I may have got into some ‘expensive’ habits when it comes to baking that I would now find hard to break. I am great believer in good value i.e. weighing up the cost vs. reward ratio and certainly now I apply this when using flour.
For years I would buy the cheapest flour thinking ‘flour is just flour.’ A leading supermarket own brand costs 75p for a 1.5kg bag whereas as one of the beautifully packaged bespoke milled organic brand might cost up to £4 for the same quantity. My initial thought used to be “No contest”. I was teaching after all and any increased costs took away from my bottom line.
Enter: a whole new world for me..Organic Flour
A few years ago I heard Mervin Austin of Mount Pleasant Windmill talking about his allergic reaction to flour that had manifested itself when he previously working for a commercial bakery for many years. Having developed contact dermatitis on my hands I thought it worth trying out good organic flour; anything to alleviate the pain of the ‘burning’ on my hands.
One Sunday, as I was preparing for a class that day, I realised I did not have enough flour and rushed to my local supermarket. Happy Eater flour was all they had in stock. The class commenced and everything fine. At the end we sat down for tea to taste everything made by the students. I was shocked at the texture and taste of the scones this time compared to my normal results with organic flour (they were still good but once you have made something thousands of times you do become very become extremely sensitive to every change).
Since then I have practised with numerous different flours and have found the quality really does make a difference, especially when making something very simple such as bread, plain sponges and scones
Test it for yourself:
Why not put some normal supermarket branded flour into one bowl and some superior organic flour in another (at the moment I am using Marriages flour). Place one hand in one bowl and the other hand in the second bowl. Rub the flour between your fingers. You will feel the feel the difference (I hope!) and it is that difference that comes through in your baking. The organic one is much more slippery and silky (this also applies to wholemeal and spelt) whereas the value brand ‘catches’ on the skin. If you hold up the bowls to the daylight it is likely the value brand is whiter – it will have been bleached which covers up any chemicals and any coarseness.
Food intolerances could stem from the quality of the flour
I would also wonder if the all pervasive additives and chemicals in the cheaper impure, low grade flours in so much of our food, especially ready meals and volume baked bread, has led to a lot of problems that are labelled under gluten and wheat intolerance. I feel it is the ingested chemicals and additives used in mainstream food productions that are the problem rather than the bread itself. I was on a wheat free diet for three years and really did not feel that much better for it (although my general diet radically improved!). I now only buy artisan bread if I can; Cranks wholemeal or lots of goodies from my local baker, Paul Rhodes in Notting Hill. Occasionally I eat mainstream bread but I notice the difference to my well being if my consumption increases from once a week or so.
Quality (and higher cost) wins for me – over lower quality cheaper options
For me the cost reward ratio has no contest – flour is a staple that underpins so much of our food – aren’t you worth it to use the best? The compliments also will come in thick and fast for the superior baking results! Please do comment below with your thoughts and experiences with flour – I’d be interested to hear from you.
No clever baking techniques – just the obvious point: whatever you put in you are likely to get out. We sometimes forget that flour was a living organism and expect each packet to be identical. They aren’t. And I am spending money on flour, not diamonds so I think it really is a luxury you really can afford.
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