Forget taking time to smell the flowers....
There are so many different brands of flours out there....I thought I would stop and look up the history a few of the most popular ones out there:
Gold Medal received its name on June 8, 1880, when the Washburn Crosby Company, predecessor to General Mills, Inc., entered the first International Millers' Exhibition and won the gold, silver and bronze medals on the three grades of spring wheat patent process flour. The gold medal was given to Washburn's Superlative flour, which is still a brand sold today in the Bakery Flour channel. After winning the award, Washburn Crosby began using "Gold Medal" as the brand name on the firm's best grade of flour, and on Aug. 19, 1880, the first flour was packed and shipped under that now-famous brand.
Gold Medal was one of the first food products to use premiums to attract consumers. Most often found in cereal boxes today, premiums began surfacing the 1920s with Gold Medal offering its consumers a free flour sack pin cushion. Washburn Crosby received thousands of responses in addition to hundreds of letters asking for cooking and baking advice. Washburn Crosby's advertising department created a fictional spokesperson to respond to these requests and called her Betty Crocker, using the last name of a retired company director by the name of Crocker.
KING ARTHUR FLOUR
In 1896, Mark Taylor, George Wood, and Orin Sands were the owners of a flour company with a 106-year legacy. Things were going smoothly until they became hung up on picking a name for their new flour. They needed to express the flour's premium characteristics—integrity, strength, reliability, and superior performance. They eventually chose King Arthur, a name so fitting it eventually stood for the company itself.
They take their flour very seriously in Norwich, VT. On the King Arthur website, they even have a "Flour Philosophy" page.
If you can't make it to one of their traveling baking presentations (really worth it by the way...) they even have online baking courses. You can't really go wrong with any of their cookie selections, either. They have a great cookie cookbook out that would be a great gift for any cook on your gift list...or for yourself!
Charles A. Pillsbury bought the Minneapolis Flour Mill in 1869, renovating it and converting it to the Pillsbury Mill. At the time, the mill was capable of producing 150 barrels of flour per day. C.A. Pillsbury & Co. was organized a year later. Immediately being profitable, the Pillsbury operation began to expand. Pillsbury began to make use of the latest processes for refining and purifying flour. His confidence in the fineness of his flour was demonstrated by his marking it (beginning in 1872) with four X's: at the time, the finest flour was described as XXX, but Pillsbury honestly believed his flour to be finer than the others. Customers made "Pillsbury's BEST" a household term.
Did you know...Pillsbury's first baking contest was held in 1900?
Charles Pillsbury attended the 1900 Paris Exposition, which commenced in April. There were 76,000 exhibitors during the event, which attracted over fifty million people. Although the United States was not alloted any more space than the European nations, one goal of the American exhibit was to display for the first time the raw products, manufacturing processes, and finished products side by side. Pillsbury was awarded a gold medal in 1901 for their part in the exhibition.
This triumph was followed in 1904 by representation in the Saint Louis Exposition (World's Fair), where Pillsbury was awarded three grand prizes. Pillsbury had a small pamphlet prepared, which was handed out during the exhibition in St. Louis.
And, my favorite, The Pillsbury Doughboy, aka "Poppin' Fresh," made his television debut in a commercial for Pillsbury's crescent rolls. Within a few years, he highlighted the cover of the Bake-Off cookbook series. Whoo Hooo!
WHITE LILLY FLOUR
Back in 1851, a pioneering Carl Hilmar Guenther crossed the Atlantic Ocean to begin a new life in the United States. Three years later, with both his milling experiences and dedication, he started what is now a multifaceted company with locations across the United States. For well over a century, White Lily has produced the premium flour that Southern cooks, well-recognized chefs and bakers stand by.
White Lily has been the "secret ingredient" of Southern baking for decades although the secret is now out world wide! The flour is still made today just as it was more than 120 years ago by using only pure, soft winter wheat. In production, White Lily receives extra grinding, sifting and purifying. These additional milling steps produce a flour that is finer, lighter and superior for baking.
This truly is the only flour to use when making true, downsouth biscuits!
Then of course there are many different TYPES of flour for specific baking needs.
The type of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Flour contains protein and when it comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten, which gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore using a different type of flour than what is called for in a recipe (without compensating for this change) will alter the outcome of the baked good.
Flour, when packaged, has about a 14% moisture content. When stored, however, its moisture content will vary. In general, the longer flour is stored the more moisture it loses. This is why on a dry day using old flour your pastry will require more water than on a wet day using new flour.
Then of course, the question of bleached vs. unbleached.
Given a choice, you probably wouldn't add things like benzoyl peroxide, chlorine dioxide, and potassium bromate to the cookies you're making for the family picnic. But at least one of these chemicals is already found in most flours in America.
Most flour companies add benzoyl peroxide or chlorine dioxide to chemically whiten -- that is, bleach -- their flours. Some add potassium bromate to artificially strengthen their flours. When you hear benzoyl peroxide, you probably think acne cream, in which benzoyl peroxide is the active ingredient. Chlorine dioxide? Anyone who's done the laundry or cleaned the swimming pool knows that chlorine is the key agent in liquid bleach. For its part, potassium bromate is a suspected carcinogen that has been banned from food products in Europe, Japan, and Canada. Food in California that contains potassium bromate must bear a warning label.
I much prefer unbleached, myself.