The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chasing the dragon

thirdworldbaker's picture

Chasing the dragon

Hi Everyone. I am from Pakistan and the only bread we have here is the simple pan loaf that is super bleached and super cottony. i became obsessed with bread in 2014 while over at a breakfast at my friend's house in the UK. he cut out a little toast out of a far brown looking bread that him and i had bought the evening before from a small bakery in Coventry, UK. I wasnt expecting anything special as he buttered a slice for me but since that day i cant cant forget that little piece of bread. I finished my studies and came back to Pakistan but like my first love i cant forget that bread. I have been following this website for years now but have only registered since i have managed to get a deck oven and started baking. Ive been doing a lot  reading and research so "theoretically" i am not a novice but practically i cant even knead properly so i went ahead and bought a hobart style stand mixer but it has only one speed (not sure of RPMs). Ive made a few attempts but the white flour here is very substandard. I get it from a famous mill around here and they say that the gluten varies between 8-9 percent. But despite adding vital wheat gluten it still feels weak and slack. I have been making great thin crust pizzas at home with this flour without extra gluten. they turn out crisp and chewy at the same time and thats how i like pizza. but with bread the list of problems has forced me to register and now i admit that despite my theoretical mastery i suck. Also, i have noticed that many of the books that i have read are quite misleading and call for too much yeast and no retardation or prolonged fermentation which i think is the key with bread and pizza both. Enough said i hope some of you more experienced people here would take time out and help me get the same high again. 

list of questions:

1. is Gluten the only difference between weak and strong flour?

2. what is the best way incorporate gluten into the flour or should it be dissolved in water?

3. I know how to sprout and make Diastatic Malt. would it be as good as the one i order from abroad? (only one brewery in pakistan and they stopped making it 6 years ago)

4. when and how should diastatic malt be added to the dough? Can i long-ferment the dough in refrigerator after adding diastatic malt?

5. Should i use Ascorbic acid? when and how should Ascorbic acid be added to the dough? Can i long-ferment the dough in refrigerator after adding Ascorbic?

6. Cant get the temperature right. My oven is a deck oven with a stone base and the temperature can go up to 400 degree Celsius (750 Fahrenheit). where and how should i adjust? 

7. Oven doesnt offer steam so i use a heaxy cast iron tray and add stones to it and then add water to than as soon as i put my bread in. Is there something like too much steam? ive noticed that when i bake in dutch oven the surface isnt shiny enough but with lots of steam the crust becomes shiny.

8. what temp should the poolish or levain be allowed to rest? what temperature should the kneading be finished at? what temperature for first rise? what for the final? what temperature should the fridge be for long fermentation? (please mention Fahrenheit or celsius)(the temperature can get up to 50 Celsius in Summers (8 months in a year) and in winter falls to 10 Celsius or even lower) 

Please help me with this u guys as I am mental about this stuff and ready to experiment everyday


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Glad to have you on board. I hope TFL can help you find that perfect bread you've been looking for. 

I think your most important obstacle to get over first is to turn your very weak flour into strong bread flour. 9% protein is really too weak and it's only good for cakes and flatbreads etc. 

How have you been calculating the percentage of vital wheat gluten to add to you flour? 

thirdworldbaker's picture

hey thank you so much... i've never really corresponded with people on the open web before so wasn't sure if anyone would ever respond but i definitely feel welcomed now!

yes ive been measuring out the gluten and till now i have added 3% one time and 6% another. At three the crumb was still quite dense and at 6% i would say it had bigger holes. However the taste of the bread hasnt had the oomph to it despite multiple rises or longer fermentations. Also, more steam or less steam i do end up getting the bottom and top crust too thick. I have until this point not used anything other than flour, water, salt and yeast. 

To add here, the white flour thats available is like talcum powder (has very low density) as opposed to the regular whole wheat flour that we use for traditional chapati breads here in pakistan. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

A few things to note as it's late here but I wanted to leave you with the following and delve into it more tomorrow.

1. Start off very simple. Find a simple recipe and stick to it till you get it right. 

2. Here is a very good calculator to work out how much vital wheat gluten to add to the flour. Take a look and let me know if you find it ok to use or if you need more help

  • In the top box put the protein percentage. So type in 100g flour and how much protein is in that 100g. So if it's 9% protein then type in "9". 
  • If the flour you're using doesn't give you the percentage (how much protein per 100g) but gives you how much protein per serving size (which may be any amount but usually around 45g) then simply put in the serving size and how much protein. The calculator will work out the percentage. 
  • In the lower left box type in how much flour you wish to use in the recipe and how much protein you're aiming for. 
  • In the lower right box it'll tell you how much flour and vital wheat protein to mix for your recipe. 

3. You should post questions as a forum topic, and not as a blog, to get it noticed more and you'll find more people answering. Perhaps post this question again as a forum topic. 

Great to have you here and hopefully we'll get you baking great loaves very soon. 

thirdworldbaker's picture

Thanks Lechem for the help! The calculator really takes care of that...but given my flour is a weak 8%-9% gluten, what value do i think i should be aiming for? What is  too high? also please tell me the best way of incorporating Gluten into the flour, i've seen someone dissolve it into water in the stand mixer before pouring in the flour. what do you suggest?Also, please tell me if there is an easier more direct way of keeping in touch with you as i want someone to be able to perhaps video chat while i am making the dough and help me through it? Skype or may be whatsapp?