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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Orton's Wholegrain Wheat Bread No.2

Orton's Wholegrain Bread Experiment #2

Today I began the second recipe in Orton's book, but it is going to take a few days to complete.  It is a sourdough, and it requires a bit of time to build from scratch.  In the meantime, I had milled a bit too much flour, so I decided to try the first recipe over again to use it up.  The first recipe is a much quicker, straight-dough method.

The last time I made this bread, I wondered if the dough would stand up to being baked on a hot stone, without a pan (Orton suggests you can shape it as a round loaf, but ti is unclear whether she meant that you could bake it on a stone without a pan).  Today, I decided to bake it two different ways: 1) as a freestanding boule, and 2) in a casserole dish, a'la Lahey.  So the method of mixing the dough is the same, but the shaping and proofing is slightly different.

The ingredients are the same (again, I halved her recipe), except this time the yeast weighed 11g, changing its percentage slightly.
  • 60%        361g warm water
  • 1.8%        11g dry yeast (she calls for 2 pkts, and I used ABin5's measure of 1 1/2 Tbsp per 2 pkts, which measured 17g, and then halved that)
  • 0.5%        3g brown sugar
  • 8%        49g powdered milk
  • 100%    603g whole wheat flour
  • 7%        41g brown sugar
  • 1.3%        8g salt (I used a fine sea salt here, granule size like table salt)
  • 8%        50g olive oil

The dough came together nicely as before.  The unusual method of putting together the ingredients -- by dividing the flour mixes and adding things gradually, in the proper order -- means less work in the long run.  You add the oil just when the flour and water by themselves are getting too stiff to stir by hand; you add even more flour and continue to stir it in.  Then, just when you think no more can be added, by turning it out on the counter and kneading, a bit more flour goes in.  Finally, just at the precise moment you are thinking that no way is the last of the flour going to be incorporated, it grabs every crumb off the counter, and it is suddenly well kneaded. 

while the yeast is proofing, you gather the other ingredients

you take out 1/4 of the flour (1c here) and set it aside.  Then you divide the flour mixture in half.

One half of the flour mixture gets added to the wet yeast mixture.

the oil is added

then the second half of the flour mixture is added

finally you knead in the final cup of flour

You don't think that such a tight little ball of dough will ever double in size during the bulk fermentation, but it does, easily.  And then some!

this after 70 minutes of bulk fermentation
This time, I was less gentle following that initial bulk fermentation, and kneaded it again as per the instructions, before dividing (last time, I did a gentle folding).  I was also quite ruthless when I shaped my boules, trying to max out the gluten cloak structure of the outer skin, extra tight.  The balls, when they were placed in the baskets to proof, looked very tiny, and again I had my doubts whether they would double.

dough is turned out and kneaded

after kneading, divided

you can form really tight balls with this dough and the surface gluten doesn't pull apart: is the oil helping here?

before proofing

second boule shaped: no stress or stretch marks, and this ball is tight

second boule before proofing

the tight balls have doubled and are ready for the oven after 45 minutes.

This time, I put the baskets back in the Excalibur Dehydrator on the bread setting, and they proofed for 45 minutes, the last 30 minutes of which I preheated the oven.

Big Flop
Then I made a couple of errors.  The Big Flop came when I upended the basket onto the pizza peel, that I had pre-coated with some cracked wheat so it would slide off easier.  The dough deflated before my eyes.  Obviously, this was precisely the time when I should have been extra gentle with it.  Next time, I think I will put the cracked wheat or cornmeal on top of the dough, and put the pizza peel over the basket and turn over both peel and basket together, a lot more carefully.  The dough might survive intact if I take my time with it and don't bang it too hard.

the big flop

ouch: the free-standing loaf deflates a bit before going into the oven

The casserole dish I was using was too small, so that was the second error.  I flopped it in gently anyway, using the cloth the way Lahey suggests, and I managed to put the lid on it, barely. 

Neither loaf was scored.  I didn't think that was going to work in either case.

