French flours blow my freakin’ mind

The photo above was from a trip to Auchan which, as I’ve mentioned previously is something like the Costco of French except that instead of 20kg bags of Doritos, they have things such as two aisles dedicated to the best French cheeses. But, back to that photo which I took in their flour aisle. As you can see, the choices are many and frankly, mind-blowing.

The issue is that the French take their various flours very seriously. Where, in the US, or even in other European countries there may be only a few types (such as cake flour, bread flour, pastry flour), the French use this whole “T system” which breaks down the flours by ash content. It seems really confusing until someone explains it relative to what you make with it as this girl did. Then, there’s this chart that makes it even more relative and easier to understand.

Why would I care? Why not just buy everything already made like everyone else does these days? Quite simply because it’s getting harder and harder to find well-made baked goods these days. San Francisco spoils the hell out of you when it comes to getting good baked bread. France still has good bread, but there is a lot of industrial garbage as well. And then, let’s not even get in to Spain where, my mother in-law theorizes that there is a large “dough tanker truck” that drives around to all the “local” bakeries and delivers a pre-made dough that they then all bake the day before and sell as “fresh”.

This is the reason I bake. It’s also the case that pancakes are not really to be found and in addition to making them in metric, one needs to worry about all these different kinds of flour. There were, in the beginning of pancake experiments in Spain, some rather sordid items that were turned out when using bread flour instead of cake flour or not understanding this “T” thing with the French. Most all of it seems sorted now, but still, when I am confronted by this wall of flours, it is intimidating, especially when I see that you often mix them for optimal results.