The Fresh Loaf

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Struggling with whole wheat bread in India!

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gauri's picture
gauri

Struggling with whole wheat bread in India!

Hi,


I've been browsing the site for a while now, but after my n-th not very good whole wheat loaf, I'm writing to check if anyone can please give me some pointers on where I'm going wrong! Basically, my bread bakes up quite dense, and it nearly does not rise at all in the oven.


I have tried Peter Reinhart's 100% whole wheat recipe. Some changes I made were


- I use the regular atta that we use for chappatis at home. We get the wheat ground ourselves. But I do not know if the wheat is hard or soft.


- I seem to end up using a lot more flour (nearly 1/2 cup more in today's loaf) since the dough kept sticking to the work surface. I'd knead it and put it on the counter, and it would start sticking. I can keep wetting my hands and kneading it (like I do for chappati dough) but I'm afraid I might get too much liquid into the dough.


- I use buttermilk for the soaker, but its nearly 40 degrees C here (in Ahmedabad) and I can leave the soaker out only for about four hours before it begins to get sour.


- The risen dough always has tiny holes all over the surface. Am I letting it rise too long?


- I have a little oven (of about 34 L capacity) that we keep on the counter top.


If anyone can suggests anything that I doing obviosuly wrong, please do let me know. I'd like to know if I can get a better crumb without adding any other ingredient to the list.


Thanks a lot. Would appreciate any help!

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Tell us more about how you make and rise the bread. Do you mix by hand or use a mixer? How long is the rise time? How long do you proof the loaf before baking? Do you use pans or free form? How hot is your oven? It would be helpful to know if the flour you have is high or low in protein (hard wheat or soft wheat).I know there is a way of home testing how much gluten will form.MAybe someone can jump in with that.


I'm not too concerned about the extra flour amount. So much depends on how fine the flour is ground,the humidity and temperature. The density may be more a result of under/over proofing or even yeast malfunction.


An added thought about the hardness/softness of wheat. If you have the wheat berries you can try this. "Soft" wheat is really soft. If you bite a kernel of wheat and its pretty soft then it is probably a low protein wheat and not good for bread as it may not have enough gluten ability. If the kernel is a "hard" wheat,careful cause you can break a tooth!

gauri's picture
gauri

Hi,


Thanks a lot for your responses


I am using Peter Reinhart's 100% whole wheat sandwich bread recipe. I mix by hand, the biga and soaker sit in the fridge for about 12 hours usually, knead for the time specified in the recipe, the dough rises for 1 hour each time, and the loaves are baked at 200 degrees C in an oven pre heated to 250 degrees. I use an aluminium loaf pan.


The wheat berries are very hard - teeth breaking hard! Also, I do manage to get a window pane also.


In an earlier attempt, I kept wetting my hands while kneading the dough. The dough was very, very soft, but I remember the crumb being lighter. But at the that attempt, I got the temp wrong and the loaf was a little pale.

oatman's picture
oatman

If the humidity is high where you are, it's possible that you need to use less water. Also could you use rava instead of maida. Try 50/50 atta and rava. This will raise the gluten content.

Smita's picture
Smita

so apologies in advance! A couple things that came to mind:


1. Do you get the atta from a store or ground at mill? It may be worthwhile to mix atta with some maida (all purpose flour) and some gluten. I've often felt that atta may be closer to whole wheat pastry flour than to whole wheat bread flour. Can you get the dough to windowpane after kneading? That may indicate that the gluten development is okay, its the proofing that needs attention.


2. Have you tried controlling temperature? I've made a "home made proofing box" to try to keep temperatures down when the starter proofs. When its over 85 degrees F (approx 30 degrees C), I've noticed that my starter sours quickly - other bacteria must outpace yeast at that temperature.


Just a couple thoughts - best of luck!


 

gauri's picture
gauri

Hi,


We get the atta ground at a mill. My mother-in-law (whose kitchen I use :D) does not eat maida at all. Therefore the need to make 100% atta bread.


Thanks for the tip on controlling temp. I'll try to set up something.


