The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie in desperate need of guidance

hmspride's picture

Newbie in desperate need of guidance

Story goes that I've been baking for ages, first scones and muffins, then eventually graduating to bread and finally cookies (which I always used to burn; no idea why), but today, right now, I'm making my first French bread. I'm using the recipe herein entitled "My Daily Bread," and things are going relatively swimmingly. Or so I hope. I have a few questions concerning general processes.

First: using the autolyse method with this recipe seemed a bit futile. When I mixed 1 pound of whole wheat flour with 10 oz of water, I got a really dry dough. It wouldn't even stick together. I checked my measurements again and again - I convered 1 pound of flour to 3.5 cups, and the 10 oz of water to 1.25 cups. What I wound up doing to reconcile my mind and my dough was to add the poolish to the pre-autolysed mixture. This seemed to work okay...we'll find out when the bread is actually done.

Second: I had quite the time with the order of adding ingredients. So you make the autolyse with the flour and water, but that was too much flour, so I added the poolish, but then when to add the yeast and the salt? I wound up sprinkling salt over the top of the autolyse, and then adding the yeast to about an ounce of water five minutes before adding to the dough. This resulted in a wet and sticky monster, and I didn't know what to do. So...

Third: kneading. After the creation of the monster, I decided that the best way to incorporate the yeast mixture and the salt would be to knead the dough. So I glopped it out onto the countertop (covered in flour, of course) and kneaded it well. I think. I don't know how long I kneaded it - probably only about two minutes or so. Was I even supposed to knead it? I have no idea. The recipe mentions no such tomfoolery. And if, but some strange twist of fate, I was supposed to knead it, did I not knead it enough? Does it not matter so early in the proceedings? Or should I panic?

Now my dough is cheerfully in its first hour of primary fermentation, and I am fretting, naturally. It seems like a rather odd time to ask such questions, then, certainly, seeing as it's pretty smoothe sailing from here on out (or if not smoothe, at least a done deal), but I intend to make this again over the weekend, this time as an addition to a meal I've been invited to by my boyfriend's mother. It's a family gathering of theirs. This could be wildly idiotic, for me to aspire to such heights right out of the barrel, but I'd like to give it a try, this time less iffily than these first gimp loaves will probably be.

We'll see. Thanks for any advice or answers - they are greatly appreciated.


LindyD's picture

I checked Floyd's recipe for "my daily bread."  Pain sur poolish (French bread) is made with wheat flour.   Kate apparently has used all whole wheat, so the hydration and the result will be quite different than Floyd's pictured bread.

Maybe one of the whole wheat experts can step in and offer some suggestions.

It would be lovely if those early recipes which use volume measurements would be edited to include weight.

Floydm's picture

I've never tried substituting 100% whole wheat flour for the AP flour in the rustic bread.  I suspect LindyD is correct, that whole wheat flour typically absorbs more flour so you may end up with a drier dough (the conversions that LindyD cites in her other comment are also on the money).  You also tend to end up with a tighter crumb and less ... oomph.  I usually add half again as much yeast when making a whole wheat bread, but I'm the first to admit that I'm not much of a whole wheat baker, so take my advice with a grain of salt or yeast or whatever else you happen to have handy. 

I don't see anything in what you've reported that doom you to failure, but you are definitely sailing into terra incognita.  Please  let us know how it turns out!


hmspride's picture

I should preface this with the fact that I don't have much salt at my house, so I wasn't able to use the full 2 t. Instead I used a light sprinkling. Also I was under the impression that whole wheat flour is saltier than normal flour, because I kept getting really salty results with my other baking experiences. The other thing is that I'm using kinda crappy flour - I'm used to whole wheat flour that someone has bothered to grind completely, and this stuff has bits in it.

THE RESULTS: rather disappointing. So much effort... :( Oh well. So the rises were lovely, these beautiful swells with promising dough, and they folded excellently, I did the shaping nicely, they rose well the ninety minutes at last...and then I failed at scoring (no sharp knives - I'm a college student, and all the kitchen utensils belong to my roommates) and accidentally degassed my beautiful preloaves.Then I had no way of steaming them, so I put water on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven on the rack above the bread, and baked it that way, and I think it may have worked a little. Maybe. Well, they came out kinda...not completely flat, but not fluffy, and they're bland and tasteless, which I think is a combination of the bad flour, the lack of salt, and something with my poolish. I thought the fermentation in the poolish was supposed to add that nice bite to the bread, but I think I did something wrong. *grumble. Suggestions for getting more flavor out of this?



It's not too bad, actually. I mean, it's pretty springy, and the crust is halfway crusty, and if you put butter on it, it's positively tasty. Ohh, butter. Makes everything better. :)