“Beksul” vs “King Arthur:” final loaves and BLIND taste test!

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November 20, 2012 by ka101010

Then the loaves emerged from the oven: golden, singing (yes, they make noise when then come out of the oven!), and tempting to break into immediately.  But, being a good baker, I had to let them cool completely to maintain proper crumb structure – How’s that for a deadpan. Anyway, here’s what they looked like:

Finished loaves. King Arthur Loaf (left), Beksul Loaf (right)

King Arthur had a browner, more golden crust. Could be attributed to the oven temp inconsistency, could be the that the starches in this flour tend to caramelize more, color could be attributed to higher beta carotene content. King Arthur also had a thicker crust, and had a strong, roasty, malty aroma. The loaf experienced good oven spring despite my initial misgivings about its lumpy appearance prior to proofing.

Beksul created a happy round loaf with good oven spring (note the large spread in the scoring), producing a slightly higher/taller loaf than KAF. The crust sang/[insert your onomotopeia here], but was not as dark or thick as KAF. Beksul did not give off as strong an aroma as KAF, either.

Once cooled, I sliced the loaves to reveal the crumb structure. Both had nice, big, uneven, shiny holes, the custard crumb that I was looking for. The Beksul had slightly larger holes overall and throughout the loaf.

The texture of the crumb, however, was different for each loaf. KAF had a slightly drier crumb, whereas Beksul had a moister, chewier crumb. I personally enjoyed the chewy texture of the Beksul since it was something new to me. However, I found more complex and umami flavors in the King Arthur loaf.

King Arthur crumb detail

Beksul crumb detail

King Arthur (left) vs Beksul (right): side-by-side crumb comparison

BLIND TASTE TEST!

I then conducted a BLIND taste test with 9 individuals (2 Koreans, 2 French, 1 Nicaraguan, 2 Americans, 1 Japanese, and 1 Jamaican).  I asked them to taste each bread carefully, and choose which loaf they preferred and why.  KAF was labeled as “A” and Beksul as “B.”

Surprisingly (or not), I received 7 votes for the King Arthur Flour Loaf: 2 Koreans, 2 French, 1 American, 2 Nicaraguan, 1 Japanese. Below are the reasons why:

  • stronger/deeper flavor of crust and crumb
  • crust was closer to what taster was accustomed to in France/US
  • preferred visibly darker crust
  • preferred bread whose crumb has a lighter texture

2 votes for the Beksul loaf. Below are the reasons why:

  • preferred the chewier texture of the loaf
  • preferred the cakey-er/moister texture of the loaf
  • “This kind of bread seems better fit for the Korean market” (this comment made by an American)

Conclusions:
It appears that King Arthur Flour is still the superior flour flavor-wise, compared to the locally available Korean Beksul flour. My guess is that there is a difference in wheat specs and perhaps processing between the 2 flours. The fact that King Arthur (raw) flour has a distinct aroma is an important differentiator, since so much of flavor comes from aroma. The higher protein content of King Arthur may also contribute to stronger flavor characteristics.

Beksul is a great flour to work with, but may need the help of additional flours or ingredients to round out the flavor and texture (ie: whole wheat/rye flours, addition of vital wheat gluten, pre-ferments like pâte fermentée, slower fermentation, etc). Bob’s Red Mill is the closest North American equivalent available in Korea, but it is often twice as expensive.

To make this bread obsession more sustainable during our time in Korea, I will keep experimenting with local Korean flours, figuring out how to manipulate ingredients and process to achieve a closer approximation of European lean breads. My other motivation is avoiding constant subway and bus rides to Garosugil and UN Village…

If you have any tips about working with Korean flour (pastry flour, hard flour, noodle flour, potato flour, etc), please feel free to leave a comment!

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4 thoughts on ““Beksul” vs “King Arthur:” final loaves and BLIND taste test!

  1. Brian Grover says:

    Great analysis. I’d be happy to bake either loaf. They look delish, though the look of the KAF is clearly ore enticing

  2. Hi, I was looking at iherb.com but I can’t seem to find a King Ather or Bob’s Hard flour for bread. Where did u get the King Arthur in Seoul?

    • ka101010 says:

      Hi there! I also noticed that iHerb recently stopped selling wheat flours.
      You can find Bob’s Red Mill flours and products at High Street Market in Itaewon or some shops in Bangsan baker’s alley. You can also order online at GMarket or Coupang.

  3. Priscilla says:

    You are AMAZING!!!! Thank you so much for sharing your findings. It was such a pleasure to read!! I also enjoy to bake, so being in Korea for a few months now really helped to open my eyes on the different ingredients that I use back home versus in Korea. I think it is great to experiment with foods from different cultures. Right now, I am reading about different types of flours and their results in texture and flavor. I like to bake cakes and loafs and I found a blog that helped me to understand how a cake will look like visually using different types of flour both bleached and unbleached. I think this might interest you, so I thought why not share it with you. Here is the article: http://thecakeblog.com/2016/05/which-flour-is-best.html

    Have a blessed week and continue being curious and experimenting. You are soo cool to have made an actual research about the two flours. Thumbs up!

    Prisci 😉

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