A Girl and Her Bread Machine - part deux
To quote my university hymn “Time like an ever rolling stream” (well, and it originally went on to say “bears all her sons away” which made the whole thing problematic once those of us with the double X were finally allowed to roam the Dear Old Place’s hallowed halls – but that is another story…) and it has been quite a while since I posted part one of this saga. (The rocks and bumps over which the stream has rolled is yet another story – suffice it to say, a long one.)
Whole wheat bread in a bread machine seems to be a popular topic and I have been working on a formula, so it seems like a good time do to a full write-up.
Consulting the leaflet that came with the bread machine, it seemed that every whole wheat variation came with the ingredient of “vital wheat gluten.” Of course, upon reading that I could hear The Voice in My Head scornfully saying, “Well, Pat, if you want to use vital wheat gluten…”
To which I could only hang my head and reply, “No, I don’t, Sensei. I’ll aspire to better.”
(Oh, no – now I’ve gone and done it. I’ve said negative things about the ingredient vital wheat gluten. Well, let me assure my small reading public that “The Voice in My Head” comes from actual conversations with a very real, and, as I like to put it “well qualified” baker. I will not intone “You do what you want” as I have no power to compel or prevent anyone from doing anything. But as for me, I will deal with qualities of the grain as I find it and use technique to overcome any hardships.)
Of course, the tools were at hand. A good intensive mix would make a fluffy whole wheat loaf, but no setting on the machine would mix long enough to deliver this – and I have been coming to the point where I love the “set it and forget it” aspect of the bread machine (at least for the sandwich bread to feed “the house” – I’m still hand crafting a lot of other stuff to satisfy my public…)
The other obvious tool in my arsenal was – you guessed it – a pre ferment. But not just any pre ferment, a firm levain.
“Why?” you ask. Well, a firm pre ferment will tend to add strength (due to the acids that develop in a pre ferment and the lesser amount of protease action because the pre ferment is relatively dry) and a sourdough based pre ferment will add more acids because of the nature of the leavening.
As we wind on in this saga of me inexplicably becoming intrigued with this appliance, I make an observation: discussions on these pages pushed me to try the same formula with a firm commercially yeasted pre ferment. Although the bread was certainly edible, it did not have the same texture nor did it rise as high as the sourdough version. If I were baking by hand, I would have to wonder if I had unconsciously done something differently – but with the machine, the cycle marches on. So even though I “kinda” knew that sourdough would result in a stronger dough, I’m a lot more convinced of it now.
Other than that, the only thing I needed to do was up the hydration a bit and jigger the sweeteners and butter. No long, drawn out story.
I did, however, avail myself of the “Sourdough starter” cycle on my machine (a Zojirushi Virtuoso) to mix the pre ferment. This could just as easily have been done by hand in a bowl, but for those who don’t want that inconvenience; it turns out to be a good option. I didn’t want the fast rise that would be engendered by the “rise” cycle – nor did I want to stay up way past my bedtime to wait for the thing. So, I cancelled the cycle after the mix and then (had it fit into my proofer – or if my night time kitchen temperatures were warm enough) I could just cover the pan and let it proof overnight.
So, without further ado, here we go with a formula and some pictures.
Since this is a bread machine post, I will present the formula two ways, in the Bread Baker’s Guild of America format and in “recipe list” format. For those of you just beginning to practice your baker’s math this is a good opportunity to see how the “list” format easily translates into what can be a perplexing little grid.
Bread Machine 100% Whole wheat
Firm Levain Pre Ferment (40% of the total flour pre fermented)
Whole Wheat Flour 228 g
Water 173 g
Seed (taken from storage starter) 5g
Mix the above ingredient (by hand or using a bread machine mix only cycle). Cover and allow to rise overnight until mature (doubled) – 8-12 hours at 76F.
The next day (or when the Pre Ferment is mature) Load the pan of the bread machine in this order:
Water (40F) 277 g
Agave Nectar 40 g
Molasses 24 g
Firm Levain all of it, broken up into roughly 2 T chunks distributed over the bottom of the pan
Dry Milk 9 g
Salt 11 g
Butter (room temperature) 46 g
Whole Wheat flour 342 g
(in small well on top of flour) 3 g
Use “Whole Wheat” cycle on the bread machine and bake per instructions.
Is it a work of food art? Well, no. But as I looked at it I thought “This is a nice, solid, bread. Nothing wrong with it.” Not too shabby. No vital wheat gluten. Tastes good, too…