The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I don't even know where to start. I'm lost.

adibythesea's picture

I don't even know where to start. I'm lost.

I have a soy intolerance. I'm currently living in Ireland, and I swear, every. single. loaf. of whole wheat bread has soy flour in it.

I am not a baker, but I am super stubborn, and I'm determined to eat whole wheat bread while I live here.

I've been trying to bake my own bread, on and off, unsuccessfully for the past three years. I've tried different mixes of whole grain flours, playing with proofing time, changing the amount of flour/water etc., etc., etc. It's almost always a hard dense loaf that crumbles apart.

After a long hiatus, I've just started to try again. I'm trying No-Knead this time, as it's advertised to be fool-proof.

Except for me.

The whole wheat flour here is different to that in the US. It's graham flour, and it's even more extreme than the Hodgson Mill Graham Flour I found a few posts about here.

Which is why I thought maybe No-Knead would work: if I'm not kneading, I'm not cutting up the gluten structures with all that bran.

But so far, experimenting with both water and yeast amounts, I've come out with a loaf so wet in the middle it never dried out, and a loaf that never rose, even though I could smell the yeast working.

My kitchen is cold. The house isn't well insulated, anywhere, really. And it would probably get down to 50F or 55F at night inside most of the time.

So as far as I understand it, the temperature of the kitchen is working against me, as is the flour. I've done sooooo much reading, and what I took away from all that reading resulted in those two failed experiments. I really have no idea what to do. Help.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Perhaps don't go so high when it comes to hydration, try gentle stretch and folds and include an autolyse or use a poolish method.

It might be a bit of trial and error but it can be done.

What is your recipe at the moment? And judging by what you've done so far have you got an idea of an ideal hydration for the flour using where a little bit of hands on would work well?

adibythesea's picture

I haven't tried an autolyse. I'd never heard of it. I will give that a go.

My basic recipe is the basic No-Knead Bread recipe. I upped the hydration because I read about whole wheat flour needing more water, and then read how graham-type flours need less than regular whole wheat. I just used the written recipe amount for the second try. I don't really know what hydration level I need. I hate wasting so much flour, so I'm sort of hesitant to try again just to play with the hydration.

clazar123's picture

If all you have available is a graham-type flour and you are determined to make 100% whole grain bread, I have good news. It CAN be done. It will NOT be a soft, shreddable loaf but it can have a soft denseness and great taste without crumbling. It is all about a few simple handling techniques.

Recipe first:

Try THIS recipe. I usually put my biga and soaker ingredients in gallon ziplock bags and squish them until well mixed. The butter/oil and sweetener are optional but they are not in large amounts and do add to the softness when you have a coarse flour.


Yeast simply must have a temp.range about 76-84F. It can be done with simple items.

1.Some folks keep their yeast items sitting on a heating pad set on low and covered in a box.

2.How about on top of the refrigerator-the coils usually release the heat and the top of the refrigerator is usually the warmest place in the house.

3.Alternatively, on top of the hot water heater is also good-but take great care not to block any flues if it is gas.

4. In the oven or the microwave with the light on (as long as it is incandescent and not LED).

5. Under a desk lamp.

6. In a picnic cooler with warm water in the bottom. Close the lid and put a blanket over it.

7. Wear the ziplocs next to your skin all night under some flannel pajamas. The Alaskan gold miners used to do this.

8. HOW COULD I FORGET?  IRISH SODA BREAD!   Easy,delicious and traditionally made with graham flour. Not to mention if you master this, the Irish neighbors/colleagues will be touched!

Happy baking!

**I started writing this last evening but company came over so I didn't finish it until the next morning. Since I didn't want to lose what I had already written, I just continued without refreshing the window. Others may have already made some of these suggestions.

adibythesea's picture

I can't access that first link in Ireland. Some googling of the link's keywords has turned up a few references to Peter Reinhart's Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. Is it the same recipe?

1. through 7. - Genius. Hopefully some of these will help!

8. Soda bread is delicious, but not really the type of thing I'm going for. I want toast. I want sandwiches. I will try making it sometime, though.


julie99nl's picture

Have you tried baking with rye? It can sometimes be a little more sour, so that may not be what you want. But, it may be easier to source.

What Another option to consider, if you have the time and money of course. Call around to the closest baking schools and see what kind of flours they are using and perhaps attend a workshop. Sometimes a short hands on workshop can be an immense help and can often lead to ingredient resources besides the local supermarket.


dabrownman's picture

and traveled to Ireland a bit and always spent a few days at Ballymaloe - the great Irish cooking school that also is a 14 th century Norman castle and hotel with best bread in Ireland.  Google Ballymaloe Soda Bread or Brown Bread - my favorite.  You just need to get a place warm and they are lots of ways to do that.

clazar123's picture

ANy followup? Food allergies can be discouraging but life can go on-I have an allergic family so I know that. Making your own food is always the best but many times life is too busy for it to be easy. Hang in there. Ask questions. We have a "Baking for Special Needs" Forum here on TFL that was started for people that need special ingredients, have allergies,etc.

You can also message me and I would be happy to respond, if the forum is not your thing. Click on my name and on the profile page there is a link "send user a private message". You don't have that on your page, I think because you didn't fill in any fields.

franbaker's picture

I'm also working on trying to make 100% whole wheat loaves that are not too dense. I'm trying to please an eater who likes conventional white breads. Making progress. I do have access to good whole-wheat flours, but for more nutrition and variety decided to grind my own flour. Not sure if that's something you want to consider, or what might be available to you. I decided to go with the Mockmill 100 from Germany. I can get a good range of grinds from very coarse to very fine. Of course you also need to be able to buy the wheat berries to mill.

Or maybe sifting out the largest chunks of bran from the graham flour? You could then use the bran to cover the surface of the bread (I just saw a recipe for a bran-crusted Italian country loaf somewhere) so you don't lose the nutrition from it.

Recipes that use a soaker and/or preferment might be helpful. I've had good luck with a couple of recipes from 'Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads' that use these methods.

I'm having in issue with temperatures here being much warmer than most recipes/formulas assume and fermenting/proofing things for too long as a consequence. So I can affirm other comments that say that temperature makes a huge difference. I think you got a lot of great suggestions for warming up the dough :-)

It's really a shame that all the whole wheat breads there have soy flour in them. Yuck. Good luck to you!