Why bake with French Flour?
For an authentic French loaf whether it is a baguette, pain de campagne or indeed a sweet treat such as a croissant, using French flour makes all the difference. The wheat is different and needs handling differently too.
French Flour Types
When baking bread using French flour, you’ll need to know what type to use. Each bag of French flour is labelled with a number. It’s important to understand these numbers. Typically, French flour for breadmaking is Type 55 or T55. The higher the number, the more of the whole grain it contains.
The type number refers to the amount mineral content. When the flour is tested, a precise amount of flour is baked at a very high temperature and the resulting “ash” or mineral content is measured (marked cendres above). For example a Type 55 flour will have between 0.5 and 0.6% of minerals for each 100 gr of flour. The lower the number, the whiter the flour. The higher the number the more complete or ‘wholemeal’ the flour.
How is French Flour different to British Flour?
It is relatively easy these days to buy flour milled from grain grown in the UK. However, traditionally much of our flour has been imported from countries Canada and the United States. These wheats are strong in protein. Gluten allows the gas generated by the yeast to be trapped in bubbles. The stronger the wheat the smaller the bubble and more water can be added. French flour is ‘softer’ and contains less gluten. It will contains grains only grown in France.
What part of the grain does the flour come from?
A grain of wheat is made of up three main components:
- Outer casing (13%). Mostly made of cellulose and minerals. The outer casing is removed during milling and becomes the bran
- Endosperm (84%) This is 70 to 75% starch and 10 to 12% proteins and a small amount of vitamins.
- Germ (3%) Rich in lipids, proteins, vitamins and essential minerals. Removed during milling to ensure longer life
Wholemeal flour uses all the grain, white flour just the endosperm. However, depending on the mill, the bran and germ might be removed and then added back in.
Why use French flour?
If you want to make really great baguettes and croissant, try French flour. You will notice the difference. It’s much easier to achieve those large ‘holes’ you love. The dough is will softer to work with, so require a little practice! It’s always best to autolyse first – pre-soaking.
What type of flour should I use?
- Type 45 – The whitest of flours. You’ll discover there are two types, one created specifically for croissants and brioches (sometimes called Gruau). The second is similar to sponge flour you might find in the supermarket. I use this flour for making scones and cakes with excellent results.
- Type 55 and Type 65 – These are typically used for bread making. I like to use Type 65 which has a slightly rougher feel and is my flour of choice for baguettes
- Type 80 – This is a lovely flour, not white, not wholemeal but in between the two.
- Type 110 This is the designation for spelt flour just to confuse things!
- Type 150 – This is the wholemeal flour and ideal for rustic breads.
Where to buy French flour?
Some companies buy in French flour and rebrand it or sell it under the original brand name. Others buy in the wheat and mill it in the UK.
- Shipton Mill sell both Type 45 and Type 55 flour in small and large bags. Shipton Mill mill a mix of flours to create French Flour.
- Wessex Mill sell and Type 65
- Bakery Bits sell flour milled by Foricher in France. Types T45, T55, T65 , T110 and T150 are available. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the mill in France and can highly recommend the flour.
- Ratton Pantry also sell Foricher Flour and flour from Moulin St Martin – a wider selection than Bakery Bits now has.
- Matthews Cotswold Flour is made from French wheat milled in the Cotswolds.
Discover the other posts in my Bake Better Bread Series including, importance of heat and steam; baker’s percentages, autolysing, fresh yeast and more.
Learn to Bake Bread
Learn how to make bread the French way in one of my breadmaking courses, there’s plenty to choose from including online classes which are bespoke.
Bake Better Bread – Autolyse – Why pre-soaking your dough will make all the difference