The loaves were baked at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, then I turned the temperature down to 350 degrees F.  After another 15 minutes, I removed the lid of the casserole dish, and the loaves baked for another 15 minutes like that.

I was impressed with the way the loaves looked at the point when I removed the lid of the casserole dish: the deflated loaf seemed to have puffed up at least part of the way again due to some oven spring, and the bread in the casserole dish seemed well-rounded and it hadn't blown apart, like so many of Lahey's loaves seem to do, with their oven spring.  Perhaps because it was so close to the lid, this dough was better contained?  At this stage, the loaves looked more like I had been using bread flour instead of wholegrain wheat.  They had that artisan tawny bread colour to them at that point, rather than the darker chestnut colour that a full baking time would bring.

I coated the tops with butter when they came out of the oven and were put on the rack.  It was at this point that they developed the dark, but soft crust that I was familiar with.  The one in the casserole dish is lighter because the top was not exposed to the hottest oven temperatures, nor for as long.

Buttered tops

As they dried and cooled, the butter left an interesting marble texture in the crust.

This dough seems to make a pretty darn good free-standing boule, and I think that I prefer it this way. 

It tastes great.  My wife will like this one with jam, I'm sure.  The butter that I used on the crust was salted butter, though, and the crust does have a salty taste.  I happen to like that, and it seems to counter-balance the sweetness of the bread itself, but others might prefer a less salty crust, and should use unsalted butter.

RambleI have to say, I'm singularly impressed with Orton's recipe.  I suppose that she arrived at these ingredients, amounts and methods by taking suggestions from other bakers (perhaps her mother and grandmother, an unbroken chain of ancestor bakers, or perhaps she received input from others in her community), but she has arrived at this perfection by her own experimentation.  The variables are endless, what she could have put in.  How she arrived at just this precise methodology and ingredients, must have taken many, many trials. 

Despite the fact that those unpublished trials doubtless existed, Mildred's husband and co-author, Vrest Orton, wrote in his introductory words this final suggestion and admonishment:
"Don't make cooking a science.  Adopt it as an art.  And be sure you consider another ingredient that is not mentioned anywhere in this book ... and make use of it often.  I refer to your wits." 
Vrest and Mildred Orton: shoulder to shoulder
They were quite a team, Vrest and Mildred.  They say behind every great man is a great woman: well, these two were both great, and they worked shoulder to shoulder.  Mildred Orton used her wits, in the kitchen and outside of it.  She and her husband raised a family and built a successful company, the Vermont Country Store.  According to her obituary, she died in 2010, at age 99.

As for this recipe, don't forget that Mildred Orton was working with double the amounts I have given here: when she baked, she had 4 loaves of bread at a time: the recipe advises freezing some of them immediately because they "dry out fairly quickly".  Yes, they do: so, why bake so many?  Even with just 2 loaves, as I have scaled her recipe to here, if my wife is not helping me eat this bread, they will stale before the last crust is consumed.  That tough crust goes to the chickens.

But the point I wanted to make: if you are hand-milling 8c of flour, that is a lot of work.  And if you are kneading by hand, that is a lot of work too.  Even if the oil and method of adding ingredients slowly is just to ease the burden of mixing, that is going to be significant.  At the risk of making cooking a science, I offer this suggestion as a rule:

The Baker's Maxim:
You don't want to expend more calories in making a loaf of bread than you do in eating it.

