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Problems with flour

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Has anyone else noticed that flour is behaving different this year? I always use King Arthur flours and starting this summer I noticed that the flour was different. It doesn't absorb liquids that way it previously did and it is throwing my recipes off. First i thought I bought a bad batch, so I threw out the bag and purchased 5 lbs of AP at Whole Paycheck, but it behaved the same as the previous K-A AP flour that I bought at Wal-Mart.

I always scale my flour and liquids in grams and I changed the battery just in case. I have taken to adding 10% more flour to get the same result baking cookies and rolls lately and it still doesn't seem like its enough but I'm wary of adding additional flour. I made a batch of Rugelach on Sunday and the dough was unworkable, and the finished cookies had no structure.

I've baked professionally in the past and I called 2 previous co-workers and they have noticed the same problem, but the King Arthur rep. refuses to admit any changes in either processing or what used.

Candy, Father Kitchen, Ruth, ipsedixit, Sam, Pastryrocks, Chowser?

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  1. I'm not a baker, but I know I read in the NYTimes earlier this year (or maybe it was last year) that King Arthur had sold its operations to another manufacturer. If memory serves, biscuit makers around the country were in mourning, as the product was definitely changed (even if the new owners said it wasn't).

    4 Replies
    1. re: bebevonbernstein

      I thought it was "White Lily" flour that sold and relocated. Didn't hear anything about KA...
      I've not noticed any probs w/ my KA AP flour thus far. Adam

      1. re: adamshoe

        Right you are Adam.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/18/din...

        1. re: KTinNYC

          Ah, my mistake -- told you I didn't bake!!

          1. re: bebevonbernstein

            You could give some one heart palpitations with that!!

    2. I wonder if it is the humidity. Seems to me (I live in the PNW) that when it is rainy or really humid (I used to live in FL) the flour absorbed water or soomething so when I weighed it there was significantly less flour than if I measured it. Maybe that was due to the humidy compacting the flour so it was actually correct with the weight and heavy with the cup measure... Just thinking aloud. Anyway, maybe it is the weather. You should try measuring by hand and all the while judging the consistency of your pastries (etc.) by feel and look. You probably know what the rugelach dough looks like. Sometimes you have to improvise!

      PS - further info: I use KA - have seen no differences.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sal Vanilla

        Ive tried volume measurements and the problem is still evident but less evident. I have noticed the same issue with both Pillsbury and Gold Medal flour.

        I live in humid northern Ohio, but I store unopened bags of flour in Rubbermaid sweater boxes, and when I open a bag it is transferred to a 2 gallon Rubbermaid container that is stored in my pantry.

      2. You know, this past summer KA flour almost hit the $5 mark (almost like gas) and it was twice what I could get other flour for at the commissary so I stopped using it. I like it better but couldn't justify twice the cost with how much flour I go through. But, it was on sale so I picked up a bag today. I'll let you know if I notice a difference. But, adding 10% more flour is a big difference. Could you add a little vital wheat gluten instead? Have you noticed a difference in the other types of KA flour? Thanks for the heads up, btw.

        10 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          I haven't considered adding gluten because I don't want to toughen the cookies. I can add more flour but it is the unpredictability of the situation that is frustrating. Baking is about control and this is a variable that cant be reliably corrected.

          It doesn't seem to be as pronounced in the bread flour and the extreme sir Lancelot but the AP and pastry flour need as much as 1 extra cup to bring them back to their previous consistency. They also require more baking time. Ive went as far as begin weighing liquids and eggs, just to be sure.

          I'm not sure what happened but I have a theory that K-A changed wheat varieties for a lower cost.

          1. re: Kelli2006

            I wonder if they're trying to get their costs under control. The price went from about $2.70 to close to $5 in a few months. It might all be connected.

            1. re: Kelli2006

              I baked cinnamon rolls with my newest KA flour (made last night, baked this morning) and had good results. The recipe called for 3 1/2-4 cups of flour and 3 1/2 was enough to get the right consistency and the rolls were great. I don't know if it could be regional, as Mary mentioned below--I'm in the DC area. At $4.50 a bag on sale, I can't imagine throwing it out! I'd use it for regular cooking. As adding vital wheat gluten, I thought maybe a tiny amount would help, instead of adding that much more flour. What is Sir Lancelot flour? I haven't seen it in stores.

              1. re: chowser

                SL flour is the holy grail of pizza and bagel makers because the protein content is about 1 point higher then the bread machine flour. Ive never seen it in stores, so I buy 10lbs from a bakery where I occasionally work.

                http://www.kingarthurflour.com/items/...

                I use Peter Reinhart's cinnamon roll recipe and Ive had to use 4 to 4.25 cups of flour lately and they are still overly sticky, but I am very hesitant of using too much flour at the start because that would result in a tough product.

                HLing, Hard winter wheat berries should be red, so a mixture would be closer to AP then bread flour. I am wondering if this might be the result of K-A using GMO wheat?

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  "...HLing, Hard winter wheat berries should be red, so a mixture would be closer to AP then bread flour. I am wondering if this might be the result of K-A using GMO wheat?..."

                  Kelli2006, thanks for confirming regarding the color of the wheat. Also I didn't realize my post was unclear until i re-read it. The batch of Hard winter wheat berries that seemed mixed was from bulk bin at Fairway in NYC, not from K-A. I've since used up that batch. The new batch that I just started soaking seem all uniformly red. So, maybe it was that one time mishap only.

