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All I get are bricks :(

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saxlady's picture
saxlady

All I get are bricks :(

All I want is to bake a healthy relatively light whole wheat bread that's not a brick!!  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  I'm just trying very basic ingredients - this is my method (sorry I don't use percentages).

 1 Cup of Starter (Maintained with whole wheat and water), And adding 1 cup of water, and another cup of whole wheat flour.  I leave this out overnight with a teatowel over it and in the morning it is very frothy and bubbly - so far so good. 

Using a mixer I then add more flour, about 3 1/2 cups (although I have experimented with 2-4 cups, and added additional water) and a teaspoon of salt.  I then let the mixer knead it for about 10 minutes.  By this point it's normally looking like a nice dough, a bit sticky to touch, but coming away from the sides of the bowl (and when I added more flour it just gets too dry).

I then put a teatowel over it and let it rise - I have tried it at various temperatures (ie next to the heater, outside etc etc) and even tried letting it rise in the fridge overnight for a long time, and of course I have tried leaving it for various lengths of time - from a couple of hours, to nearly 24 hours.  Most of the time it seems to rise, and have some decent looking bubbles but it certainly hasn't doubled.

I then tip it out of the bowl and gently squash it down, and fold it.  I've tried folding a couple of times, leaving and then folding again, but it doesn't seem to make much difference.  I then shape it and put it in my bread machine for the final rise and to cook (I don't currently have an oven).  I've tried leaving it to rise and then just letting it cook in the machine, but mostly I set it to a couple of hours for rising and then an hour for cooking. 

Everytime, no matter what combination of rising times, temperatures etc I get a heavy brick. :(

Sometimes it seems like it's rising the second time, but when I get it out, it's a flop - yet again.

I'm getting rather despondant - I've been at it for about 2 months now, about 4 times a week.  Occasionally just for my husbands benefit I've made it with straight white flour (although still using the whole wheat starter) and it's risen beautifully and worked fine - which of course just depresses me even more - there must be a way to get it right.

I've tried a couple of recipes that I found here on previous posts, but with the same result - so it must be something I'm doing terribly wrong.  I grind my flour myself from organic wheat in my champion juicer (grinder) and I always use it freshly ground - I would have thought that would make it better - not worse!

Please - any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

I have never baked an entire loaf of whole wheat flour that didn't come out as a paving stone.  Most bakers only do about 1/3 of their flour as whole wheat, the rest is regular bread flour.  I personally use whole wheat in my preferment, then high gluten flour for the other 2/3 so it has a bit more fluff and keeps fresh for an extra couple of days.  I don't know if there is any way to make bread out of 100% whole wheat flour and have it turn out soft.

 Try using just 1/3 of the flour whole wheat and the rest bread flour or high gluten flour, I think you'll like the results.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Saxlady, 

for one I believe that weighing  your ingredients (and using percentages) would help you to improve your baking results because you will be able to make controled changes and observed the outcomes of your own modifications.

 

Let me also suggest Peter Reinhard's new 'Whole Grain Breads' book ...he proposes a 'new' way to approach whole wheat baking that makes quite alot of sense. After reading through the interesting background my first 100% whole-wheat loaves turned out very well, absolutely comparable to my other artisan loaves. Basically these methods are based on a long preferment time and rather short-lived 'epoxy-style' combination of the starter and the pre-dough. This will control parts of the enzyme activity that seems to be destroying your gluten.  There is alot of useful information in this publication ... a very good read and definitely a (one) path to attractive whole wheat bread.

 

I know there is always the discussion about weighing or measuring with cups, spoon, hands and feet ... either way, surrendering the control over your dough composition to  the mood or current 'feel' of the day is not the most efficient way to learn about baking of any kind. No offense or disrespect for 'intuitive' baking intended, please. I believe everybody should use what works for him or her - if it works.

BROTKUNST

sphealey's picture
sphealey

I have never had Breadnerd's enriched whole wheat sandwich loaf fail:

Plain-ol-wheat-sandwich-bread

I have modified it a bit by starting with the whole wheat flour and an equal weight of water, mixing in 30 grams or so of sourdough starter (and sometimes a tiny pinch of yeast) and letting that bubble away for 3-5 hours before I start mixing. Adds a bit of tang.

sPh

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

This would be rather a transitional loaf (with 40% white bread flour), would it not ? I'd expect that it would be a great(er) challenge to bake this with 100% whole wheat.

 

BROTKUNST

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== This would be rather a transitional loaf (with 40% white bread flour), would it not ? ===

Yes, but why not start with something you can succeed with and work your way forward. Breadnerds recipe is quite tasty as it stands.

sPh

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Hard red winter? Hard red spring? Something else? It might be that you have weak flour.

