Making strong flour

28 Apr 2020

alt title: "Starching Strength: Making strong flour from all purpose flour"

One of the prevailing supply issues of the 2020 covid-19 pandemic has been availability of flour. More or less everyone decided to start baking at the same time, which for the most part is a fantastic thing (I am a big proponent of the idea of bakers, not bakeries). However, due to this enthusiasm, flour became difficult to obtain in shops, and strong flour even more difficult. Strong flour became even more scarce (I haven’t seen a bag on sale in months). Despite the shortage of strong flour, health food and online shops seem to have plenty of vital wheat gluten in stock. Usually used to make seitan and other high-protein plant-based meals, VWG can be added to flours to increase the protein percentage and get us closer to something like traditional bread flour. This is somewhat ironic given the fact that a traditional way to make seitan is to extensively wash the starches out of flours (I do not recommend this way of making seitan, it is incredibly messy and a huge waste of time).

To calculate the amount of vital wheat gluten to add to our basic flour, we’ll need to use what’s called a Pearson square. This technique is traditionally used to alter the protein content of animal feeds but it works just as well for any kind of animal.

Let’s start with the basics - what we have and what we want. - My source flour is Odlum’s Cream Flour. Nutritional information says that there are 10.8 g of protein per 100g. - Vital wheat gluten is generally 75.2g of protein per 100g (that’s what makes seitan some serious protein efficiency) - To get something generally useful for sourdough, I’m using Odlum’s Strong White flour as my target. That means I want around 12.1g of protein per 100g.

Here’s the Pearson square for this conversion:

Pearson square

I won’t go into too much detail about the why of the square (the link above does much better), but the basics of this one are: 12.1 at the centre is our desired protein. Our total "parts" is 63.1 + 1.3 so 64.4. Of this total, 63.1 parts are cream flour. That means 63.1 of 64.4 is (rounded up) 98%. Which means to get something close to 100g of Odlum’s Strong flour, we add 2g vital wheat gluten to 98g of Cream flour.

Make sure you mix your flours very well before adding water! The proteins in vital wheat gluten bind almost immediately upon getting wet so concentrations will become hard to work very quickly.

Published on 28 Apr 2020