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May 1, 2009 09:51 AM

King Arthur Flour worth the $?

Just bought a bag of King Arthur flour for the first time to experiment with in my baking.

Have you noticed a difference with King Arthur vs. Gold Medal, and other flour brands? I noticed a recent thread that TJ's is no longer carrying KA but now carrying a TJ brand... What are people's thoughts and opinions on brands of flour, can you really tell the difference?

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  1. I go back and forth on this since it's more than twice the price for me to buy KA flour. I use both. If I'm baking cookies, bread, where it'll make a difference, I use KA. If I'm coating meat, making a roux, etc., I use cheaper flour. I use KA bread and white whole wheat flour almost exclusively. Although the cost throws me, when you come down to it, the cost per batch of cookies isn't that much higher--you're talking about a few dollars a month at most, if you bake often.

    1. Just a thought- KA has a higher protein content than many other brands, including Gold Medal. So you might consider keeping it on hand for items like yeast bread, where it works especially well, and using a more affordable brand for items like cookies, which don't benefit from the extra protein (or items like biscuits, which prefer a low-protein flour, like southern brands... White Lily?). I believe Cook's Illustrated uses Gold Medal for their run-of-the-mill cooking.

      13 Replies
      1. re: happybellynh

        This does not make sense. If one of the defining characteristics of a flour is its protein content, why should KA use a different standard that other brands?

        1. re: paulj

          Different resulting texture in the final product.

          1. re: paulj

            KA is known for a particularly high protein content but there is a huge range among brands of AP flours. Shirley Corriher's book Bakewise has a chart where she lists the various protein contents.

            1. re: Velda Mae

              If GM AP is too low in protein, why not use their bread flour (instead of the KA AP)?

              1. re: Velda Mae

                The publicly-viewable peek available at Amazon of Cookwise is all about flours and protein. Absolutely worth a read.

                1. re: Cinnamon

                  I didn't realize that Cookwise also has that table of protein contents. It gives unbleached KA AP as 11.7% protein, other unbleached AP brands as 10-12, or 11-12 for other Northern brands (Robin Hood). This compares to 'bread flour' at 11.5-12.5. So if you want a consistently high protein flour, KA AP is a good choice, possibly even better than one labeled 'bread flour'.

                  But Corriher also discusses the advantages of lower protein flour for things like cake, pie crusts, even muffins.

                  It's interesting that many of us have accepted the idea that unbleached is better, more 'natural'. Yet the way Corriher puts it, bleached is, in many ways, superior for things like cakes. In the same way, we can easily fall for the 'higher protein is better' line.

                  1. re: paulj

                    It depends on whether your priority is texture, flavor, or nutritional value, for certain items. I use some whole wheat flour in my pie crusts because I like the flavor, even though it makes the dough harder to work with and yields a less flaky crust. If I were making a pie for company or a bake sale, I'd use a lower-protein flour for a better crust. I don't mind a coarser crumb in a simple homemade cake/quickbread/muffin, either.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      In her Pie and Pastry Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum advocates adding a bit of whole wheat flour to pie crusts for the flavor and also because of WW flour's lower gluten content. I think the amount she adds is less than 1/2 cup (I don't have access to the book at the moment). I don't know how that compares to what you do, greygarious, but her technique is pretty involved and handling may be different than standard (I haven't used that particular recipe in the book).

                      My mother makes all-butter pie crusts with all whole-wheat pastry flour, and they are surprisingly flaky, given the all butter, WW ingredients. I generally use all WW pastry flour in muffins, quick breads and the like, and I like the texture of the sturdier crumb.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        I don't expect to make this in the very near future, but out of curiosity, what would you use to attempt an Italian pandoro ... those are the superlight, very, very risen white cakes that you dust with powdered sugar and then drizzle with cream and eat while warm.

                        Would you use the least-protein cake flour readily available, or something else?

                        1. re: Cinnamon

                          Shirley Corriher recommends using the lowest protein flour for light cakes, eg. bleached cake flour. The more protein, the more chewy texture you will get. There are cakes/cookies that replace some flour with cornstarch to get the light ethereal texture.

                2. re: paulj

                  It's not that KA has a different standard, it's that EVERY company has a different standard. There's no standard, in fact.

                3. re: happybellynh

                  The extra protein in cookies gives you chewier cookies. If you want cakier cookes, then less protein is good. In chocolate chip cookies, my favorite is using a mix of bread flour and cake flour.

