The Fresh Loaf

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Trouble with A Loaf For Learning from Laurel's Kitchen

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brirut's picture
brirut

Trouble with A Loaf For Learning from Laurel's Kitchen

I love this book, and I love this recipe.  The resulting bread is delicious.  However, I've made it four times, and every time it has come out about half the height of what it should be.  I follow the recipe exactly, using fresh ingredients and paying close attention to the quality of the dough.  Everything seems to go fine until the proofing stage, where the dough rises, but not as high as it should. 


When I poke the dough with my finger, the resulting dent doesn't fill in; the book says this indicates that the dough may have proofed too long, reducing its capacity to rise in the oven.  But on my last attempt, it only proofed for 30 minutes in a microwave made warm and humid by boiling water.  I just don't see how it could have proofed too long.


I'm wondering if I'm not adding enough water initially.  I'm using the Arrowhead Mills stone-ground whole wheat flour, and I know course flours take up water more slowly.  Perhaps I'm being too cautious, and the dough is too firm?  What are some other symptoms of firm dough? As I've said, all seems to go well up until the proofing stage.  People have recommended adding vital wheat gluten, but it seems like the recipe should work as it's written.

Nim's picture
Nim

I have been lurking on this site for long and finaly decided to join. I bake my own bread though I am not a pro like many people here. I usually bake whole grain breads with active dry yeast and Laurel's Bread book is my favourite. ( I have recently ordered Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads after seeing recommendations on this site.) I usually use a Whole Wheat Bread flour that is available in my local organic store and the breads turn out excellent. I am from India and we make flat rotis or chapathis which is our daily bread and it requires no fermentation, but it does require a fair amount of skill to turn out a soft and smooth dough and then roll it individually into fluffy balloony rotis.


Anyways, (just thought I should give a short introduction) my experience with Laurel's recipes has been a small increase in the  amount of yeast. So, if the recipe calls for 2 tsps of yeast for 6 cups of flour, I will probably use about 2 1/2- 2 3/4 tsps. You could try that to ge that satisfying rise.


 


Nim

xaipete's picture
xaipete

First, are you weighing the ingredients or using the volume measurement. I find volume measurements are very inaccurate.


Secondly, make sure you are kneading enough. I don't judge by the number of strokes, but by how the dough looks and feels. It might take 20 minutes in a mixer to achieve the correct gluten development.


Thirdly, what kind of yeast are you using? I use SAF Red Instant because it is easy to work with and appears to do a better job for me. At the time when Laurel's recipes were developed the normal type of yeast was Active Dry Yeast. Yeast has really 'expanded' over the years, e.g., instant, machine, rapid-rise, etc. I think any type of yeast will work regardless of the recipe but which type you use will affect the number of fermentations (one or two), the kneading temperature, etc.


Fourthly, add some vital wheat gluten to the recipe. This really helps with 100% whole wheat breads. I think you have to add an ounce of water for every ounce of gluten.


--Pamela

poppyfields's picture
poppyfields

Hi birut,


I started with Laurel's book too, using products from King Arthur Flour (so I had the RAF red instant yeast mentioned above).    Laurel had me scared of over-kneading and fearful of over proofing; something I have heard repeated here at TFL, so join the club.


It was not until I started watching bakers kneading and handling their dough that I realized that I was, paradoxically, kneading too roughly/firmly, for too short a time.  I also was confusing "Instant" with "Rapid Rise" yeast.


Have you watched the excellent videos here?  Keep at it, keep learning and you will soon be there.  You will learn when the dough tells you it is ready.  Good luck, you are well on your way to a loaf you can be proud of.


