ISO unbleached flour for bread-making

summary: failure to find reasonably priced unbleached flour in Toronto

Warning!! Warning!! Excessive ranting and raving ahead :stomp:

We live in one of the largest cities in Canada. A city that keeps claiming to be “world class”.

Yes, I know that I can get unbleached flour here. But I’m looking to buy some unbleached flour that doesn’t require taking out a second mortgage on the house. Or resorting to buying flour online.

Why is it so difficult to find? Am I wrong that a high percentage of the world’s wheat grows in Canada?

From what I can gather, here are the biggest problems we are dealing with:

  1. Whole Wheat flour is produced by first separating the wheat grain, milling each part separately and then putting the portions back together.
  2. “Robin Hood”, that used to be a Canadian flour milling company, is now owned and operated by Smucker Foods (yes, that’s right, the giant US company that appears to be almost as far-reaching as Kraft General Foods).
  3. “Five Roses”, that used to be another major Canadian flour milling company, is now owned and operated by Smucker Foods (yes, the same company whose logo is “If it’s Smuckers, it has to be good”. (Ha! Have you tasted Smucker’s jam lately? How do you spell “way too sweeeeeeeeeeeet”??)).
  4. Smuckers have removed the “Five Roses” unbleached bread flour from their production line but retained “Robin Hood” ‘best for bread’ flour. I phoned the Smuckers’ customer service department; a very nice woman bent over backwards to find out whether the ‘best for bread Homestyle white’ flour is bleached. Here’s a big surprise: it is bleached. :lalala:
  5. “Loblaws/No-Name” is now owned by Weston, the giant Canadian company – the same company that produces some of the worst bread imaginable. You know the kind. It comes pre-sliced in a plastic bag. If you squeeze the bag, the bread can be flattened. It stays flat once flattened.
  6. It is permissible to include Azodicarbonamide (ADA) in flour made for the North American market.

Azodicarbonamide? What’s that, you may be asking.

Azodicarbonamide is used in food industry as a food additive, a flour bleaching agent and improving agent.

– Wikipedia: Azodicarbonamide

Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is an oxidizing agent used as a substitute for potassium bromate to help improve the quality of wheat flour.

– Garuda International, Inc.: Azodicarbonamide FCC Grade (98%)

Case reports and epidemiological studies in humans have produced abundant evidence that azodicarbonamide can induce asthma, other respiratory symptoms, and skin sensitization in exposed workers. Adverse effects on other systems have not been studied.

– World Health Organization: Concise International Chemical Assessement Document, No 16: Azodicarbonamide

[I]n UK, any products that include ADA must be labeled as “May cause sensitisation by inhalation.” Would you buy bread that has such labeling? […] Not only is ADA in breads, but in other breaded products, such as breaded fish, bread crumbs, crackers, etc.

I contacted several bread manufacturers about this ingredient. All the response came back as, “FDA allows certain amount…” Apparently, the FDA in the United States does not think that ADA is a harmful agent, contradictory to the other countries in the rest of the world. I also noticed that ADA is never included in any of the certified organic products. And I begin to wonder if some manufacturers can make bread without including ADA, why is this ingredient necessary in the first place?

– Lucy Zamary, Eco Friendly LivingAnother Dangerous ingredient in our food – Azodicarbonamide (ADA)

Flour Additives:

These are the brands of flour that are readily available nearby:

Ingredients Lists for Wheat Flour in Our Pantry
Whole wheat flour
whole wheat flour, ascorbic acid, amylase, azodicarbonamide
durum atta flour
durum wheat flour, bran
No Name
“unbleached” all-purpose
wheat flour, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, amylase, L-cysteine hydrochloride, vitamins and minerals (niacin, reduced iron, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)

Hey!! If No-Name all-purpose flour is “unbleached”, WHAT is azodicarbonamide doing in it?

I’m guessing that the millers are claiming that azodicarbonamide is in there as an improver rather than a bleaching agent. This flour “improver” is no longer permitted in the EU. But, it is still allowed in the USA and so, because our flour production is basically controlled by USA companies, it is allowed in Canadian flour too.

But I don’t want ADA in my flour!!!

