The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole grain/Fullkorn plain bread I just can't get it right

trojkolka's picture

Whole grain/Fullkorn plain bread I just can't get it right

Hi all,

I'm losing my nerves with this bread baking. Let me tell you why... I have baked about 5 to 7 multigrain or solely full korn breads and they all turn out to be dense, hard and chewy. I don't know what i do wrong... I have followed different types of recipes, bought different type of flours, tried fresh and dried yeast, let it rise for different times, different knead times...

But the result is always very similar. I mix the ingredients of the bread (mainly fullkorn flour, water, tbsp olive oil, yeast, salt and sugar) and knead it all for 10 minutes. I let it to rise after kneading for about 90-120 minutes, the dough becomes nicely airy and big. Kind of the way that i was hoping to get out. However all recipes state that I had to knead it a bit again and make it in a roll to add it to greased bread oven form, and let it rise for another 60 minutes. the rising continues but it looks already more dense again. The sauna (when it's off) is about 35 degrees and i let my bread rise there because it's the only place i could think of that is consistently warm... but I also tried to put the bowl with dough on a hot water pan covered with a dish drying towel. After the second rise I basically bake the bread off in about 30 minutes in the oven.

I think very straightforward and as described in many recipe books i have. The funny, yet annoying, thing is that my sweet breads with almond paste, raisins, currants and what not succeeds everytime i make it and is more poofy, could still be a bit more though, and very tasty. There is no fullkorn flour in that recipe though. But because i want to have some dietary fibers in my bread I would love to succeed to make a nice fullkorn bread. I would like to avoid additives, or flour enhancers and i typically use only organic products. Can anyone point me out in the right direction or give me some hints on what to improve next... 

I recently also got a bread baking machine, eventhough the bread is a bit more airy (still not enough to my taste) it's really hard and chewy for some reason as well. (also full korn flour included.) If only my fullkorn bread could look like this:

Thanks in advance for any help or advice!

MangoChutney's picture

Let the whole grain flour soak with just the water for at least 30 minutes.  Whole grain flours absorb more water but also take longer to do so.  I let mine soak overnight.  This will insure that your dough is not too dry, which it might be if you are done mixing and kneading it before it is done absorbing the water. 

Add the yeast, sugar, and salt before you knead it, but do not add the olive oil until the gluten has developed.  Oil tends to interfere with the development of the gluten.  I knead my dough for 4 minutes with a dough hook, and then another 30 seconds after the olive oil is added.  I finish it up with about a minute by hand to be sure that there are no lumps (I use a levain pre-ferment instead of commercial yeast) and because I like to feel the dough as a reality check for the rest of the procedure.

Don't knead the bread again in between rises.  You want to press it gently to deflate the dough so that more carbon dioxide can be generated, but not mess with the gluten structure.  Just flatten it down a bit with your hands, shape it as desired, and put it in the form.

If you can cover the form with something to keep in humidity, you can improve oven spring (the last gasp of rising as the dough heats up in the oven) by putting just a little water in the form with the dough.  Take the cover off after about 1/3 of the baking time, to allow the crust to finish browning.


trojkolka's picture

Thank you very much for your pointers MangoChutney... I'm going to give this soaking a try. I had no idea about the oil effect on the gluten and i definetely abused the gluten structure heavily when my recipe said knead instead of 'gently deflate'. So if I improve on all of these areas, let's see if the outcome is better as well =) (I'm sure it is, but I still need to see the result first to believe it ;))

One question related to the soaking still though... If I soak the fullkorn with water in the bowl before adding the other ingredients for let's say 8 hours... how do i measure the fluids afterwards. If the recipe says 350g full korn and 225ml water. Does the soak mean that i let the 350g fullkorn soak in the 225ml water or should i soak it in bigger portion of water and somehow figure out how much moist is in the fullkorn 'porrage' when i add the other water to the dough... Any advice?


MangoChutney's picture

I figured you would be asking me that, because you use dry yeast.  *smile*  I would say to reserve just enough water to rehydrate the dry yeast, if it needs that.  Some don't, I am told.  Soak the flour in the rest of the water, or in all of it if the yeast does not need to be made wet. 

After the soaking, add the rest of the dry ingredients, including the yeast whether it is wet or dry.  If the dough feels too dry while you are kneading it, add water one tablespoon at a time.  Dough that is too dry feels like trying to knead potter's clay.  Work in each tablespoonful of water completely before adding more.  Once there is enough water, it will almost magically begin to knead like dough instead of like clay.  Then you can go for the gluten.

pmccool's picture

Mango Chutney's advice is good and I won't change any of those suggestions.

I will add an observation that whole-grain breads are often more dense than breads made with white flour.  It is possible to produce a light texture, though, and the recommended soaking before final mixing will aid that.

One thing in your process may need to be changed.  If you are allowing the dough to ferment for 90-120 minutes at 35C, the fermentation is probably going too far.  That is also affecting the density of the finished bread.  Here's why: at that temperature, the yeast can grow very quickly.  As it grows, it utilizes the sugars and starches that are present in the flour.  When the dough has to ferment a second time, after having been shaped, there is less food left in the flour and the yeast growth is reduced.  So, I would advise that you reduce the temperature, or the time, or both, for the first fermentation.  If you can find a place whose temperature is maybe 25-30C, the first fermentation will go more slowly.  One way to gauge when to stop the first fermentation is to look at the volume of the dough.  If it has doubled, or almost doubled, from it's volume after kneading, it is a good time to degas the dough and shape it.  That ensures that there will be an adequate supply of food available to the yeast during the second fermentation.  And that is another factor in making lighter bread instead of dense bread.

As is often said here, "Watch the dough, not the clock."  It is very good advice, since the yeast cannot tell time.  The baker can watch the dough and see how much it has expanded, though.

Best of luck with your future baking.


trojkolka's picture

Thanks Paul! I haven't thought about that at all... I definitely will add this to my improvement list on my next bread. It might also explain why sweet breads do succeed a bit better because of the added sugars which function as food for the yeast. Now i just have to look for a draught-free place in the house.

dabrownman's picture

If the gluten is properly developed, any bread will follow its own rising schedule based on the temperature, kind and amount of yeast, kind of flour, the % of hydration and any other number of things. 

But they all have one thing in common.  When the dough doubles in volume, gently degas it, pre shape them into what ever shape you want and then final shape them 10 minutes later to redistribute the remaining nutrients and yeast.  Then let it proof again until almost doubled again.  I like to be a little less than double on the second rise to help the dough spring well in the oven. Check them with the finger poke test to make sure they are ready  - then bake.  This should work for most breads and bakers almost every time.  You will get a feel for it with time and experience. 

I use a clear plastic rectabular shoe box with a lid to do the first rise, when I am doing two loaves at a time.   You can mark exactly where the doubling should get to before continuing.  I have a smaller box for one loaf.  Any see through container will do as long as the sides are perpendicular to and go straight up from the bottom.  It can be hard to tell when doubled otherwise. It helped me a lot.

Hope this helps, welcome and happy baking !

trojkolka's picture

Thanks for the advice Dabrownman. I will have a look if i can find something similar as well in my cabinets. It's funny in a way that all recipes state times as your guidance. Do this for xx minutes and that for yy minutes... while you are all saying forget about the strict timing and look at the product to follow its progress. It makes sense though but as an unexperienced mostly recipe obeying person it kind of feels safe to stick to your timer for things. But I will obey no longer, because it didn't lead to anything good (enough).