 

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi Brirut, I have gradually learned that wetter doughs will become higher rising than the ones that are drier and less sticky. In the first rise it is quite sticky then less so in the second, and finally the shaping and the pan rise it becomes much easier to handle, but still quite light. My first two rises for that recipe is at 80 degrees or a little warmer, and the final proof at 90 degrees for 45 minutes. The loaf is well arched over the pan, and often I think it will fall in the oven, but it doesn't. I also boil water in the microwave to humidify that space and also spritz it with water if it needs to be more humid. Then I put pot holders under my loaf pans so that there are no real hot spots. I controll the temp. by using either the high or low light setting, and monitor the temp by leaving the instant read thermometer in the oven. Good luck, I know that you are on the right track.  Ray

fizzy's picture
fizzy

i've tried my hand at laurel's loaf for learning for three weekends and have run into problems.

most drastic is that the directions indicate that kneading should take about 10 minutes or 300 strokes but beginners should expect it to take longer. i'm a beginner, but not particularly lightweight, and have spent at least three times that long, and even then i wonder if i'm done. the stages seem proper, like when it tears easily might appear and later when it is a nice organic membrane, even with spots that are thin like paper! i can't believe it would take anyone ten minutes.

another problem is that it is always sticky. last time i almost gave up on it. this time i added more flour which right away lent it some form and character at an early stage, even though now, in the pan already, and about to go into the oven, it is still sticky.

i once knew someone who baked every week, i'm sampling to see how this might fit into my lifestyle. thanks for any thoughts!

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi Fizzy. What other problems with your bread are you having? How are the final loaves? Are they well risen and light? Are they as high as you think they should be? Could your flour be old, or perhaps not Bread flour? I can't tell much from the amount of information you have furnished. I think your kneading time is longer than should be neccessary. Are you including the time it takes to scrape it  from the board etc? Aso wondering if you are including mixing time, when you say three times longer. Ten minutes of kneading one loaf is ample time, if all other components are as they should be. For example room temp. ingredients, good yeast, fresh flour. The flour should not be bitter, or the resultant bread should not have even the slightest hint of bitter taste. I am assuming you are using whole wheat flour. I am anxious to read more about the process.   Ray

fizzy's picture
fizzy

i'm using organic white whole weat flour from the health food store, i think the brand is king arthur - it looks good enough - i haven't tasted it by itself, but i will.  the bread does have a nice slight sourdoughy taste which i attributed to using all whole wheat flour (with a bit of yougurt) but perhaps the flour is indeed bad.  i'll see.  the results though, for this weekend's loaf at least, were wonderful, the first loaf i was satisfied with.  it rose somewhat but not over the pan.  which was ok, i wasn't trying to achieve any particular result.  i don't have the vocabulary to talk about it yet.  but i appreciate your telling me that it won't always take so long to knead it - paraticularly because it stayed sticky, and i'm assuming the flour is good, i'm thinking i simply need more flour.  thanks!

fizzy's picture
fizzy

the flour tastes fine.  i have no reason to think it is bad.  i'll try adding more flour next time - since it was so sticky that's got to be one problem.  in any case, the resulting loaf was so wonderful that i'm starting to see where this whole process leads!  i'll report back after the weekend. 

rayel's picture
rayel

so good hearing from you again. One of the hardest things to gauge when mixing dough, is when has the mix got enough flour. For me, the second hardest is when is the mixing over and the kneading starting. I have been making whole wheat bread, off and on, since the 70's. It has become a bit easier, I mean the whole process, but I still have, a lot to learn. I use the brown whole wheat flour, and the freshness is always a concern. It might have more of the germ to go bad than the white whole wheat, but it seems a chalenge to get it fresh and keep it fresh. Recently I purchased some from a lady in Minnesota who runs an organic farm. It is certified organic stone ground whole wheat, and the flavor is sublime. It is called Country Creations, and I learned about it on this forum. Truly the best i have used yet. I have learned quite a lot from The Fresh Loaf. One little tidbit is letting the mix sit for several minutes and then going on, giving the flour time to fully hydrate. Especially with course grinds, which I am currently using, this seems to help you know which to really add, flour or water. Gauging when it is stiff enough, or not too slack, still takes some doing. I am always torn, deciding when it is just right. On the one hand i tend to keep it as wet as is feasible, but then the handling becomes difficult. Striking a balance you can live with, I guess is key. The yogurt bread i have made a couple of times recently, is from the same book, but is made with a seven hour stiff starter. The yogurt I used was stony field whole milk yogurt. The sour doughy taste I believe comes more from the yogurt than the flour. The white whole wheat flour you are using seems like pretty stable stuff. I have used it in the past, and it seems to stay fresh a long time for some reason. It handles differently than the regular whole wheat. I haven't mixed or kneaded this two loaf recipe  entirely by hand, in quite a long time. The ancient Kitchen Aid with dough hook makes light work of it. Most often the hands on finishing touches seem to work miracles. I am amazed at how little hand kneading is required to make it all come together. Best of luck in your future bread making.  Ray


