Monday, June 18, 2012

Flour. The flour in your French bread, crepes, and other delights.

    Flour - Farine. 
The flour in your French bread, crepes, and other delights.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

 Photograph by  courtesy of  Eric Delcroix

Field of Wheat.
   Farine de Blé  Regular wheat flour.
   Farine de Blé Blanche, EnrichieBleached, enriched, all purpose flour. This is the added-value flour that all the flour mills want you to buy.
    Farine de Blé Entier or  Farine de Blé Complet  - Whole wheat flour.

An old flour millstone in France.
Photograph by courtesy of Thierry Llansades.
    Farine de Blé Noir, Farine de Sarrasin or Blé noir – Buckwheat flour. This is a flour with a distinctive, mild, nutty taste; the flour’s French names translate directly as black flour or the flour of the Saracens. The darker color comes from the seed’s coating and when some of the coating is left in the flour making process it is that coating that gave the flour its color. Buckwheat is gluten free.
   The French name for buckwheat flour, Farine de Sarrasin stretches back to the crusades.  During the crusades the French first met up with the dark skinned Saracen warriors and also were introduced to their dark buckwheat flour.  They took the flour home and among the flour’s various names is the name of their Saracen foes; today that would not be politically correct. The galettes de blé noir, crêpes, pancakes of buckwheat flour, are traditional in Bretagne, Brittany, but, you will find buckwheat flour in use all over France. For more information on France's crêpes, galettes and gauffres, crepes, pancakes and waffles, see my post: Crepes, Pancakes and Waffles.

Photograph by RazvanPhotograph through

A Galette Bretonne

    Buckwheat flour may be used on its own or mixed with other flours, used in pastries, breads, bread rolls, biscuits and much more. Buckwheat flour is also the flour used in the original Russian blinis; most blinis made in France use regular flour.
    Buckwheat originated in Asia and is a very important crop in China, Russia and Japan with France leading in Europe. In Asia buckwheat was always and is still an important staple; Japanese soba noodles are buckwheat noodles. In Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe buckwheat was a staple for the peasants and is still today a very important crop, it will be served like rice as a garnish.  Buckwheat probably reached North America with Jewish immigrants in the mid 19th century and they brought with them the name kasha; kasha is still the most well known name for buckwheat in North America. Buckwheat is neither a cereal nor a grass and so one of its important dietary attributes is the fact that is gluten free.
Brisures de Blé Noir - Cracked buckwheat 
       Farine Complète – Whole wheat flour.
    Farine de Froment or Farine de Blé Tendre  – Wheat flour; one step before it will become bleached and enriched all purpose flour.  The second name noted here, Farine de Blé Tendre translates as soft wheat flour. That name points to the difference between this flour and harder wheat flours like those made with durum wheat; the hard durum wheat is the wheat used in the best pasta. 
    Farine de  Maïs or more correctly Semoule de maïs Corn flour.
    Farine de SeigleRye flour.

Semoule Semolina; the white wheat flour made with the bran and the germ removed. In France semolina is often made with durum wheat and that makes for a light yellow flour; whole durum flour is also often used for making couscous.     From my childhood I only remember semolina in England as a warm soft mush served warm with a blob of jam in the center; then it was one of the desserts served with school dinners. France makes semolina differently and not only with wheat.

Carré d'Agneau et Semoule aux Senteurs Orientales – A rack of lamb served with semolina prepared lightly flavored with oriental spices. (see the appendix Beef, Lamb and Veal : Agneau, Carré d'Agneau).

Gâteau de Semoule aux Fruits Secs – A semolina cake made with dried fruits.