Flour

grandma4five

Has anyone substituted Gold Medal flours for the King Arthur flours? Any substantial differences? Running low on the KA and very new to this site.

Thanks for your opinions!

badge posted by: grandma4five on March 16, 2011 at 8:43 pm in Q & A
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reply by: PaddyL on March 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm
PaddyL

I can't get King Arthur flour where I live - in Montreal - so I use the store brand unbleached all-purpose or some other Canadian flour, and have no problems. I really don't know if there's a great difference in US flours, but in Canada, they all have to meet a certain standard before they can be sold to the public.

reply by: lindyd on March 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm
lindyd

I've tried the GM Better for Bread flour. We noticed a difference in taste. It wasn't a positive difference.

reply by: grandma4five on March 16, 2011 at 10:23 pm
grandma4five

Thanks so much for your answer! I will try to use KA when I have it in stock here at home. But, I'm going to try GM as well!
Blessings!

reply by: grandma4five on March 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm
grandma4five

Have you used the regular All Purpose or only the Bread flour? I know there is a difference, and wonder which you tried using?

Thanks so much for your comment! I appreciate your honesty.

Blessings.

reply by: toffee on March 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm
toffee

I use the KA for bread and either Gold Medal or Pillsbury for everything else. That said, I have used GM flour for bread and the bread flour is closer to the KA in results than the AP. AP works fine, just isn't quite the same in bread. I can get 5 pounds of KA all purpose at Walmart here in Mn for $2.50. Any other store wants up to $6.50 for the same amount. It is one of the only things I buy at Walmart.

Patty

reply by: Mike Nolan on March 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm
Mike Nolan

GM and Pillsbury unbleached bread flour are closer to KAF AP flour than KAF bread flour, both in performance and in protein content.

Bleached AP flour, well that's a somewhat different story. There was a recent thread which talked about the impact that bleaching has on flour.

http://community.kingarthurflour.com/content/ka-ap-flour-vs-other-ap-flour

I think it was America's Test Kitchen that did extensive tests on various types of flour. They decided that bleached flour actually worked better for some products.

reply by: grandma4five on March 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm
grandma4five

Thank you, Patty, I've been purchasing KA flours from Walmart here in CA, too. Stores here want $6 or so, Walmart comes in at $3.50. I usually use the Gold Medal AP for cookies and their Bread Flour for breads. So, it seems you are saying you've used the Gold Medal Bread Flour as a substitute for KA All Purpose flour in recipes other than in bread recipes?

Thank you so much for your taking time to answer my question.

Blessings, Donna

reply by: grandma4five on March 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm
grandma4five

Mike,

Thank you for your information. I will take a look at the thread you provided. I always buy unbleached flour. I always have a good amount of All Purpose, Bread and Whole Wheat flours on hand (100 pounds or more) for baking, cooking, etc. I make lots of cookies, cakes and breads.

This site is new to me as is making sourdough bread - I'm actually in the middle of making my first batch!

Again, thanks for your answers.

Blessings, Donna

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on March 18, 2011 at 8:55 am
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

More than anything, what KA has going for it's flours is consistency. When your flour is consistent it makes it easier to get consistent baking results without having to be a baking Wizz-Ard. Even the national brands like Pillsbury and Gold Medal do not match KA for consistency. The ConAgra flours you buy in Sam's and Costco vary even more than the national brands do, as I discovered after moving to a Southeastern state and buying a 25 lb bag of flour labeled "All Purpose". After getting consistently bad results for bread from this flour (but suddenly great pie crusts!) I finally managed to get through to someone at ConAgra to find out what was going on, as I had seen other reports that this flour was about 11% protein.

Well it turns out that the ConAgra AP flour being sold nationwide through Costco varies WILDLY depending on what the local mills (and local could be several states away, turns out my flour comes from a mill in Alabama) turn out. The flour labeled AP at my local Costco is actually 9.2% protein - PASTRY flour! At other Costco's in other states, the flour being sold in the same bags under the same label ranges up to around 11% protein. So the only way to tell (now that some moron has allowed packaging information to report 1/4c of flour rather than a full cup, which means all flour gets rounded so you can't really tell what the actual protein content is anymore) is to call the national ConAgra number and find out for your specific area of the country.

