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Flour: Canadian vs. American.

In the "Buffalo" thread some posters have said they import American flour for baking because it gives better results in some recipes.

I'm curious about specific recipes that get better results with American flour, or type of baked goods eg. pie crust, cakes, bread, cookies etc.?

I've tried using American flour (instead of my regular Canadian) as a comparison but found no difference in my results for tried and true recipes. What have your results been?

Have you tried minimizing mixing time to cut down gluten production in tender baked goods like cakes?

As an avid baker I'm fascinated by the experience of posters with flours of different origin.

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  1. Well, there's various types of flour made from wheat grown in America, but I never heard of "American flour" as a particular type. There's all purpose flour, bread flour, cake flour, whole wheat flour and others, but not American or Canadian. If some folks up there like US flour, it probably has more to do with the quality of the brand rather than where it was made.

    16 Replies
    1. re: Zeldog

      Just to clarify, the comparison I've made personally was between using All-Purpose flour produced in Canada and All-Purpose produced in the States.

      I can't remember the brands of flour I've imported to compare.

      1. re: middydd

        My experience is that Canadian AP flour (Five Roses for example) is stronger (higher in gluten) than any US brands except King Arthur bread flour. I like it for bread but prefer the US brands for sweet baking. And I would love to be able to get Monarch cake and pastry flour here (in NY) - pastry flour is a specialty item.

        1. re: buttertart

          I am American but go through at least 10 kg per year of Robin Hood flour. The recipes of my Canadian aunts and grandmothers aren't the same with American all-purpose flour, though King Arthur bread flour is an ok substitute. Date squares just aren't right with that soft American flour.

          I also use Magic baking powder. I think it always seems better because it doesn't contain aluminum as some here do (or did).

          1. re: poundcake

            If I could get my mitts on it here in NY I would use it too. Can't get my mother's oatmeal cookies quite right either.

            1. re: poundcake

              You might seek out Rumsford baking powder in the US. It is aluminum-free and the only brand I use.

              1. re: poundcake

                yum, chewy date squares! my favorite! they need a lot of 'tooth', eh? No delicate 'cake flour' for them, which is basically what american all-purpose flour is, I guess.....

                I have a bread machine, and the users manual explains the difference between american and canadian all-purpose flour, the american flour has less gluten so is not suitable for making bread, as you need gluten acting with yeast to cause bread to rise. The american all-purpose flour is really suitable for pastries and cakes, for bread you need the bread flour.

                Reading this string of posts, I am curious to try a cake and pastry flour, is Monarch a canadian brand? seems I've heard of it but not for years....ironically canadian all-purpose flour seems to work fine with 'all the above' ie. breads, cakes and pastries), but I'm still curious about the Monarch specialty flour....but Canadian recipes seem to have been developed for all-purpose flour since at least 1902(I have a 5 Roses Flour reprint of vintage recipes, they only mention all-purpose flour).....
                and yet I've used american recipes published in american magazines(before I used internet) and done fine with canadian AP flour....
                and now use it for european recipes, with no problems, on the net...

                1. re: sniffles20

                  I've never heard of Monarch flour. So, I'm guessing it's not Canadian.

                  1. re: CanadaGirl

                    Monarch flour is a Canadian flour am providing you three links. It can be found in Quebec at Morelatos or used to be available there. It has a red plaid bag and some old vintage cookbooks are also available on line from this company.

                    http://www.adm.com/en-US/Milling/Cana...

                    http://www.smuckers.ca/brands.aspx

                    http://kitchenretro.wordpress.com/tag...

                    1. re: Ruthie789

                      Hmmm. Must be regional; I've never seen it in Nova Scotia. Thanks :)

                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                        I think it is being seen less frequently. I have only seen it at one small grocery chain. However, my Grandmother, who was a maritimer only used Monarch flour.