Notes to Myself
  • When transferring this dough from the proofing basket to the pizza peel, be very gentle with the loaf, it will deflate.  Try sprinkling cornmeal (or in this case, cracked wheat) to the top of the dough as it sits in the basket (the part that will ultimately be the bottom of the baked loaf).  Place the pizza peel on top of that, and gently invert everything, so that the dough doesn't have far to fall.
  • Scoring seems to be optional for this bread: why?  The surface doesn't blow apart like other loaves made this way, despite the oven spring: why not?  Is it the oil?  Why has she added the oil?  It makes it easier to knead, sure.  But how does it affect the bread's texture and taste?
  • The butter that is painted on the finished loaves changes the texture and the colour of the final loaf dramatically.  I didn't brush off the extra flour when I began to apply the butter, and noticed that it was leaving designs on the surface.  You can use this to make art on the crust: a new meaning to the term 'artisan bread'.  Try painting a picture in butter on bread...
  • Lots of questions about this loaf.  Why milk powder, why not just milk and cut back on the water the appropriate amount?  Why so much (why this much) oil?  Why the amounts of brown sugar?  I've been reading several pertinent chapters of a lot of different books to try to get an explanation for these things.  As often happens with things that I'm researching, there is never one definitive reason, and many of the reasons I am given are simply contradictory.  I want to know these answers, and I have so many questions.  I'm beginning to suspect that no one has a simple answer, because no one knows for sure.  I will need to conduct my own experiments and see what I can discover.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Orton's Wholegrain Wheat Bread

Orton's Wholegrain Wheat Bread

On a whim today, I purchased another whole grain recipe book (like I needed it).  This is not a new book, but rather, an old book, that has been reprinted in what looks like its 3rd incarnation.  This is Mildred Ellen Orton's "Cooking with Wholegrains: the Basic Wholegrain Cookbook", subtitled "How to make breads, rolls, cakes, scones, crackers, muffins, and desserts, using only stone-ground wholegrains".  Originally published 1951, it had a resurgence of interest in the 70's, and now has been republished again in 2010.  It is such a small book, I almost missed it, tucked away between many of the larger coffee-table sized books for artisan bread aficionados -- coffee table books that I myself had very little interest in.

The first recipe in the book -- after a quick introductory once-over that denigrates processed flours -- is a basic Wholegrain Wheat Bread, and I scaled it back to a 2-loaf version.  It uses "liquid shortening", and in the description of method, Mildred says you can use "butter, margarine or salad oil" in place of the liquid shortening. 

I looked at our can of shortening, hydrogenated to stay stiff at room temperature, that my wife uses to make pies with occasionally.  It is all fat, all of it saturated, some of it transfats, from palm and soybean oil, along with mono and dyglycerides.  It also contains a bit of ascorbic acid.

I opted to use olive oil instead.

Here are the weights I got, when I measured out a half-recipe (for 2 loaves), and the resultant percentages:

  • 60%        361g warm water
  • 1.5%        9g dry yeast (she calls for 2 pkts, and I used ABin5's measure of 1 1/2 Tbsp per 2 pkts, which measured 17g, and then halved that)
  • 0.5%        3g brown sugar
  • 8%        49g powdered milk
  • 100%    603g whole wheat flour
  • 7%        41g brown sugar
  • 1.3%        8g salt (I used a fine sea salt here, granule size like table salt)
  • 8%        50g olive oil

These older recipes usually have some twist to their methodology that tends to date them.  Even the words "punching down" that you encounter -- it is rarely used any more.  So its no surprise that the unusual thing about this recipe is the way the ingredients are put together:

    •    Dissolve the yeast and part of the sugar in the water, and let it foam.
    •    Mix 3/4 of the flour with the powdered milk, the rest of the sugar and the salt.
    •    Half of this is added to the yeast mixture and mixed thoroughly.
    •    Now the "liquid shortening" is added and mixed thoroughly.
    •    Then, the rest of the flour is added until you can't add any more in the bowl.
    •    Finally, the dough is kneaded to incorporate the last of the flour completely, until it is "firm but light".
    •    It is bulk fermented, covered, in a warm place (suggested in a warm oven).

    •    Then it is punched down, and kneaded again, and then divided.

    •    It is placed in a pan and proofed for 30 minutes.

    •    400 degrees F x 15 minutes, 350 degrees x 30 minutes.
    •    Removed immediately from the tins, then butter is placed atop the loaves.