                4. Although a bit more expensive (at least in my area), KA tastes better and performs more consistently than QM in my experience. I'm guessing the QA is a tad more rigorous. Given that baking seems much more reliant on measures, I'll always use KA. For all other savory uses, I'll also use KA since it's in the pantry.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: alwayscooking

                    This is Allison at King Arthur Flour and I thought a little clarification might help. The real value in King Arthur Flour - besides that it's always unbleached and all-natural - is that its protein content is very consistent. The protein content of King Arthur Flour is allowed to vary only by 0.2%, so every time you use it, it will perform the same way. Other national brands' protein contents can range up to 2% - meaning a bag of their all-purpose flour one day might be more like pastry flour in protein content, while a couple weeks later the protein content might be more like a bread flour. For consistent results in baking, KAF is your best bet. Thanks for this great discussion!

                    1. re: AllisonFurbish

                      Thanks for posting, Allison, that's great to know. I've always preferred KA and now I know why I had the gut reaction I had! :D

                      1. re: AllisonFurbish


                        Trader Joe's no longer sells KA flour, but there's a rumor circulating (posted in at least one Chowhound thread) that the house brand they sell for about the same price is made by KA. True or False?

                        1. re: Zeldog

                          False. KA has stated emphatically that their contract with Trader Joe's was not renewed, and they do not supply the current flour product.


                          1. re: smtucker

                            They even had a little hand-printed sign in TJ's today by that flour saying there was no affiliation.

                          2. re: Zeldog

                            I guess I could have done some basic research first. The answer is False. Oh well, I usually keep some cheap flour around for making roux or deep frying.


                          3. re: AllisonFurbish

                            How wonderful that you identify yourself and then provide reliable information from the source.

                            I have often advised people here to contact KA because I don't think anyone has better info, a better product, better recipes or nearly the commitment to offer generous personal support to bakers.

                            Kudos for your candor and expertise! And thanks, always!

                            1. re: rainey

                              They are just wonderful in customer relations, in my opinion. And their promos! I became a dedicated KA user merely out of gratitude for the FREE show they put on years ago, in my city: a three hour bread demo, with a really wonderfully informative and funny man giving the class. KA was generous with the freebies ( we all came home with several packages of their expensive artisan bread starter. I won a dough whip and my husband won a cookbook. )

                              My daughter simply fell in love with the large, very nice KA apron the instructor was wearing (their emblem in full coloron heavy cotton canvas)and so I wrote to the company asking if they had them for sale. The woman who responded said, no, sorry, not for sale but "we are sending you a complementary apron for your daughter. Tell her we hope she enjoys learning to bake and we appreciate creating new KA fans across the country!"

                              Now, that's how to build a loyal customer base!

                              (Oh, and their flour is great, too. ;-)

                              1. re: Beckyleach

                                My little one went with me to one of their demo's last year and won a very nice pastry blender, much nicer than mine. She is quite proud of it and I have to ask special permission from her to borrow it.

                                I really wish KA did their school programs in our part of the country.

                                1. re: rockycat

                                  Looks like a great pastry blender, but check out the KA markup--


                                  vs. a baking supply house--


                                  And this one looks like it's even better at the same price--


                        2. I'm another one who keeps both in the house. Cheap flour for most uses, KA white and whole wheat for bread baking.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rockycat

                            Same. Whole Foods store brand for everyday, KA for bread. Their whole wheat is the closest I've ever gotten to freshly-milled as far as the resulting bread's texture and flavor. It really is much better than other brands of WW flour. I find I can make a 100% WW bread using KA and end up with a delicious, light bread, whereas with other brands the bread ends up with a sandpapery texture (not hearty but rough) and much less flavor.

                            I don't necessarily see a big difference in non-yeast-bread applications. But my yeast bread does seem to benefit from the higher-quality KA.

                          2. Whether or not KA flour is worth the extra cost is something you have to decide for yourself.
                            For me, baking is one of my favorite hobbies--especially yeast breads--and I take great pride in my end product, so I want to use good quality ingredients that produce the best possible results. I have much better results with KA flours and if the price increased two-fold, I'd still buy KA. I can count on it's quality and consistency.
                            I've recently used their Queen Guinevere Cake Flour and it produced the best cake crumb I've ever made.
                            My pantry contains KA flours exclusively. It's for lack of space and convenience that I don't keep a "cheaper" brand on hand for thickening or dredging applications.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: choco_lab38

                              i agree. i've got many different flours in the kitchen, but only one all-purpose white--KA. boy, it seems like you'd have to do an awful lot of dredging and rouxing to notice the savings of using cheaper flour for those applications. heck, the cost of the extra canister would eat up a year's savings.