The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Feedback regarding PR's whole grain struan

MommaT's picture

Feedback regarding PR's whole grain struan


I commented in the recent thread that I'm experimenting with the Whole grain Struan recipe in PR's Whole Grain breads book.  

I have now made the recipe twice:

  1. using a soaker that I cooked "to order" for the bread:  Bob's Red Mill 5-grain cereal and barley, plus some uncooked rolled oats.  Used buttermilk in the soaker
  2. using the same soaker he details in the next recipe for the transitional struan, but with pre-cooked white basmati rice instead of brown rice.  Also used buttermilk.

In both cases, I'm using a wild yeast starter, from the same book.  The starter seems lively enough and the dough is rising in the times suggested in the book.

In both cases, the loaf baked for the same amount of time (20 min, turn, 25 min more).  I keep a pan in the bottom of the oven and pour 1/2 cup or so of boiling water just after loading the loaf on the stone.  I'm baking on parchment.

In experiment #1, the dough was SO loose I ended up adding a bit more flour, but really working with a very wet dough through the process.  It made a nice windowpane after ~7 minutes of kneading.  I had to use the french fold method, because it was impossible to knead in the standard way.  The result was an awesome tasting bread with a few nice holes in the crumb, moist but very flat (I shaped a batard and baked on a pre-heated stone).  I believe the barley was a very nice taste addition.

Experiment #2 was looking much better - the soaker had the consistency of the picture in the book.  The dough, without any extra flour was firm and kneaded well in a similar amount of time.  I was slightly worried about it being too dry - what a change!   The loaf was pretty high (for a batard) in the couche but immediately upon hitting the stone, it spread out and became even flatter than the original loaf.  Sigh.  The crumb was closer/denser and the bread (though good) was not as nice tasting as the one made with the loose dough.  It seemed a little dry, even 4-5 hours after taking it from the oven.  

I have baked very successfully from Dan Leader's "Bread ALone" for quite some time and have never encountered this problem, despite having much less yeast in the recipe (I'm always surprised by the 2.5 teasp. added in the final dough of PR's whole grains - in addition to the starter).  The boules are generally firm and rise well. 

While I know that we'll have some awesome toast in the morning (especially coupled with my freshly made Saturn peach jam)....

BUT I really love the whole grains and taste of the breads from this book so would like to learn what parameters may be causing this incredible spread, even when the dough itself seems to be firmer.  

 Any ideas?   

 Thanks in advance for your thoughts....




dougal's picture

My guess is that the problem is with the 'digestion' of the flour in the starter.

The Biga (or substituted starter) is supposed to provide the great majority of the flour in that recipe.

Now, on 'starter' timescales the protease (protein cutting/eating) enzymes would have plenty of opportunity to weaken the flour in the starter, making it easy to overproof and get a collapse in the oven.

Especially since the dough has to have the strength to carry the weight of all that soaked grain and bran.


As a suggestion on where to go next, I'd propose repeating one of your previous soakers, but this time use the Biga in the mainline recipe (rather than the sidebar suggestion of the starter). And if it still overproofs too quickly and collapses, I'd give your flour in the Biga a pinch of Vitamin C -- it interferes with specific dough-weakening stuff (glutathione) that occurs naturally - in variable amounts -but much more in whole grain wheat flours than in white flours (its from the bran).

Be guided by your previous breads as to how wet the dough needs to be (adding water/flour). The book's recipes are more suggestions than formulae -- what additional flour or water is required is going to depend on your choice of grains and the amount of pre-loading with water that it might get during any pre-cooking it gets. But don't knock yourself out kneading, I'm not sure its always required!

The instant yeast in the final dough is to give a very fast rise. The theory is that the flavour is already developed, so lets get this thing risen and baked before the components of Biga and Soaker start attacking each other.

Anyway - its a quick rise, so beware overproofing. Underproofing, especially with steam, should get you some spring to lift the thing.


And only after you've tried a few different soakers in successful Biga versions of the bread, then try using a soaker mix that is known good with a 'starter' version of the Biga.

Just my suggestion. Your mileage may vary, etc... !!

kanin's picture

I've also been having formula issues with the multigrain breads in Reinhart's WGB. I've consistently gotten flat loaves and need to add lots of flour as well. I really don't think it's anything you're doing wrong.

The formulas count on the addition of the appropriate amount of flour adjustments in the final dough. It could be a lot or a little depending on the other grains used and there doesn't seem to be any way around that.

I add more flour to the soaker (2-4 ounces per batch) instead of to the final dough with better results. Might be worth trying.

knit1bake1's picture

I find it really makes a difference according to what cooked grains I put in. I normally just cook some up in the pressure cooker right before making the soaker, so they haven't sat overnight in the fridge. When I do that, and depending on what it is (like 10-grain cereal) then the dough is much wetter. So I'd say that it's not like more scientific recipes - it really will be different every time you make it according to what your grains are.


ermabom's picture

I posted in the whole grain forum, but I guess I should have posted here.

I too have been struggling with PR's multi-grain hearth bread (similar to the struan). The dough is too wet with pressure cooked grains. I even skipped all the water in the soaker and still had a too-moist dough. I've tried adding flour and not adding flour. The breads are edible but not great. I have also experimented with wild yeast starter and commercial yeast biga. The latter was slightly more successful in terms of dough consistency but not in the final bread.

My next experiment, this weekend, is going to involve uncooked rolled multi-grain cereal instead of pressure cooked grains.


AustinandArgentina's picture

I live in Austin so consider that when deciding to borrow some of my suggestions.  I have been working on the multi-grain struan for a few weeks now, always resulting in flat loaves that fell apart.  I was confused by Reinhart's distinction between tacky and sticky.  My latest attempt yesterday was the closest to what the bread should be like.  Here are my observations:

Instead of a biga, I used my starter and added enough flour to make it really thick and doughy like the picture.  Then I measured out the amount needed in the recipe and discarded the rest.  I cooked a mix of grains including bulgher,barley, millet, oats, and cornmeal and used what I needed, then stored the rest in a tupperware for later loaves.

Because both my starter and soaker were still very wet, I didn't bother trying to cut them up into pieces and just mixed them together with the rest of the ingredients, then added more flour to give the final dough the right consistency.  

The trick for me to getting the gluten to form was a teaspoon of vital wheat gluten and putting it in the stand mixer with the bread hook for about five minutes.  I found that was a lot less frustrating than trying to knead a sticky (oops I mean tacky) dough by hand.  

I baked mine in my dutch oven in the oven on 425 with the lid on for 30 min. then with the lid off for another 20. When the loaf came out, it had amazing oven spring and was nice and tall.  Yay! It was also really moist and tasty.

As you can see, I'm not the kind of person to try to follow to the letter a recipe that doesn't work for me.  I'm interested to hear other people's observations.