                  But...K-A uses GMO wheat? What about their organic flour?

                  1. re: HLing

                    Maybe Kelli is just speculating or starting a rumor about KA and GMO wheat. And why should GMO wheat be any different in protein content?

                    1. re: paulj

                      The comment about GMO wheat was just a speculation, but I'm unaware if GMO crops can can qualify for organic status.

                      1. re: Kelli2006

                        It was debated for a while but GMO doesn't qualify for organic. I wasn't aware there was GMO wheat. Is it new?

                  2. re: Kelli2006

                    Is SL flour that different from adding vital wheat gluten to bread flour? I've been doing that when I bake bread.

                    1. re: chowser

                      You can approximate SL flour by adding vital gluten to K-A bread flour.

                      Monsanto stated that they dropped their research into GMO wheat in 2004/5, but I would not guarantee that it isn't being tested and grown in the US or Canada.

            2. With wheat prices the way they are on the commodities exchanges, one would almost suspect that flour manufacturers are doing strange things to stretch the amount of wheat that is going into their flour.

              Sounds odd, I know. Sort of like saying ice makers are trying to stretch the amount of water they use to make ice.

              1. Not sure if it's similar to what you're experiencing, but I've noticed sometimes the dry flour acting like glue, just dead, lifeless.

                I've been doing a lot of wet-grinding of soaked wheat berries. When it comes time for me to add the dry flour to make bread, it is always noticeable if the purchased dry flour is not so good. It's a real bummer to spend a lot of time stone grinding the wheat berries, and then to have it mixed with bad flour.

                Another thing semi-related is how they seem to be mixing wheat berries. At least the last couple of times I got Hard wheat, I'd get a mixture of white and red colors. I'm hoping that it's not a mixture of hard and soft wheat, but maybe all hard, but just some red and some white...but then i hear the white hard wheat is actually more expensive.

                Whatever the case, whatever the shape of the wheat...something isn't going right these days.

                1. Hi!

                  Interesting.

                  The higher the protein content a flour has, the more it is able to absorb water. I know that in the past, Cook's Illustrated determined that KA AP flour had the highest protein level of any of the major brands. I wonder if that has changed and maybe they're using softer wheat for part of it. The KA website still lists the protein content of the AP flour as 11.7, the same as stated in the cook's illustrated article from 2003. Hum. Just thinking out loud.

                  All that being said, I have to say that I really haven't noticed any difference in the flour. I just made 48 dinner rolls last night with the KA AP flour and it seemed the same to me. I wonder if the issue is regional.

                  Mary
                  www.BestinKitchen.com

                  1. Wasn't there a time when bakers worked by feel, using a variable ratio of flour and water? Flour was known to vary in moisture content, and packing. It could also vary in protein content, especially across strains. It may have even varied in protein content from year to year.

                    Are climate controlled factories and homes, along with precise digital scales, turning us into robotic bakers, mixing by numbers rather than feel?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: paulj

                      I've been thinking about this lately since I went digital (scale). When I make bread, it's stil by feel since the quantity of flour is pretty variable but now when I make cookies, etc., it's with such precision that I'm like a machine. There was a time when no one cooked with such precision. It makes baking less of an art and more of a science--it's almost like those years I spent doing quantitative analysis in chem,

                    2. No I have not noticed any differences this year. Since going back to work in the past year I have not have had as much time to bake as I have in the past. I frequently use White Lily but when making pizza dough I use a combination of bread flour (I'm not fussy about brand) and semolina. I also tend to make a wetter slightly sticky dough so I probably would not notice. I have made several batches of World Peace cookies in the past few months and used White Lily AP (not self rising, that stuff does not cross my threshold) and have not noticed any differences, I used WL to make pie crust for our tourtiere last night. DH commented on the crust as being excellent. My DH is the bread baker and has not made any comment about flour behaving differently. He generally uses bread flour that is at the best price. Today he whipped up some bread made with a combo of chestnut flour and bread flour. It is smelling mighty fine.

                      Sorry I don't have any suggestions of what is wrong with your flour. Maybe give White Lily a try? I'm stumped.

                      1. Well I'm glad to see I'm not alone!! I really thought I was losing my touch but yes, I have to add about 10% or more flour to make my cookie and cake recipes come out like they used to. I bake semi-professionally and have to say it's killing my costs. And it's true, I started having these problems as soon as the price of flour exploded. I know it's not the weather or humidity because it happens all the time and I am in my kitchen several times a week playing "will this recipe sink or swim". Kelli where do you live? I live in PA outside of Philly. I'm also wondering if this is regional??

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: allyoop3412

                          I am in the Akron Ohio area.

                          I made chocolate chip cookies last week and I had to add 4 more ounces of Gold Medal unbleached AP before the dough was workable, and even after 24 hours in the fridge the dough was still too sticky.

                          It is almost to the point where I ignore flour amounts in recipes because the ingredients are so in consistent. I have measured by cups and by weight and it doesn't seem to make much of a difference so I have to wonder if there are fillers in the flour or maybe they are using different strain of wheat berries.

                          A friend who recently came back from Toronto brought me 4 kilos of Monarch pastry flour that I am experimenting with.