Rogers Flour: Only in BC you say? Pity. If I lived in western Canada, I could buy Rogers Flour. But Rogers flour is not available (as far as I know) here in Toronto. From what I can see, the only brands available to us at the supermarket are “Robin Hood”, “Five Roses”, “Bob’s Red Mill”, “Weston” and “No-Name”. “Bob’s Red Mill” flour is sold in piddling small bags that cost a fortune. The “No-Name” brand is a Loblaws brand, which is owned by Weston….

Flour millers everywhere have stopped grinding the whole wheat kernel to make whole wheat flour. They now separate the bran and germ from the wheat kernel before milling it and put the germ and bran back into milled white flour to make “whole wheat”. Apparently, I’m supposed to look for “100% whole wheat” on the package if I want actual whole wheat. (Good luck with that…).

Since the Smucks bought the Canadian flour companies “Five Roses” AND “Robin Hood” but kept the label, they’ve already eliminated the “best for bread” whole wheat flour, [unbleached bread flour,] as well as “dark rye” flour entirely. Apparently, we don’t want those flours anymore.

-me, blog from OUR kitchen: What has happened to the baking aisle at the supermarket?

But not to worry (very much) that unbleached bread flour is unavailable. Once I find unbleached all-purpose flour, I can make my own bread flour. I think….

How to make Bread Flour by adding vital wheat gluten:

I foolishly thought that it would be easy as pie to buy vital wheat gluten here. Alas, I’m wrong. I’ve checked at our supermarket (Ha. Not a chance. This is the same supermarket that suddenly took 10 kg bags of unbleached all-purpose flour off the shelves). And I checked at our health food store. I have not yet checked the Bulk Barn – the nearest one is quite far away.

Our health food store sells a “gluten flour” but the proprietors had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for “vital wheat gluten” (there is a language barrier; they are all Korean). The label on the gluten flour had a very high percentage on it. Is there something else I should be asking about the ingredients? I’m assuming that if it says “flour”, it could possibly be bleached.

I see from googling that Bob’s Red Mill produces vital wheat gluten (rrrrrr, really?? I’m going to have to pay the import fees for vital wheat gluten to come from the USA? This makes zero sense when so much wheat is grown in Canada) and that it is 75% protein. Is this correct? Is vital wheat gluten always packaged in the same way.

We rode our bikes about 12 km to the bulk barn (it was a beautiful day – perfect for the ride) and paid an astronomical amount for the gluten flour: $10/kilo. Does anyone else think that’s extraordinarily expensive?

So. Where in this “world class city” of Toronto am I going to find reasonably priced UNBLEACHED flour for baking bread?

This is what I’m looking for:

  • Dark Rye Flour that ISN’T in a piddling little “Bob’s Red Mill” package
  • 100% whole wheat flour with a reasonably high protein count that has ALL its bran and germ as well as being unbleached (ie: zero ADA)
  • unbleached all-purpose flour in 10 kg bags that do not cost more than $1 per kilo

I shouldn’t have to resort to ordering flour online from King Arthur (US company) or Arrowhead Mills (US company). Note that I have nothing against US flour. I’m sure it’s wonderful flour. If I lived in the USA, I’d be thrilled to buy flour milled in the USA!

As an experiment, we just bought Canadian “Suraj” Durum Atta (flour for making chapatis). The ingredients listed are durum wheat flour, bran.

Durum is a variety of wheat with the highest protein content of all wheat flour but durum flour does not form gluten that is as elastic or stretchy (extensible) as other hard wheat flours. It is, therfore, used in conmbination with all-purpose ofr bread flour. Because of its high protein content, it if it is overwored, it will produce an excessively chewy bread. […] [D]urum flour [is] ground from the endosperm of durum wheat.

-Rose Levy Beranbaum, “The Bread Bible”, p. 546

I used the durum atta to make a starter for baguettes today. As far as I understand from reading, atta has had the germ removed so I added some wheat germ. I also added some gluten flour because of what Rose Levy Beranbaum wrote.

Hmmmm, it’s pretty stiff. Wish me luck!


I have written twice now (once in July; once in August) to our local supermarket and the flour companies and STILL haven’t received any reply! (All letters say “I look forward to your reply” just before my signature… I guess it’s time for followups. :stomp: )

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