                        1. re: Ruthie789

                          Maybe I've been under a rock somewhere! Not sure how I missed it. I even did a google image search, and while lots of images popped up, none looked familiar to me. I obviously wear "flour goggles" ;)

                      2. re: Ruthie789

                        I concur: Monarch is a premium brand (based on the higher price point) that you can find here in Toronto at Sobeys.

                        1. re: rajaman04

                          And Loblaws, I saw it at the one in Maple Leaf Gardens in any case.

                2. re: buttertart

                  The only Canadian flour I really like is Robin Hood. I've used King Arthur and Gold Medal that I bought in Buffalo and like those fine, too. I think you just have to experiment and find what you like. I think a lot of it is personal taste.

                  1. re: MmmDatGood

                    I'm very loyal to Robin Hood. Now if only they'd sell unbleached in larger bags.

                    1. re: CanadaGirl

                      They used to but they got smart, now they sell it as a specialty flour so they can charge more.

            2. I've also heard of differences between American/Canadian flour and European flouer

              7 Replies
              1. re: dre2112

                One of the biggest differences between American Flour and European flour is that most (the exceptions are SOME organic flours) American Flour's have added Barley Malt. It figures that Ameican's add sugar to flour. I don't know about the Canadian Flours. A lot of American flour is made with Canadian wheat, but the gluten level certainly could be higher too.

                1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                  A lot of the more "advanced" (i.e. Peter Reinhart's etc) bread recipes I have call for adding malt to flour for best yeast performance. It's a dough conditioner, not a sugar additive as such.

                  1. re: buttertart

                    You cannot use Canadian flour in American recipes or you'll risk failure. Especially noticeable with cakes and breads. I cannot recall the reason for the difference which is actually why I'm searching on the internet! I want to make the correct adjustments if I use American recipes for my Christmas baking. I'll continue my search online....

                    1. re: wephie

                      I believe it's a higher gluten content. I grew up with Monarch flour (primarily cake and pastry, my mom wasn't a bread baker) and have used US flours since 1973. I found that the all-purpose flour in Canada was significantly stronger than the US version. I wish I could get the Monarch cake and pastry flour here because it produces very nice pie crust in particular.

                      1. re: iL Divo

                        King Arthur Flour carries two types, I can never remember which is for which purpose (diastaic and non-diastatic). I bought the right one for some Peter Reinhart recipes I was making but didn't bother to get any more when I ran out.

                        1. re: buttertart

                          I use the non-diastatic for bagels.

                2. midd, I like this post.
                  when I'm in Canada I always go to the markets to shop.
                  one thing I always do is look at the variety of flours they sell.
                  like in the Whole Foods version there in Canada, is it Cascades or Caspers? I always forget, anyway, they have the specialty flours and two weeks ago I bought semolina and rye flour there. I was looking for double zero flour but they didn't have that. Guess I gotta go back to Italy for that, sigh, not.........love Italy.
                  with the typical flour that we get here, I never realized how much the brand made a difference in the texture or the end result. I think it's also in the technique and how heavy you are with your mixing or handling of the dough[s].
                  To me, having used [and bought and hold on to in the freezer] such a flour as White Lily, it isn't that much a difference in the end result. It's touted as the best but I don't see it. Although I know there are several discussions on that brand and as with anything else, it's at best, subjective.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: iL Divo

                    Hi, there, I have noticed that I can get heavier flour from the same brand at a seperate purchases(canadian all-purpose)....and I think it may be because of packaging in humid weather, when the flour will absorb moisture.
                    The same thing will happen to your flour if you don't keep it in a sealed container, it will absorb moisture on humid days. And get very cool on cooler days if room temperature drops for any reason.
                    This is not so good especially for bread, because first the flour needs to be dry and second all ingredients need to be at room temperature(except for pastry)...but it can be remedied if you put the flour in a shallow layer, in a pizza pan or baking dish, and warm in a low heat oven, it will also dry out. But hey, if you live in say California or Texas for example, no worries about cold anyway eh?

