* Prices may differ from that shown
Cooking is something I love but also something that I massively neglected in 2013, to the extent whereby I realise I spent far too much money on soul-destroyingly terrible sandwiches from supposedly high-quality high street brands when at work in the city and continually vowing to do something about it and make my own bread again at home, but somehow I never got around to it.
Well, that's changing in 2014. I love proper, hand-made bread and even if I do meet myself halfway sometimes and use my Kenwood to do the kneading while I get on with something else, I am still getting properly back on the breadmaking wagon. I've had enough of crap bread, and that's that.
Whilst I intend to spend some time looking into independent flour mills this year, such as Shipton Mill who I have heard good things about, I am happy to admit that when it comes to another soggy, tasteless, bland excuse for bread cardboarding some insipid flavours tomorrow, or easily-accessible supermarket brands today, I will plump for something I know I can rely on within easy recach - and whilst some supermarket own-brand flours are perfectly good, I'll normally go for Allinson. Admittedly today I didn't have to, as I had a 1.5 kilo bag untouched in my stash from former breadmaking efforts, so that was the first I reached for over a Watirose own-brand that sat next to it (I really like bread, okay?!).
This review is of the brand's Strong White Bread Flour offering, which I have seen available in a 1.5 kilo form for a single of your English pounds on sale or varying at full price from £1.50 to £2 - although as we are always warned, these prices are subject to change with recent poor global wheat harvests.
Allinson is named after Thomas Allinson who founded it, with the homepage of their Allison Flour website claiming that "the natural quality of our milled flour meets the same high standards set by Thomas Allison in 1892". Well, you'd sort of hope that they might even have improved a bit since then, but you get the idea.
According to the website's history section, Allison was one of the first to advocate wholemeal flour in a healthy diet, something that he believed in to the extent that he became converted to Natuopathy, then a movement that eschewed the use of drugs and relied only on natural food. To cut a long story short, some people disagreed and they had a big row and he got struck off themedical register. So he started milling flour and making bread instead. Allinson was in his 50s when he was offered a reinstatement after the First World War Government realised that actually, on balance, the guy might have been on to something and they might have been a bunch of berks, but he told them to shove it, and well done to him says I.
Anyway, in short, the mills continued beyond his death and the range is still going strong today.
This is the bog-standard Strong White Bread Flour, not their Premium Strong White Bread Flour - unless I'm really trying to impress, I don't really see the difference and didn't realise there was such an option until visiting the website today. They could bag up the dust off the factory floor and it would still be better than the Chorleywood crap that certain outlets deem fit for their customers.
Some science: per 100g this has 335 kcal, 12.1g protein, 68.6g carbs (1.4g sugars), 1.4g fat (saturates .2g), 3.1g fibre, 0.003g sodium.
Red Tractor approved, contains wheat and gluten, contains no nuts, available in 1.5k and 3k bags. Suitable for vegetarians.
This product comes in pretty, muted green bags with a rustic design involving a mill and some wheat ears and looks a class apart from the supermarket own brands on the shelf.
As I've already mentioned, I find that many supermarket own brand offerings are pretty decent if you're not a total bread snob. And, in all honesty, it is hard to strongly argue on balance that this slightly higher-priced product is monumentally different in use, but I will say this: this flour is well milled - light, fluffy and soft in the bag and rarely clumped - and well presented - I've never had the sealing of a bag be loose, flour leak from the opening or the bag split - and I've never found a trace of husks in the milled end product.
In use, I have made everything from focaccia, bread rolls, bloomers, sourdoughs and even croissants, bagels, pizza doughs and breads with added extras like herb, cheese or ale loaves, all whilst using this flour. My personal preference for a bog-standard, 'something to build work sandwiches with' loaf is to mix a little of the same brand's seeded flour or wholegrain flour into the mix, but that's more as a reflection of my wanting to be conscious of balancing my nutritional intake than it is a reflection of the quality of the flour. The doughs have also coped well when I have added additional ingredients after the first rise, such as chopped olives and sundried tomato, without going soggy (although I have been careful not to introduce too much moisture also).
In all cases, made both with Allinson yeast and with other yeast brands, or indeed with natural yeast from my sourdough starter, the resulting loaf was flavoursome, filling, the rise (when I left it to work in the right conditions and didn't try to rush the process) was even and very rarely are the loaves heavy - and if they are it's usually because I was in a rush and didn't knead sufficiently.
Whilst Mr Rarr doesn't make bread entirely by hand, he has also used this in our near-redundant breadmaker and again, the results are consistent and tasty.
Also when initially cooked on a short period of high heat (in the case of sourdough in particular, the addition of some water in the bottom of the oven produces steam which aids the process of crusting the loaf), before a decrease in heat for the centre of the loaf to cook through, a good, consistent crust is formed, lovely to bite into and when this is warm from the oven with a little butter, you really do have a nice slice of bread.
So yes, thoroughly well recommended. I won't say it massively outperforms the budget ranges but there are instances of husks in many of their blends and weaker packaging, and also Allison's higher cost also seems to cover some sort of association with bakingmad.com, which provides many a good recipe. They produce a higher quality of brand experience and flour and the resulting cooking ventures are consistent and flavoursome; they can't make bread a diet aid but they've done most things beyond, and with their range of other flours you can make up your own flour blends and create your own favourite loaf. Knocking off a star for the inflated cost but with the general value of the commodity rising all the time, in part it can't be helped.
