The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Frustrated with using Wheat Berries - Pics included.

BKSinAZ's picture

Frustrated with using Wheat Berries - Pics included.

Last week I made a wonderful loaf of whole wheat bread using King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour. For pics, go to

Today, I used the Country Living Grain Mill to grind some wheat berries. The flour was fine, but not as fine as the KA.

I used the same recipe and technique as last weeks loaf; from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads page 78, which ultilized a biga and a soaker with scalded milk made about 15 hours earlier. I don't know what the 'heck' I am doing wrong, but everytime I grind my own flour, the loaves have no oven spring and collapse; Including this loaf. It had no where near the rise during the final proofing nor did it have ANY oven spring. Infact, during baking, the loaf collapsed slighly. During the baking, I did have a pan of hot water in the oven for steam (on last weeks loaf also). I also notice that todays crust does not appear to look as smooth as last weeks loaf. Bread tasted great, but appearance sucked. Help me please.

Compare the pics posted here with the pics posted in link above.




proth5's picture
  • What kind of wheat are you using - is it a good hard wheat from the heartland - local grain, or soft wheat?
  • Are you sure you are developing the dough enough? Does it feel the same as when you use commercial flour?

I ask about the wheat because your crust texture (and general bread behavior) seems much like my current bad boy grain triticale.  Now I know why triticale misbehaves - it has weak gluten and little mixing tolerance so it it hard to get a decently developed dough - so my first question would go to the exact wheat you are using...

Let me know.

BKSinAZ's picture

Hard red wheat berries. I don't use 'soft' wheat berries in bread as 'soft' is for cakes etc. Berries were purchased from a local natural food store called "whole foods market'"

Before shaping the loaf, I was able to get a peice of the dough to pass a window pane test.

proth5's picture

really obvious questions because the look of your crust - the tiny holes and the general "no oven spring" is so very close (nearly identical) to what I experience with the inaedquate gluten of triticale.  I got a batch of mis labled wheat once - nearly convinced me I had forgotten how to bake - so, no offense on your knowledge - just checking.  Especially down at the bulk bins where the person doing the stocking considers "Wheat is wheat..."

If you can get it to windowpane - then you are developing the dough well enough.

I'll agree with the other posters - your dough should ferment and proof faster with freshly ground wheat - so you want to take care to shorten your ferment and proof times.

Traditionally, the other culprit with fresh milled flour is that the bran is coarse enough to continually cut the gluten strands, but the long soak should minimize this.

You are shaping both sets of loaves, so it shouldn't be a matter of your shaping going awry.

And seriously, if you get batch after batch of bread like this, consider trying another batch of wheat from another source just to see if that helps.


dabrownman's picture

since the temps are nearing 100 F in AZ that the bread proofed much faster than usual this week.  I'm not sure what your recipe is but I use vital wheat gluten (1 tsp per cup of WW flour) when there is fresh ground whole wheat in the mix.  I also like to bake this WW when it is only about 3/4 to 1" over the top of the pan in the middle to make sure it's  not over proofed.  I think I get better spring by being slightly under proofed.  W/O VWG - being under proofed would also be my choice.

I buy my berries at WF too.

Bake on

clazar123's picture

The crumb is nice and even but in the pic it looks a little dry. Did it get crumbly when you slice it the next day?

WW is an interesting flour and this is a good example of how changing "brands" of flour can impact the dough. It may be that your home milled flour needs a little more moisture and also the time to absorb may be longer. Esp if the flour is a little coarser. He describes the soaker,biga and starter doughs as being "definitely tacky" at the end of the mix. "Tacky" sounds like he means if you touch your finger lightly to the dough, it comes off like a post-it note feeling-it sticks a bit but no dough comes onto your finger when you pull away.I would add enough water to make it"sticky" (in other words, your finger touches it lightly and comes away with a light coating/fragments of the dough.) At the end of the 12-24 hour rest, it should be "tacky".

The challenge with WW flour, esp a slightly coarser grind than you had before, is to get the starch to gel out. It can be brought out by using your soaker ingredients to make a roux first and then completing the soaker. It provides more gel matrix for the final loaf. Search for "water roux" here. I think Reinhart talks about using "mash" on page 195 of the same book.

It can be done! WW is a challenge but later you will wonder what the problem was. You need to find your own "recipe"-someone else's recipe is a guideline-not a formula.

Have delicious fun!


BKSinAZ's picture

You are looking at the picture of the crumb 1 hour after it came out of oven. I made a sandwich; the bread is not dry at all. It might look like it in the picture due to my photoshop picture editing software. I might have used the 'sharpen' filter a bit too much which puts a bit too much contrast in the picture. The bread was perfect as far as moisture. I will cut into it tomorrow to see if it falls apart and determine moisture once again.

