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:
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.
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)
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!