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Exploring Gluten Development with 100% Whole Grains

mdw's picture
mdw

Exploring Gluten Development with 100% Whole Grains

This is a continuation of my ongoing experimentation with my family's daily bread. I first posted about this here and with this loaf I applied some theories I had been considering regarding the development of gluten. Inspired by these comments by Mariana and by watching old videos of Richard Bertinet (this one I particularly enjoy) I've been considering the idea that I haven't been developing the gluten as much as I could be. I'm not unhappy with how our bread normally comes out, I'm just always tinkering and enjoy applying theory into practice. My normal methodology is to autolyze for a set amount of time, typically three hours (although I have played with Trevor's salted and chilled overnight method) and to use Rubaud for initial development. I then switch to coil folds over stretching, I believe the action although gentle is in line with what happens during Bertinet's slap and folding, which seems to include plenty of stretching as well. Lamination seems to apply similar effects, but I've only tried that a few times so far. 

So this time I tried slap and folds. And a lot of them. Which seems particularly challenging with 100% whole grain. I spent about an hour doing this to see what would happen if I just kept going. I wet my hands so many times I probably raised the hydration by about 10% from the original 80%, if not more. The dough would at times come together relatively nicely but nowhere like the soft squishy balls Bertinet likes to tap when he's done. They'd come together but then I'd lose it a little, re-wet my hands, and keep going. At the end of the night I had sticky wet mess that left bits of dough everywhere and didn't maintain pre-shape on the bench for more than a minute or two. I stitched it as well as I could and plopped it in the banneton for short proof and a 5 hour cold retard. 

It also overproofed slightly, which isn't unusual for me (I shoot for 100% rise before retard). But the significant increase in hydration likely contributed to that as well. Before baking I was prepared to write this one off as loss but I was pleasantly surprised when I cut into it. It's definitely flat from the lack of tension and too much water, and slightly over fermented as well. But it's definitely tender and moist and it still tasted great. I would say that this particular experiment successfully failed and my typical methods are best suited for what I like to achieve.

The formula was:

  • 100% Heirloom French Renan
  • 80% H20 (plus was too much more)
  • 7% PFF
  • 2% Salt

 

Comments

headupinclouds's picture
headupinclouds

Thanks again for sharing your experience with your own daily "brown bread".  I've also been curious about how best practice gluten development extends to whole grain dough.  When I use slap and folds for 100% wheat at around 80% hydration, my sense is the dough is slightly too stiff for this practice and it leads to what I can best describe as "fraying", and I'm curious whether it is doing more harm than good.

I find a cool salted overnight autolyse (a "soaker" in Peter Reinhart's books, or a "pre-dough" for Trevor Wilson) is very beneficial for passive gluten development, and very little active work is required to organize or layer the gluten after mixing.  I keep coming back to this section from Whole Grain Breads:

One of my favorite whole grain bread books, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, contains pages and pages of useful information, but the thing I remember most from it is the instruction to knead dough for at least six hundred strokes.  ... The good news is that the delayed fermentation method significantly decreases the kneading time because the long overnight resting period (the autolyse) allows both the gluten and the flavor to develop in advance.

The post you shared by Mariana does have me revisiting whether some kind of "beyond window pane" kneading might be possible and applicable for whole grains -- at least in some cases.

TFL'er Abe posted THIS ARTICLE from Teresa Greenway, of Northwest Sourdough, about harmful effects of an extended autolyse (sans salt), which are exacerbated in the case of whole wheat.  I found it to be an interesting post, and am not suggesting your are over-autolysing.  After realizing the salted autolyse is used consistently by both Trevor Wilson and Peter Reinhart, I've been using the approach consistently in my bakes, although I haven't done any focused comparisons.

