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shakleford

This weekend I finally made a loaf of vollkornbrot, which I'd been planning to do for some time.  It was a lot of fun, and let me try several things that I had not done before:

  • I used the formula from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, which includes preparing a mash on the first day.  A mash is a thin paste of flour or whole grains and water, kept at 150 for several hours.  The goal of this is to produce what I think can best be described as enzyme craziness.
  • I've been on a rye kick lately (rye sourdoughs are currently my favorite type of bread), but had not tried anything more than around 2/3 rye.  While a 2/3 rye dough is a lot different than a wheat dough, the vollkornbrot dough was much different than either of them.
  • I bought a grain mill around a month ago, and while I've been very happy with it, I've been using it almost exclusively to produce finely-ground wheat flour.  I'd been holding off using it for rye, as I still have a fair amount of store-bought rye flour to use up.  However, the vollkornbrot recipe calls for coarsely-ground rye, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to break out the rye berries I bought.  For the mash, I actually produced what I would classify as cracked rye (the recipe calls for rye chops), sifting out the smaller pieces to use as part of the flour for the starter.
Day 1 consisted of preparing the mash mentioned above, along with a starter.  Having never made a mash before, I can't really say if mine turned out correctly, but it was gelatinous and quite pleasant-tasting.  I've been maintaining both a rye and a whole wheat starter for a couple of months now, and have had good success with both, but I used the rye starter in this recipe just to make the end result 100% rye.  Since the expanded starter was made of coarsely-ground rye it did not rise much, but smelled terrific.  The mash and starter are pictured below: 

On Day 2, I combined the above ingredients along with a good deal more rye flour and a few other items (including, somewhat surprisingly to me, sunflower seeds).  On a whim, I used a medium-coarse grind on this additional flour as well.  Reinhart lists molasses and cocoa powder as additional optional ingredients, but I decided to leave them out in this batch.  After mixing the final dough, I let it proof - the rise was pretty limited, as one might expect, but it was noticeable.  Reinhart's instructions have this bread being cooked in an open pan, but based on my reading, I wanted to try it with a lid.  However, I do not have a Pullman pan and have sworn off buying any additional kitchen accessories for at least two months.  Instead, I used the oft-recommended trick of covering the pan with a baking sheet (weighed down with a cast iron skillet) to roughly approximately a lidded pan.

After around two hours of baking (including rotating the loaf after the first hour so that it cooked more evenly), I pulled the below item out of the oven.  I was a little bit disappointed with its appearance, as the flour that I can carefully sprinkled inside the pan and on the top of the loaf had mostly disappeared and there were not as many cracks as I was expecting.

The hardest part of the process was still to come:  waiting until Day 3 to sample the loaf.  Fortunately, that was today.  I'd wrapped the loaf in a towel after it cooled yesterday, and when I took it out this evening, it smelled terrific.  Cutting through that crust was a bit of a challenge (as expected), but once I made it through, the crumb was quite soft with a very unique texture.  Reinhart says that using a mash gives the crumb a creamy texture, and while I didn't really know what that meant before trying this bread, I have to say that "creamy" is probably the word for it.  The taste was very complex - it didn't have much of a rye flavor, but I could detect the sourness from the starter, the sweetness from the mash, a hint of the taste of the sunflower seeds, and many other factors that I can't quite place.  For the first time I can remember, I wish that a loaf I made had more crumb and less crust.  I will also be interested to see how the flavors continue to develop over the next several days.  I've included a photo of the crumb below.

Overall, this was a very satisfying bake for me.  I love trying new ingredients and techniques, and when they actually produce something this tasty, it's even better!  I will definitely be baking more vollkornbrot in the future, although I think I may first try a few of the lighter recipes I've been neglecting.  I also plan to save some of this loaf to provide altus, perhaps for Reinhart's Bavarian Pumpernickel recipe.  In addition, I'm now more interested than ever in trying my mill out on different grains and coarser grinds.  So many breads, so little time...

