The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A question about fresh milled grain and fragile dough-are they related?

clazar123's picture

A question about fresh milled grain and fragile dough-are they related?

I just milled a batch of red hard spring wheat last week and used it to make a batch of multigrain bread today. What I noticed is that when I turned the dough out after a rise to double, it tore very easily when handling. I did 1 stretch and fold and let it rest for 10 minutes. There were several surface tears forming as it rose slightly in that 10 minutes. I was going to do another S&F after 40 minutes but I didn't like where this was going. I divided,formed and panned the dough. It seemed...fragile... when handling and tore very easily. I was going to just make boules but it seemed too stretchy and flattened easily. This was a well developed and well kneaded dough. That is an important factor in this particular multigrain loaf.

The only other significant factor I can think to add is that I use a preferment with equal volume flour,water(about 1 cup each) and 2 tbsp sourdough starter. It was "ready" last evening but I never made the loaf so I added an additional 1/2 c whole wheat flour that was also milled last week. It was quite cool in the house (65F) so I thought it would be fine. Today it looked quite satisfactory and smelled nice and yeasty. This dough was a "seat of the pants" put together of a large loaf so my measurements are non-existent. I've made it so many times I just do it. It is rising quite nicely in the pan but there are tears apparent in the surface where there was any tension.

 Is it a factor that the flour wasn't "aged" post milling? I've never had that issue before though I have had this tearing issue once or twice-never been able to pin anything down as to why. Is it related to the sourdough preferment? Is this an enzyme problem as a result of a longer pre-ferment?


clazar123's picture

At least I hope so. The dough proofed very quickly and I got it in the oven much sooner than I usually would,timewise.No slashing-it tore itself. It looks like it has a little oven spring and smells heavenly as it's baking.

PiPs's picture

I don't think the tearing issue is to do with not using "aged" flour. I would be more inclined to look at the preferment; How it was prepared and what condition it was in before use.

Also, how was the dough mixed and for how long (hand or mixer)?

I am not used to volume measurements...How would you describe the preferment? Was it a batter or firmer? I have found that wetter preferments have higher enzyme activity especially when made with wholewheats, causing the doughs not to strengthen and flatten. Also overly acidic preferments (left too long or past its best) can destroy gluten and cause the tearing you are talking of.

I am using fresh milled flour exclusively and have no issues with tearing. I am using a stiff desem starter made with wholewheat flour making sure to keep it cool and let it go to long.

Hope the loaf turns out, would be good to see a pic.

all the best, Phil

clazar123's picture

There really were no measurements with this loaf. A quick put together.

The preferment was a batter-like consistency and I may have pushed the envelope on it. It seemed ok. I know how the preferment looks as it ages as I have left a few of them out, unused. If plans changed or something came up and  I don't use it, it is just 150 g flour,220g water and 50g active starter. This one looked and smelled great to use but maybe it had already started producing gluten-eating enzymes that just compounded when I mixed the dough.

The loaf is out of the oven and looks reasonable-smells great. I had covered the top with seeds-a little heavier than I was planning to originally. The color is ok. It did not brown as evenly as I'd like. It does resemble some loaves I've made that were way over fremented. As I said. I think I caught it just in time. Tomorrow the crumb will tell.

I wish I could do a picture but my camera battery is dead. I may try later.

proth5's picture

I'll agree with PiPs - I'd blame the pre ferment (and protease action) before I'd blame the fresh milled flour.

There is a lot of controversy about "aging" home milled flour and the consensus that I can gain from real experts in this field (and some of my own experience) is that there is a theoretical advantage to aging the flour, but most bakers bake with the fresh milled flour and it performs fine.  I've not experienced the tearing you describe with my fresh milled flour.

Again, I'd look to an over ripe pre ferment this time.

Hope this helps.

Home Baker's picture
Home Baker

I've been trying to find the best formula for a hard red spring wheat ('Bronze Chief" from Wheat Montana) for going on a year now. My dough has torn when kneaded or shaped fresh milled, a week after milling and seven months after milling. Soaked and not soaked. Sieved and not sieved. I noticed early on that it acted like a high gluten flour.

