I'm a new member here and have come out of desperation! :)
I've been baking 100% whole wheat bread for a little over a year now, and have recently been getting very flat, dense doorstops instead of nice light loaves of bread. If I remember correctly, all winter my loaves were fine and delicious. Then summer came and none of them rise very much for the final rise, they are dense, and dry out very fast.
I tried reducing the amount of water since humidity levels were higher, and that helped a little bit. I tried kneading more to develop more gluten. That didn't seem to do anything. (I had been using store brand soft white wheat because of budget considerations.)
Then we were able to purchase a grain mill and a bag of soft white wheat berries. I tried making a loaf with this, and it was even more dense and heavy than any of my previous loaves! I called my mother-in-law who grinds her own wheat and she suggested adding gluten since the bran in the fresh-ground wheat will slice up the gluten created by kneading. I tried that just yesterday and the result is a little better, but still not very appealing for sandwich bread.
As far as my recipe goes, I actually got it from a forum on this site a year ago, but I don't want to go back and find it--it was buried deep in a topic somewhere :) It makes three loaves at a time, so I thirded it to get just one loaf for my husband and me. Here is what I do:
1 tsp yeast
1 c water
I put the spoon in my bowl and go around it 3 times with the honey bottle (I got sick of washing honey out of a measuring cup! It's about 1/6 cup)
Stir until honey is dissolved.
Stir in 1 cup of flour.
Let sit in warm oven for 1 hour.
Rest of dough:
Add almost 1 cup of flour, 1/6 c oil, and 3/4 tsp salt. Stir hard. (I also add 1 T gluten here.)
Add almost 1 cup of flour again, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and looks like I could knead it without losing half of it sticking to my hands.
Knead about 5 minutes; return to bowl and let rise in warm oven 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.
Shape into loaf, put in loaf pan, let rise 45 more minutes. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes.
Now, I know this is a far cry from overnight soakers and bigas and sourdoughs and all the other artisan bread techniques that I've read about here. But I'm not looking for an artisan bread--just a nice, basic, healthier-than-white-bread type of sandwich bread so I can control the ingredients that go into it.
Does anyone have any suggestions for how I can tweak this recipe to achieve my nice loaves of last winter? Or is there another recipe that's more fail-safe? I really appreciate any help you can give!!!!! :)