Thanks

sphealey's picture
sphealey

If I might ask a question and make a suggestion:  which Reinhart book are you using for the 100% wheat recipe?  If it is _Whole Grain Breads_, you might want to try a more straightforward recipe first.  The recipes in WGB are unusual, complex, seem to work better with sourdough, and have a high failure rate even for experienced bakers.  A simpler recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's _Bread Bible_ or from the _Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book_ would be easier to make and probably able to handle the differences in flour better than a complex Reinhart recipe.


You might also want to try starting with 50% whole wheat / 50% white (if white flour is available to you), then gradually increase the amount of whole wheat.  Going straight to 100% whole wheat can be hard.


sPh

gauri's picture
gauri

Hi,


I have tried a simpler recipe given to me by my prof, who is an enthusiastic baker. He simply mixes 1tbsp of fresh yeast and 3 tbsp of sugar in 1 1/2 cups of warm water. stirs in 1 cup whole wheat flour (atta), and then adds 2 cups of flour, some salt, and kneads the bread for 300-400 strokes (about 15 mins). He then lets it rise until its 1 1/2 times the volume, shapes it, puts it in the pans. He lets it rise again and then bakes it.


I have tried this recipe as well, and the loaf turns out fairly dense here as well. Again, I end up adding nearly 1 cup of flour more. That's why I felt maybe I was getting the flour-water proportion wrong!


I'll try adding some white flour (maida) and see how it goes. And I'll look around for the other recipes you mentioned!


Thanks!

venkatk's picture
venkatk

I am a newbie myself and trying to bake good whole wheat bread.

Most of the flour brands sold in India do not specify type of wheat and protein content. I am not sure whether we can buy right wheat as most retailers will not know what kind of wheat they are selling except some market names like "golden" or "premium".

I have done some research and found out that "Ashirwad Select" is the only brand which specifies the kind of wheat used to make the flour. They use wheat grown in Madhya Pradesh called "Sharbati". According to news reports "Sharbati" is one of the best wheat grown in India and has more protein content compared to other wheat grown in India.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/1561/Grains+of+gold.html?complete=1

I have had better results with "Ashirwad Select" though not a perfect loaf. Again, I am not sure whether I have to gain more experience or flour is not suitable. Probably you can try and let us know.

Venkatesh

gauri's picture
gauri

Hi,


I'm beginning to feel that maybe I have the wrong expectation from atta bread! It is certainly going to be denser than the sliced white bread we've all grown up on!


Like any self respecting Gujarati household, we dont buy atta! :D We stock 100 kgs of wheat for the whole year, and get it ground every two weeks or so. So I cannot try ready made atta in this kitchen.


I did use it once when living in Kolkata, and found that the colour and texture of the rotis made from commercial atta was distinctly different. Our rotis from ground wheat are nearly white, where as the kolkata rotis would be a brown colour. So there is certainly some difference between commercial and home ground atta.

venkatk's picture
venkatk

Quote:
Like any self respecting Gujarati household, we dont buy atta! :D We stock 100 kgs of wheat for the whole year, and get it ground every two weeks or so. So I cannot try ready made atta in this kitchen.

I do agree with you about buying whole wheat atta no matter what the manufacturer says. On the other hand, I have reservations about grinding with a neigborhood flour mill as flour gets very hot and probably beyond the acceptable limits depending on the type of grain mill.


I am buying a wolfgang style grain mill with stone grinding and switch to home ground flour.


Venkatesh

Nim's picture
Nim

I am planning to buy the Wolfgang too. Have you bought it? what is the review for atta and bread flour? Also, are ou using it in India or elsewhere?

To Gauri: Can you suggest a good brand "gharghanti" or guj grain mill? I wanted to compare that with the Wolfgang before making the purchase.

Thanks

Nimmi

gauri's picture
gauri

Hi Nimmi,

First, I have no clue about a good gharghanti! We dont use one at home, we just visit a local flour mill since cleaning the gharghanti is a pain.

To all other posters, who have written in comments and suggestions- thanks a ton!

