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Red Fife Rematch

Based on the comments and my own impressions I am convinced that my first comparison test using flour milled from Red Fife wheat wasn’t representative and that my methods need polishing.  I tried to force a square peg into a round hole by having the whole grain Red Fife stand in for white bread flour in a rustic baguette.  This round I set out to let it play more closely to its intended role.

For a more fair and relevant test I pan-baked two whole wheat loaves, one with store brand whole wheat flour and the other with the stone ground, whole grain Red Fife flour that I bought at Pantry.

As is my semi-default practice I used a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  True to Reinhart form it leans on long fermentation times and calls for both a soaker and a poolish.  Sounds bizarre and like a lot of work, I know, but the bit of extra preparation is worth it. 

Both loaves ready for the oven

The soaker is just water and coarsely-ground grain.  The recipe is flexible about which grain you choose (corn, rye, wheat) and I assume the soaking is just to soften it up.  I’ve had success using corn and rye before but wanting to keep the test as pure as possible I just used more of the same flour.

Poolish is a fancy term for a bit of dough, mixed wet and without the salt, that gives some of the yeast a head start on developing those familiar yeasty flavours and their leavening power.  If you have everything together and use a digital scale the soaker and poolish only take a couple minutes to prepare the day before you bake.

Red Fife: Note the warm colour but also the denser crumb

Tasters strongly preferred the Red Fife bread.  It smelled of honey, beer and had the pleasant warm grain taste of Hovis biscuits.  The crust was crisper and the colour of the crust and crumb were both darker and warmer.  The only complaints registered were that the crumb was a bit dry and the loaf was under-leavened.  On both counts I’m willing to accept at least part of the blame on the assumption that technique may have played a role.

Store Brand: More open crumb but also a weak, pallid colour

The store brand loaf was alright at first but then an odd chemical taste and smell that reminded me of middle school shop class asserted itself and left a bitter, astringent sensation on the sides of my tongue.  The crust was quite limp and there was little contrast in colour between the crust and crumb but the texture was more open and better leavened than the Red Fife.

Alas the question of whether Ontario-grown wheat delivers quality for money is, to an extent, left unanswered.  I doubt many readers are surprised that store brand flour pales in comparison to a premium product–note though that it was a runaway victory–so I guess what I need to find is a non-Ontario flour with a similar price and premium marketing.

The Red Fife produced the best whole wheat loaf I have ever made and really embarrassed the store brand flour.  While I admit that trying to force it to make a rustic baguette was a stretch I don’t make enough whole wheat bread to warrant the special trip and price that increases concerns about spoilage for this advantage alone. I understand that this Red Fife flour can be used to make very good sourdough bread and I think that will be my next test.

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5 Comments

  1. [...] or suggestions so that I can better design the next round of comparison. Take a look at my post Red Fife Rematch for another test. [...]

  2. Lois says:

    Hello there. I make a sourdough bread using Red Fife flour. I keep my starter in the fridge, take out 2 cups, replace that with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water, and leave it to ferment. Then it goes back into the fridge for the next time.
    Next I put some 12 grain cereal in a large bowl ( never measured, but probably 2 cups ?), a dash of molasses or honey, oil and salt, then “some” boiling water over the mix ( again, never really measured, just until it looks right). I leave this to cool , then add my 2 cups of sourdough, and enough Red Fife flour to make a sticky poolish. Then I cover it, and leave it until I am ready. Could be the next day , or that evening, or whenever I feel like it.
    By that point , it is “alive”—bubbly, smelling very yeasty, and ready for the next step. I then add some unbleached white flour to make it kneadable, knead until smooth, and maybe nuts or seeds, or dried fruit, etc.,put it in a large greased bowl, and step aside to let it carry on to rise. Again, usually at my convenience. I’ve even put it in the fridge if I am going to be busy.
    Next I punch it down, let it rise again. When ready, I shape it into loaves. It does seem to take longer than most bread dough to rise to the right height, but it’s nice to just walk away, and not be in a hurry.
    It makes about 3 or 4 beautiful loaves, and I just never have to buy bread.
    This is such a simple and forgiving way to make bread. I love the ritual of it all, and to be so lucky that I know how to make my own bread.
    I enjoyed your pictures, and your comparison to the taste of the bread made with other flour Interesting.
    Lois Cherry

  3. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for this great post and the work on the comparison. I’m just transitioning to red fife to avoid some of the health issues with modern wheat. We’re fortunate to have a Mennonite grower in our area that sells it bulk for just a bit more than premium bread flours, so that might be a resource for some of your readers, too.

  4. Dave says:

    I have been following the discussions re Red Fife. I have noted that other flours have been mentioned as well. Has anyone made comparisons not only with Red Fife, but with Spelt &/or Einkorn?

  5. Audrey says:

    Guess we just aren’t used to the rustic heaviness of the bread.I have mixed spelt and even rice flour with it. Also more honey. So I make a lot of flatbreads and wraps with it. On a grill it smells heavenly. I do use quite a bit of oil in the dough to prevent dryness.And cook just until golden watching so temp doesn’t climb too high.

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