Wednesday, July 01, 2009

You Are My Flour

By pura casualidad, Joe Pastry is starting a series on flours and their qualities. Interestingly, an American Mexpat acquaintance emailed me last week with a question about Mexican flours.

DISCLAIMER: My reply is based solely on my subjective experiences and should not be seen as a result of deep and painstaking research.

Don Cuevas, I know you have a background in baking so perhaps you can comment on this observation. Isn't it true that the wheat flour sold in Mexico is soft wheat (i.e., cake/noodle) flower, rather than the hard, red wheat flower used for bread in the US. I notice that the bagged wheat flour sold at Soriana clearly has a picture of cakes and pancakes on the bag, and I have noticed that most breads sold here have the texture of cakes. Could this be the problem with the breads baked here?
In reply;
D.Y., that answer may be partially correct, but in my experience, pan salado (not pan dulce) is chewy and occasionally crisp crusted. That's not likely achieved with soft wheat flour. I'm confident Bodega, Wal-Mart, and probably Soriana have steam injected rack ovens. This steam injection, in the first moments of the bake, are what give the baguettes and other pan Francés its crisp crust. Crispness is not considered desirable in teleras, or the usual bolillos (although you can get fantastically crisp bolillos from a tiny bakery on Calle Abasolo, near Plaza Carillo in Morelia. However the taste of those is inferior, IMO, due to the probable use of dough conditioners "fluffer-upper").*

The packaged consumer grade flour you are seeing on the shelf at Soriana is probably a soft wheat flour for making hot cakes, cakes and the occasional tortillas de harina. ("Harina Celestial" is a good example.)

I'm betting that with the exception of harina integral, your regular, popular bakeries (not in the supermercados) use one kind of flour only, and I'm going out on a limb to predict that the majority use Harina Óptima. It's milled by Harinera Guadalupe.

In my baking, I use Sello Rojo Harina Tradicional, milled by Harinera Michoacana, which makes fine bread. I also use it for cookies, cakes, sweet breads such as cinnamon rolls and Danish, and even occasional strudels. A strudel dough is optimally made from a high protein Hungarian wheat flour, but lacking that, I just make it work with Sello Rojo.
Óptima flour is my close second choice. I buy 10 kilo bags of these at Super(mercado) Codallos.
If I wanted to be very picky, I'd buy Harina Celestial brand, in 1 kg bags, just for pies, biscuits and cookies. It seemes to be a softer wheat flour, although I have nothng but subjective experience on that one.

Addendum: There's an excellent baker's supply house in Morelia on Calle Abasolo at Plaza Carillo, "
La Frontera". They have just about everything the professional and home baker might need.
*(The best tasting bread in Pátzcuaro, as far as I know, are the teleras made in the Panadería La Espiga, bien escondida in a casa in a colonia north of Don Chucho's. The rest of their products are not at the same level of quality.)

And, now, purely for your musical entertainment, here's Flatt and Scruggs doin' that old favorite, "You Are My Flower". ( I am aware that Flatt and Scruggs were for years sponsored by Martha White Mills, makers of  Martha White Flour, with "Hot Rize".)
Come on in boys, and pick it out.


Leslie Harris (de Limon) said...

You're right about the store bakeries having "steam injected rack ovens", this is why bolillos are also known as "pan de vapor" or "vapor" here in Jalisco.

As for the flours, I have used many kinds and find that I prefer the kind I can buy at my local "tiendita de la esquina". I have no idea what kind it is, but it works perfectly in all of my bread, cake and tortilla recipes. I'm going to have to inquire about what kind of flour I'm using. Thanks for the helpful info!

Don Cuevas said...

Gracias por tu comentario, Leslie.

The only bakeries in Pátzcuaro that I know of that make bolillos are the in-store ones. The traditional panaderías don't have steam injected ovens, so they make softer teleras instead.

Today we bought a sesame seeded baguette at Bodega Aurerrá. Not perfect, but for 6 pesos, what do you expect? Brie on it?

Don Cuevas

PS: How do you get that peachy background color on your blog?