 

fizzy's picture
fizzy

i figure that i understand the first step of evaluating the dough more literally than most readers might.  the mixed dough is not utterly squishy without form, and indeed it has substance; also in poking into it i do not feel it resist.  this time i was going to try to find the point where it would resist, to see how much flour the dough could take.  i found that there is a big range of waht might qualify as not utterly squishy without form and having some substance!  after adding a half cup or so i second-guessed my intention to push the flour limit, and started to knead, but i still ended up adding additional tablespoons of flour as i went.  the result is tasty but i think i can detect some granular aspect which leads me to consider your interesting pointer about letting the dough get saturated - having added flour while i was kneading and noticing a granular texture in the bread makes me think that indeed the flour isn't as readily soaking in moisture.  so besides adding more flour next time i'll give it some time. 


also i've been using a coarse-grind sea salt.  i figure that after a tiny bit of kneading it is all disolved; but i entertained the idea that it was interfering with the process.  but i doubt it, i'll just change the amount of flour and give it some time. 

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi fizzy, Glad to hear that you are persevering. One happy day, as Laurel likes to say, that perfect loaf happens, and you'll try to remember all the things you did right. Regarding the course sea salt, I have found, reading the label on the salt container, that 1 teaspoon of course  salt will have less sodium than one tsp. of fine sea salt. Probably one more advantage to weighing ingredients. I use teaspoons but have gone with the fine sea salt. Regarding disolving the course crystals with enough kneading, I have found that some large crystals remain using the course, even after cooking vegetables with it. I was surprised to see undisolved salt after that amt. of cooking  time. I have been told that pickling salt may be used if you want a salt with no additives. Ray

fizzy's picture
fizzy

i added 3/4 cup extra flour but wish i didn't because i followed your suggestion and, after mixing ingredients, i let it sit for a while and when i returned to it most of the work was already done! i think it could have used a bit more kneading but i didn't have the patience, but it actually looks remarkably super baking even as we speak!

i like laurel's approach about developing skills and sensitivities, and can probably benefit from one more go-round, but i think i'm ready to move on to the next loaf.

is there a reason i shouldn't dissolve the salt in the liquid (other than the yeast of course)? i notice like what was suggested that coarse salt might not be dissolving and of course adding it to the water would be easiest.

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi Fizzy, I am happy to hear you describe your most recent bread as super. That's what I call success. My next loaf, after first trying a loaf for learning, was Laurel's Basic Whole Wheat, two loaf recipe.Also If you ever try the Overnight Started Bread, you'll be amazed at the work it saves you. The kneading time is about half, and the handling in general is much easier. I slice my breads as soon as I can, which means a few hours cooling, then freeze them, and use as needed. Whether toast or un, they taste first day fresh.  I agree, regarding Laurel's approach. Her uncluttered way of thinking, and way of life have been inspiring, and part of the charm of bread making for me. Regarding salt, I recommend using a fine sea salt, and save the course for other cooking or sprinkling. Adding fine sea salt to the flour and stirring those two ingredients is the best way I think. I recall a recipe that required a lot of yeast and adding salt together, in the same water with the yeast. It was a white bread covered with sesame seeds. The recipe  resulted in a small stunted loaf, with an odd flavor, and a dense texture. This was one of the few breads I didn't care for. Ray