The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A Girl and Her Bread Machine - part deux

proth5's picture

A Girl and Her Bread Machine - part deux

To quote my university hymn “Time like an ever rolling stream” (well, and it originally went on to say “bears all her sons away” which made the whole thing problematic once those of us with the double X were finally allowed to roam the Dear Old Place’s hallowed halls – but that is another story…) and it has been quite a while since I posted part one of this saga. (The rocks and bumps over which the stream has rolled is yet another story – suffice it to say, a long one.)

Whole wheat bread in a bread machine seems to be a popular topic and I have been working on a formula, so it seems like a good time do to a full write-up.

Consulting the leaflet that came with the bread machine, it seemed that every whole wheat variation came with the ingredient of “vital wheat gluten.” Of course, upon reading that I could hear The Voice in My Head scornfully saying, “Well, Pat, if you want to use vital wheat gluten…”

To which I could only hang my head and reply, “No, I don’t, Sensei. I’ll aspire to better.”

(Oh, no – now I’ve gone and done it.  I’ve said negative things about the ingredient vital wheat gluten. Well, let me assure my small reading public that “The Voice in My Head” comes from actual conversations with a very real, and, as I like to put it “well qualified” baker. I will not intone “You do what you want” as I have no power to compel or prevent anyone from doing anything.  But as for me, I will deal with qualities of the grain as I find it and use technique to overcome any hardships.)

Of course, the tools were at hand.  A good intensive mix would make a fluffy whole wheat loaf, but no setting on the machine would mix long enough to deliver this – and I have been coming to the point where I love the “set it and forget it” aspect of the bread machine (at least for the sandwich bread to feed “the house” – I’m still hand crafting a lot of other stuff to satisfy my public…)

The other obvious tool in my arsenal was – you guessed it – a pre ferment. But not just any pre ferment, a firm levain.

“Why?” you ask.  Well, a firm pre ferment will tend to add strength (due to the acids that develop in a pre ferment and the lesser amount of protease action because the pre ferment is relatively dry) and a sourdough based pre ferment will add more acids because of the nature of the leavening.

As we wind on in this saga of me inexplicably becoming intrigued with this appliance, I make an observation: discussions on these pages pushed me to try the same formula with a firm commercially yeasted pre ferment.  Although the bread was certainly edible, it did not have the same texture nor did it rise as high as the sourdough version. If I were baking by hand, I would have to wonder if I had unconsciously done something differently – but with the machine, the cycle marches on.  So even though I “kinda” knew that sourdough would result in a stronger dough, I’m a lot more convinced of it now.

Other than that, the only thing I needed to do was up the hydration a bit and jigger the sweeteners and butter.  No long, drawn out story.

I did, however, avail myself of the “Sourdough starter” cycle on my machine (a Zojirushi Virtuoso) to mix the pre ferment.  This could just as easily have been done by hand in a bowl, but for those who don’t want that inconvenience; it turns out to be a good option.  I didn’t want the fast rise that would be engendered by the “rise” cycle – nor did I want to stay up way past my bedtime to wait for the thing.  So, I cancelled the cycle after the mix and then (had it fit into my proofer – or if my night time kitchen temperatures were warm enough) I could just cover the pan and let it proof overnight.

So, without further ado, here we go with a formula and some pictures.

Since this is a bread machine post, I will present the formula two ways, in the Bread Baker’s Guild of America format and in “recipe list” format.  For those of you just beginning to practice your baker’s math this is a good opportunity to see how the “list” format easily translates into what can be a perplexing little grid.

Bread Machine 100% Whole wheat

Firm Levain Pre Ferment (40% of the total flour pre fermented)

Whole Wheat Flour                                         228 g

Water                                                                   173 g

Seed (taken from storage starter)             5g

Mix the above ingredient (by hand or using a bread machine mix only cycle). Cover and allow to rise overnight until mature (doubled) – 8-12 hours at 76F.

