All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Experiments with Real Whole Wheat

Experiments with Real Whole Wheat

Not sure what this experiment was all about, now that it is over.  Perhaps it started off experimenting with some household tools, but it ended off with an experiment in taste.

Recently I purchased a couple of old hand-crank coffee grinders for $30, thinking that they might be used to grind up some grains of various kinds.  I hadn't used them for several weeks, they were just sitting in our den taking up space.  But when I awoke today, I decided to just go ahead and see if they would grind up some whole grain wheat berries that I had on hand.

Indeed they did.  And they grind it pretty quickly -- the only trouble being the tiny box is sometimes difficult to hold onto as you turn the handle.  But it is able to grind maybe half a cup or so of grains fairly rapidly.

Then I became curious about the various sieves that we have in our kitchen.  What if I ran this freshly milled flour through a sieve, to see what proportion of flour to bran is achieved by "bolting" it with my on-hand household implements?

[Why would I want to know this? Well, I have several recipes for miches, most notably Reinhart's version of Poilane's Miche (from the Bread Baker's Apprentice) that calls for a whole wheat flour that is sifted to a 90-95 percent extraction of bran.  I have never made this bread because I didn't know if I could do it with what I have on hand.  Would I require a special sieve, I wanted to know.]

I performed this experiment a couple of times, and discovered that you could pretty much stop whenever you wanted -- the larger pieces of bran will be left in the sieve, but you can keep shaking and make more of them, probably ultimately all of them, if you shake it long enough, will go through.  So, for example, the first time I did it I got 4 g of bran and germ; the second time I did it, I stopped at 6 g of bran and germ.

The other day I read somewhere (was it the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book?) that there are over 200% of the natural yeasts on the whole grains, as opposed to a store-bought flour, so if one is making a sourdough, it would be beneficial to start with the whole grain and grind your own flour to get these starters going.  It occurred to me that my own sourdough starters might benefit from a boost like this, and the next time I refreshed them, I would indeed use only freshly milled flour to see what might happen.

I then decided I would perform yet another experiment, and I mixed up an equal amount of water by weight to the bolted flour, to see if some gluten would develop.  I had 75g each of water and flour, and mixed it thoroughly.  A bit of gluten did develop as I kneaded it for a short time in the bowl, but really 100% hydration is a bit too wet to develop a dough.  What I had instead was more like porridge.

Then I added the bran and germ that I had removed, back into the mixture.  Now I had 81g of flour to 75g of water (rounded off, this is about 93% hydration).  The bran soaked up a lot of the water, and although the gluten would not further develop, I was able to make a loose dough.  The scent of the newly milled grain soaking in water was interesting: one associates this with the scent of wet bran.  And when I nibbled a bit of it, it reminded me of oatmeal.  I had  in fact, made a paste of wheat meal.

I then decided that I would fry it in some butter like a pancake or flapjack, and eat it.  No salt (except what was in the butter) was added.  I'd hesitate to call it a bread.  It is not even a flatbread, in my opinion.  It is really little more than a fried porridge or fried meal.  But it occurred to me that many cultures world-wide have started with something this simple, and evolved it into something which they have named and made unique.

I just heated it on one side, flipped it, and heated it on the other.

The taste was still a little like oatmeal, perhaps a bit nuttier.  There is a cleanness to the taste, that I can't describe: I assume that this is the germ hitting the tastebuds with no oxidation or rancidity, something one rarely experiences anymore when one doesn't grind one's own flour.

Pretty bland stuff, though.  I put some homemade jam on it and ate it as a mid-day meal or snack.

Notes to Myself:
  • Weigh some grain before grinding it and then seive off 5% of that weight -- it will be bran and germ that remains in the sieve.  Use this to make a Poilane-style miche.
  • Grind your own grain into flour to refresh your sourdough -- that is what Poilane did, and he should know.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Everyday Bread: 70 Percent Rye Sourdough Hearth Bread

70 Percent plus Rye Sourdough Hearth Bread

This is not exactly a 70 percent rye, with 30 percent whole wheat; it also includes a lot of rye in the sourdough starter.  I could figure out the ratio, but who cares?  I am using the same old recipe for the tinned loaves I've been making, the only difference here is that part of the flour I am working into the final dough is some whole wheat.

I start with the Rye Starter; this one is at about 70 percent hydration.  I consider that to be 92.7% of the total flour I will use, and after weighing the starter, I calculate the amount of flour to be 100%.  

Formula:  Assume the weight of your starter is n.  n X 100 / 92.7 = w, where w is the weight of the total flour.

In this case, my starter weighed 598g.  So:       59800 / 92.7 = 645g.

I wanted to have about 30% of this total flour weight to be whole wheat, the rest to be rye flour.  So if 645g is 100%, then 30% is going to be 194g, and the rye at 70% will be 452g.  Yes, I said I didn't care how much flour was in the starter today.

The water is supposed to be 85.4% of this total flour, but since the thing is too wet for a hearth loaf, I will try backing this off by 5 % next time, and each time hereafter until I get a consistency that actually holds together on a hot stone.

