Troubleshooting "Hot Cereal" Multi-grain bread
This is my first post and I did spend some time looking through the archives, but there's a lot there. If this is a repeat, I apologize.
I'm obsessed with a bread recipe I saw on America's Test Kitchen and found on the Cooks Illustrated website. It's a sandwich loaf that starts by soaking 7-grain (or 9-grain or whatever) hot cereal in boiling water, then adding a mix of whole wheat and all purpose white flours, yeast, salt, etc. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds are mixed in and the dough is risen twice, the second time in bread pans. It's a straight dough, no starter, sponge, or overnighting.
Basically, I've been struggling with this recipe for weeks, turning out tasty but dense flat loaves (and occasional inediable bricks). I'm not a novice baker (I have my own wild-yeast starter and regularly turn out nice loaves of both artisan and sandwich bread) but this recipe is just not working for me.
The dough comes together nicely in my KitchenAid and looks great. It rises exceedingly well in a bowl for the first rise (I've tried both on the counter and in a warm oven) but isn't nearly as active for the second rise. While the TV show had the bread puffed way over the top of the bread pans before baking, mine rarely tops the edge. I've tried punching down the dough as well as barely handling it to shape it. When I bake, it either slowly deflates or (my best effort so far) puffs up and then deflates at the top. My last pair of loaves were the best, and they still clearly are too dense through the bottom half of the loaf and over-proofed on the top edge.
I've tried varying the rising temperature (in the warm oven) and switched out the all purpose for white bread flour. I've tried preheating the oven with the loaf and a pan of hot water in it. I've tried spraying the bread top with water. Yeast and flours are fresh, I rememberd the salt, the mixer kneads well. It's nothing obvious that I can figure out.
The flavor of this simple loaf is amazing and I want to make it work... it's become a personal challenge!