The dough was tacky and not sticky. However, next time, I will let the biga and soaker rest longer than the 15 hours I let rest this time. I would have though 15 hours would have been enough for the biga and soaker to rest...

Also, I will experiment, per your advice, with adding a touch more water: however, the bread is not dry.


Yerffej's picture

The simple answer is that when you use different wheat you get different bread.  If your loaf is collapsing in the oven, it is likely overproofed.  If you are proofing by time, I would say that your home milled wheat is more active than the purchased wheat.  The wheat you mill at home is going to be different,  possibly very different, from anything that is commercially milled.  You cannot expect the same results from two different wheats.  It is the baker that must adjust to ever changing conditions and believe me, conditions are ever changing.  Stick with what you are doing and pay attention to all of the little details in making bread.  You will meet with success.


BKSinAZ's picture

You are correct that I might have over-proofed it. In the book, it states to let dough rise until 1.5  inches above top of loaf pan or 45 to 60 minutes. With the KA flour, the dough rose proper height above loaf pan  in only 50 minutes. With my freshly ground wheat, it took 1.25 hours for it to rise to proper height. I wonder why?

Yerffej's picture

"Proper height" is really a false notion.  Dough is fully proofed when it is fully proofed without regard to height or volume or any other yardstick measurement.  This is never more true than when dealing with whole grain flours.  Read all you can on judging the properly proofed loaf and apply that knowledge to your recipe.  Success is just around the next bend,


Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

and grind my own wheat.  A 15 hour soaker is fine as long as the salt is added.  The biga should be refrigerated during this period of time.

I like to knead a few minutes longer than the recipe calls for and then do a couple of stretch and folds as well as it rises.

I too have a problem with overproofing.  Just use shorter periods of time letting it rise in the loaf pan. The poke test helps determine when it's time to bake.

It's terrific bread, just keep baking it until you have it figured out.


BKSinAZ's picture

I just sliced the entire loaf up for grilled cheese sandwiches. I have found that the bread was less dense where the loaf collapsed while in the oven. The slices did fall apart if not handled carefully. Other than that, the loaf was tasty.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Are you measuring by volume (cups) or weight (grams, oz)?

If by volume, it's possible you have less volume because you simply used less flour.

(My brain is saying, "No, no, that's stupid. The difference in dough consistency would reveal that error." But soakers can change all sorts of characteristics re:over/under absorption).


Another thing is ash content. Your milled flour could have a higher ash content than the flour you used previously. Flour with higher ash content ferments significantly faster than flour with a lower ash content, so you have to watch your bulk ferment and proofing carefully; else, overproofed and collapse, which could be the case here.

BKSinAZ's picture

I measure by weight, not volume.

rayel's picture

You are getting smaller bran particles with King Arthur whole wheat, sometimes, because it is so fine, I had even thought  some of the bran might be missing, but I don't think that is the case. Finer flour should help to produce higher loaves. Even so, something else is at work, as one can expect higher bread with quite coarse flour. I know how unnerving it is to watch a baking loaf begin to rise, then the next look reveals the loaf getting smaller, and the sinking feeling that follows. That happened to me when I tried a recipe involving extra bran, and even though it was soaked,  it probably played a huge part in the outcome. The flour I used at the time was quite coarse to begien with. I agree with many others, that timing, is probably involved to a great extent, and the ash content difference playing a part in this is something I didn't know. The pictures of your first bake using King Arthur flour, are impressive. I am sure you will nail down the problem soon.  Ray

MangoChutney's picture

Well, the forum ate my first response.  I guess I don't type quickly enough.  But to summerize, my loaves made with freshly ground 100% whole grain look a lot like yours when they are over-proofed.  The way your crumb is more open in the middle and at the top, than it is on the bottom and at the edges, seems to indicate to me that the dough was simply at the end of its ability to rise.  If your proofing isn't rising enough, perhaps you could try cutting the first rise a little short.  That will leave more nutrients for the proofing.

Dryness in the dough would make the loaf tufty on top, as well as making the dough not feel alive even if it passes a windowpane test.  Been there, done that.  You would have noticed it when you were working with it.

I recently changed the dairy component of my recipe and it has taken me nearly a month of experimenting to get the bread to behave again as I think it should.  My husband said it was good all along, but I knew it was not quite right.  Here is the second successful loaf in a row after getting it right again, fresh from the oven and cut way too soon so we can have hot butter sandwiches.