Where do you source your Heirloom French Renan?  I'm home milling and am also currently baking a daily brown bread (desem).  Since you seem to be posting your bakes regularly, I'm inclined to pick up some wheat berries to compare and contrast baking approaches (there are relatively few whole grain bakers posting here).  It would be interesting if a few people used the same wheat for whole grain bakes in something like a mini community bake focusing on the same wheat, since whole grain baking poses it's own set of challenges and it is relatively difficult for us home bakers to get to all of the "experiments" we would like to.

mdw's picture
mdw

"Fraying" seems like a good way to describe it. This was why I kept wetting my hands over and over. Regarding extended autolyse, until now I haven't been convinced that I've experienced the negative effects of proteolysis. I'm not sure that I did in this case either but I do think I've now experienced the results of overworking it in some capacity. The results would have been different without the excess water but I'm sure I still would not be able to achieve the extreme windowpane.

In any event, I've really been enjoying your desem posts. They're part of the reason I decided to start posting my bakes in the first place. Aside from some mention by Debra Wink in the archives here it wasn't until your updates that I started to consider what that actually was. From my limited understanding it feels very similar to what I'm doing. I like to bulk longer and cooler than most, and am considering the use of my cellar below the house for this purpose. I put a thermometer down there and it always seems to say 59°F, regardless of outdoor temperature. I have not checked in the middle of the night though when outdoor temperatures get cold enough for frost occasionally (Southern California). I'd be very supportive of a whole grain community bake, that sounds fun to me. I do not mill though unfortunately, this Renan came from Grist & Toll and I believe was grown by Pleasant Grove Farms. Aside from that I'd be happy to source similar grains for similar projects. 

headupinclouds's picture
headupinclouds

but I'm sure I still would not be able to achieve the extreme windowpane.

Have you tried sifting and processing the bran + middlings (via scald or as starter food) for reinclusion after initial gluten development?  That seems to be a feasible candidate for these experiments.   I have seen the sift-and-feed practice adopted by a number TFL'ers (dabrowman is a frequenty proponent of this).  I have read claims that it improves digestibility and reduces detrimental effects on gluten development, but haven't come across any controlled experiments exploring this.  The few times I sifted with a #60 mesh I recall the passive gluten development in the overnight soaker was very advanced.  I ordered a set of stackable 30 cm sieves (#30, #40, #50) several weeks ago after feedback from THIS THREAD and they finally arrived tonight, so I plan to do some experiments now that I seem to be on a better path with the desem.

I'm glad you enjoy the desem thread.  It is clearly a learning process for me, and it mostly severs a notebook for my observations  There were a number of folks on TFL making desem regularly a number of years ago, including Debra, and she was kind enough to provide some clarification on the goals and underlying principles in THIS POST.

I like to bulk longer and cooler than most, and am considering the use of my cellar below the house for this purpose

You seem to have an ideal environment for maintaining a desem starter and sourdough baking in general.  As described in that link, the goal is to nurture a stiff whole wheat starter at low temperatures that can then enable a quick room temperature bulk fermentation and warm final proof to produce a mild whole wheat flavor.  Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book references a seven hour end to end process (including the bake).  My starter is finally in that ballpark (it just so happened to take 6 hours and 52 minutes this morning).

I'd be very supportive of a whole grain community bake, that sounds fun to me

Me too, although it might not have very wide appeal.  I was thinking of something fairly informal, and the French Renan caught my attention.  Since the single wheat flours vary so wildly in behavior, it would be interesting to share a common grain between a few different bakers (or at least two).  I'll look into Peasant Grove Farms.

mdw's picture
mdw

Have you tried sifting and processing the bran + middlings (via scald or as starter food) for reinclusion after initial gluten development?

I have not. I've considered it and gone as far as sifting a small percentage of the overall flour. But my sense at the time was that it felt contrary to my desire for maximum results with minimal effort. I have some intellectual curiosity with this but ultimately would prefer to keep things simple. 

