Part of the reason I’ve never gotten heavily into Continental flours here on Joe Pastry is because everything I’ve made here I’ve made with American flours. That’s not because I’m a snob (well, not a BIG snob, anyway) but because I know that for most people outside of Europe, European flours aren’t very easy to get, and when they are, they aren’t very reasonably priced. I’d rather that Joe readers who are interested in European pastries take them on using ingredients they can lay their hand to — not wait (or spend) until all the perfect ingredients have been procured. What results may not be perfectly authentic, but then…what’s that?
Another reason I haven’t done as much on Continental flour is simply because I do more pastry and general baking than bread baking. That means I tend to work more with finer, starchier, lower extraction flours. And when you’re working with those sorts of flour types, the differences between American and European flours are less pronounced. It’s when you really get into bread baking that you begin to notice that American and European flours don’t work the same way, even though they’re supposed to be “equivalent”.
Which is not to say that there’s no value in exploring Continental flours in greater detail. It’s great for general baking knowledge, and can be extremely valuable for trouble-shooting when things don’t go quite right. It can also be extremely valuable for the committed baker trying to bring a favorite European preparation to the next level.
Whatever the case, what will follow over the coming days (or weeks, or months…or…years?) is my attempt to categorize, and to some extent explain non-American flours, at least to the degree that I understand them. I’ll declare in advance that while I’ve worked with several of them, I’m not an expert in any of them. And millers being as secretive as they are, it’s tough to get information from the horse’s mouth, as it were. All that said, anything you as a reader would like to contribute to this project will be more than welcome. We’ll all be learning here, and will benefit from each other’s insight and advice. So pile on where you can.