which was five pounds as well. The King Arthur Flour cost me 6.99 for 5 lbs!  The Gold Medal was 3.49. I also found a 5lb bag of Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached Bread flour at the local Cost U Less, and it was 3.99. Don’t forget, prices are high in Hawaii. 

Since we moved to Hawaii, I haven’t known where to buy good flour. So when we visited Kona, I bought 100 lbs of flour. What a mistake! I still have about 40 lbs to go and I am using it now to feed my starter.

The bread which resulted needed all kinds of tricks to get it to bake up presentably. Most of the loaves were pale, had a crackery look, poor quality crust which never blistered, slack difficult to handle dough and the dough always needed way more water than it should have according to hydration calculations. I didn’t take many pictures of the disappointing loaves but here are a few:




disappointing…. and…


 disappointing!  I wondered if it might be the catchment water which  is rainwater. I know it can make the dough a bit softer and stickier, but could it be the flour? I needed to find some flours to test.

I made up a formula  for the comparison test:

Day 1:

In the afternoon mix together:

  • 166% hydration ripe starter – 9 oz/255g
  • water – 6 oz /170 g
  • Bread Flour – (whichever flour you are testing) 15 oz/425g

Stir the ingredients with a large spoon until it comes together in a ball and then knead the dough a few times with your hand to mix well. Don’t pour the dough out on the table or anything, just knead it a few times in the bowl with your hand. The dough won’t be too sticky, just a little.

This will make 1 lb 14 oz/850g of preferment at 63.2 % hydration.

Keep this preferment in a lightly covered bowl at room temperature. The room temperature is very warm between 80 -90 degrees. So this dough will be treated as a warm dough and not allowed to ferment as long as a cold dough. Ferment for 2 hours and then stir down the dough (you can fold the dough a couple of times as it ferments). Next refrigerate the dough in a covered container overnight.

Day 2:

In the morning take out your preferment and let it warm up for one hour at room temperature (around 80F)

In another bowl add together:

  • water – 14 oz/396.9g
  • Bread flour (whichever flour you are testing) 21 oz/595g
  • Salt – .8 oz/22g

Final dough: 4lbs 1.8 oz/1865g at 65% hydration.

Mix this dough together and once it is incorporated,let it set for 20 minutes. Then add the preferment to the just mixed dough and knead the two doughs together until they are well mixed together. Let this final dough ferment for three hours at warm room temperatures of between 80 -90 degrees. You can also fold the dough a few times during the ferment time. I like to fold the dough once an hour or at least three times. Divide the dough into two pieces. Next shape your two loaves which weigh around two lbs each and place in a proofing basket or whatever contaner you are using for raising dough. Allow the dough the final proof and keep an eye on it as it could proof as quickly as an hour.

My dough was ready in 1 hour and 15 minutes. I did stagger the shaping of the loaves by 30 minutes. To stagger dough, shape one loaf and keep the rest of the dough covered in the bowl. Then after 30 minutes shape the last loaf. Preheat your oven and baking stone to 450F and have it ready when the first loaf is ready to bake.

When the dough is done proofing, slash, spray the loaf once well with water using a misting water bottle and then cover the dough with a turkey roasting lid/or pan (it is best to put the roasting lid into the oven five minutes before the dough goes in so it can also preheat). Bake at 450F for 20 minutes and then carefully remove the roasting lid, the escaping steam is VERY hot! Turn your oven down to 425F and bake for 10 more minutes or until you achieve a deep wonderful color to the crust (which I wasn’t able to obtain with poor flour quality-see previous post).

Take out a loaf which should(hopefully if you have good flour) look like this :

King Arthur Bread Flour results:

Bread using King Arthur Flour

Bread using King Arthur Flour

This was loaf number 2:
King Arthur Bread #2

King Arthur Bread #2

Here is the interior bread crumb:
Bread Crumb

Bread Crumb

The bread baked up very well and tasted terrific. The crust was just right. I don’t have any problems achieving the “sour” tang in warm weather baking. So King Arthur’s Bread flour rates great as far as I am concerned.
Next…Gold Medal Bread Flour…
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  1. September 16, 2009    

    This looks great! I have read that King Arthur is the best in America. But it is expensive, here in the mid-west it is around $5.99 for 5 pounds. When it was on sale for three something I bought some and was please with it for all baking purposes. Can’t wait to read about the other flours!

  2. September 16, 2009    

    Not sure if it is a problem on my side, but I cannot see any of the pictures of the “disappointments” – only the great ones

    I look forward to your results with the other flours!

  3. September 17, 2009    

    Now I see them!

  4. September 17, 2009    

    KA flour is $4.75 online. I didn’t check shipping. I wonder if it would be worth it to have it shipped to you instead? Groceries seem crazy expensive in Hawaii.

    I’m wondering if the humidity is your new challenge. If the air is wet, your dough is going to hold on to a lot of moisture!

  5. Janknitz Janknitz
    September 22, 2009    

    Looks like you’re going to have to ask people visiting you from the mainland to bring their suitcases full of KA flour! Your KA boules look terrific. It’s really the downside of living in Hawaii that the groceries are so darn expensive, and taxed on top of everything else!

    We used to live in the Puna District, too. I did OK baking regular breads and enriched doughs, but never was successful with artisan style breads and sourdoughs (used my sourdough starter for killer pancakes, though).

    Did you know you can fill up containers with “city water” for free from public faucets along the highway leading to Keauu??? (or at least you could back when we live there). At least you can see if the water makes a difference without having to go out and buy water.

    Safeway in California puts KA flour on sale a couple of times a year, around holiday baking times, generally. The Hawaii Safeway stores use the same distribution “pipeline”, so maybe it will go on sale there as well (though it’s usually more expensive than the mainland, even on sale). Keep an eye out as Thanksgiving approaches this winter, then stock up (but you have to have a good storage strategy to avoid bugs and humidity).

  6. September 22, 2009    

    Thankyou for your comments and suggestions. The free water in Hawaii is chlorinated, I tried using it when we first got here but it kept killing my starters. So now I use the catchment (rain) water and it is working fine. Teresa

  7. Jes Jes
    August 27, 2010    

    I bought con-agra flour that produced some sad loafs that I probably would have blamed on my own inexperience. This flour comparison and the pictures especially really helped me, thanks Teresa!

  8. Kevin Glasky Kevin Glasky
    October 21, 2011    

    King Arthur Flour is about 6 bucks per 5lb bag most places, if you add shipping cost it is just to expensive in my opinion. But no matter you feel about Wal Mart you cant beat their price on King Arthur Flour, regular retail price is 3.33, Holy Smoke Rocky that is a great deal.!!! I dont use anything but KA flour and love it. It is the best in my book. Kevin Glasky Hayden Lake Idaho

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  1. Comparing Flours – Gold Medal vs. King Arthur « Discovering Sourdough on September 24, 2009 at 10:00 pm
  2. Bob’s Red Mill vs Gold Medal and King Arthur « Discovering Sourdough on September 30, 2009 at 11:55 am
  3. King Arthur’s Organic Bread Flour « Discovering Sourdough on January 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm

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