I'm glad you linked to that conversation with Debra, I had seen it before but not with the context I have now. I still haven't been able to fully digest most of it, but my impression based on this and my past research of her content leads me to believe our starters adapt to the environment. This is no revelation, but applied to the context of desem it seems like you're creating supercharged yeast. I've long maintained my starter at room temps at or below 70℉ and have had no issues with doubling or tripling in about 8 hours or so with a 1:5:5 feed. I don't believe that's "normal", but is true because of the adaptation to the environment. It seems like you're applying an extension of the same principles here. I still don't know much about desem, but it feels like the flavor profile is likely the result and not the goal, of a system that was created naturally. Many people probably underestimate the effect their maintenance routines have on their starters (how could you not? It's microscopic!), but often perform them for ease of repeatability rather than a higher understanding of the science applied. I'm generalizing of course, and essentially touching on evolution at large. But what you're doing is very interesting to me at the moment and I would like to explore this further with my own cultures. 

_JC_'s picture
_JC_

A very good read, Trevor and Bertinet are amazing! I have to try that overnight salted and chilled. Done something similar but did Autolyse in the fridge overnight. Thanks for sharing!

Benito's picture
Benito

I’ve coined the term saltolyse to simplify the salted autolyse.  I haven’t used it on a 100% whole grain loaf but have been using it for months now to great effect and also convenience while also doing an overnight levain build.

mdw's picture
mdw

I'm curious if you find benefits beyond the convenience of "setting and forgetting". I've tried it but not explored whether there are any physical advantages over something more conventional. I've been working with the theory that because salt inhibits the formation of gluten it's easier to develop it first, so I often add the salt last after thoroughly mixing in the starter. I suspect the degree of convenience to the individual baker is more significant than any variation in physical effects though.

Benito's picture
Benito

I find that I do get all the benefits of a more conventional autolyse.  So fully hydrated flour, time for amylase to start working to create sugars for the microbes and a chance for the gluten to start fermenting.

mdw's picture
mdw

I was wondering if you thought there might be more benefits than the conventional methods (sorry if that wasn't clear). My experience has been that it's certainly comparable and the difference comes down to personal preferences and scheduling. 

Benito's picture
Benito

Oh I see, no I haven’t seen any apparent extra benefits from the saltolyse, just the convenience and the usual autolyse benefits.  At least if there are any I’m not astute enough to notice them.

suminandi's picture
suminandi

Hi Benny, 

There definitely can be benefits to using long salt soak over long true autolyse - it inhibits proteolysis. See the discussion here: https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/66709/100-whole-red-fife-sourdough-loaf. 

Sumita

Benito's picture
Benito

Sumita, thanks for reminding me of your post and that wonderful 100% whole red fife bread you baked.

headupinclouds's picture
headupinclouds

That was a helpful post and a beautiful looking loaf.  You mentioned mixing spelt with your hard red spring wheat.  This one has been on my list, but I haven't tried it yet.  I have seen this can be somewhat of a "secret ingredient" for improving extensibility in open crumb breads.  What is your experience with using it in whole grain baking?

mdw's picture
mdw

This was one of my earlier experiments trying to develop gluten with whole grains a few weeks ago. I used a stand mixer to mix this one. I noticed that Kristen of FPB does this (YouTube video) but made no mention of why. I reached out to her and she kindly replied, but said its only purpose was to ensure the dough was fully mixed before pulling off a piece for the aliquot.

This loaf was made with a Hard Red (WB9229) at 85% hydration, which I knew from experience is too high to maintain the structure I like. But I went for it anyway hoping improvement in gluten would compensate. There was a three hour autolyse, followed by four minutes on "stir", then four minutes on "1" on the KitchenAid Artisan. The dough was slightly sticky at this point and I rounded it off and covered for bulk. I performed a single S&F about two hours in and the total time between inoculation and pre-shape was 8.25 hours at 70℉ and 5% pre-fermented flour. A 45min final proof was followed by 5 hours in the fridge. 

Overall I saw no improvement over my standard methods, and using the KA turned out to be more trouble than it's worth. The dough hook for the Artisan model is not very effective, as I'm sure many here already know. At this point I think that my theories on gluten development have been based on methodology that typically include commercial yeast and much shorter fermentation periods. The gluten may be maximized by the time longer, naturally leavened fermentation ends anyway.