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shakleford

Today I decided to try my hand at a new recipe, a Whole Wheat Chipotle Black Bean bread.  The idea for the recipe, along with the majority of the ingredient list, is taken from the Sourdough Home recipe.  I tweaked a number of ingredients and amounts, but my main changes were to convert the recipe to all whole wheat flour and to change it from sourdough-leavened to commercial yeast-leavened.  The first change was because I generally prefer whole wheat breads, while the second change was mainly to eliminate a possible point of failure (I'm still quite new to sourdough baking).  With these changes, my ingredients for a single loaf were as follows:

  • 360g whole wheat flour
  • 150g dried black beans, cooked and mashed
  • 3/4 cup (approximately) water, including cooking liquid from beans
  • 3.5 g yeast
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp chile oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp BBQ sauce
  • 1 can chipotles, lightly rinsed and coarsely chopped

I soaked the beans overnight on Friday, then cooked them for around 90 minutes first thing Saturday morning.  I blended them, using around 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, until mostly smooth.  Afterwards, I spread them on a plate and placed them in the fridge to cool them to room temperature more quickly.  Meanwhile, I rinsed and chopped the chipotles (I used canned chipotles and wanted to get rid of some of the excess adobo sauce).

I borrowed the basic procedure for preparing this bread from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.  I followed a normal mixing/kneading procedure except that I added the chipotles in at the end of the kneading.  Canned chipotles are quite soft, so I basically treated them like very plump raisins.  The dough had an unusual feel, presumably because of the beans, and took quite some time to pass the windowpane test.  However, it smelled terrific, so I didn't mind the extra kneading too much.

After finishing the kneading, I let the bread rise once for around two hours, then a second time for around one hour.  Both rises were higher than I'd expected, given the ingredients.  After completing the rising, I formed a single round loaf and allowed it to proof for around an hour (the loaf is shown below before proofing).  In retrospect, I probably should have proofed in a bowl or basket - the loaf spread more during proofing than I was expecting.  Just the same, it was a very pretty dough.  The photos unfortunately do not show the flecks from pepper seeds and larger pieces of beans.

I baked this loaf at 350 (with steam) for around 50 minutes.  I was considering a hotter bake, but I was baking a loaf from another recipe at the same and that one called for a lower temperature.  Due to spreading during proofing and a complete lack of oven spring, I ended up with a much wider, flatter loaf than I had planned.  On the bright side, it smelled incredible while cooking and darkened to a very nice deep brown.

As you can see, the crumb was not very open.  However, it was probably the softest of any bread I've ever made - in fact, the texture was much more cakelike than breadlike.  The chipotles lent a smoky aroma to the entire loaf as well as a bit of a bite whenever you got a piece.  The entire crumb had a slight tang, thanks primarily to the chile oil I suspect.  Not a bread I'll be making every day by any means, but very flavorful and an excellent complement to other Mexican dishes.
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shakleford

I've been baking bread occasionally for several years, but it's only within the last year or so that I've started to become particularly interested in it.  I've also shifted gradually to baking more and more with whole grains, until these days probably only 5% or so of the loaves I make use white flour.  I've been wanting to purchase a grain mill for quite some time to use in my bread-baking, but kept putting off the purchase.  I knew very little about mills, and wanted to be sure that I researched my decision thoroughly.  In addition, I'm a serious tightwad and mills aren't cheap.

However, I finally made a purchase and received my mill yesterday.  After repeatedly reading about every website about grain mills written in English and most of those in German (seriously), I decided to purchase the German-made KoMo Fidibus Classic mill, more commonly known in the US as the Wolfgang or Wolfgang Tribest mill.  Those of you who own mills likely know more about the pros/cons of this and other models than I do and those of you that don't probably don’t care, but in brief this is a small stone mill.  It has the advantage of being able to grind any coarseness, from cracked grains to fine flour.  It has the disadvantages of not being able to handle beans, nuts, and seeds and the fact that stone-ground flour tends not to rise as well (though I've found this difference minor when purchasing commercial stone-ground flour).  It's small size means that I can easily fit it into my kitchen and that it's cheaper than many alternatives, but also that it requires around five minutes to produce one pound of fine flour - fast enough for me, but perhaps not for others. 

Fidibus Classic mill

Of course, a grain mill isn't much use unless you also have some grains.  There are some grains that I can get locally, but even with shipping, most are cheaper (and arguably higher-quality) online.  I purchased a few items from Wheat Montana and the rest from Azure Standard.  Grains will keep for quite some time, so I bought in fairly large quantities.  My long-term storage solution, utilizing the gamma seal lids that I've seen recommended on TFL and elsewhere, is pictured below.