Also, if you're not doing so already, you might want to try refreshing your starter 2 or 3 times before using it for baking. For example, if I'm baking on a Saturday morning, I might take the starter from the fridge Thursday night and feed it so that it's 4 to 8 times bigger. Feed it again Friday morning, and again Friday night, each time making sure that it's at least doubled in size. Then Saturday morning, I'll definitely have a starter that's active and ready to leaven the bread.

Last, with whole wheat, you'll probably want to go wetter. I like my whole wheat dough to be pretty soft.

Ramona's picture
Ramona

Hi, I don't know if I can be of any help.  I don't use starters.  I am very new to this.  I use baker's yeast (active dry).  I have been doing this about 4 weeks now.  And I am using all whole wheat and sometimes with some rye flour, breads.  I don't use any white flour or all purpose and no wheat gluten.  I grind my own grain also.  I am using hard, red spring wheat.  It works better than the hard, red winter wheat.  JMonkey really helped me with a good recipe for whole wheat bread.  It was the method that worked.  I always use a sponge method overnight and usually an autolyze too.  Then in the morning I incorporate th with the remaining ingredients, which are usually the sweetener (I use raw honey or maple syrup), butter (I always use extra), and the rest of the salt (I only put in up to a 1 tsp. in the autolyze).  I also add milk for half of the water called for and put that in the autolyze.  Here's something I have been experimenting with, I am convinced that mashed potatoes really helps (about 1/2-3/4 cup per recipe).  They improve texture and flavor.  I knead by hand and do folds in between rises.  I don't always succeed.  I have made a rye potato bread that taste great, I just didn't get any oven spring, so I am still working on that.  I have read that rye is difficult to work with.  I am not going to go with a starter til I have the dry yeast breads down.  Working with all whole grains makes it a challenge.  Hope this might help some.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I wish I knew if baking in the bread machine is making a difference. Whole wheat IS different than white flour, and that may account for why you're succeeding fine when your loaf has mainly white flour. I haven't had a bread machine in several years, but I used to bake with one.

I would suggest a few changes.

The first is done when you mix your starter the night before. First, measure out the amount of flour you would normally add on the next day, plus the 1 cup you add to your starter. Reserve about 1/2 cup flour for tomorrow - you will use the rest tonight. When you mix up your starter, add your water as usual. Then add about 1 3/4 to 2 cups instead of your usual 1 cup of flour., to make a fairly thick dough.

In a 2nd mixing bowl, combine the rest of the flour and water and half of the salt that you would normally add the next day. Using milk, buttermilk or yogurt in place of the water would yield a softer loaf. Buttermilk or yogurt are particularly good with whole wheat flour. Mix this just enough to combine the ingredients. Cover this bowl with plastic wrap and let sit overnight like with your starter.

The next day, chop up the ball of almost-dough into about 12 pieces. Do the same with your statrter. Mix as usual, but add a few things.

- A tablespoon of butter or oil is to soften the bread.

- 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast will help with the rise

- 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar OR 3 tablespoons sugar or brown sugar. The sweetening just accents some of the nice whole wheat flavors.

- the 1/2 cup of reserved flour

You'll probably need to mix less than you have been. You may need a bit of additional water or flour to balance the dough. It should be soft and slightly sticky.

The dough will probably require less kneading as well. Knead for 3-4 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes and knead another minute.

At this point it can go into the machine and raise for 90 minutes to 2 hours - until about 1.5 times its original size. Then bake as usual.

There are lots of advantages to moistening the flour the night before. But perhaps the major one here is that the WW flour absorbs liquid very slowly. It's very easy to add too much flour if you add it at the time of mixing.

This is roughly based on Peter Reinhart's WW sandwich loaf in his book Whole Grain Breads. It's a great resource, which I recommend highly. I hope that the above will allow you to produce a great loaf of WW bread in the meantime.  Happy baking!

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

This jumped out at me as I read your thread initially. And it kinda goes along with what Susanfnp and browndog have been talking about in another thread...And also what Mariana and Bill have helped me with...so I hope I didn't misread your technique?

Here you are telling me that you are using 1cup of mature starter and adding 1 cup of water to it and 3-1/2 cups of flour to it:

"1 Cup of Starter (Maintained with whole wheat and water), And adding 1 cup of water, and another cup of whole wheat flour.  I leave this out overnight with a teatowel over it and in the morning it is very frothy and bubbly - so far so good. 

Using a mixer I then add more flour, about 3 1/2 cups (although I have experimented with 2-4 cups, and added additional water) and a teaspoon of salt.  I then let the mixer knead it for about 10 minutes.  By this point it's normally looking like a nice dough, a bit sticky to touch, but coming away from the sides of the bowl (and when I added more flour it just gets too dry)."

