Ask a Canadian: What's Up With American Flour?

Thoughts on baking here in the land of liberty

Some of you who have arrived here really enjoy cooking and baking--and you’ve come to the right place.  Northern California gives you access to some of the finest, freshest ingredients available.  And a large variety of those ingredients come at a reasonable price.

Cdn Grain Elevators

I am a bit of a bread making aficionado (Editor's note: that's an understatement). If you bake like I do, you may have noticed a difference in the way that flour - particularly all-purpose flour - performs.

Canadian wheat and the flour that is made from it is considered some of the finest in the world - the country exports about 16 million tonnes of the grain annually. Back in the day, when I was in elementary school in Calgary, I remember reading the old school (even then) geography book that extolled our Home and Native Land as a provider of food for the world.

Some of that goodness in Canadian hard red winter wheat (the kind most commonly used to mill flour) is that it has a higher gluten content than other wheats, therefore a higher percentage of protein (close to 13%) than American all purpose flours (around 9 to 11% protein).  So, when milled and used to bake bread, its flour can feel “stronger” and more elastic than an equivalent American flour, which will feel "softer."

Interestingly, I bought several 20 kg bags of organic white flour from a farmer south of Calgary the last time I was home and, to my hand, the resulting dough did not feel a lot different to that made with organic flour bought locally here in the Bay Area.

Let me make an ingredient shout out too; I see that Robin Hood All Purpose Flour lists benzoyl peroxide as an ingredient, in addition to added vitamins, which is very honest and very Canadian.

R H  Products  E N

This is a bleaching agent (other bleaching agents include chlorine gas) used to make the flour white and is found in most non organic, white flours.  It’s use dates to a time when white was the way folks wanted things --super white (think Wonder Bread) and producers were trying to reduce processing times (flour will change from creamy yellow to white on its own with some time).  King Arthur Flour  and other organic flours do not use bleach and are good options if you want to stay away from this additive.

King Arthur Flour

As a random additional observation made when thinking about baking and cooking your food food, you are doubtless aware that an American gallon (128 fluid ounces) is smaller than an Imperial gallon (160 fluid ounces).  Did you know that fluid ounces used in Canada and the U.S. are differnt in size?  Me neither. The difference is so small that it won’t affect your cooking.  So, an American 12 ounce beer bottle is 355ml and a Canadian 12 ounce bottle is 341ml.  A 3% difference in volume for the same number of ounces.  You may not be counting those missing milliliters but you can be sure that the beer producers are as they tweak prices to stay competitive.

Whatever your baking adventures might be, we would love to know if you've noticed a difference in your cakes, cookies and breads. And of course, seeing some pictures of your creations would be a bonus!

Hugh Morgan grew up in Calgary and has lived in the Bay Area for 27 years.  He’d be delighted to answer any questions you have about life in the Golden state: you can reach him at hugh.r.morgan@gmail.com.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author (s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies or positions of the Digital Moose Lounge.