Digging into those buckets every time I'm baking is not real practical, so I also needed a more kitchen-friendly, short-term storage solution.  I ended up going with a set of metal canisters ranging is size from 2 to 4 quarts.  This is large enough that I will not need to refill them too frequently, but small enough that I can remove them from the top of my cupboards without too much work.  Many of the canisters shown below are empty since not all of my grains have arrived yet, but 11 of the 12 are earmarked for something.  I haven't decided what to put in the last one...maybe wild rice?

Metal Canisters

Because I just got the mill and haven't gotten many of my grains, I've only used it in one loaf so far (Peter Reinhart's multigrain struan, pictured below).  I haven't cut into it yet, but the rise appears to be just fine (higher than I'd expect in fact, considering that it contains 12 ounces flour and 6 ounces whole grains).  I have a list of at least a dozen recipes that I immediately want to try with the mill...it will take a bit to work through them all, but then that's the whole point!  Thanks to everyone here who has posted anything about mills at one time or another; I can pretty much guarantee that I've read your comments at least half a dozen times.  If anyone is considering a mill purchase and has questions, I'll be happy to go into greater detail on why I purchased what I did (though I'm certainly not an expert, and once you get me started on mills these days it's hard to get me to stop).

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shakleford

A few weeks ago, I finally got a copy of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.  While I've read the book (most of it several times), I hadn't actually tried any of his recipes until this weekend.  Yesterday and today, I made the Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (his basic formula) for sandwiches next week and a modified version of his German-Style Transitional Many Seed Bread to have with dinner.  Both came out great, but since the many seed bread was the more interesting to me, that's what I decided to write about.

In his book, Reinhart uses the term "transitional" to refer to breads that contain some white flour along with the whole wheat flour.  All of his transitional recipes have a 100% whole wheat counterpart except for the many seed bread.  As a general rule, I try to follow recipes as written once before I begin tweaking, but decided against that approach this time.  Instead, I decided to replace the white flour in the biga with whole wheat flour and the whole wheat flour in the soaker with millet flour.  Why?

  • I'm not opposed to using white flour, but prefer the taste of whole wheat in most circumstances.
  • I was craving a dense bread, and using a gluten-free flour is certainly one way to achieve that.
  • I thought that the mild, nutty flavor of millet flour would complement the seeds nicely.
  • I had a need to use up some millet flour (hey, at least I'm honest).
  • My (admittedly weak) understanding is that the highest-gluten flour should be in the biga, so I put the millet flour in the soaker instead.
Under the original formula, this bread contains 44.4% white flour, 44.4% whole wheat flour, and 11.1% rye flour.  Under my version, the percentages were 33.3% millet flour, 55.6% whole wheat, and 11.1% rye.  The recipe as written was also a bit large for me, so I reduced all amounts to 2/3 of what is in the book.

On Friday, I mixed the biga and soaker following the instructions in the book.  The soaker ended up a bit wetter than I wanted (I didn't realize how little water the millet flour would absorb), but other than that, things went smoothly.  On Saturday, I combined these items with the remaining ingredients.  Below you can see a photo of the final dough ingredients before mixing.  In addition to a small amount of flax seeds in the soaker, the final dough contains pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds.  Summed up, these are 33.3% of the weight of the flour -- definitely "many seed".

I followed Reinhart's instructions for mixing and kneading.  Although the large amount of millet flour meant that the final dough did not pass the windowpane test, I was pleased that the normally coarse texture of the millet flour was greatly lessened as a result of the soaker.  As instructed, I let the final dough rise for around 50 minutes, then formed a batard and allowed it to proof for around 50 minutes.  The rises were somewhat lackluster, but much higher than I expected with such a high percentage of millet flour.  I baked with steam (something I'm still fairly new at) using Reinhart's instructions, but had no oven spring to speak of (probably as a result of overproofing yet again).  Since I set out to make a dense loaf however, this didn't bother me too much.  Crust and crumb photos are below:

The bread was certainly packed with seeds, but I found it to be delicious and very satisfying.  The millet flour contributed just the flavor I was hoping.  I tried toasting a few pieces, and the bread was even better this way; the toasting really brought out the flavor of the seeds.  However, one mistake became apparent with the first bite:  it was probably a bad idea to use whole pumpkin seeds.  I always eat them this way, so I tend to forget that there's an alternative, but the hulls definitely made thorough chewing important (and also a bit of a workout).  Sure enough, in looking at the photos of this bread in the book, it's pretty clear that hulled pumpkin seeds were used.