******************

You may be experiencing other problems in addition to this but I'm thinking that using 1 cup of mature starter to 3-1/2 cups of flour is a big amount of starter to use especially when using a long ferment time (like overnight 8-12 hours). So I'm thinking that you need to build the preferement first like:

1 or 2 ounces of starter plus whatever amount of flour you need and the water and this is the part you let ferment for overnight or up to about 16 hours or so. Then you combine it with the remaining flour and water in your recipe.

Katie made a beautiful sourdough sandwich loaf not too long ago. BRB lemme go check and see if it's whole wheat or not. I know WW Sandwich bread is ringing a bell.

The problem you are having is that the sheer volume of starter is making your dough too acidic which means...that because you are using 1c of starter, your dough is too weak to let the gluten develop. The gluten strings are thready and breaking which means you can not trap CO2 gas (rising stuff) between the gluten strands.

I think this is the problem but Bill Wraith and Ehanner and Mini could tell you better. I don't do all whole wheat yet. I'm just getting my feet wet with ww.

I'll go see if I can find Katie's thread with the sd sandwich loaf.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I don't know what I'm talking about... :(

Here's Katie's Sourdough Sandwich Bread that looks divine but I see her recipe is calling for 1 cup of starter to 4 cups of flour. That just seems so high!

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/3715/sourdough-sandwich-bread

 

My sourdough pita calls for a huge amount of starter and I was using it cuz I was using only a short ferment but Mariana helped me out by telling me to make the preferment first for the sourdough starter and it suddenly made much more sense!!

But I don't know about this bread? Anyone, anyone? Beuller?

Ramona's picture
Ramona

I thought if you have this book, that you might want to try the Yogurt Bread on page 178.  I know that it uses active dry yeast, but maybe you can substitute the starter (is this possible?).  Anyways, it produces a nice, light, fluffy, sandwich bread.  I use extra butter, sweetener (maple syrup) and some milk for some of the water, it turned out great.  My family is picky about their bread and they really liked this.  I did let mine sit overnight, but you don't have to. 

saxlady's picture
saxlady

Thanks for all the help, I've got a lot of ideas now.  I'll have a go tonight at doing the extra amount with the sponge like KipperCat suggested and let you know how I get on.  I don't really know what kind of wheat it is, it was the only organic one around that I could find and there is no further info on the sack or on the website from the place I got it.

I'll be using soymilk as we're dairy free here, don't know if that will make any difference.

Thanks again, I'm all excited once more - I'll let you know what happens

wholegrainOH's picture
wholegrainOH

Let us know how it works--lots of good suggestions, and I would have added many of the same about starters and flours, etc.  But will wait to see what results you're now getting--

 

 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

The soymilk should be fine.  I can't wait to hear how it turns out!  I've about decided I need to get a bread machine for sandwich loaves. 

Ramona's picture
Ramona

I just thought I should let you know that in the Laurel's book, they recommend cooking the soy milk to a boil and then cool before using it.  It contains a good portion of bacteria which is suppose to produce a weightly loaf, unless boiled first to subdue them.  I haven't used this myself to know.

saxlady's picture
saxlady

Sorry it's taken me a couple of days to get back to post on my results.  So I soaked the flour the night before, and added extra flour to the starter etc and I used half soymilk and half water (boiled), and I made it a lot wetter than usual. Added an extra half cup of water, and put in half a cup less of flour overall.

The next morning I added some honey and marg, the rest of the salt and the soaked flour etc.  (I didn't quite understand the part about cutting into 12 pieces - sorry I must have missed something somewhere).  I didn't knead it for as long - 5 mins, let it rest, and then kneaded for another minute.

It rose BEAUTIFULLY - about 1.5 times the original size and was looking great - best rise I've had.  But in the cooking it dropped in the middle, so the sides were still quite high, but the top dipped right back down dismally.

So the finished product was a step closer - but it dropped - what might have caused that?  Too wet?  The consistancy was a very sticky dough, wouldn't have held shape by itself.  It definitely tasted better, and the bubbles were better,  but it was kind of more a crumpetty finish, than a soft fluffy loaf.

What should I try next?  (I did take a photo, but haven't taken it off the camera yet)

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I'm glad you got an improvement. :D 

I suspect it was overproofed (i.e. had risen too much) when it went in the oven.  I've had this happen in the past.

Did you check it with the finger poke test? For whole wheat, if you poke the risen dough with a damp finger, the indentation should fill back in slowly.  I think that for white bread, many people say to wait until it doesn't fill back in at all, but that's too far gone for whole wheat. 

I just remembered you're using a bread machine - can you tell it when to bake, or is the rise time preprogrammed?  If it is, I'm sure there's something else you can adjust, but I'm not sure what it would be.