The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Too wet versus not kneaded enough - Whole Grain dough

dunlapjc3's picture
dunlapjc3

Too wet versus not kneaded enough - Whole Grain dough

As a novice baker, I'n trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible, but this predicament I can't seem to find much info on.


How do I know if my dough is too wet versus not kneaded enough?   The reason I ask is because with most breads, mainly white flour breads (AP or bread flour,) it's easy to tell when you've got that silky smooth, highly-developed dough.  My problem comes with whole grain doughs.  It feels like I could knead for hours and still not be able to window pane a piece of it.  Is it too much water? I've tried doing ratios of whole grain to AP/bread flour.  I've added gluten.  The dough never reaches the quality that say, a baguette dough for example, would feel like.  Am I missing something here?


Case in point.  I'm making pita dough for pitas later tonight.  Simple enough.  The recipe describes that the dough should be smooth and stretchy.  Mine isn't.  The recipe called for 3 cups of flour and I used a cup each of WW, AP, and bread flour (all King Arthur brand).  I let the dough rest before kneading so the WW could have time to hydrate.  I kneaded for the prescribed time - 10 minutes on low in a stand mixer; the dough never did quit sticking to the bottom of the mixer, even after adding additional flour several times.  The dough's sticky - not smooth, not elastic.


Is that just the beast with whole grain dough?  The pita bread's proofing right now, so I don't know how the end result will be.  I guess that's another post.


Carlton

lief's picture
lief

Hi Carlton,


I'm certainly not an expert on whole grain dough, but it is my understanding that you need to work the dough longer to get a similar gluten devepment to AP/bread flour doughs.  I don't use a mixer, and don't bake much with high percentage whole wheat dough, but whenever I do I use an autolyse (sounds like you do too) and knead the dough for 15-20 minutes... and that's only for 30-40% WW!


regards,


lief

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,


Your technique seems fine, but here's a few pointers.


Autolyse for at least half an hour.   Are you making a bulk fermented dough [ie one without a pre-ferment]?   If so the autolyse of flour and water only is easy.


I don't know what type of mixer you are using, but obviously mixer power will impact on mixing time.   My best advice is to mix on slow speed.   That way you can mix for longer without putting excess heat into the dough.   Also, there is nothing wrong with mixing by hand.   It will give you a lot more feel for the dough, and help you make more informed decisions when returning to using the mixer in the future.   If you do this, however, please avoid throwing loads of flour on the bench to work the dough up.


The most difficult thing to advise you about is the texture of your dough.   I'm UK based, so don't have access to King Arthur flour.   However, as I am "in the trade", I do buy the finest Canadian wheatflours for my students to use in their breadmaking ventures.   I expect they will compare nicely with King Arthur brand.   For wholemeal bread [100%] I hydrate a bulk fermented dough at 72% of the flour.   For a standard bulk fermented white dough I would look for 63%.   This is the best advice I can give you.   I am afraid I don't work volumetrically, precisely because it does not give an accurate hydration rate.   To me, that is crucial to know before commenting on whether or not your dough is too wet.


All good wishes


Andy

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

autolyse...because whole wheat flour, while it absorbs slightly more water than commercial, white bread flour, takes longer to do so. Do the autolyse before the kneading step. I usually do an autolyse for at least an hour; I would say that 30 minutes is the minimum required for 2-3 pounds of dough.


I don't do long, intensive machine kneading any more. I use my KA mixer to combine the dough and give it an initial kneading (about 3 minutes on low speed) but after that I'm more inclined to (hand) knead the dough briefly - just until it starts to tighten up - and give it a rest for 10 minutes or so. I usually do this about four times before the true bulk fermentation begins. (You could also do "strech-and-fold"). You'll notice a difference in the feel of the dough right after kneading vs. after a 10-15 minute rest. This approach cuts down on any tendency to add too much flour to the dough.


The fineness of your whole wheat flour is important. Finely milled whole wheat flour performs better than coarser grinds. I've found significant variability among commercial whole wheat flours in this respect, though if I remember correctly, KA whole wheat flour is milled pretty fine.


I've tried adding vital wheat gluten and/or using KA bread flour as part of the total flour, but I felt for breads where whole wheat flour is 40% or less of the total flour weight it didn't make much difference.


Don't expect a dough with whole wheat flour to feel like one made only with white flour or to behave in an identical way. I also find a lot of variability between different whole wheat flours (I home-mill most of my whole wheat flour but sometimes kindly neighbors give me a bag of whole wheat flour).


Hard to know what more to say without greater detail about the recipe(s) you typically use for whole grain bread (baker's percentage would be ideal if you could give it).

PeteBlenk's picture
PeteBlenk

Hi there,


I live in South Africa, and the quality of wheat that we get is nothing spectacular. I am trying to bake solely (or, at least, substantially) with whole-grain. To counter what is available in the shops here, I home stone-grind all our flour, which gives some control over the coarseness of the wheat, and also find that finer wholewheat is better to work with. Now, having read Peter Reinhart's whole grain bread book i saw that on occassion he uses mashes, but mostly he uses soakers (which certainly help). In trying to pass the window-pane test without creating a full mash, I created a soaker. Since it is winter here and the kitchens are between 11degC and 16degC, I decided to leave it in a plastic bag for 8 hours on the cupwarmer on the cappuccino machine to soften the bran. But I didn't want the enzyme development to go ballistic, so I made the soaker with all the salt required for the final mix. I did mix on slow for about 10mins with a planetry beater, and the windowpane test was well passed (and the texture of the crumb was great). For info, the top  of the cappuccino machine was at c.45degC.