Overall, I'm still happy with this bread, and will definitely make it again.  This may also be the best use of millet flour I've found so far (though admittedly, those looking for a lighter loaf would probably want to use no more than 10%).  The pumpkin seed oversight is a bit of a disappointment, but still far better than the time I accidentally used whole sunflower seeds in a bread!

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shakleford

This was something of an unusual weekend in bread-baking for me in that I made two recipes that were fairly experimental.  I just posted my experience with this week's sandwich bread, a 100% sprouted wheat bread.  My dinner bread this week was the German Sourdough Rye recipe from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.  I had not originally planned to make this, but got both whole wheat and rye sourdough starters going this past week and just couldn't resist trying one out.  I was leaning toward this recipe for my first attempt, and decided to give it a try after reading some positive reactions from other Fresh Loafers.

My preparation started Thursday night when I began striving to get my rye starter as active as possible (thanks to advice I got here earlier in the week).  I followed Laurel's directions for this starter, which means that it's around 200% hydration, but even so it was doubling between feedings.  I may stiffen it up in the future, but want to keep it like this for now to experiment (by way of comparison, my new whole wheat starter follows the 75% hydration instructions in Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads).

On Friday evening, I added a bit of rye flour and water to create a much stiffer mixture, what Laurel calls the "basic sour".  This sat overnight, then more rye flour and water were added on Saturday to turn it into the so-called "full sour".  No pictures of these, since they were pretty nondescript.  The basic sour did have a terrific aroma after fermenting overnight, however.

Around four hours after forming the full sour, it was time to add the final ingredients.  These included a good amount of yeast, so I haven't really proven whether my starter can leaven anything, but I decided not to deviate from the recipe on my first try.  Other than the yeast, flour, and water, the only ingredient was caraway seeds, making this a much leaner bread than most of Laurel's.

One piece of advice in the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book that I've found quite useful is her technique on steaming bread.  The dough is placed into a casserole (a two-quart, round-bottom Pyrex dish in my case) to proof, then just before baking, several tablespoons of water are added to the casserole and the lid is placed on top.  It's a very convenient method of steaming, plus it gives your bread a neat shape.  I'm not yet experienced enough to tell whether it's as effective as other methods.  Below is a picture of the setup at the beginning of proofing.  I added a bit of cornmeal, partly to help prevent the loaf from sticking to the pan and partly because I think it complements the rye very nicely.

After adding the final ingredients, the only recommended rise was a 45-minute proof.  Because the bread was made of 2/3 rye flour and 1/3 whole wheat, I was not expecting much of a rise and did not check on the dough during this time.  Oops!  When I came back, I was greeted with the below site and popped it into the oven as quickly as possible.

I was a bit worried about overflowing my casserole after that proof, but fortunately the bread did not rise much further in the oven.  I rarely get spectacular oven spring from breads with a high percentage of rye, so I'm unsure how much of this was due to my overpoofing and how much was due to the nature of the recipe.  In any case, here are photos of the resulting crust and crumb.

The cornmeal gave a nice color to the sides of the crust, but was invisible on the bottom, so I may try using a bit more there next time.  The crust was thin and crispy, just as I was hoping.  My camera doesn't do so well at closeups, but I was also extremely happy with the crumb (except for a few larger air pockets, which I'll tentatively blame on poor shaping).  Before this, the breads I've made with a high percentage of rye ended up extremely dense, coarse, and crumbly.  This loaf had a much more open and incredibly smooth crumb.  Even better, thanks to reading Whole Grain Breads recently, I think that I sort of understand why.