I have to add though that since posting this thread and with the initial suggestions I got, I've managed pretty decent loaves! I use regular atta- hard winter berries ground at our local flour mill. And I've followed the recipe from Laurel's Kitchen. Its a very detailed recipe with illustrations.

The only changes I've made is that I start with making a roux using 1 cup atta flour and all the specified liquids. I mix for a 100 turns/ strokes with the hand. Then I add the remaining flour and knead by hand as the book specifies- I usually do 300 strokes (each stroke being pushing the dough with the base of my hand and pulling back into a ball), which at my speed is about 10 minutes of kneading. I also do two stretch and folds during the first rise.The dough is rather soft, but the city I live in is extremely hot.

The error I've made a couple of times is kneading too much water into the dough- I constantly moisten my hands while kneading. If you find that the dough completely spreads itself out, then you'll know there's too much water. If you've got this problem, just bake it as a flat bread rather than a loaf.

My bread does not have as open a crumb as the pics on this site, but its a soft, flavourful loaf.

Hope this helps.. and happy baking!

Nim's picture
Nim

making an atta roux is a great idea! Thanx, Gauri. I started home baking with Laurel's Kitchen too; I think it is great.

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi, could it be durum wheat? Your description of the extreme hardness of the kernel, of the weakness of the flour and of the almost white color turned on my durum sensors. I'm seeing more and more almost white durum flour in asiatic shops every day.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Seems the rising times are short.  For the final rise, let it rise until you can press a wet or floured finger lightly into the side of the rising dough, one centimeter deep, and it only half way fills in.  Almost no resistance.  Then bake.  That would be a "poke test."  See if that is where the problems lie. 



In an earlier attempt, I kept wetting my hands while kneading the dough. The dough was very, very soft, but I remember the crumb being lighter. But at the that attempt, I got the temp wrong and the loaf was a little pale.



Try again, I think it was working for you.  Sometimes it needs a little bit more water.  If your humidity is low, the extra water is needed.  Try upping the temp to 205° and see if that helps.  If the top gets too brown, cover it with a foil tent if the oven instructions allow.


If you're looking for a softer crumb, you might want to try a water roux method.  But wait on that first.  Water roux would involve mixing a few spoons of flour into the water and bring just to a boil to gel the flour, let cool and use into the dough mixture.  It should not be thicker than a pudding.   Add water as needed.


Mini

gauri's picture
gauri

Hi Mini,


Thanks for the input. I'll try another loaf with more water - basically wet hands rather than more flour to knead. I do live in an extremely dry area, so that could be a factor.


As for the rising time, the dough usually doubles in 90 mins. The temp here is usually above 110 degree F (42 C) during the day when I set the dough to rise.


I'll try the water roux method for the next loaf!


I've been seeing on other threads here that strecthing and folding during the rise can help. Any idea how many times and at what frequency during the rise should one stretch and fold a soft dough?


Thanks once again!

contentedbloke's picture
contentedbloke

I'm facing similar problems with atta. I buy dept. store branded atta which I use normally for making chapattis and I tried to use it for making 100% whole wheat atta bread.


Even though after rising, the dough seems very light and pliable, after baking it always seems very dry and tough. Also, I end up with a slightly sour taste. After extensive research, I realized that I was allowing the dough to rise for too long, which contributed to the poor taste and also ended up adding too much yeast in order to speed up the rise time. I usually bake at 210 degrees centigrade for 10 minutes and then 180 for another 5 minutes. I'm going to change it to full 180 degrees for 20 minutes to see if the bread turns out lighter and less dense.


 


BTW, does combining atta with yeast make one excessively thirsty? Because we always end up drinking lots of water after eating even a few slices of homemade atta bread. I don't find this when making naans (which also use yeast)!


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

reduce the yeast.  Start by cutting it in half.  If it seems to help, reduce again.  


Thurst in dry hot weather is healthy, drink!  Could be the salt in the bread but don't remove it or the fermenting goes even faster. 