Bread flour here under the ConAgra label at Costco (and the store brand at Sam's is the same stuff) is 11.6% protein compared to KAs 11.7% for its AP flour. I've found that for my purposes, this flour performs pretty much the same as the KA AP flour.

I can't tell you what it might be in the N, NW, Midwest, or anywhere else but here in the SE because it totally depends on what the local (again local being a relative rather than an absolute term) farmers grew that season. They pretty much just grind it up and aim for a fairly large window with regard to actual protein/gluten and other characteristics, unlike KA which maintains a much tighter quality control. It could consist of varying ratios of hard/soft spring/winter red/white wheats. It's not just the protein content that's varying when they do that, but also the gluten forming characteristics.

National brands like Pillsbury and Gold Medal do aim for a roughly consistent product, with AP flours across the country falling into the 9.8 to 11% range, even though they are nominally supposed to come in at 10.5%. In general, if you're living in the south, you can expect to be at the lower end of that range, and in the north you'll more likely be at the higher end of that range. However it won't vary from the standard idea of what constitutes AP or Bread Flour nearly as much as local or store brands are likely to do.

White Lily used to be a company very similar to KA in it's quality control and consistency (though largely aimed at a different market) but apparently that's changed since it was sold. I don't know what happened to Robin Hood, I haven't seen it in the stores in years, though I've been told it's still available in Canada. Store brands are most likely being packaged by ConAgra or one of the other mega-mills from their standard blends, as the Costco and Sam's bulk flours are, but again you'd have to check with the specific chain and then with the specific mill the flour is coming out of to make sure. I would expect store brands to be more variable than the National brands, however.

Then there's the bleached vs unbleached issue, and boy can you get some really strong opinions on this. I posted on that other thread about different methods of aging/bleaching and their effect (or lack thereof) on gluten formation. Bleaching doesn't affect protein content per se, but it can affect the effectiveness of gluten development later. For cakes, you WANT flour to be bleached by chlorination because that weakens gluten development - you don't want strong gluten development in cakes, cookies, and brownies.

But that's not what you want for bread. For bread you want a flour that's either been aged naturally (unbleached) or by the addition of ascorbic acid (vit C). Both these processes actually strengthen gluten development. Bromating does this too but it's fallen out of favor and is gradually being discontinued by most mills in the US, although the information I have for Gold Medal flours is that many of their "professional" blends are still bromated. I don't know about the stuff you can find on the grocery store shelves, but if it's bromated you will find potassium bromate listed as an ingredient. If you care about that, check for it, though I'm skeptical that its as much of a problem as they have been making it out to be. YMMV.

Anyway. Many of those mills that are phasing out the bromate are turning to benzoyl peroxide instead, which has no effect on gluten development. So a flour treated with peroxide will have slightly different characteristics than one treated with Vit C or naturally aged, but is still within the range of acceptable performance for the intended use, though it might require a slightly different treatment. Personally I wouldn't bother trying to use a chlorinated flour for bread, though some people seem to manage it. I'm just not that talented as a baker.

As for taste - I know some people who swear there's an obvious difference in taste between bleached and "unbleached" flours, but I've never been able to detect it. Each individual needs to find that out for themselves. You can't rely on tests by people at Cook's Illustrated or even on this board to tell you what you, personally, can and cannot taste.

Also, people who have been baking for years with a particular type of flour have developed specific skills and recipes suited to that flour. If you suddenly switch flours and try to use the same skill set and the same recipe, you are likely to be disappointed with your results. I figure that's why some people who go out and buy some KA to try don't like the results they get. Ditto the KA user who tries some other brand.