Today I found a description at Amazon that sounds as though it was provided by the grower. Note the very high protein content:

  • 'Bronze Chief', hard red spring wheat
  • Prairie Gold, hard white spring wheat 

Nutritionally both the Hard Red Spring, Hard White Spring, and Hard Red Winter varieties that we grow are the same (15-16% protein and 9-10% moisture). Basically the difference is in the end product: Bread made with Hard Red Wheat is darker and denser (more of a brown traditional look). Items made with Hard White Wheat "look a little more like white bread". They bake up a beautiful golden color and do not possess the stronger taste associated with the traditional whole wheat breads. Chemical Free. GMO Free.

proth5's picture

those are pretty high numbers, they are not excessive for breadmaking and the pure protein number does not tell the whole story - there are other measures not commonly available to the home baker/miller (such as alveograph readings)which would tell more.

But dough can tear for a number of reasons.  The original post contained some clues about over ripe pre ferments and so we would look there, first.  But your dough tears every time.  Perhaps you are not working at a high enough hydration (whole wheat requires somewhat more moisture than white) or you are handling your dough too roughly.  I can get just about any bread dough to tear while kneading or shaping if I handle it roughly - such as rolling it out with too much pressure or too quickly or strong kneading when I feel resistance.

So, in your case I would look first to hydration and then to hand skills for the tearing.

Just something to think about.

barryvabeach's picture

I have had some tearing issues, on occasion so bad that it was hard to remove the dough in one piece after the first rise, and by experimenting, I found it was a result of overproofing.  While some recipes call for doubling in volume, others suggest 1 1/2  not doubling, try and see if that is the problem.

PiPs's picture

If its wholemeal and freshly milled watch it like a hawk near the end of bulk fermentation (first rise) and proofing. I will often cut the bulk fermentation short if I am happy with the doughs development and feel the dough is developing quicker than expected. This can take some practice and a few mistake to judge...clear containers for the bulk fermentation are good for seeing the doughs development...bubbles, lots of bubbles.

A quote that Debra Wink posted from her wholegrain class with the baker Dave Miller always plays in the back of my head when I am baking wholegrain breads....

"Everything happens quicker with wholegrains"

I really feel that overly acidic preferments (and protease action - thanks proth5, couldn't remember its name) will be the main issue. The percentage of flour being prefermented is also an issue to take into consideration....if you are using a large amount and let the preferment go to long you may end up in all sorts of trouble. If you happen to let the preferment go too long, maybe reduce the amount you were intending to use in the final dough.

Proth5's comments on dough handling are also very true...let the dough relax occaionally during mixing and watch how it behaves.

Cheers, Phil


clazar123's picture

If a loaf will fail due to enzyme-the WW loaf will fail at a faster rate. I do agree with that. Working with sourdough and whole grain, I do  know that if there is a long,warm fermentation, protease formation and dough degradation is often likely. It is less likely with a cold fermentation.

But total dough disintegration due to enzymes is not necessarily a given. Speed is of the essence. I was able to "save" this bake by not rising to double and definitely a short proofing rise. I did have a denser loaf but it was still usable and quite tasty. If I had waited any longer, either in the fermentation or the proofing, I would have had a bowl of liquid dough. Just add sugar,eggs,oil and make pancakes. It is important to pay attention to your dough.

I have noticed that when I use a preferment made with AP flour, I can safely use it up to 24 hours after mixing it. If I make the preferment with any wholegrain in it, I must use it by the 6-8 hr mark. This experience just confirmed a general observation. I let this preferment go way too long with whole grain in it. If I had waited another hour or so, the preferment itself would have looked off or smelled off and I wouldn't have used it. It was prob right on the edge.

Another observation is about the starter. I use AP flour to feed my starter just because of ease of availability and lower cost. I have, on occasion, starter feeding it WW. I noticed it was a lot "hungrier"(early hootch formation) and more likely to fail-usually by succombing to enzyme increase. It would become very watery (normally it is a thick batter consistency)-not hooch but liquidy several hours after feeding. Another poster here talks about feeding his starter with a mix of AP,WW and rye (60%-30%-10%, I think). I might try that.