Such a long time since i last made challah. Used the trusty Hamelman formula, which calls for high-gluten flour. Coincidentally, I discovered a flour supplier that’s not too far off. Les Moulins de Versailles is a miller and wholesaler, but they also have a retail boutique. They sell all sorts of flours, mostly milled in-house, but also some organic ones from other brands, as well as all sorts of other baking ingredients and some tools. What really surprised me though was the vast range of flour mixes—for country-style bread, cereal bread, autumn bread, chestnut bread, part rye bread, brioche, etc. etc. available According to their website, they’ve been operating since more than a century ago and you can catch a glimpse of the machines within the stone building. One day when i have the time, I could perhaps ask them for a tour of the premises???
In any case, I would certainly like to know more about what exactly goes into a packet of flour. I know millers carry out tests to determine the quality of their flour and make adjustments accordingly. Just what these tests are, and more importantly, what else do they add to the flour to render it more ‘user-friendly’? I enquired and was told their house brand of flours are additives-free whereas their flour mixes contain ascorbic acid. But is there more stuff added during the milling? Their basic house brand flour lists flour, gluten and malt as ingredients. What is the difference between industrial flour, ‘artisan’ miller flour and organic flour? If my usual organic, artisan miller flour doesn’t even have a list of ingredients, what can I understand by that?
As for the customised flour mixes, there was an ‘a-ha!’ moment when I spotted familiar names of breads I’ve seen for sale in boulangeries such as Le Cérébrun, Le Breizhic, La Payse. I have wondered how some boulangeries can offer such a gamut of breads; the answer lies partly i guess in these pre-mixes. The downside for the consumer is less diversity, less control and more of these standardised, ‘packaged’ goods.
I found the flours to be rather dry, requiring more water. Here’s a view of the crumb just ‘cos I liked the other-directional pull of the braid.