Scaling the recipes might have made the dough slightly a little smaller for my two pans than the full 4-loaf original recipe might have been.  Or I simply didn't proof the loaves quite long enough.  Or I didn't knead the dough the second time, I just gently squished it down and then folded it and put it in the pan. 

Who knows why my loaves didn't rise quite large enough?  Still, they did rise a respectable amount, for the amount that I "punched them down".  Had I waited another 15 minutes, they surely would have cleared the pan.  Or had I put them back in my Excalibur for the final proof, they would have performed as the recipe expected.  Next time, perhaps.

But I was under some deadlines.  I had to get to sleep, in order to wake up at 5 to get to work.  I couldn't work much past midnight.  So I stuck to the times indicated in the recipe.

This bread came from the oven a rich chestnut brown, which was intensified by putting the butter on top.  I did have some trouble de-panning the loaves, and I think that is because I used olive oil on the tins, instead of butter. They came free with a little prying.

The next morning, I sliced one.  I noticed how light the loaf felt, when I lifted it.  Loaves this small generally are dense, but this one felt airy.  The crumb was moist inside.  I was able to slice it thinly, without it crumbling apart.  Very interesting.  Was that due to the addition of the oil here?

The taste is a bit sweeter than I like, but I think my wife will like it much better than yesterday's fenugreek bread, which I will be forced to eat entirely on my own.  Without having any molasses, this loaf has that 'old bread' taste about it that reminds me of molasses.  Perhaps that is the effect of the coarse brown sugar I used.

A bread that shows real promise.

Notes to Myself

  • Do the final 30 minute proof under controlled, warm conditions, as in the Excalibur Dehydrator.
  • Follow the directions for putting the ingredients together carefully. You don't believe it makes much difference, but it certainly does.
  • Try this with fresh ground whole wheat berries, milled fine. That is the wholegrain point.
  • Butter the tins, don't use olive oil here, the loaves will stick.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hooda and Jood's Fenugreek Whole Wheat Bread

 Hooda and Jood's Fenugreek Whole Wheat Bread

"Organoleptic": involving a sense organ
When he was younger than two years old, and soaking everything about the world in through his senses, I would sometimes lift my son and carry him to the spice cupboard, to smell every herb and spice we used then for cooking.  "Cinnamon" I would say as he sniffed the tiny bottles or bags full of aromatics.  "Cardomon.  Ginger.  Oregano.  Rosemary."  He quickly learned to associate the scents with the names.

Likely somewhere in your experience, you too have gained familiarity with these scents, and the names of these very common kitchen spices.  But there are other spices that are a little bit more uncommon, and the name does not immediately conjure up the scent or the taste from most western kitchens.

One of these spices that remains somewhat uncommon to North American households is Fenugreek.  It does appear as a constituent of some curries, but it would be difficult for someone unfamiliar with its flavour and its scent to pick it out of a curry lineup (which may also contain onions, ginger, garlic, turmeric, paprika and other ingredients) and say with certainty, "that is fenugreek."  Both the leaves and the seeds are used for flavouring.  Here I am considering only the seed.

Personally, when I take a small mouthful of Fenugreek seed, I taste legumes.  But fenugreek also has the familiarity of curry.  Food chemists say that Sotolon is the ingredient in fenugreek that gives it its flavour note -- "caramel-like at low concentration levels to currylike at high concentrations", but may interact with other ingredients to appear "burnt, spicy"  (Marsili: Sensory-directed flavour analysis).  According to the Dictionary of Food Ingredients, fenugreek has a "maple-like flavour and burnt sugar taste," and for this reason it is used not only in curry but also in "imitation maple flavour, chutney and pickles."  Unless you've tasted it directly, it is difficult to describe.  It is a unique spice that deserves to be more widely known.

The Fenugreek Bread
My decision to make it into a bread had everything to do with an article that I found from "Nutrition and Food Science: 2005; 35, 3/4, by Shalini Hooda and Sudesh Jood, entitled "Effect of fenugreek flour blending on physical, organoleptic and chemical characteristics of wheat bread".  Ever since reading the article, I'd wanted to try to make it.

