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
Weston
Whole wheat flour
whole wheat flour, ascorbic acid, amylase, azodicarbonamide
Suraj
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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  • Robert P

    “I feel your pain”. It’s like traveling to a coffee producing country and finding that the only coffee available locally is Nescafe.
    Something I have experienced.

    Even here, in N. California (south bay area), it is not always easy to find grains. We do have Whole Foods and a local health foods (sort of) store that can order from Giusto’s in S. San Francisco. I’ve solved this problem by ordering unbleached bread flour and keeping it in sealed containers. White flour keeps well.

    For whole grain flours such as wheat, rye, buckwheat, and corn I buy the grain and grind it in my own home mill as I need it, since the ground grains, in quantity, do not keep well without refrigeration. Sourcing here can be a problem too if the grains are infested with bugs, as recently happened to a batch of wheat berries.

    For years I had an impact mill but this year I ordered a home stone mill made by Schnitzer. It is quieter and can grind whole corn as well, something an impact mill cannot do. This is an excellent mill and the freshly ground flours are a treat. For buckwheat flour, which is ridiculously expensive from the specialty mills, I grind the raw groats. Of course, the mill is not cheap, but the ability to have the grains on hand and the resulting quality are worth it to me.

  • Oh, I totally sympathize. I detest food additives and have been trying to go toward a more whole foods approach for my family. And not only because my daughter has food allergies. I often wonder what all these non-food chemicals and franken-foods in the SAD (standard American diet) are doing to us. Actually, I don’t have to wonder, just look at the state of health of the average citizen and our health system. :( I am so fortunate to live where so many specialty items are readily available, even fresh (raw) dairy products. I did purchase a grain mill almost a year ago with the intention of grinding my own flour. I even got the wheat berries. Ask me if I’ve used it yet… *sigh* I did do the BBB sprouted wheat loaf in the food processor a few months ago and that turned out pretty well. Maybe you could find a good source that would allow you a bulk discount or free shipping for quantity and you could store the excess in the freezer? Good luck in your quest for decent flour! :-)

  • Regina

    Thanks for very informative posts. Like you I went on a search of reasonably priced unbleached flour after 10kg bags were discontinued. I bought once Weston unbleached really cheap ($3 for 5kg) but returned it to the store after finding azodicarbonamide listed in the ingredients. Weston says it’s a ‘fluffing’ ingredient. Well, I found Metro’s ‘Selection’ brand unbleached flour doesn’t have it and this is what I’d been using for the last couple of months. Last time I bought it it was $2.50 for 2.5kg which is quite reasonable. Mind you, it could have gone up in price along with all the other stuff.

  • Julia Lazar

    I am with you. I would like to be able to decide what I am eating. I do not understand why we have to eat bleached flour what is not healthy? Who are the people who are making this very bad and stupid decision for us?????? I am really worried about my kids and grandkids health. Let get together and do something for a change. To many people are sick because of the food what we are all eating. Let stop all this non sense and have a healthy meal on our table for our money.

  • Kate G

    Greetings! Great information and rantings about trying to find flour that hasn’t been over processed! I have dietary issues and had to give up wheat for quite a while so that my intestinal tract would heal up. This worked great! My health improved plus along the way, I got more and more information about ingredients in foods and how foods are processed. I thought I would re-visit wheat flour and started looking for one that was not over processed and that didn’t have any additives to it (I’m avoiding folic acid as I may not be able to process it). Sorry that you can’t find unprocessed wheat in Canada! I was having the same problem here in the States (Ohio) but was able to find an Italian wheat flour (brand is Anna Napoletana) that has listed that it does contain a non-gmo wheat with no added enzymes and no additives. (Do you like the Italians?). I made a small batch of cookies and didn’t notice any health side effects. Yea! I’ll have to continue testing it. I’m assuming the wheat has been bleached due its color being really white. I didn’t see any mention of bleaching on their website (www.cento.com). (Sorry, their offices are based in New Jersey:-( . Apparently the milling process is different overseas than in the States and this may help the wheat flour to contain less gluten.

    I liked the information about wheat containing ADA (axodicarbonamide) as I didn’t realize that this was in wheat or that it has the potential to cause respiratory problems. I know when I was eating regular wheat (probably Pillsbury) that I had a lot of sinus problems. Once I removed wheat from my diet, I rarely have any problems. If I have sinus congestion, then I know that a particular food is the problem and I get it out of my diet.

    You may want to check out TheFreshLoaf.com as they have some interesting comments about trying to find wheat products that are not over processed. I have gotten used to not eating wheat so not a big deal if I can’t eat it in the future. There are tons on gluten-free recipes these days and I’m used to baking with almond/coconut flour. I think it would be fun, though, if I could process the grain myself (I like doing that kind of thing!) and then I know what is actually in the flour.

    As a side, you mentioned that at times your scanner hasn’t worked in the past. I have found that when I have computer problems (software/hardware) that using the Internet and googling the problem always turns up someone who has had a similar problem. I have resolved a lot of computer issues this way!

    When I have more time and I’m not tracking down information to resolve my health, I’ll be back to visit your site. It’s so fun to read!! Kate

  • Grace

    Thank you! I 100% agree with you. What happened to simple ingredients…