There are few pleasures greater than waking up in the morning to fresh bread, all delicious and ready in the bread machine.
But in order to make the delicious fresh bread, you need ingredients to make it with. The main ingredient required for this is flour, and in normal recipes, it asks for "strong" flour as opposed to ordinary flour, probably so that the dough can be easily kneaded and put together into a beautiful loaf of bread. Unfortunately, strong bread flour is usually better quality than just regular flour, so that it tends to cost more. If your flour is bad quality, your bread will most likely be bad quality as well. So buying the right kind of bread flour is a Big Deal if you want tasty bread made by your bread maker; however, especially if you are a university student like me trying to save a little money here and there, you have to have the right balance between value for money and good quality.
So I would recommend to you Allinson Strong White Bread Flour.
I am a very regular customer of Allinson's baking products, because it is a classic example of quality and value combined. You can buy a regular sized bag of strong white bread flour for around £2 from your local supermarkets, but I have seen a few supermarkets put these bags of flour on special offers, sometimes at the low price of £1 a bag! This may not seem such a great deal, but this is bearing in mind that this is good quality flour, from quite a good reputable company. When these generous £1 deals pop up, I am sure to stock up, dragging many bags of flour over to the check out!
Obviously, I do buy the wholemeal variety sometimes, as it is with no doubt the healthiest option, but it is less commonly on such good special promotions. Also, I have grown rather accustomed to the taste of white bread- though this is probably not a good thing! In the future, I will try to be good and invest more towards wholemeal flour.
The bread made by this flour is delicious and good quality- the bread is soft and versatile, especially when it is warm, straight out of the bread tin. The tiny grains of flour are just slightly darker than the artificially white flour you normally get. It can also make strong, dough for making rolls. I even attempted to make bagels by making the dough in the bread machine and then doing the rest by hand- the outcome was surprisingly delicious!
A bag of flour lasts for an average of 2 to 3 one kilogram loaves, so you have to keep constantly stocking up on flour, especially if you are like me and want a big steaming loaf every two days. However, I would not exactly say that it is an expensive habit as:
a) It is so much healthier than shop bought bread with all their colourings and preservatives. Also, you are presented with the option of controlling the amount of salt, sugar and butter you put in, so you can ensure that you are not putting too much junk into your delicious bread.
and b) A good loaf of bread can be usually found in the supermarket from the £1 mark upwards, so depending on what other ingredients you use (e.g. yeast, butter, etc.) you may actually find yourself SAVING money.
However, this review is only for if you are baking using a bread machine, as, even though it gives you a recipe on how to make hand made bread, I doubt that I am going to have the time and patience to attempt it. The bread from the bread machine, I can tell you, is delightful, so I see no reason as to why hand made bread using the same flour and pretty much the same ingredients should not yield the same results.
I would highly recommend this bread flour, it is the best I have come across so far. You receive good quality flour from a good quality brand for quite low prices for what the product is. It is perfect for making delicious fresh bread, and I would give it 4 out of 5 dooyoo stars.
For Christmas my bestmate/flatmate bought me a top of the range breadmaker. This wasn't entirely unselfish of her as she loves my cooking and she really loves it when I bake so when I opened it up I knew her game straight away lol. However I was well pleased with the gift as I've owned a few bread makers over the years and only one of them was briliant till it packed up so I had high hopes for this one.
Just after Christmas I had to get all the ingredients for my bread making extravaganza and I know from experience that strong white bread flour makes the best bread (in my opinion) so I didn't cut corners but bought all branded ingredients and this was my flour brand of choice.
Light green paper bag and on the front of it there is a windmill picture shown and we are told that it is Allinson 'Founded by Thomas Allinson in 1892' and that it is Strong White Bread Flour 'For consitently great bread & pizza dough'. Other information given on the bag includes being given a couple of recipes for bread, ingredients and allergy advice is listed, there is a full nutritional chart shown, the weight of the bag is stated (in my case I opted for a 1.5kg bag) and contact details for Allinsons are given. Nice enough, informative bag this is and what I do like that is that in small print at the bottom of the bag we are told that this can be used in bread makers and to follow the manufacturers guidelines but if you have none then Allinsons suggest to use the basic white bread setting.
This is fine milled, pure white and very velvet soft flour. Very powdery, I find that this really doesn't need sifting unless your purist as it really isn't one big lumpy and all it contains is wheat flour and nothing else at all.
This is however simply a bag of flour for using to make bread and breadlike products and this (along with a few other ingredients of course) makes me a lovely fresh loaf in my breadmaker in a couple of hours however I did get brave and used this to make a loaf of bread in the oven following the instructions on the back of the bag and the ingredients advised and my Mother always told me to always place a bowl of water at the bottom of my oven when baking bread as the steam helps it to rise and she wasn't wrong as I got a beautiful golden brown, high risen loaf from using this.
This is brilliant quality, premium flour and Allisons have been making it since 1892 so they are doing something right and I will be purchasing this time and time again in the future without a shadow of a doubt!
Expect to pay about £2.00 a bag for the size I own in all good supermarkets etc.