Author Topic: Moisture content in a flour  (Read 2350 times)

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Offline avecletemps

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Moisture content in a flour
« on: July 11, 2006, 04:58:55 PM »
 :) Hi, I am noticing some flours come with a very low moisture content which goes as low as 11%.
Suppose I have a choice between flour bag A and B. The two are exactly the same flours except
the moisture content; 14%(A) and 11%(B.)  Is it O.K. for me to buy the bag B at the same cost as A?
Or are there some other implications (of using a low moisture content flour) I should take into consideration,
i.e.;dough performances and yields...etc?  Would appreciate any thoughts or advices.


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Moisture content in a flour
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2006, 06:31:30 PM »
avecletempts,

I am not certain that your hypothetical is one that would exist in the real world. Flours start out at the miller's facility at a particular level of moisture, which can then go up or down depending on how it is stored by the distributor and ultimate end users. Assuming for purposes of your hypothetical that both flours started out at the same levels of moisture, you might complain that the total weight of the flour in Bag B is less than that of Bag A, but apart from the fact that some labeling law may be violated, the only real difference is that the flour in Bag B will be drier than that of Bag A. The difference in a practical sense can be overcome by simply using a bit more water when using the flour in Bag B. Your question implies that you know the moisture content of the two flours. In my experience, that kind of information does not appear on packaging materials, although it is usually available from the miller or distributor.

You might find it of interest to see how grains are actually milled to make flour and how beginning moisture levels are established. I did some online research and found the following description of that process:

Flour is composed of flour solids and moisture. The average water content of wheat kernels used to make flour is 12.5% by weight, with a range from 10% to 14.5%. Efficient milling practice requires adding water to raise the moisture content to 15% to 16%; if the wheat is too wet or too dry, milling will be hindered. During milling, the moisture content is reduced to 13% to 14%. The moisture content of flour does not remain constant after milling is completed. If the relative humidity of the atmosphere in which it is stored is greater than 60%, flour will gain moisture, and if the humidity is less than 60%, it will lose moisture. The federal net-weight labeling standard permits variations from stated weight caused by this gain or loss of moisture.

Tom Lehmann says that within a couple weeks storage in an air-conditioned facility, the flour will dry down to about 11 to 11.5% moisture content and that under normal conditions the flour won't dry down below 10.5% moisture. I have seen instances where people have increased the water content in a dough formula by at much as 25% to compensate for an alleged deficiency of moisture in the flour. From what Tom Lehmann says, in reality the difference due to a loss of moisture is but a few percentage points.

I might add that some imported flours have a beginning moisture of as much as 15.5% (the San Felice Italian flour is one such example). Grain/flour experts will tell you that when you get above about 14% that is too high a level and increases the risk of mold development and insect infestation. I suspect that that is not a real problem for bakers because they go through flour at a fast rate, and the efficient ones will usually date their bags of flour to be sure that they are used on a first-in first-out basis. A home user might be concerned if he or she has a 55-lb. bag of flour and lives in a warm and humid climate. Under these conditions it might be a good idea to consider the above factors in determining how best to use and store the flour.

Peter

Offline avecletemps

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Re: Moisture content in a flour
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2006, 12:44:38 AM »
Hi Peter,

Thank you for your advice. I am importing flours from Europe and the North America. Sometimes I make a
buy decision based on the product specifications along with graphs provided by the mills. So in my case the
moisture content info is available from the mill.

The hypothesis in my post would never exist in the real world unless bag A and B from the same batch weigh
differently due to the storage environment and the degree of drying out thereof.

The crux of whole my question was : would there be any disadvantages of using a low moisture content flour?
Can I just add a bit more water when I knead the dough? Or low moisture would affect the quality of the
dough? I wanted to know if there are no bad things about using a low moisture flour- so that I can order
to adjust the moiusture content downward for a longer storage.

Moon


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Moisture content in a flour
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2006, 08:55:05 AM »
Moon,

Thank you for clarifying your example. I wondered whether you were working with millers' specs and European flours, which is why I added the paragraph about the San Felice flour at the end of my post.

Since I am not in the milling business, I am not knowledgeable enough at the level of your question to be able to say definitively whether there is a noticeable quality or operational difference between using 14% and 11% flour moisture for your doughs. So long as the flours are fresh (i.e., not stale), then I would think that adjusting the moisture content of the dough by the addition of water should be sufficient if you elect to use the 11% moisture flour. If you are working with a miller, you might want to pose your question to its technical department. I would think that they should be able to answer your question to your satisfaction. In my own case, I have many brands of flours, from the U.S. and abroad, with different ages. They are all stored in my pantry, which is air-conditioned in the summer, but I have no idea as to their moisture contents. I simply make water and flour adjustments in the bowl to get the finished dough charactreristics I am after.

Peter

Offline scott r

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Re: Moisture content in a flour
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2006, 12:11:26 PM »
Peter, do you know how to identify stale flour?  I have kept a bag of general mills flour unrefrigerated for about a year.  It has no bugs or anything, but I am just curious what to look for if it is past it's prime.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Moisture content in a flour
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2006, 01:39:41 PM »
scott,

I think it would be difficult to come up with a definition of "stale flour" that is based on time alone since people store flour differently.  However, stale flour does have a smell because of the oxidation of oil that is present in small amounts in the flour (and considered necessary for proper dough development). For some flours, like whole wheat flour with more oil, the flour can become rancid, and that smell is unmistakable. I suspect that a bag of flour that is unopened will not stale as quickly as an opened bag because of the slower rate of oxidation, and especially if the bag has an inner plastic-film lining (as is used, for example, by Giusto's). Using stale flour is not unsafe and it will not harm you, although I don't think I would want to use a rancid flour. And for some applications, like pizza dough that is to be covered with a lot of things with their own distinct flavors, the staleness may not be as noticeable as with other applications, like making a delicate pastry. I think a flour that has been kept in a cool dark place should last a year, and proportionately longer the cooler the environment in which the flour is stored. 

Once, while visiting my son and not finding anything in his pantry to eat, I decided to cook up some pasta that I found in a tall jar. When I later complained to him of its poor quality, he told me that the pasta I cooked up was put in the jar as decorative pasta and had been in the jar for several years. Now, that was "stale"  ;D.

Peter