Perhaps someone really in the know can critique this and indicate the pitfalls of this thinking, but it certainly had the benefits I was looking for.


And for all the Spanish and Dutch football fans out there, how about a few classical national bread recipes that we can make out this part of the world for Sunday's final. And good luck to both teams.


Go well,


Peter.

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

That would be my advice exactly!   I suspect that almost any recipe can be adapted to this method, and works wonders


 


 

dunlapjc3's picture
dunlapjc3

After letting the pita dough proof last night for 90 minutes, I noticed the dough sucked up a considerable amount of water.  I never thought to autolyse for a complete HOUR (Wow!), but after seeing with my own eyes what happens after waiting a bit, it makes sense.


All your comments were super helpful.  Thanks for the quick response!

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,


If you note, Carlton describes himself as a "novice" baker.   Some of the advice being offered here is quite advanced.   Much as I hope the original poster continues to become enthused with breadmaking and thus delve deeply into these complexities, I would suggest that perhaps now is not the time.


Subfuscpersona, thank you for supporting the autolyse suggestion.   Yes, a longer period can be used, but I was trying to help Carlton at his current level.


With regard to advice about flour: King Arthur flour is almost certainly one of the most consistent performing wholemeal flours available.   I assume it is used in their commercial bakery and I cannot see its highly reputed Director of Bakery accepting anything other than top performing and consistent flour.   That is my reason for using the brand of Strong Wholemeal [Carrs] I use in my bakery classes.   The foibles of home milled flour really don't have a place in this post; much as I think it admirable that you choose to adopt this excellent technique.   Additionally, by using a reputable flour such as King Arthur, there is absolutely no need to start adding makeshift rubber bands in the form of vital wheat gluten; use a flour that is up to the task intended rather than encouraging people to delve into additive territory.


Peter, I hope you don't mind but I'm not going to critique your technique here.   It is perfectly valid for you to make this request, but I don't think such a request is helpful when made in a thread seeking a different sort of help.


My best advice, really to Carlton is this: invest in some decent digital scales, use the sort of quality bread ingredients you are using now, but choose recipes from reputable sources which work, and which help to give fundamental understanding of how bread formulae are constructed, and help you to avoid falling back on additives.


Moving into home grinding flour and adopting advanced mash techniques come further down the road; I hope I have encouraged you to take the steps down that road, in a way which makes sense, and which you can enjoy and succeed.


Best wishes


Andy

PeteBlenk's picture
PeteBlenk

Hi Carlton, Andy,


Carlton, just to give you some hope, I am also a novice baker, and am currently baking my sixth or seventh loaf of sourdough ever. I am still very much in the experimental phase and hence my picking up on your problem as it is a problem I have had myself and just became a bit resourceful with what I had at my disposal.


That said, i read a lot first, and got advice from a professional on what books to read, and the names of Hamelman and Reinhart were the books that were recommended, and I am still trying to assymilate their works into a framework I can use myself. Would suggest the same if you have the time and patience.


Andy, thanks for the advice on use of the site. I am very new to this site (as well as to contributing to threads on topics of interest (first time ever)). Also didn't realise that the technique was "advanced" as I simply picked up on it in a book and applied some sort judgement given a relatively scientific background. Apologies for throwing the conversation off course.


Cheers,


Peter.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Peter,


Thanks for coming back with an honest reply, not that you need to offer hope.   Surely you will both become expert posters on TFL in time to come!


My advice was more like learning to walk before you learn to run.   You could look here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/18488/amylase-activity-during-baking-serious-doubts and here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/18584/enzyme-activity-vs-yeastbacterial-activity-vs-temparature  for some idea about the complexities involved.   Surely establishing simple and reliable formulae comes before experiments with manipulating enzymatic activity?


You did choose 2 excellent authors, and maybe both of us could jointly recommend to Carlton that he investigates the same reliable sources?   But, maybe Bread Baker's Apprentice ahead of the Wholegrains book?   There's enough in Hamelman's book to keep anyone learning for a long time, oh, except Mr. Hamelman, probably!


Best wishes


Andy

PeteBlenk's picture
PeteBlenk

Thanks a lot, Andy,


These two threads that you recommended, both incredibly interesting, actually answer something that perplexed me on tasting the WW bread made as indicated. It was pretty sweet and I didn't know where the sweetness came from. And fully agree on trying to walk before running. But it really is nice to have a quick flip in a Ferrari whilst learning to drive a 1.3 hatchback!!!


I can only echo the sentiments of so many others. Thanks for you contribution to raising the standards amongst us apprentices.


Cheers,


Peter.

dunlapjc3's picture
dunlapjc3

I too have been reading everything I can get my hands on.  I can find Reinhardt's books easily enough, but haven't found Hamelmann's.  Guess I can order it online.  However, there are some parts to baking where human-to-human communication, preferablly with someone knowledgeable, is really the best way to troubleshoot.  This site is wonderful for that purpose and is the first forum I've participated in where I've noticed such a strong desire in those participating to share ideas, recipes, and techniques in hopes that we all become better bakers and enjoy the activity that gives us the most pleasure. 


In my experiences baking, it's been awesome to pass a few loaves of fresh baked bread to friends who randomly stop by and see their faces brighten up after they say, "Are you sure?" and I nod yes.  I just need to make sure the bread passes muster or else all is on vain, and this website definitely aids in that regard. 


Best to all.