If the recipe askes for delayed salt in the mixing, don't.  Add it with the flour.  Important when temps are high to control fermenting. :)


Mini

Mebake's picture
Mebake

TIP: invest in a plastic bowl scraper, and a bench knife. those two items are invaluable when handling any wet dough.


Khalid

arumah's picture
arumah

hi 


i'm new here. i understand its difficult to bake bread being in India due to unavailability of the right kind of flour. as for 100% atta bread, i have tried it few times..its always dense. the best bet is 50% atta and 50% maida. you can easily get the protein content of atta or maida if you buy from superstores. on an aver. atta has 13% protein. maida one varies. i found a brand by name 'madam' sells maida with 11.5-12% protein-close to APF. also, we dont find gluten on shelves at stores. best homemade way is wash up the dough of chappati (equal to 1-2 balls) to remove all starch so that u are left with wet gluten. our flours are not supplemented with vit C or malted barley as found in US. so add some lemon juice and some crushed jaggery or say a spoon or so of malted powder if u can find. it helps surely. finally, as someone mentioned here, follow easy recipe as Rose LB..comes out well. have tried many times and got lotsa praise from people who tasted homemade ones for first time. best wises

clazar123's picture
clazar123

It is so fantastic to be part of an international forum. I am not from India but am a great fan of Indian food and I am learning to cook some Southern Indian dishes. Now I'm ready to try the bread category.


The first thing I learned is:


atta flour = whole wheat flour-but read on-there is a twist to this.


maida flour = white (all purpose?) flour.


The original poster for this thread talked about atta flour,maida flour and flour obtained and ground locally in India and the stickiness of the dough and gumminess/denseness of the crumb.


 I think I found an interesting reference as to why the dough is dense and perhaps sticky. Don't be overwhelmed by the unrelated info in this paper. I never went past page 4 or 5. It actually describes the characterisitcs of the flour used for chapati and that the wheat is ground in such a way as to deliberately cause starch damage to the resulting flour so it has good characteristics for making flat bread(high stickiness and the right color). But this makes it less usable for loaf bread.Loaf bread will be gummy and the dough too sticky. Fascinating!


http://rfrost.people.si.umich.edu/courses/SI110/readings/IntellecProp/Patent_for_Naan-Atta_Flour_Milling.pdf


So atta flour is a whole wheat flour ground from hard wheat that should have plenty of gluten but it is ground in such a way that there is 13%-18% starch damage. Most loaf bread flours have about 9% starch damage according to the reference. The higher starch damage causes the dough made from the atta flour to be sticky and the crumb in a loaf bread to be gummier and dense.(It almost sounds like the characteristics of rye flour.) Atta is designed for chapati,paratha and roti, not fluffy loaf bread.


So a question: All atta flour is whole wheat but does all atta flour have a high percentage of starch damage? 


If no (not all atta has starch damage)-does atta flour for loaf bread have another name? Is there any way to tell from the packaging by( just looking at a bag of atta flour) what the starch damage percentage is?


If yes (all atta flour has a high percentage of starch damage by definitiion)- what can be added to the flour to make it usable for loaf bread? Maida? Can the wheat berries be ground differently? Home milled to minimize damage? I actually freeze my wheat berries before I grind them to minimize starch damage.Freezing prevents them from overheating during the grinding process.


Another thought is to make a loaf that will utilize the characteristics of this flour and  not fight its nature. Use the same techniques as handling rye flour or making rye bread.  Rye does make a dense but very delicious bread. It would be an interesting experiment.


I just bought some durum atta flour at a local Indian grocery store before I read about all this. Now I have some ideas about how to use it and what to expect. It will be fun to experiment both with flat breads and loaf breads.

Nishil's picture
Nishil

Hi Clazar123,

You kind of hit the nail on the head when you described the crumb of the atta loaf as dense and gummy. I have been looking desperately for a suitable description for this. So, yes.. I am in India and to avoid the maida bread we get in the stores I make loaves at home using atta. Also, becauses chappatis are soo tiresome to make and i never get them round and puffed up like the north indians manage to and loaves (especially no knead ones) are an easy way to consume wheat, else we south indians will forever be eating white startchy rice - unhealthy!!!

