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Old 03-01-2011, 12:44 PM   #1
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Difference in AP flours?

I suppose I could have stuck this under baking, but since flour has more than one use...

Is there much of a difference in all purpose flours?
I'm going to guess yes, since I recently read someone preferring White Lily flour for biscuits, but to someone like me still learning the ropes of making breads, is there? Is a "better" flour going to give me a noticeable difference?

I just got back from the smalltown grocery store and I knew I was getting pretty low on AP flour, but they differed in price from $4.99 for King Arthur to $1.99 for the store brand. I think Pillsbury was $2.50. I decided to wait it out and ask here, just to see. If I'm going to purchase the KA flour, I'd just as soon do that in the city when I go shopping, where I am sure I'll pay less. I'll buy some for the freezer to make it worthwhile, along with my other groceries. For buying just 5 lbs at a time though I would be better off saving the gasoline... that is if KA flour is that much better than the 1.99 stuff, or Pillbury for that matter.

So, what do you think? $3/5lbs is a pretty big difference if it isn't that much better.
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:01 PM   #2
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I've found that the store brands vary greatly in quality from batch to batch. You may get a good flour one time then the next time it's not as nice. I haven't found much difference in the name brands though. I tend to Gold Medal mostly but I will get Pillsbury sometimes. The store brands that weren't good made my baked good very heavy and dense.
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:11 PM   #3
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I have made the switch to KA almost exclusively. I say almost as we have some small bags of semolina and rice flour by Bob's Red Mill.

I use KA for my bread, AP, white whole wheat, and whole wheat. I find that the consistency is there. I used to use Pillsbury and it seemed to vary bag to bag on texture, not sure if that matters too much. The KA stuff is all unbleached (and if it doesn't say it is unbleached I assume it is). I started using the KA bread flour with sour dough and it seemed to make a difference (bleached vs unbleached) particularly with getting a starter going.

$4.99 isn't a bad price, at least for around here. I doubt you would find it much cheaper, or enough cheaper to justify the driving.
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:11 PM   #4
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I have used KA for years, but the last time I purchased flour, the price got to me. I ended up with White Lily. For my uses, I don't see much difference.
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:20 PM   #5
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KA is good, but with the price difference, it's not THAT good. I dare anyone to tell any significant difference in bread between using King Arthur, Martha White and Pillsbury.

I would buy KA if it were on sale, but not otherwise.
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:36 PM   #6
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Different brands of AP flours will differ in protein content. White Lily, a southern brand, is generally a lower protein AP flour than KA.

If I remember the chart in Shirley Corriher's Cookwise correctly, KA is among the highest protein AP flours generally available in the US. Pillsbury is slightly lower and WL is lower still.

That said, They all are lower in protein levels than bread flours and higher than cake flours.

None of this answers the original question. I would expect consistency and quality from KA that I would not expect from the store brand. I have had very mixed luck in using store brands.
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Old 03-01-2011, 02:03 PM   #7
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In my experience, as primarily a yeast bread baker, the biggest single hands down, "always can tell" difference is between bleached and unbleached flours. The second major factor in good quality is in the freshness. Huge difference in the flavor and activity with fresh flour; of course, you have to go to the mill to know for sure how fresh your flour is. I am lucky to be able to.

When the result "matters", like when I am cooking for more than my family, I always use KA; it is guaranteed to do what I want it to. For home baking, I use the Aldi's store brand, which is very similar to Pillsbury (so similar, I suspect it is). Sometimes, it is a little light on protein. Once I discover that about a bag, I just add a spoonful of wheat gluten to my doughs until that bag is used up. I keep a box of Hodgson's Mill gluten in the door of my kitchen freezer for that purpose.

I am also told that I make very good biscuits. To me, any AP flour works fine, but that may be that most of the AP flour here in the South is soft enough for biscuits. I think handling maters more than brand for that kind of quick bread.
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Old 03-01-2011, 02:04 PM   #8
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I love a thread where I learn something
I think I'll buy the Pillsbury then (or it may have been Gold Medal) and stick with a name brand. I'll save the KA purchase for the bread flour I buy, as it's the only bread flour I've seen offered around here anyway.
It's not like I burn through a lot of AP flour, but $2.50/bag is a nice savings.

Thanks
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Old 03-01-2011, 04:30 PM   #9
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I shop at 4 different Wal-marts within an hour of my house, and they all carry KA flours at $3.49 for a 5 pound bag. And the price has been at $3.49 for years.
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Old 03-01-2011, 04:52 PM   #10
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I need to shop there then.
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