Dealing with flour is a tricky business, and the more you do it the more you realised how important it is to the baking process.
When you're making 100's of the same loaf week in week out you can spot very small changes in the bread, a slight change in rising temp or proving time can have dramatic results. So when you change something as fundamental as the flour the results can by devastating or enlightening.
We recently changed flour supplier, from Shipton Mill to Mathews flour, from one organic white untreated flour to another. There were various reasons for changing, including logistics, admin and price, but they are all a bit boring to go into now. I thought I would write a few words about how changing has effected my bread and how i've adjusted things over the last few weeks.
The initial observation of Mathew's flour was its level of activity when making sourdough, especially at low temperatures. We cold prove overnight all our sourdough, and I was finding this flour really hard to keep under control. We had a good week of over proved loaves, basically pulling the rack out of the fridge in the morning and finding a bunch of over inflated loaves. To control this I had to drop significantly both the bulk rising time and the dough temperature. With the old flour our white sourdough would need a 2 hour bulk rise at 28 degrees dough temp, with the Matthew's we have lowered dough temp to 25 degrees and bulk rise time to 1 hour. Any longer and the loaves are over proved come morning.
The old flour required longer bulk rising, and significant gas production in the bulk, with the dough feeling lighter and airier, with the Mathew's only a very small amount of gas production can be evident when dividing and shaping takes place otherwise, you guessed it, over proved by the morning.
The reduced bulk time reduces some of the gluten development due to lower levels of acid and its gluten strengthening properties, thus some additional mixer time was needed. We autolyese all our sourdough, so after a 20 minutes rest when the salt is added, I am mixing for about a minute longer. This greater gluten development in the mixer has improved the final product.
Finally the flavour was effected, due to the lower levels of acid, whats a sourdough without a hint of sourness? (probably something crap you can buy in a supermarket) So to compensate for this I'm taking the starter further before its added to the dough, basically increasing the amount of acid in it and thus how much enters the mixer. I'm still playing around with this, with a few different techniques, either using a great proportion of old starter when mixing in the new starters for the next day or by changing the flours I use, ie more stoneground, rye or whole-wheat to speed things up.
As with all good bread no bake is ever the same, the loaves always come out a bit different each time. I'm happy with where the sourdough is at the moment, but it has taken some time since the change in flour. Every flour is different, if you are trying something new be prepared to fail, and bake some crap bread, but also remember that every pancake like loaf or brick like sourdough gets you a step closer to something good. Experiment, experiment and experiment.