I did not know at the time that India already has a bread called Khakhra made with beans and wheat and fenugreek leaves (Kasoori methi).  I suppose that this bread is nothing like Khakhra.

Hooda and Jood's bread uses fenugreek seeds, and is designed to improve wheat's ability to deliver balanced protein for the human diet. Fenugreek contains lots of Lysine, the protein that is the main delimiting amino acid in wheat.  Fenugreek seeds are also said to contain good amounts of Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Manganese, and Selenium.  Fenugreek supplements also are said to lower the insulin spike following a carbohydrate meal -- so fenugreek begins to sound like it might be ideal for a health bread. 

From Hooda and Jood's article, I took the message that anything over 15% fenugreek seed flour in the recipe would neither be pleasing to the eye or tastebuds.  However, I simply ground up my fenugreek seeds (and probably not finely enough); Hooda and Jood suggested that soaking, germinating and grinding the seeds improved the seed's acceptability among consumers.  I didn't have the time to germinate the seeds, so this bread is actually Hooda and Jood's least favourite form of the healthgiving bread recipe.  But if it shows promise, I might consider sprouting some next time I try this.

Ingredients based on Hooda & Jood's Pup Loaves:
  • 100% whole wheat flour 460g
  • 3.5% yeast 16g (Note: I changed this and only used 9g)
  • 1.75% salt 8g
  • 8% honey 37g
  • 70g water 322g
  • 15% fenugreek 69g

Method based on AACC Straight Dough Method, revised by me on the fly:
  • Grind up the fenugreek (I should have milled it finer, here I just ran it through my coffee grinder)

  • Mix all ingredients.  (It takes some kneading to get it all incorporated.  The freshly ground fenugreek smells interesting!)

  • Bulk ferment 90 minutes in warm Excalibur Dehydrator on bread setting

  • Turn it out on a counter and fold it gently, then form a boule.  The dough is not that elastic, and it tends to break if you bend it too much.

  • Proof 45 minutes

  • Score and spritz; then bake on a stone 40 minutes at 415 degrees F on a hot stone with steam


The bread, when it was cooking, smelled very interesting, but the bread did not proof well, and had little oven spring.  The gluten of the whole wheat wanted to tear easily when it contained 15% fenugreek.  The loaf is small.  Gentler handling would have been warranted.  No-knead styles of baking and handling might benefit breads made with this much fenugreek.

I let this loaf sit out over night on the table, and noted that it still retained an interesting and I'll say pleasant aroma in the morning.  I sliced it open, and the scent predominated.

This is a tight-crumbed bread, takes some work to chew, but it is quite pleasant tasting.  It is fenugreek flavoured, to be sure, but unless one is familiar with that flavour, that describes very little.  This is a bread that needs to be taste-tested.

The cat became quite interested in what I was doing when I was slicing up this bread and photographing it.  I suspect it had a little to do with the scent of the loaf but more to do with the cat's own curious nature -- he wanted to see what I was up to.  He had just come in from his nocturnal journeys, and he wanted some attention.  He wanted me to pet him while he ate his breakfast, so he could warm up and get outside again.  When I was more interested in the bread, he photobombed a few of the shots.

Notes to Myself
  • This is a most interesting tasting, gently scented bread that deserves more experimentation.
  • Try adding more water, bringing the hydration level to 75% next time.
  • Try a no-knead technique, like Lahey's long bulk fermentation, and use a gentle handling of the dough.
  • Mill the fenugreek seeds, don't just grind them.  The finer they are, the better chance the bread will behave as a bread, and give an adequate rise.
  • Better yet: germinate the seeds, and then dry them and grind them up.  Some of fenugreek's enzymes have been studied extensively and found to be of immense importance, but they are released when the seeds are germinated.  Try sprouting the fenugreek 48 hours, like Hooda and Jood suggest.
  • What if you used maple-syrup as a sweetener, instead of honey?  Would the "maple-like" qualities of the fenugreek be enhanced?