The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Question for JMonkey

titus's picture

Question for JMonkey


I know you bake with whole wheat and, if my memory serves, you do not add vital wheat gluten to your bread.

How do you keep the bran from tearing up your gluten?

JMonkey's picture

Well, for starters, 100% whole wheat breads won't be quite as lofty as a white flour bread, so you'll need a bit more dough to get the same volume of bread. You just can't get around the bran.

I find that for a standard 8.5x4.5 loaf pan, I need about 1.75 lbs or 800 grams of dough to get a decent sized loaf.

Here's a few tricks, though, that will help:

  1. Knead the dough very well: For a standard 2-loaf recipe, you'll need to knead about 600 strokes or 20 minutes by hand. I can't tell you what you'd need for a stand mixer, though, because I don't have one.
  2. Use a biga or poolish if using commercial yeast: Helps with the rise (and flavor!)
  3. Soak the rest of the dough overnight with some salt: I try to keep about the same salt percentage and the same hydration as in the final the dough. If you don't salt it, it can get goopy. This develops the gluten so much, that all you really need to do is knead for 3-5 minutes until all the rest of the ingredients are incorporated. Makes it taste better too -- adds a depth of flavor that's kind of ... spicy?
  4. Use some butter or buttermilk: Dairy products help reinforce the gluten network, giving the air bubbles morre oomph to expand than they ordinarily would. If you add 1 Tbs of butter per loaf and substitute up to half of the liquid with buttermilk or even just plain milk, you'll see a difference in loff. In Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, there's a recipe for Featherpuff bread that uses cottage cheese, butter, and buttermilk (or milk, not sure). The size of the loaf is truly outrageous, though I found the taste a bit bland. Next time, I'll use a biga.
As soon as I finish my Desem experiment, I'll have a review of the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, but I can say with confidence that, whatever its flaws and shortcomings, there is no better resource out there right now (Peter Reinhart's forthcoming book will probably change the situation) for learning how to make light, good tasting 100% whole wheat bread.
gianfornaio's picture

It interests me that you mention that dairy products reinforce the gluten network-- I've heard that the addition of regular milk inhibits gluten formation for some chemical reason-- or maybe it was a yeast problem?

Unfortunately I can't remember where I read that, or I would offer better info-- it might have to do with lactic acid? I can't remember. I thought it might have been the yeast treatise on, but I don't think it was. Butter, of course, would be different because of the fat content.  


titus's picture

Thanks, JMonkey for the great tutorial!

I'm not so concerned about how lofty the loaf is or how "fluffy", as I prefer a more "toothy" feel.

My main concern has been how ripped up my dough is with the whole wheat flour here in Lux (this didn't happen when I lived in the US and UK). As an experiment, I've even tried sifting some of the bran out (which I don't want to do), but it didn't help.

Even the bigas I make are ripped up by the morning -- I guess I should use more liquid. My breadmaking has become totally deranged since moving to the continent and I haven't figured out a way to sort it out. I'm really starting to get discouraged.

Thanks again. I'll follow your directions and see what happens.

JMonkey's picture

Ah ... so you're in Lumembourg? Is that right? If so, your trouble is undoubtedly the flour. European flour is much lower in gluten than American flour, and I use the highest gluten whole wheat flour there is to use here in the states: Hard Red Spring Wheat.

My best suggestion would be to look around and see if you can find some higher gluten flour. 

On a seperate note, I do use a lot more water with whole wheat than I do with white. For sandwich loaves, I start at 75% hydration, which for white flour, would be a pretty wet ciabatta dough.