The next day (or when the Pre Ferment is mature) Load the pan of the bread machine in this order:

Water (40F)                                        277 g

Agave Nectar                                     40 g

Molasses                                             24 g

Firm Levain                                         all of it, broken up into roughly 2 T chunks distributed over the bottom of the pan

Dry Milk                                               9 g

Salt                                                         11 g

Butter (room temperature)        46 g

Whole Wheat flour                         342 g

Instant Yeast

 (in small well on top of flour)     3 g

Use “Whole Wheat” cycle on the bread machine and bake per instructions.

Is it a work of food art? Well, no.  But as I looked at it I thought “This is a nice, solid, bread.  Nothing wrong with it.” Not too shabby. No vital wheat gluten. Tastes good, too…


Janetcook's picture

Morning Pat,

I am not sure what I am more impressed by - your photos(!) or your success with a ww loaf in a bread machine....I never had any doubts that you would succeed knowing your knowledge of how to use ingredients to achieve what your want...I just never suspected photos because I know you do not like doing camera 'things'.  Well, your photos are very nice indeed!

How wonderful that you came up with a formula that does not use gluten!  When I first started baking with ww flour every recipe called for the stuff.  I had no clue what is was then since I was just following directions but I didn't want to add it because it didn't seem 'right'.  My thoughts being that bakers of old didn't use the stuff so they must have known something I didn't know.  In those days there were no books explaining how to deal with 100% loaves and all used IY.  

Interesting that the sourdough loaf rose higher than the one using a stiff pre-ferment.  I would have thought similar results.

I did notice in your overall formula that you did add IY to the sd loaf in the final mix.  I am thinking that was done for time considerations based on the limitations of the machine and its gauging final proofing time?  I know I add IY (.2%) to some of my sd breads due to final rising times - ones that sport high sugar content seem to fare better with the IY added.  (This I do despite the fact that all of my breads are bulk fermented overnight and all use 15% pre-fermented flour in the leaven.  If I were to go higher on the pre-fermented flour I would run into protease issues in the morning.....)

Anyway, this is great and I hope people with bread machines that want to make a ww loaf sans gluten find this posting.  Wish it had been around in my bread machine days!

Take Care,


proth5's picture

Ooof - I'm becoming assimilated to the 21st century and "if you don't have a picture, it didn't happen" - still not interested in food styling and photography, but thought I should take a snap.

Anyway, yes, with the short cycles in the bread machine, the yeast is needed to get it to rise in the time alotted.  When I bake "free range" sourdough I do not use commercial yeast - but that is why this bread machine formula development is interesting.  But if you compare the amount with what typical formulas use, it is quite a lot less.

I would have thought commercial yeast pre ferment would have been similar to sourdough (why I tried it) - but I think that just shows use how very small varaitions can make a difference.  Although I should probably do another loaf with all commercial yeast so that we can "compare and contrast..."

I know it's a bit much for bread machine users to maintain a sourdough culture, but this does expand the horizon.  The read that "vital wheat gluten is absolutely essential" just makes the contrarian in me want to prove it wrong,  And there is that "Voice in my Head"...

Thanks for the kind words.


varda's picture

bread machines, but if I understand it, it's nice to let them do the baking while you sleep.   And that looks like a nice loaf to wake up to.   Throwing in a starter does seem a little disconsonant for those who use a machine for convenience.    But why not.   -Varda

proth5's picture

I am so used to mixing the pre ferment and then going to bed that I don't even notice that I've taken the reverse route from what most people do. 

But, for me, there is still considerable convenience in the "set it and forget it" aspect of machine baking to free me up from attending to the dough while I run errands or get the yard work done during the day.  Recently, though, I've come to realize that convenience is relative.  For me convenience means buying whole wheat flour in bags and not milling it myself - for others, even slicing bread represents a bar too high.

I wonder if I couldn't invert the schedule, though and now will need to file that away under the "stuff I want to try in the future."  That list does not ever seem to get shorter. :>)