Flour Testing Methodshttp://www.correllconcepts.com/Encyclopizza/04_Dough_ingredients/04_dough_ingredients.htm
Baking technologists have created various methods and machines for testing the properties of flour. Most devices are expensive and require special skills. A high-volume commercial bakery, and possibly a large pizza commissary, might use a couple of them.
Two of the most common testing devices are the farinograph and the “Falling Numbers” machine. The farinograph is a small mixer connected to a graphing device. From mixing a small batch of test dough it charts, among other things, the water absorption capacity and mixing tolerance of a flour. A flour’s water absorption capacity is the percentage of water needed to produce a dough of a given consistency. Generally, the higher the water absorption capacity, the better the flour. Mixing tolerance refers to how quickly a dough breaks down during continued mixing after reaching its peak development. Mixing tolerance is a key indicator of gluten strength. The more mixing tolerance a dough has, the greater fermentation and mechanical abuse a flour (dough) can tolerate.
The “Falling Numbers” machine is a simple device used for measuring the degree of alpha-amylase activity in flour. An acceptable falling number for pizza flour is in the range of 225 to 275. This test is required for all flour purchased by the government. It’s simple and can be done in a pizzeria. For information on where to purchase such machines, contact the American Institute of Baking (913-537-4750 or 800-633-5137).Gluten Ball Test
Another test, which requires no equipment and has been used for years by bakers, is the gluten ball test. It’s used for comparing the protein levels of different flours, and can easily be done in a pizzeria. Here’s how to do it.
Measure out exactly 6 oz of each type of flour being tested. Mix each flour with enough water (approximately 3 oz) to make a stiff dough, knead it for five minutes, then allow it to rest for fifteen minutes. After that, wash each dough ball under a stream of cool water, kneading constantly until the water runs clear and all that remains is a rubbery mass. This is pure gluten. Place the ball on a paper towel for one minute, to drain off excess water, then weigh it. The heaviest ball indicates the flour with the most protein.
For further comparison, form each gluten piece into a smooth ball and place them on a pan, allowing at least 3 inches between them. Bake them in a hot oven (450 to 500 degrees F) for about an hour. The balls will expand. After baking compare their size. Generally speaking, the largest ball indicates the flour with the most and, possibly, highest quality protein.Baking Test
The ultimate test of a flour is the baking test. To do it, make identical batches of dough using two different flours, or a new flour and your current flour. Have everything exactly the same except for the flour. Prepare identical pizzas and bake them the same. After cooling for 10 minutes, turn them over and cut them in half through the bottom of the crust with a razor blade or X‑acto knife. Examine the side of the crust. Look at color, cellular structure, and height of rise. Also examine the color of the outer edge, or collar, and the bottom of the crust. Then scrape off the sauce and cheese and, finally, taste both the outer edge and the “cleaned-off” center crust. Compare texture, flavor, and aroma. Choose the flour that performs best in the test.
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