Whole wheat - lengthy rise times?
Hi All! First post here, just making my way into bread geekery but loving it so far!
After having some good success with white breads (enriched and lean), dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls lately, I decided to try my hand at whole wheat. My first attempt - Reinhart's recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice - fell flat. I was using old flour and my pre-ferments didn't look anything like Peter's descriptions. Then, this past weekend, I bought some freshly-milled red winter wheat flour at a farmers' market, and got the farmer's recipe for the (delicious!) bread he was sampling there. (With apologies for the volumetric flour measurements - he didn't give me weights, so I spooned the flour into measuring cups and leveled...)
1.5c Red Winter Wheat flour
1.5c All-purpose flour (I used bread flour)
I tried baking a loaf yesterday. Starting with room-temp ingredients, the dough came together nicely, (sorta-kinda) passed the windowpane test after about 15 minutes of mechanical kneading, and registered 80°F. My kitchen's ambient stays at a pretty constant 70°F, which puts most of the Apprentice recipes right on-the-mark for fermentation times. But this took over 3 hours to double in size. I shaped it for a sandwich loaf and proofed in a glass loaf pan; after 4 hours it had barely moved! Finally, since I had the oven on to roast our dinner anyway, I moved it to the stovetop hoping the heat from the oven vent would speed things up. After another 2 hours, it had finally risen above the top of the pan. All told, total fermentation time was around 9 hours!
I ended up baking it at 400°F for about 25 minutes, with a turn at 15 minutes, and it registered 185°F when done. Surprisingly, it came out quite good - no "beery" flavor as I expected, nice malt flavor, just a hint of bitterness, overall very tasty!
So - is this normal? With all else being equal - 70°F ambient, rapid-rise yeast, properly-kneaded dough - why does the whole wheat require almost 5x the fermentation time? Given the lack of beery flavor from over-worked yeast, I'm assuming that they consume the starches from the whole-wheat flour more slowly.