What makes our bread so distinctively good? We owe most of the credit to the artisan bakers who hand roll and shape loaves, rolls, baguettes, and flutes in what is truly a time-honored process. However, our bread also benefits greatly from using only the highest quality ingredients. Our flour is certainly a key component, determining the structure of the bread from the crust to the crumb. That’s why at Le Pain Quotidien, we use a unique proprietary blend of flour painstakingly developed to produce a bread with a wonderful aroma, complex flavors, and nutritional value, too.
Our founder Alain Coumont spent two years with King Arthur to create this blend for our breads. It is what is known in the business as a “high extraction flour.” Extraction is the rate at which the kernel of wheat ends up in the bag of flour. Whole wheat flour, for instance, typically has an extraction rate of 100%, meaning that all of the wheat kernel (the bran, germ and endosperm) are milled and go into the bag of flour. White flour, which is mostly endosperm, has an extraction rate of about 75%. Our flour falls between the two, with an extraction rate of about 90%.
The inclusion of a high percentage of the wheat bran gives the flour its color and rich aroma and flavor. It also provides a good amount of dietary fiber. The wheat germ, most often removed in the milling process, is left intact and ground during the milling process releasing its flavorful, beneficial oils into the flour. These oils not only contribute body to the flour, and a richness to the finished loaves, but also act as a natural preservative giving our breads superior keeping qualities. The germ is also a good source of vitamin E.
Our flour provides much of the nutritional value of whole wheat flour while retaining the pleasant, mellow eating characteristics of breads made with white flour. The nutritional value of the bread is improved even more by the fact that we leaven our big breads slowly with a levain. Breads made with levain (as opposed to those made with commercial yeast) are easier to digest and their nutrients are more available to the body.