Another factor that is purported to be affected by the bleaching process, but apparently in reality is not, is absorption rate. Both a bulletin published by the Univ. of Missouri Ag research department and the author of Bakewise report little to no difference in absorption rate between bleached and unbleached versions of the same flour. That's not to say that different flour blends may not differ in absorption rate, but that's a product of the composition of the blend and not the bleaching/aging process chosen.

In short, almost any flour (within the range of usual parameters for protein content and gluten forming ability) can be used to turn out wonderful breads, but there may be differences in handling that are required to do so. You personally may or may not be able to detect flavor differences - only you can tell. There are good reasons to turn to specific types of flour for specific desired results (for instance in Bakewise, the author reports that one well-known baker prefers unbleached AP flour milled from hard red winter wheat for improved flavor in his artisan breads and baguettes, which exactly describes KA AP flour) but that doesn't mean you can't get good bread using something more ordinary (and hence more easily accessible). If I can't get, or can't afford, Italian OOO flour, that doesn't mean I can't make good pizza crust.

If I could find somewhere locally to go and buy KA flour in 25 and 50 lb bags, I would, even if it cost somewhat more than the Costco stuff. Unfortunately I've not been able to find any such place in my area, and buying it 5 lbs at a time would end up costing me in the area of $40 to $60 compared to $12 for the same amount of Costco/ConAgra stuff. So I use KA flour when I can get it, I use KA WW and rye and white wheat flour because they ARE relatively cost effective compared to the alternatives (slightly more than GM or Pillsbury, actually CHEAPER than the bulk stuff at Whole Foods), but I fall back on the Costco stuff for more mundane everyday uses. The one thing I absolutely cannot afford is the KA Bread Flour available locally - it's $9 for 5 lbs at the only store I could find that carries it, yipes!

Basically some rules of thumb to keep in mind:

Consistency is a good thing. When your flour is consistent and behaves the same each and every time you use it, it makes your job as a baker that much easier. This alone would be enough to make me want to use KA flour.

For cakes, flour bleached by chlorination is best. Cake flour typically falls in the 6% to 8% protein range. But you can still make good cakes with standard AP flour, especially if it was chlorinated.

White pastry flour typically comes in at around 9% protein. Again, you can still get good pastry crust from standard AP flour, many people do and have for years. I will say that my accidental acquisition of a large quantity of affordable pastry flour was followed by an immediate and obvious improvement in my pie crusts. Sadly now that I know the truth I can no longer boast about my improved skills, *sigh*.

Standard AP flour from a national brand is nominally about 10.5% protein, give or take about 0.5%. LOCAL brands however vary wildly and you should check the specific mill it came from to find out, if you have to use a local blend.

KA AP is very nearly bread flour at 11.7% protein. I've found this works really well in non-KA recipes that call for bread flour, not so well in non-KA recipes that call for AP flour (such as cakes, cookies, and pies).

Standard bread flour is usually around 12% to 12.5% protein, can be as high as 13% or (purportedly though I've not seen this outside of KA) 14%. Same disclaimers about local blends apply. I'd stick to bread, bagels, and soft pretzels with this type of flour.

KA bread flour is 14.7% protein. Some people swear by it for pizza dough and bagels. Again, doesn't mean you can't turn out a perfectly good product without it. Be careful using it in non-KA recipes that call for bread flour - it's way higher in protein than "normal" bread flour and can make for a chewier product than you were aiming for.

If you're a novice or occasional baker, using flour best suited to the purpose at hand will make your job easier, but ONLY if you can get it regularly - consistent supply is important too as you develop your skills. Switching from a 10.5% flour to a 11.7% flour and back again could put some bumps in your learning curve.

