I know you bake with whole wheat and, if my memory serves, you do not add vital wheat gluten to your bread.
How do you keep the bran from tearing up your gluten?
Well, for starters, 100% whole wheat breads won't be quite as lofty as a white flour bread, so you'll need a bit more dough to get the same volume of bread. You just can't get around the bran.
I find that for a standard 8.5x4.5 loaf pan, I need about 1.75 lbs or 800 grams of dough to get a decent sized loaf.
Here's a few tricks, though, that will help:
It interests me that you mention that dairy products reinforce the gluten network-- I've heard that the addition of regular milk inhibits gluten formation for some chemical reason-- or maybe it was a yeast problem?
Unfortunately I can't remember where I read that, or I would offer better info-- it might have to do with lactic acid? I can't remember. I thought it might have been the yeast treatise on Theartisan.net, but I don't think it was. Butter, of course, would be different because of the fat content.
Thanks, JMonkey for the great tutorial!
I'm not so concerned about how lofty the loaf is or how "fluffy", as I prefer a more "toothy" feel.
My main concern has been how ripped up my dough is with the whole wheat flour here in Lux (this didn't happen when I lived in the US and UK). As an experiment, I've even tried sifting some of the bran out (which I don't want to do), but it didn't help.
Even the bigas I make are ripped up by the morning -- I guess I should use more liquid. My breadmaking has become totally deranged since moving to the continent and I haven't figured out a way to sort it out. I'm really starting to get discouraged.
Thanks again. I'll follow your directions and see what happens.
Ah ... so you're in Lumembourg? Is that right? If so, your trouble is undoubtedly the flour. European flour is much lower in gluten than American flour, and I use the highest gluten whole wheat flour there is to use here in the states: Hard Red Spring Wheat.
My best suggestion would be to look around and see if you can find some higher gluten flour.
On a seperate note, I do use a lot more water with whole wheat than I do with white. For sandwich loaves, I start at 75% hydration, which for white flour, would be a pretty wet ciabatta dough.