Comparison of Paragon, Nelson, Atle and April Bearded

This is the results of the first baking trial of four wheat varieties grown by Mark and Liz Lea at Green Acres Farm, Kemberton, Shropshire in harvest 2021.

The four doughs were made using the same ingredients, mixing methods, proving time and baking time to give a good comparison across the four varieties.

The flours were milled on the farm by Mark and Liz using their Moulins Alma Pro stone mill. All of these tests have used their sifted flour (most of the bran removed). The flours aren’t comparable to roller milled white flour. They contain small bran particles and a lot of the germ making the flours more nutritious than roller milled. They also have a darker colour then roller milled white as a result, ranging from light to a darker beige.

Please note that these loaves were baked on the same day as the flour as milled. Fresh flour acts differently to aged flour.

The test bakes all use the following ingredients:

500g sifted stoneground flour
7g fine salt
5g instant yeast
360g water

The initial mix was made with 340g water and clearly shows the difference in the way these different single variety flours absorb water differently.

The Nelson flour was very dry with 340g of water. Paragon was slightly dry. April bearded and Atle were both acceptable at 340g and didn’t need additional hydration. However in the interests of keeping the doughs all the same I added a further 20g of water to each dough, making them 72% hydration. The Nelson dough remained stiffer than the other doughs.

The doughs were all developed using the stretch and fold method, with 30 minutes of rest between mixing and each round of stretch and fold. They all had three rounds of stretch and fold. They were all shaped consistently and baked in the same size tin. They were all baked for 30 minutes at 220C, gas mark 7, 425F.

Although the photos don’t do the colour of these loaves their proper justice I hope you can see how each flour differs. The Atle and the April Bearded are both lighter in colour than the Nelson and the Paragon. The Nelson was noticeably darker than the others when mixing.

The April Bearded would have benefited from an extra baking time as it is doughier than the others when baked in exactly the same manner to allow for comparison. The April Bearded also has a tighter crumb than the others. April Bearded has the highest protein content of these flours and may have benefitted from higher hydration.

Data on flours

The analysis of the April Bearded shows it has 15.07% protein, a specific weight of 79.9kg and Hagberg of 258. It is a spring-sown wheat that was grown from the mid 19th century to the 1960’s.

Atle is also a spring sown wheat that was first grown in Sweden in the 1930’s. It has a protein content of 13.32% with a specific weight of 80.3kg and a Hagberg of 349.

Nelson is a modern wheat grown at Green Acres as part of trials assessing suitability for organic farming systems.

Paragon is a parent of Mulika that was bred in 1999. It has a protein content of 12.94% and a Hagberg of 331.

1 thought on “Comparison of Paragon, Nelson, Atle and April Bearded”

  1. I was delighted to find your site via “The Ordinary Cook” and your very interesting experiment with grains I have never heard of. I even had to look up what “a Hagberg was!” I’ve been baking bread for over 45 years and have my own wheat grinder so my flour is always fresh. I always use what we call “hard winter red wheat,” which is easy to find here in the States. It makes delicious cakey bread with a nutty flavor. My thoughts about your experiment may not make for strictly scientific observations but, to begin with, I follow recipes but adjust the water by the feel of my dough. From the way they are cracked, I would say that all of your doughs were dry, or might have benefitted from a bit of oil in the recipe. I didn’t understand much about the technical assessments of hydration but the doughs looked dry. Also, I have never baked bread at 425º. Maybe our climates are different and require different temperatures but almost all my recipes, especially for white breads, call for 350º ovens. It would be very nice if you had tasting notes–just what family members or other volunteers’ comments might be on the flavors and textures of the breads. In the end, the taste is the only thing that anyone cares about when they eat homemade bread! Thanks very much.

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