Of course, we mean, addicted to what is probably the best flour in the world. And if it is not the best, it must come a close second. This is where it all starts from:
the Rieper mill is in the Pusteria Valley, and just across the road a tumultuous creek adds to the picture perfect surroundings of the green woods that crawl up the Dolomites.
Rieper apparently also manufacture feeds for livestock, but what we are really after is the perfect flour that they make in all manner of varieties, and which unfortunately does not make it too far outside Alto Adige. What a pity! The result is that every time we come this way we have to fill our luggage with the portentous stuff.
The Yellow variety is the most popular with us, and maybe if we give you its vital statistics you’ll see why:
Proteins: 14,6 %
Water absorption 61,0 %
Dough stability: 11,0 min.
P/L: 0,57 mm H2O/mm
So, what does it all mean? These are the kind of numbers that you would find e.g. in those strong North American flours, which here, though, come with that extra fine milling that 00 flour has. The strength of a flour, which in practice measures how much gluten it contains, is correlated with the protein content, and it allows you to prepare baked goods that need a long fermentation, since the high gluten content will enable the dough to develop a strong gluten “network” that will not decay with a long fermentation, and will give you those beautifully fluffy brioche, the gorgeous Panettone, the spongy baba’ and so on. But you would not be able to prepare such delicacies with “just” a strong flour: the flour must be fine if so has to be the end product. So this brings us to “00”: what does it mean?
In Italy, flour is classified based on the yield from milling: the highest yield is from wholemeal flour, then as you extract more and more, thereby reducing the yield, you obtain 2,1,0 and 00 flour, which is the finest, and which, by the way, you can now find also in UK supermarkets shelves. Only, it costs an arm and a leg! But 00 flour is much finer than sieved flour commonly found in the UK, and you will see the difference if you bake the same muffin or sponge with standard flour and with 00.
And, nobody prevents you from using this beautiful stuff for bread (of course, you’d use natural leaven, wont’ you?). This is some we made earlier….
Ah, and you may manage not to develop dependency on the yellow Rieper if you try some of the Blue (“00”), or of the Red (“0”), or wholemeal, or polenta, or spelt, or organic, or Breatl mix, or…
Sigh…we are writing all this for free -maybe we should start selling our advertisements 🙂
p.s. for the more technically minded: those stats reported at the beginning are measured with various machines called Brabender farinograph, Brabender Extensograph, and Chopin Alveograph.
The “strength” is measured by the index W. If the index is too low, it cannot be used for leavened baked goods, while higher values (above 300) is suitable for very long fermentation. But strength is not all, and the quality of the finished good depends crucially also on how extensible your flour is. This is indicated by the P/L ratio. Disks of “standard” dough (that is with a given percentage of water and mixed for a set amount of time) are “blown” into until they break. The Chopin alveograph draws (a bit like a seismograph) the deformation of the dough, drawing a curve. The highest vertical height of the curve is the P value, which measures the maximum pressure exercised by the gas blown in the dough before breaking, or if you wish the resistance of the dough. The horizontal length of the curve registers instead the maximum extension reached by the dough before breaking. So with a P/L ratio of e.g. 1.5, which is typical of durum wheat flour, you need a lot of energy to break the dough, which does not extend much. A ratio of 0.5-0.6 is deemed balanced. The area beneath the curve gives you the value W, for the strength of the flour. A nice picture is available here, although the indications that you get in Italy are a bit more stringent: so with a W between 120 to 160w the flour would be most suited for baked goods that do not require volume, e.g. biscuits or grissini. Between 160 and 250w the flour is considered as medium strength, and is already suitable for many types of bread, including ciabatta, and pizza. Between 250 and 300/310w you have flour obtained by milling the best grains, and you can basically produce most goods that need long fermentation, like baba, panettone, and bread of course. Above this, the very strong flour can be used for specialty breads – these can absorb up to 90% of their weight in water.