Thursday, January 14, 2010

Flour Test--Sam's Club vs King Arthur All Purpose Flours

I am a big fan of King Arthur flour. Just love baking with it! I love the high protein, high quality features of this flour. I began using the King Arthur bread flour when I got my bread machine in early 2007.

A plus for me—I am not used to baking with humidity, so I don’t seem to have to adjust as much with King Arthur as with other flours.

Lately, I’ve wondered if the extra cost of King Arthur flour is needed. So I thought I would try a test of my own, against Sam’s Club flour. A lot of my friends were using Sam’s Club flour, and it’s a lot cheaper.

I baked 3 half batches of a simple bread recipe of flour, water, yeast and salt.   I felt this bread recipe showed the flour off the most:

Sam’s Club All Purpose Flour = Sample A
Sam’s Club Bread Flour = Sample B
King Arthur All Purpose Flour = Sample C

I tried to keep everything consistent between the three flours. Everyone tasted the breads in the same order—A, B, C.

Here are pictures of the 3 doughs, in my Rubbermaid buckets:

Sample dough A (Sam's All Purpose): I mixed this dough first. I added the recipe's amount of water, had to add a lot more flour until it felt right. Dough had a different color, too.

Sample dough B (Sam's Bread Flour): Better texture, even when in dough form. Had to adjust less.

Sample dough C (King Arthur All Purpose): When mixing the dough, had to add a lot more extra water until it felt right. But this was my favorite to mix. It's also my usual flour:

Here are the 3 loaves on my peels. I remember that A was quite wet. It was flat on my peel, didn't rise much.

Sample A stayed flat in baking, didn't have "oven spring."

The appearance of the cut loaves:

I think that "A", on the left, is still wet looking several hours later. It tasted wet, too. We ate it the first night, the three other people did taste testing a few days later.
And here are the results of the taste test:
A, Sam's All Purpose
B, Sam's Bread Flour
C, King Arthur All Purpose

Taster 1:
Liked them all the same, but felt it wouldn't make a difference if strong flavored ingredients, like cinnamon, were added. So would use any of them if white flour wasn't the star ingredient. "Why pay the extra money when the flour isn't the main ingredient?"

me, a baker , Taster 2:
A: Texture not great, but an ok flavor.
B; Bland taste
C: Best texture and taste. Actually, the taste felt somewhat salty tasting, even though no extra salt was added. I liked KA taste and texture the best. Would use where All Purpose is the main ingredient. Otherwise, might try a less expensive flour

Taster 3:
A: The favorite
B: 2nd favorite
C: liked least

Taster 4, a baker
A: ok
B: liked texture better
C: the favorite, best taste and texture. But doesn't do a lot of baking to warrant the extra cost, wouldn't use KA if most of flour is whole wheat

Taster 5
A; has a somewhat sweet flavor, the favorite
C: Didn't like the taste as much as the first one. Was surpised that this wasn't everyone's favorite, since I brag about KA all the time.
This is just a small sample, and our humble opinions. They are all good flours. I might try another flour when using mostly whole grains in my breads. The small amount of all purpose might not make such a big difference then. I might sample Pillsbury and Gold Medal Better for Bread at a later date.
I think I feel really happy when I am baking with King Arthur flour. And my breads turn out better when I am happy, not matter what ingredients I use! I hope this test helps people, in this economy.

Followup note:  I tried baking the breads I'd bring to market with bleached flours, and they didn't turn out the same.  King Arthur flour is unbleached, and Sam's (and many others) are bleached.  They didn't rise the same height, or taste the same.  I guess the extra cost of the flour is worth it.


  1. Interesting comparison tests! My breads from this book are a combination of KA (white whole wheat), bulk bread flour & all purpose from Costco, and I'm about to try Whole Foods' store brand whole wheat. I'll be interested to see how the next loaves come out. :-)

  2. Hi, I would love to know your findings! I wish we had a Whole Foods nearby. With these recipes, I think it's the whole wheat flour that has the most bearing on the recipe, not the all purpose.