                    My black and decker bread machine users manual says that american all purpose and canadian all purpose are not the same, the american all purpose doesn't have enough gluten for bread making, you need (american) bread flour....
                    a trick I learned, once you get the bread mixed, first, for pizza, if it is stiff and hard to spread, let it rest 15-20 minutes and it will become VERY soft and pliable, grease the pans and oil your hands and you have the job done in no time! I was told that the rest allows the gluten to 'work'......for bread the rest period would be, after each raise, punch down and knead a couple strokes, then let rest, the gluten has to do its thing....15-20 minutes.....but this isn't desired for chewier breads that require little or no kneading.

                    1. re: sniffles20

                      I've been making bread for 40 years with American AP flour. It's just fine for bread. Cake flour has a lot less gluten than American AP - they are not the same thing at all.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        You just have to know the gluten level of your particular brand. if you want sandwich bread that doesn't need to rise so high then lower gluten level is fine, if not, you can always add vital gluten to get high rising bread.
                        I've been reading that the levels vary in the USA as you go north to south in the states, perhaps this is why the black and decker company uses the 'better safe than sorry' approach when recommending bread flour in the USA, with machines there is little room for variance......canadian all-purpose ranks at 12% which is the highest end of the spectrum for AP flour gluten levels(10-12%), and bread machine flour is only 1% higher, so.....

                  2. Here's a web page that compares Canadian, USA, and UK flours. It confirms what others have been saying, that Canadian all purpose is higher in gluten. But this author thinks the Canadian version is more 'all purpose' because of that.

                    http://www.practicallyedible.com/edib...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: paulj

                      I am a serious home baker and have lived on both sides of the border, and I have used maybe 20 or 30 different flours over the years in a broad range of applications.

                      My conclusion? Well, different flours yield different results in different applications. Flours vary regionally, and some will vary by season as well (especially the off-brand ones). As some have pointed out above, they differ with respect to additives (e.g., malt flour, ascorbic acid). Some applications are very sensitive to the specific flour used and others are less so. Some recipes will turn out differently (though not necessarily more poorly) with different flours--the crumb might be coarser or finer, the pie crust more or less flaky. Some flours are more forgiving than others in certain applications: I use pastry flour in pie crusts, and I don't have to worry so much about overworking the dough. But other recipes will flop totally with the wrong flour. In my hands at least, flops occur mainly with high-hydration European style breads. These are the only ones about which I am really rigid when it comes to the flour I use. Here in Canada I use President's Choice Unbleached Organic All Purpose flour for that application--extremely reliable.

                      While different flours differ with respect to gluten content, they also differ with respect to gluten *quality*. Some are more elastic and others more extensible; some are weak, others strong. How you treat the flour also influences the gluten quality: Some bread flours are happy after a short knead, but others need a longer knead. Some work well at a low pH, and others are more flexible.

                      For the record, I can't say that I have noticed any systematic, country-specific differences.

                      My point, I guess, is that there are so many variables that come into play here in addition to country of origin and gluten content. The heuristics I use are as follows:

                      1) Any cake or pastry flour will work fine for cakes and pastry; if I want a bit more structure for some reason, I will use any all purpose flour instead. And if I am out of cake/pastry flour, I happily use all purpose. Or I mix all purpose with some corn starch to improvise if I feel like it (handy trick for those who don't have room for 8 kinds of flour in their kitchen).

                      2) Any bread flour will work for just about any bread, other than a high-hydration European bread. All purpose is a reasonable substitute, but I would knead it a bit longer and expect a slightly softer crumb. For this reason, I might use all purpose for a sandwich bread. Another hack for those with small kitchens: You can turn all purpose into bread flour by adding some gluten flour.

                      3) For high-hydration European breads I stick rigidly with my President's Choice Organic All Purpose. I won't substitute--too many focaccia flubs and baguette blunders in the past!