Here is the latest whole recipe in a nutshell:

  • Ingredients:
    • Rye Starter 92.7% (598g)
    • Flour 100% (645g; 452g was dark rye, 194g whole wheat)
    • Yeast 1% (4g)
    • Salt 2% (13g)
    • Water 85.4% (551g)
  • Method:
    • Mix all the ingredients together with your hands and shape to a basket-sized lump.  Place in a couche-lined basket that is liberally sprinkled with some multi-grain flour.
    • Let rise min 2 hours, max 6.  You are looking for some expansion, but not a doubling in size.
    • Dock dough, then turn it over onto a hot stone and Bake at 450 degrees F for 65 minutes with steam.

I was hoping that this dough would hold together more, and retain its height, but it sagged a lot.  Would cutting down on the hydration help?  Would kneading it help?  I very nearly tried putting it in a bread machine and letting it knead for a while.  But I decided against it, and just floured a couche in a basket and after letting it rest for about 2 1/2 hours, I docked it, turned it out onto a hot stone, and baked it for 65 minutes at 450 degrees F with a bit of steam in the beginning.

Bread and 2 Goldfish that we saved from the pond yesterday before it freezes

The crust of this dark rye loaf is very hard and difficult to cut: it should keep out anyone but the very determined. But those who, like myself, are very determined, will find that this bread is very tasty.  It does have a mild sourdough scent, but there is no sourness in the taste.  I ate some with a Gouda cheese the morning after baking it, and it was very nice without being toasted.  I also toasted some to see how it would hold up under those conditions, and it was fine.  There is a lot of wheat on the surface of the crust, left over from sitting in the couche, and I really should shake some off outside, as otherwise it gets all over the slices that I cut.

Although I like the way this loaf tastes, and even how the crumb looks, my big complaint is that this loaf, as so many others that I bake, has sagged rather than plumped in the oven.  This happens to all of these highly hydrated loaves when they are baked freeform, i.e., not in a tin or some other container.  If they would just retain their shape on a hot stone, I would be a happy home baker.

Notes to Myself
  • Try 80% hydration next time for a hearth loaf.  And if that is too saggy, next try 75%.  Then 70%.  Etc. until you find the right hydration.
  • Try kneading this in a bread machine for a cycle before putting it in the basket to rise.
  • Let it rise more than 2 hours, but less than 6.
  • Does the old rule apply when making a rye bread that is not 100% (i.e. let it sit until cracks form in the surface)?

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buns

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buns

Even though I wasn't happy with the way Reinhart's WW Cinnamon Raisin Bread turned out for me, the first time I made it, rather than make it again right away I've decided to move to the next recipe in the book.  The recipe is similar -- a whole wheat cinnamon bun recipe.  They smell great while baking, and they taste fine.  My wife wants raisins in them, the next time I make them.

The Soaker:

These ingredients are mixed and set aside for 12-24 hours.  This soaker of mine sat out for 22 hours.

The Biga:

These ingredients are kneaded briefly. I used the yogurt option.

Final Dough:

I have to confess and say that this is the first time I have ever followed the instructions of the recipe when it advises us to roll the 12 pieces of the soaker and 12 pieces of the biga in EXTRA whole wheat flour.  In the past, I have just rolled it in the flour that is included in the final dough ingredients.  It just occurred to me this time that it might make a small difference.  I used to be afraid that it might add too much flour to the recipe and turn out too dry.  Well, it did not.  In fact, next time I make this, I'll be cutting down on the hydration.

My dough took a bit longer than 60 minutes to achieve this size; whether it is actually 1 1/2 x the original, you be the judge.  Did it over-proof?

The Cinnamon Sugar

This is a lot of sugar.  To my mind, this totally eliminates any goodness one might derive from making a whole wheat version of these buns.  The sugar is going to give you that glycemic-insulin response (rather than the more subtle exorphin-rush that I am looking for!), and your body will ultimately suffer.  I would definitely cut this by half at least, next time I make it.

This dough was very difficult to roll up, because it was so wet.  It would not hold together even though I pinched it shut.  Therefore, I suppose it ought to be drier.

A lot of the sugar didn't make it, when I transferred the rolls to the tray.  There is just too much!

Before Baking

After Baking

The buns I made look nothing like the ones Reinhart has in his book.  Mine are so much flatter; I feel that mine must therefore be wetter.


I used the vanilla option.  Suspecting that, as I have often found, Reinhart likes to use more sugar than I care for, I cut the amount in half for the glaze, and there was still enough for me to drizzle on top.  Of course, not only do my buns look nothing like his, my glaze looks nothing like his either: I am sure that his glaze contains yet more sugar than he even advises in his recipe, or it just wouldn't drip like it seems to, in his picture; or it wouldn't be so white.

Anyway, despite my railing against the extra sugar of this recipe, these are excellent cinnamon buns.  Not, for me, the "ultimate comfort food" as Reinhart would have it.  But tasty enough.

Bite me.

Lots of people would like these.  These would be a nice treat for my coworkers, probably, if I could cut back the simple carbs a bit so that they would eat it.

Notes to Myself
  • Cut back on the hydration, next time you make this.  What if you just left out the honey?  Or half of the honey and half of the butter?
  • At your wife's request, add a few raisins when you put on the cinnamon sugar.
  • Use only about 50-75 percent of the sugar that is in the cinnamon sugar.
  • Use the string technique of cutting, rather than smunching the dough log down by using a pastry cutter.
  • If you are going to the trouble of making this again, double the batch and give some of the buns away to your co-workers.