So, the atta we get in stores are all the moisture pulling sticky variety, in fact that is one of the points they advertise with great pride on the back of the bag :( Now is there any work around this? Can the flour experts around here tell me if there is any other ingredient or flour that i can add to the atta so the crumb is not so dense?

Another problem I face is that my loaf almost always splits along the length deforming the entire loaf violently. It does not "bloom" along the slashes I make dough. Slicing is a big problem becos the crust is way stiffer than the crumb. Inspite of all this loss in shape and texture the taste is still good and any flavours added are taken up well (today i added toasted sesame and finely chopped garlic). Here are the pics of how the loaf just rips apart..

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

there's no solution against that level of starch damage other than mixingh the flour  with a much higher percentage of undamaged flour.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

re your link to http://rfrost.people.si.umich.edu/courses/SI110/readings/IntellecProp/Patent_for_Naan-Atta_Flour_Milling.pdf - Thank you for this reference. I've saved it to my computer.

It is very hard to find good references that actually discuss the properties of atta flour.

Out of curiosity, how did you find it?

Thanks so much - SF

Pheekpeng's picture
Pheekpeng

The atta flour for making chapathi cannot make bread, I have tried this before locally ,I think it does not possess the gluten forming protein in most bread making flour.I have recently travelled to India and found available very good commercial breads in the stores.May be you can ask around to get a kind of  wheat suitable for bread making, I am sure there must have.

goodluck

 

martin's picture
martin

I use Organic Atta from http://morarkaorganic.com/down_to_earth.html to make bread. the only real difference is that you must use more water.

 

I also use Maida flour form the same source to make a variety of Baguette type doughs. In fact for the rest of this week my breads are on show to promote the use of these flours here in Malaysia.

regards

 

rjerden's picture
rjerden

I use whole wheat Atta (an Indian brand, not Golden Temple) from an Indian store as one of the flours in my multigrain bread. Of course it is commercially milled, so it is unlikely to have the same consistency as yours. It is actually pretty finely ground, which is why I like it.

It is labeled as 100% whole wheat durum flour. The major proteins in wheat-albumin, globulin, gliadin and glutenin (gluten)-vary in proportion according to the type of wheat. Durum wheat has a higher percentage of gliadin, and less glutenin than regular hard wheat. This makes it very extensible, but does not allow for as much rise as a high gluten flour. In addition, the larger particles of bran in the whole wheat version inhibit the formation of long gluten strands, key to a good rise. They also cause the stickiness of the dough because the bran absorbs a lot of the water, much more than the endosperm.

I have been able to get decent bread despite these traits of the flour by using a high % pre-ferment (about 90% of the total flour) poolish for 16-20 hrs and by adding 10 grams of vital wheat gluten for every 100 grams of flour in the mix. After a long pre-ferment, the bran will have absorbed all the water it can, and the dough will be less sticky. I add more flour to get a final hydration between 80% and 90% depending on what kind of bread I'm making. This is not really a very slack dough despite the hydration level, as this flour is a real water hog.

It's important to do several gentle stretch and folds on the second rise to form some surface tension on the dough, in order to get a good rise in the oven. As this dough is still pretty sticky, I don't use my hands to form the loaf, but rather use two wide spackling/plaster knives from the hardware store, sprayed with oil. The loaf itself can also be oiled to reduce stickiness. I don't recommend using the Atta itself as bench flour as it is too sticky. Semolina could be used instead. Of course you can always just bake in loaf pans, if you don't want free-standing loaves.

Cheers,

Roy

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Nishil-How long are you fermenting(first rising) the dough and how long is the proofing(pan rising)? At what room temp? and how much yeast is in the recipe?

