The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Like a dog walking on its hind legs...

proth5's picture

Like a dog walking on its hind legs...

You’ve heard that expression, right? It isn’t that it does it well – it’s that it does it at all.

In that vein, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we love the wheat from America’s Heartland. The gluten is strong and tolerant – mix it gently or intensively, it stands up.  Throw it in the retarder – it just gets stronger.  Put it in a poolish and let it go slightly over ripe – well, it won’t be perfection, but it will still make decent bread.  Shape it aggressively and it still holds together.

Wheat is grown other places and some of it is not so generous, but as I have recently been reminded, one can still produce pretty nice bread.  It just takes more emphasis on process and technique.

I especially think about this as I return to my quest for good bread from that bad boy grain – triticale.  I’ve read some works by researchers from the University of Colorado that claim it can be done.  After some moderate progress towards my goal, I fell apart big time.  I was producing bricks.  Bricks with nasty, wet centers.  No reason to post anything about those – they were just inedible.  I began to think that triticale lobbyists had somehow sponsored and influenced these results.

After taking a break for a long, hot summer that made baking too much to endure, doing some traveling, studying, and being somewhat absorbed by the little hobby that pays for all this, I finally had a chance to get back to my work.

Of course, I had received some serious inspiration about working with lower protein wheats.  As it turned out, my instincts were mostly correct – pre ferment a large percentage of the total flour in a firm levain based pre ferment – use a short bulk ferment – and bake in a hot oven.  Some finer points, though, I had neglected.  Some of those things were salting the pre ferment to slow down the action of the yeast and enzymes, keeping the hydration moderate (I was particularly inspired by a remark about high hydration and sperm counts, but that’s a story for another day), developing the dough carefully and shaping really gently but firmly.

So I tempered and milled up a batch of triticale.  It was perhaps 75% extraction or so and contained only the bran that made it through my next to finest sieve.  The researchers had used white flour in their studies, but I was convinced that I was up to the challenge of the "mostly white" flour.

The photo below shows the triticale flour on the left next to some all purpose flour for a comparison.  It was a nice flour, in my opinion, just a little sandy from the bran. (Yes, need a better camera – or a better photographer)

I used a formula for commercially yeasted lightly enriched bread with 30% of the flour pre fermented in a firm levain.  Into the levain I added 1.8% salt – the same percent as in the overall formula.

I decided that I had been a wimp in developing the dough in a mixer because the studies showed that triticale had low mixing tolerance, so I decided to use "slap and fold" method to develop the dough.  At least if I was holding the dough in my hand, I would not be in constant fear of breaking down triticale's low quality gluten.

At the beginning the dough was quite a mess.  I was reluctant to put (triticale) flour on the bench as the studies showed that triticale dough at lower hydrations became short and inelastic, where triticale dough at 68% hydration (the hydration of my formula) was elastic, although sticky.  Finally, though, I came to the conclusion that discretion is the better part of valor and added flour to the bench.  After some minutes of slapping and folding, I had dough that could be described as elastic.  I actually kvelled.  I had never gotten really elastic dough from triticale before.  Had this been a wheat dough it would have been nothing special, but this was triticale…

After 20 minutes bulk fermentation, I gave it stretch and fold and it actually stretched.  After 30 minutes it got another stretch and fold (And it stretched! Again! And didn’t cement itself to the bench!)

Clearly I was on to something here, but I had made a vital miscalculation.  I had an appointment to get to and I would not have time to proof and bake the loaf.  So I shaped it, popped it into the proofer (uncovered!) for 45 minutes and then loaded it into a 425F oven set to turn off after thirty minutes and rushed off.

Had this been my usual wheat in the bread, I could have retarded the loaf, but I remembered dire warnings about retarding low protein wheat and so thought better of  it.

Amazingly, the baking technique was effective although it accounts for the thick crust.

And if I got a big shred like that on a wheat loaf, I would reconsider the degree of emotional investment I have given this bread baking thing.  But for the first time ever I saw evidence of decent oven spring in a triticale loaf (in case you were wondering, I do consider that it might have been under proofed…).

The crumb was pretty tight (but this is what I want in a panned loaf) but fairly strong and soft.  The taste is delicious.  It is.

It isn’t there, yet.  It isn’t a photo to make a person drool (maybe tribbles - do tribbles drool?) – but it is significant progress on a grain that most folks simply dismiss as unsuitable for bread baking.  Look – triticale will not ever bake like hard wheat-  I'm not delusional – but I’m more convinced than ever that acceptable bread can be made from it.

So to the source of my inspiration (and you should know who you are) – thank you – you helped me turn this little project around.

Until the next batch…




LindyD's picture

I sure do admire your perserverance in taming the grain, Pat.  That's a fine looking bread.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on triticale, noting its potential for breads and other baked goods.

Not surprising you're way ahead of them.

Being a hybrid of wheat and rye, is there a predominance of taste of either grain?

proth5's picture

so much work to go on this...

It tastes like wheat with a hint of rye - predominance would have to go to wheat.  Every time I add 10% triticale to a formula, though, people remark on how delicious the result is.  I'm making scones with it (mixed with whole wheat) tomorrow...

This grain is one that had a great potential at one time, but has faded because agrcultural subsidies trended more towards wheat and corn.  I've had this discussion with others, but what we eat is political...  I'll let it go. Got to let it go...