Help me learn from my first high hydration whole wheat experiment
I got the bug again today to experiment with bread making (seems to happen once every two months). I wanted to try a few things I have never tried before...
- High Hydration (I love the idea of an artisinal bread whose crumb is shiny/glossy and full of flavor)
- Autolyse (I read this does wonders for making whole wheat easier to work with and rise better).
- Cooking in a ceramic pot (Romertopf brand)
I am hoping you all can read my final recipe, my thought process for making changes to the initial recipe, and give me feedback on everything so that I can learn. I am in the middle of making the recipe right now, I have only mixed up the preferment and started the autolyse.
As my starting point, I chose a 100% whole wheat recipe from the book "Bread Science" by Emily Buehler. The recipe uses a preferment (sponge) and has a 75% hydration. The recipe does not include directions for an autolyse step.
I've already made a few dozen loaves using a preferment, and I always like the improved flavor and I think the dough is easier to work with. Additionally, I HAVE made high hydration dough on accident and loved it, so, I am fairly used to working with really loose dough, but I have never made one intentionally (if you want to know how I could accidentally make high hydration dough, just ask).
Here is the initial recipe:
- Full Recipe: Whole Wheat: 374 g, Wheat Bran: 19 g, Water: 280 g, Yeast: 2 g, Salt: 7 g
- Sponge: Whole Wheat: 187 g, Water: 140 g, Yeast: Pinch
- Dough: Whole Wheat: 187 g, Wheat Bran: 19 g, Sponge: 327 g, Water: 140 g, Yeast: 2 g, Salt: 7 g
- Sponge for 12 to 15 hours, mix dough, rise twice then shape into boule, after proofing, cook on preheated pizza stone at 460 F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on rack.
Here are my modifications and reasons why:
- Doubled recipe. I plan to cook one of the loaves on the pizza stone and one inside a clay pot so I can compare the difference.
- Increased hydration from 75% to 100%. After mixing the autolyse, the dough was very dry, looked like 50% hydration dough. I assume this was the result of using 100% whole grain wheat. So... I decided to up the hydration to 100% and I liked the semi-soupy autolayze that resulted.
- Swapped Cracked Wheat for Wheat Bran. I didn't have any wheat bran in the pantry, I am hoping cracked wheat will suffice.
- Took all of the non-sponge whole wheat/cracked wheat/water and premixed it to start the autolyse (going to autolyse for about 14 hours). The original recipe did not have an autolyse step... I hope this is the right way to do it?
- Plan to soak the clay pot in water, warm up in cold oven, and add icewater container to oven.
Here is the final recipe:
- Full Recipe: Whole Wheat: 748 g, Cracked Wheat: 38 g, Water: 748 g, Yeast: 4 g, Salt: 14 g
- Sponge: Whole Wheat: 374 g, Water: 280 g, Yeast: 2 Pinches
- Autolyse: Whole Wheat: 374 g, Wheat Bran: 38 g, Water: 468 g
- Dough: Sponge, Autolyse, Yeast: 4 g, Salt: 14 g
- Let sponge and autolyse do their thing for 12 to 14 hours. Combine the sponge, autolyse, salt, and yeast and Knead them in Electrolux Assistant. Let rise twice. Divide into 2, proof both loaves, cook one on pizza stone and the other in ceramic pot. Convection at 435 F.
- Was I crazy for flippantly upping the hydration from 75% to 100% after seeing how dry the dough looked?
- Was my cracked wheat substitution ok?
- I have never made an autolyse before and I really wanted to use one, especially in a whole wheat recipe. Did I do it right? Is 14 hours of autolyse too long? Am I using the term properly?
- I thought I needed to soak cracked wheat or wheat bran before using, but the original recipe didn't include directions for soaking the wheat bran. Are the original directions incorrect? Is including the cracked wheat in the autolyse a sufficient way to pre-soak cracked wheat?
- I was gifted a Romertopf clay pot with lid, any tips on using it? The pot is a kind of dirty, should I worry about cleaning it? Should I soak it? Should I warm the pot on top of the pizza stone, or will that result in uneven cooking of the dough?
- What are your thoughts in general about the final recipe?
- And... any other comments you all might have, I want to suck the knowledge out of your heads!
A few notes:
- I weighed everything.
- Flour used: The Baker's Scoop HEB Brand, 100% Whole Grain Winter Wheat. I probably should have used a better brand of whole wheat.
- Cracked Wheat Used: Rainy Day Foods Cracked Wheat, Cracked hard red wheat.
Thanks in advance!