                      4) I steer clear of off-brand flours because of their variability, though if cost were an issue I would feel OK about this for everything except my high-hydration breads. But you would have to accept some variability in the end results. I never trust flours from bulk food stores: They may buy from different suppliers over time, and they may not be sufficiently attentive at getting the right flour in the right bin. Have had some bad experiences, including the Concrete Pizza Incident and the Doorstop Pound Cake Debacle.

                      1. re: zamorski

                        Intersting post, personally, in eastern canada, I have found all-purpose flour to be quite dependable and adequate in just about every situation, maybe because it has been used this way since at least the early 1900s by farm wives.....and our recipes are mostly made for all-purpose flour. Especially dependable brands here, are, 5 roses flour, robin hood, speerville is especially fine, and the store brands like no-name, pc, co-op, compliments(sobeys)

                        I did discover a trick though in bread making, that first it takes practice to get the results you want consistently, also, after the first raising of a yeast dough, you punch down, knead a few seconds, then let rest for 10-20 minutes, the resting, I was told, allows the gluten to 'work', making the dough VERY soft, and less stiff.... then proceed to knead, or roll, or spread in a pan. This technique is especially useful if you are spreading pizza dough on a pan, and it won't spread, just let it rest. And also have your hands oiled! Makes the job so much easier.....the difference is unbelievable, really.

                        I have tried different recipes, say for pizza dough, depending on the difference in instructions, or technique, you get different results. Same with different types of bread. All purpose seems to be adequate usually. Better Homes & Gardens 'new baking book' 1st ed. 1998 has dependable european & other, bread recipes in it I have been really happy with, guess I'm a one-flour-in-the-kitchen type of person....
                        Another tip I picked up, I noticed some flours seem heavier or packier than others, like it has been packaged in humid weather and absorbed moisture...of course, breads need to be made with room temp ingredients, and DRY flour, so in this case the flour should be dried in a low heat oven in a shallow layer in a baking dish....and stored in a sealed container otherwise.
                        Oh, by the way........I remember reading in my Black and Decker Bread Machine user's manual, about how American all-purpose flour is not suitable to use, because it does not have enough gluten, it is not like Canadian all-purpose flour which is suitable. The company recommended American cooks use American Bread Flour.

                        1. re: zamorski

                          The Doorstop Pound Cake sounds like Fourth of July Heritage Loaf from the cult movie "The Groove Tube"!

                        2. re: paulj

                          It is true that Canadian all-purpose flour has more gluten than the american counterpart, anyway....
                          I use a Black and Decker bread machine, the user's manual has instructions for both sides of the border, it says American all-purpose flour is not suitable to use for that very reason, the manual instructs american cooks to use their bread flour in the machine.
                          Canada has had this all-purpose flour for over 100 years now, used for both pastries/cakes, and breads.....I have a newly published retro-"official" Five Roses Flour Cookbook with recipes from the early 1900s that have no mention of cake/pastry flour, or bread flour, it is always all-purpose flour.....
                          I find it ironic that all-purpose can be suitable for both, I don't know why that would be, maybe the recipes that have developed for cakes include ingredient ratios, or techniques, that compensate for the extra gluten :)
                          and today we do have all 3 kinds in Canada, plus a bread machine flour, but why buy a more expensive flour if you use one already suitable? Maybe if I tried them, I would see a difference lol....
                          but so far for me, different techniques, and different ingredients(eggs vs. no eggs, sweet milk vs. sour milk vs. no milk...for example) produce different results and different kinds of breads!
                          And yet another point of irony: I have tried recipes published in American magazines(before the internet lol) that have turned out fine using Canadian all-purpose flour, go figure, don't really know why.....and any recipe on the net from Europe or USA, too....hmmm....:)

                        3. Old thread I know...I have Canadian relatives in northern Ontario and southern Saskatchewan. The easiest way to understand the difference between Canadian flour and U.S. flour is that Canadian all-purpose flour is equivalent to U.S. bread flour, ie. protein content.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: John E.

                            Thank you John,
                            I spend my winters in Florida and getting tired of bringing enough flour with me as I love to bake.
                            Next time I will try bread flour and see what happens.