Does the dough tear  easily when you pull on it as you are shaping it or as it is rising? It almost looks like enzymes are causing the gluten to break down. I usually see this in overfermented sourdough or if an over fermented pre-ferment was used or even a very long or hot fermentation. Your loaf also appears pale and moist-2 more characterisitcs of too long a fermentation,perhaps. The sugars are digested and not available to carmelize into a brown color on the crust and when gluten is broken down by enzymes, it releases moisture. If it is fermenting in a hot environment, use less yeast and a shorter fermentation-rise til barely double only and proof in the pan a shorter period. Use cooler liquids to make the dough,also.Or try a cooler environment(if available).

Sibfuscpersona- Google was my friend.  I don't remember exactly which keywords got me to that paper but I think I searched on "India, flour milling,milling in India,problems with atta,atta for bread, atta flour" . I thought it was great in explaining the situation so I'm glad you found it useful. Seemed appropriate for this.

Keep trying,everyone. Have delicioius fun!

 

Nishil's picture
Nishil

Hi Clazar123,

Thanks for your reply. To be honest I have really not given the rising times such precise thought. I just go by whether the dough has increased in volume and there I think I have even let it go triple its volume during fermentation. Have even left it in the fridge overnight at times (for the over night bread recipes). For the proofing time again I look at the volume the dough reaches and just pop it into the oven allowing for ovenspring. Well I guess I am just hurrying the whole process i realise as I am writing to you...cos I even add yeast quite generously (trying to make the rising quicker). 

About whether the dough tears easily.. I use a handheld mixer with two dough hooks for kneading and for shaping I try handling the dough as little as possible, so basically not tried tearing it..trying to keep it together actually. 

I shall try out the points you mentioned.. lesser yeast..shorter rising times. 

Actually what I am trying to do is get the loaf as puffed up with bubbles as possible since the crumb is so dense. I guess that logic makes no sense..does it?

I just read the first page of that paper and it said they first get cracked wheat and then in the second step they grind it finer between the stones which causes the starch damage. We get cracked wheat here in the stores.. u think I can run that in the blender (dry grinding) and use the resultant flour for a loaf? The blender has blades not stones that could cause starch damage.

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Nishil- It may be time to post separately with your pictures and questions. You may get more responses. It would also be helpful to know your recipe and how you make the loaves. It would also be helpful to know the room temperature when you are making the bread. How long does it take your bread to rise?

The purpose in using a smaller amount of yeast is so that it takes longer for the yeast to ferment and rise the loaf. If you are in a hot or higher altitude area, a normal amount of yeast will quickly eat all the sugars,produce goodly amounts of gas and then fizzle out. When you bake the loaf that has experienced this, and since the gluten structure of this flour is notably weak,it can collapse on itself in the oven (or even when it is touched). The interior then becomes dense and gummy and the crust is thick and pale since there are little sugars left in the dough to carmelize and brown up. You may notice that the dough tears even when you are shaping it gently to go into the pan. This can be a result of unwanted enzyme action that results either from over-fermenting or using a pre-ferment that is over fermented and then mixed into the dough.

Getting bread to puff up,hold its shape,get brown and still taste good is a balancing act. The key is to find the right ingredients handled in such a way to give you the outcome you want.Practice-practice -practice.

Use the search box and research working with whole wheat. There are some things to keep in mind when you use whole wheat that aren't a problem with maida (all purpose) flour. Rjerden spoke to this somewhat when he talked about soaking the whole wheat overnight.

The damage to the flour in the grinding process is caused by heat. If the flour gets hotter than 125F (easy to do in an already hot environment), the starch is damaged. I don't know how fine a blender will get the cracked wheat but if that is what you have available, certainly try it and see how it works. But try and keep it as cool as possible, in the process.

Start a separate post-it will be more helpful to you.

 

kavitha's picture
kavitha

Hi,

Even i have been doing a lot of experimentation with atta on bread making especially 100% whole wheat.Finally i came to a conclusion that it is possible to bake bread with the whole wheat flour.I think the wheat which we grind gives the best result,then comes the organic wheat,other brands like aashirvaad is also good. I think only two points to be noted,
one is the dough should be slightly wet and the other is kneading.Soak and Knead the dough until all moisture is absorbed.This is what I do,I get a soft and light bread this way.