Whole Wheat: Another Step in My Bread-ucation
I'm probably trying to learn too much too fast. And my brain is not as absorbent as it once was. But surrounded by the centuries--maybe millenia--of collective knowledge on TFL, I want to both catch up and enjoy the learning process. I know I'm doing the latter.
I want to perfect something and I want to try everything. So I'm kind of alternating--make a second (and third and fourth) attempt at lean sourdough bread (what I want to perfect), then try something very different (Curry-Cheese Bread, Cinnamon Rolls). I have a feeling that this unintentionally methodical approach to learning about bread is the right way to learn a lot fast, at least for me.
So today, not having much time, I decided to try a yeast-leavened whole wheat bread. The goals were: (1) to get the feel for a different kind of dough, (2) to get better at shaping pan loaves, and (3) have something to make a smoked turkey and tomato sandwich (this was the most important goal since we bought a bag of delicious farmstand tomatoes and my wife promptly left town for a business trip).
I looked at a number of recipes and settled on Floyd's Honey Whole Wheat. The formula seemed simple and fairly quick, and I learned a lot from the commentary from ehanner and JMonkey (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/wholewheathoneybread). I soaked the whole wheat flour as prescribed, and (having no electronical mixer) found it a bit difficult to incorporate the other ingredients. Adding honey to a sticky dough seemed, for the first 5 minutes of tiresome hand-mixing, to be the sort of cruel joke a website owner might inflict on his community. But Floyd doesn't seem like the cruel type, and lord knows I need the exercise, so I carried on. Once the thing seemed fairly mixed I let it rest for 15 minutes.
The dough glob was extremely sticky and hard to work, but I didn't add flour, except a sprinkling on the board and my hands, because I'd felt the transformation of dough before and I had faith in the gluten. And, sure enough, after about ten minutes of alternating folding and kneading, the dough started to become silky and less sticky. After a while, I plunked it in an oiled bowl, stretched and folded it at 20 minutes and 40 minutes, and watched it grow....fast. Just an hour after it was mixed, it was doubled, even with the S&Fs.
I divided the dough into two and shaped it per JMonkey's great video tutorial (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2461/video-tutorial-shaping-sandwich-loaf). Again the rise was quick, and they went into the oven with steam (from my brand new lava rocks!). I forgot to turn the oven down for a few minutes, so the top got kinda dark. But the overall result was pleasing. A nice simple whole wheat loaf. Great for a sandwich!
I did start to get the feel for whole wheat dough. I still need to practice loaf-shaping. And I might try a sandwich bread with a lower percentage of whole wheat flour to get something a bit lighter in weight. I'm not sure if the heft of these loaves is just what you get from a mostly whole wheat blend of flours, or if I might have overproofed or not formed the loaves gently enough. Not that they're super dense, just a bit too.
Thanks, Floyd, ehanner and JMonkey for the education.