As far as taste, there was a slight sourdough tang, but probably not as much as I would have liked (it smelled sourer than it tasted).  In addition, while I'm not usually a big fan of caraway seed, I think that this bread could use more.  The recipe recommended 1/4 teaspoon per loaf, I doubled it, and I probably could have quadrupled it.  That being said, the flavor was definitely more appealing and complex than any other high-percentage rye I've made.  I will definitely be making this one again...but probably not until I've tried some of the high-percentage ryes from Whole Grain Breads.

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shakleford

Almost every weekend, I make one loaf of what I think of as "sandwich bread".  As you might expect from this nomenclature, this is the loaf that I'll be using for sandwiches in the coming week.  I generally pick recipes that are reliable, fairly plain, and light enough to make a good sandwich (admittedly, I like dense breads, so I might be less strict about this last criterion than many of you).  My more experimental recipes, or those including fruit or nuts or lots of herbs or other goodies, or those that are just extremely dense, fall under what I think of as my "dinner bread" category.

This week's sandwich bread was a 100% sprouted wheat bread from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.  My first attempt at this recipe was a few weeks ago.  Since that was my first time sprouting grains I didn't really know what to expect, and for some reason thought that I would be able to easily chop/mash the sprouts by hand.  This didn't work out so well and I was instead forced to grind my sprouts in small batches in an old coffee grinder.  The resulting mess (I hesitate to use the term "dough") rose only very slightly, giving me my first real brick.  It was an extremely tasty brick, but even so, would not have made very impressive sandwiches -- fortunately, that loaf was intended as a dinner bread, so I was able to enjoy it anyway.

Since then I have acquired a food processor to help chop my sprouts, so I decided to try the sprout bread again this weekend, and go all-out by using it as a sandwich bread.  Beginning Wednesday evening, I started soaking 1.25 pounds of hard red wheat berries.  Sprouting is pretty simple; you rinse the berries around three times per day, and other than that, just let them soak on your counter.  Just the same, I get a kick out of this part, as it sort of lets me combine another of my hobbies, gardening, with my baking.

By Saturday morning, the sprouts were just beginning to show.  I drained and dried the berries and stuck them in the refrigerator in anticipation of the heating they would experience when I began to process them.  A few hours later, I combined them with some honey, yeast, and salt in my food processor and gave it its inaugural run.  I initially planned to process half at a time, but it turned out that there was plenty of room for all of it.

Having never used a food processor in my bread-baking before, I was a bit nervous, but things worked out very well.  I processed in increments of around 20 seconds, between which I would scrape the dough together, break up any larger pieces, and check the temperature.  I stopped when the dough was circling around on top of the blades rather than being mixed any further.  At this point, it was still a bit below room temperature and passed the windowpane test with flying colors.

Ground Sprouts

After this, I kneaded for a few minutes, more to get a feel for the dough and to pick out a few whole wheat berries that had stuck under the food processor blade than for any real need to develop the gluten further.  The dough was somewhat sticky, but certainly manageable.  The texture was coarser than dough made out of flour, but still relatively smooth.

After I finished kneading, I put the dough through the two rises and proof standard in Laurel's approach to bread-baking.  Below is an image of the dough just before it began proofing.  As you can see, it is a fairly large amount of dough for one loaf.  This is because sprout bread is not known for its spectacular rises -- in fact, Peter Reinhart recommends significant added gluten as an (optional) ingredient in the similar recipe in Whole Grain Breads.  I'm not necessarily opposed to using gluten (though it does feel a bit like cheating), but wanted to try the recipe at least once without it.

Sprout Bread Proof

Up to the point that I put the loaf in the oven, the rises had been adequate but not spectacular, so I was not sure what to expect for a final result.  Fortunately, oven spring came to the rescue again.  While the below result will not set any records for lightness, I was quite happy with how much it rose for a 100% sprout bread.  What my lousy camera cannot show is the beautiful texture in the crust from the large pieces of bran.

I won't actually cut into this loaf until tomorrow, but right now I am cautiously optimistic that it was a success.  The appearance of the crust gives me high hopes of a terrific texture throughout the loaf, and I'll be pleased if the taste is anything like my previous attempt at this recipe.  The only possible problem I see right now is that the crust does seem a bit tough - next time, I may try cooking with steam.  I'm also interested in sprouting other grains along with the wheat, but would probably not do this in a 100% sprouted grain bread, or at least not one that I planned to make sandwiches with.

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