The Fresh Loaf

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Variety of Whole Grain SD breads

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jocelyn's picture

Variety of Whole Grain SD breads

Lately, I have been fully dedicated to baking SD whole grain from freshly milled flour.   That is SD whole grain with Flour, Water, Salt and SD (if that can count as a separate ingredient).

I have perused all the standard books and some dedicated to Whole Grain and am presently pondering how much variety we can get from such restrictions.

The variables:


  • Grain type and proportion

  • Hydration

  • Fermentation

  • Handling/technique

  • Shape

  • Style of preferment (using all of the above).

As I am typing this, I am thinking that my question doesn't make sense, but here it is anyway: it seems that regardless of the variation in these elements, I always end up with a similar style of loaf, without spectacular difference, except for the type of grains.

So the question would be: what elements above have you found that provides the most significant differences in artisan breads?  Another way to put it is this:  I am trying to create a repertoire of breads with distinct personality and must admit to lacking ideas as to how to get very different results with the above constraints (except by mistake...).



PMcCool's picture


If your breads come out pretty much the same, other than the type of grain, maybe it's because you are automatically adjusting the other variables to achieve a specific outcoume.  Even if you aren't doing so with malice aforethought. 

If, for instance, you develop your dough until it feels "right", you've probably jiggered hydration and kneading style/time to achieve that consistency.  Maybe that matches what the formula developer had in mind, maybe it just feels good to you.  There's no real way to get a honey whole wheat sandwich loaf and a pumpernickel to come out the same if one follows the directions faithfully, even when working with home-milled whole grains.  Different grains, different hydrations, different handling, different baking, different breads.

Another possibility: the breads you have been baking recently may have fewer (or smaller) variations than they seem to have, leading to similar finished breads.

Does any of that align with your situation?

In my own case, ingredients are certainly an important variable.  Bread flour, AP flour, WW flour and rye flour (my most commonly used flours) all bring different traits to the party and have an effect on the outcome.  Hydration is very important; a sloppy ciabatta dough produces a greatly different bread than does a stiff bagel dough.

Technique matters, too.  If one is pursuing big holes, hydration is one part of the equation.  Just as important, gentle stretch and folds retain enough of the bubbles in the dough and allow them to grow.  For a sandwich bread, machine mixing or vigorous traditional kneading (press, turn, fold, repeat) produce a finer, more even texture.

Baking on a stone, baking in pans, slashing or not, steaming or not, fast ferments or short ferments, everything has some kind of effect on the bread. 

I guess if I had to nominate one or two variables as the most important, I'd probably pick ingredients and hydration level.  Those may well dictate other factors, such as dough handling or baking strategies.  Even so...

By baking exclusively with home-milled whole grain flours, you have automatically reduced the range of bread types that you can readily achieve.  Put differently, you have predetermined much of the outcome.  For instance, if a musician only plays stringed instruments, s/he won't be able to get the same results as a musician who also plays brass instruments or percussion instruments.  It isn't a matter of good/bad, better/worse.  It's simply that different choices lead to different outcomes, whether in music or in baking.  What one does with what one has can be greatly varied but one still operates within the strictures established by their initial selection.


Caltrain's picture

Why those 'constraints'? I like to toss in a different mix of seeds into each different loaf. I started with Brotgewuerz, which is an even mix of caraway, fennel, and anise, with half ratio of coriander.

Since then I've tried different seeds, onion/garlic powder, toasting the seeds first, grinding, then not grinding, etc.  Some loafs end up working great with corned beef, others with butter or just plain, but at any rate, I get a never-ending stream of distinct flavors and so far none have turned up short of delicious!

But besides that, have you tried making flat breads? Making buns? Rolls? Braiding? In particular, I've found braiding to be a great way of switching up the texture to any loaf while still being "artisan".


- Caltrain