In your case I'd suggest substituting GM or Pillsbury bread flour for KA AP flour. It's a little higher in protein at (nominally) 12.5% protein but your results should be pretty close. Pillsbury UNBLEACHED AP flour may also be an acceptable substitute, you could give it a try and see. I say this because it's my understanding that Pillsbury's unbleached flours are all milled from hard red winter wheat ONLY just like KA's AP flour. I don't know the makeup of Gold Medal's unbleached AP flour. National and store brands of AP bleached flour are blends of hard/soft spring/winter wheats, so you may have a harder time trying to substitute BLEACHED (and some unbleached) standard AP flours for KA AP flour - not saying it CAN'T work but it'll require some different techniques and maybe some dough enhancement as well (like adding vital wheat gluten). It's not the bleaching that's the problem (unless it's chlorinated), it's the blend of different types of wheat (and also the regional variation).

Whatever flour you are using, I've found KA's recipes to give me the best results. I'm not saying there aren't other perfectly good recipes out there - clearly there are - but when I'm trying to make something new, I KNOW I can rely on a KA recipe to have actually been tested, which means I can look to what I'm doing or my ingredients if (when) I get a failure rather than having to worry about the recipe itself.

reply by: lindyd on March 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm
lindyd

Only the bread flour was tried and that was compared to the KAF BF.

I do use the Gold Medal BF exclusively to feed my sourdough starter because I can often get 5# for $2.

reply by: placebo on March 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm
placebo

Awhile back, Mike Avery tested various flours, including KA AP flour and Gold Medal unbleached AP flour.

http://www.sourdoughhome.com/flourtest.html

To me, the most striking thing about his tests was how inexpensive flour was back then!

reply by: rottiedogs on March 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm
rottiedogs

Just an FYI on the Robin Hood Flour. It was purchased a few years ago by Smuckers. It is available for sure in the Midwest as I've seen it locally in several places. 1-800-767-4466 to inquire about availablity - www.robinhood.ca.

reply by: frick on March 18, 2011 at 7:05 pm
frick

Zen Sojourner,

Let me be the first to thank you and applaud your analysis of the characteristics of the most of commonly used flours. A very nice "compare and contrast". If a novice hasn't learned a lot by the end of your essay, I'd be surprised. I keep most of those flours on hand and use what seems to be the most appropriate depending on the recipe source. And while KA flour is always pricey in the West, I'm shocked at it's $9.00 in your neck of the woods. I, too, wish we could buy KA flours in 25-50 pound quantities.

reply by: grandma4five on March 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm
grandma4five

Wow, thanks for all the time you took putting so much information together for me. I surely appreciate it.

My husband and I spoke about the flours last night. His suggestion is to make cookies with the Gold Medal AP, use some of the Bread Flour and Whole Wheat for my fruit and vegetable sweet breads. Then purchase the 25 lb bags as needed from KA for all of my yeast breads. This way I don't waste the flour on hand, but still have the KA for my sourdough and other yeast breads.

I'm actually on the last steps of my very first batch of sourdough and can hardly to have a warm slice! I am using KA for this batch. Both of my sons have had much success with their loaves of sourdough bread, waiting to see how mom does - I've got to live up to the expectations! Shaped the loaves and waiting for the final rise and then oven!

Thank you again, for your time!

Blessings, Donna

reply by: toffee on March 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm
toffee

Donna, sorry I haven't replied. Been busy with son's music auditions, contests and end of trimester issues. I meant to say I use KA AP for my bread. I use unbleached Pillsbury or Gold Medal or Robin Hood for almost everything else. I can get 5 pounds of the Pillsbury or GM for as little as $2. I was buying my KA 25 pounds at a time when they have free shipping. Now I can get five pounds for the cheap price at Walmart. It is just cheaper to buy five bags at $12.50 and with no sales tax on food or clothes here makes it cheaper to buy that way. Helps to have a freezer if it isn't being used quickly though. Not an issue in my house. Lol

Patty

Thanks for the primer, Zen. I learned a lot about flour today! :-)

reply by: omaria on March 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm
omaria

Want this in my file.

reply by: grandma4five on March 22, 2011 at 12:01 am
grandma4five

Thanks, Patty. Oh yes, my freezer has a special shelf for flours. I have actually decided to do the same with my flour. KA for breads, GM for other baking.

Blessings, Donna