Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Splendid Table: Flour v. Flour, part 2

We have a clear bakeoff winner. Wasn't even close.

As I wrote the other day, I decided to bake two batches of Lynne Rossetto Kasper's Modena Mountain Bread, one using  organic flour, the other using conventional. Kasper is quite the nag on the subject of organic, stone-ground flour and I wanted to decide for myself.

While the organic starter sponge was livelier than the conventional, it soon lost its edge. And when I mixed the two batches of dough, the results were indistinguishable. Both doughs rose magnificently -- broad and fat and tall.

Baked them simultaneously in steamy oven and two beautiful, golden-brown loaves emerged. The organic loaf (see top left) kept its shape a bit better. I can't attribute that to the flour with complete confidence. 

Isabel served as blind taster. I sliced the loaves and after taking a bite of both, she immediately picked the organic bread for its flavor. She couldn't put it into words, but was very definite. Mark also chose the organic, but when I told him, he immediately recanted. (Mocking organic food is a point of pride with him. Long story.) 
The organic bread has a lovely, assertive flavor I've never tasted in a bread baked by me. The best adjective I can think of is "grassy." Or maybe "flowery" -- not perfumey like a rose or a jonquil, but fresh, like a daisy. Subtle and delicious. I felt sorry for the poor conventional bread, which, when tasted side by side, had no flavor whatsoever. I mean, it's homemade bread and therefore pretty great, but there is really no comparison. Organic flour = much, much better bread.

So now we have two mountainous loafs of Italian bread and just now, as I type, Isabel walked in eating a piece of toast made from store-bought sandwich bread. "WHY AREN'T YOU EATING THE HOMEMADE BREAD?" I cried.

"Ask Daddy," she replied.


"It's too hard to cut into toast-sized pieces."

Am hyperventilating. Please email recommendations for marriage counselors, asap.


  1. Are you converted enough by the organic flour that you're willing to spend the extra moneys? And what is the cost of a 25 lb. bag of Bob, vs. 25 lbs. of Gold Medal? I found out my flour isn't bromated, but I'm sure it's not organic. This is where I have to pit my desire to serve real food against my desire to support local producers. I hate crises of conscience.

  2. I haven't priced it out, though am planning to. It really was that much better and I didn't want it to be. I think I'm going to make some competing batches of cookies and see if there is a difference when you throw in a lot of other flavors.
    That the conventional flour could be so totally lusterless makes me wonder what they are doing to it. Can't be anything good. I fear that if I continue doing experiments like this I am going to turn into a complete nut. Still working on the chickens, btw. Have the beginnings of the coop.

  3. Give Mark Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee for two weeks straight; hand him a can opener and say, "it's too hard to cut fresh pasta into bite-sized pieces". Very effective and much cheaper than therapy...

  4. why does the loaf on the right, the bad loaf, look so much better. i was sure that one was going to be the winner...

  5. If one of you wants to come here at 7a and make breakfast and lunch for picky kids, please go ahead. Ditto anyone who wants to slice bread thin enough for the toaster. Double ditto.

    Also, I didn't do any "recanting" when "organic" was uttered. I just said I really couldn't tell the difference.


    Incidentally, when asked to compare two similar-seeming foodstuffs, I always think of Chris Elliot on the Letterman Show comparing vegetable oil with canola oil. Thinking of that, it's always hard for me to compare whatever I've been asked to compare.

  6. Balabanian -- I think it looks better because it's darker, it's cracked, and it looks as if the crust would be much crispier. However, the opposite was true. The organic loaf had a much crispier crust -- I didn't mention that because I think it was due to the fact the organic loaf was baked in the tiny oven, where it got much steamier.
    I really MUST motivate and build that bread oven.