Wolter & Teubner's Wheat Germ Bread:
try, try again
I don't really need any bread right now, fast on the heels of our bread-baking course, where my wife and I brought home more bread than we could use, freeze, or give away. But what I really required was the answer to a nagging question: was I right in the fact that I had used too much yeast last time I made this bread, or was one of the commentators on my blog correct in saying my dough was over-hydrated?
So I tried the recipe again, this time adding only 10g of yeast. But I also took what he said into consideration.
Recap of the bread:
The yeast is proofed in water and honey, more honey and oil is added, and then the wet mixture is added to half of the flour (with salt), for 30 minutes.
At this point, the dough is not even dough, it is a wet batter-like consistency, at about 160% hydration. After 30 minutes, it becomes a bit spongey.
Rant on the Crafts of Artisan Bread Making, Writing, and Teaching
I'd like to stop here and point out that making bread is a craft and an art. It is difficult to describe in words how dough should feel or perform. If all you are given is a two-word description (e.g. "smooth", "elastic"), how is a novice supposed to gauge this? Now there are other crafts and arts that will help this: one is the writer's craft and art: a good writer will be able to tell us, in more words no doubt, precisely how this dough should be. Still, there is absolutely no substitute for yet another craft and art, and that is the teacher. Only a teacher can provide you with some hands-on commentary, only a teacher in a classroom setting can give you the actual feel of the dough, only a teacher can be asked questions directly to get personal replies. So that is why I have several books on bread, but that is also why, despite a couple of years of baking bread in my home kitchen, and testing various recipes, there is still value in taking a course on bread baking.
How rare is it to be able to find someone who can actually bake a good loaf of bread, can articulate in words the process, and can teach you using hands-on methods?
Unfortunately for me, my teacher did not give us any whole grain bread recipes. And I have learned on my own that whole grain dough does not act or feel the same as the ones that use bread flour, hard wheat flour, high protein flour, all-purpose flour, strong flour, or whatever term you want to use to describe a flour that is processed and has most of the bran and germ removed.
Most artisan bread makers will make a whole grain bread, but rarely is it actually entirely 100% whole grain. If it is, they might elaborate the dough with conditioners, or extra protein, to make it seem more like the white breads that most people apparently prefer and demand. I say most people, but I'm not most people. Frankly, I don't like those breads. So when I go to a bakery (and there are very few artisan bakeries near me -- they are so few and so far away from me, I might as well say there are virtually none) I find none of the breads I want. That is one of the reasons why I have been compelled to try to bake my own bread. Is it a failure of the artisan bakeries to bake loaves that I like? Perhaps, but more likely it is just that my tastes in bread are not widely marketable. Not everyone is going to like the breads I want to make (probably very few people, in fact. Even in my own household, I can't even get my wife to try some of my bread. She is the one who first recited the rhyme to me, "The whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead". But she still eats and often prefers a starchy white-flour loaf).
So where to find a writer/teacher who can actually tell me/show me how my dough is supposed to feel and perform? Nowhere. Such teachers are few and far between -- for me, even more rare than an artisan bakery -- and it would be extremely rare to find one that knows the precise thing I am trying to find out. The best I can do, I think, is just to try different things, and keep experimenting until I get a bread that works. That is what this blog seems to be moving toward.
In the absence of good direction, I am going to trial many things, and not all of them are going to work out. Some of them are going to be pure blunders, like the last time I made this loaf.
Okay, end of rant. Back to the bread at hand.
This dough felt different this time. First of all, 10g of yeast was enough, may even have been too much still. I am beginning to wonder if I had used a quarter of the amount of yeast and just left it longer (say, overnight), would it have worked as well or better?
Still, the final dough remained wet, and I heeded the insight of Peter Alexander, who offered a critique to my latest failure to make this bread, and while kneading I incorporated a bit of extra flour. How much, is hard to say. Perhaps it was as much as 1/2 a cup, but I feel that it was somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 cup. I kneaded and added it to the dough until it wasn't sticking to my hand. But I also used a bit of water on my hands to keep it from sticking every so often. So how much extra flour, and how much extra water got incorporated, it is difficult to say.
The dough in its wettest and stickiest form (before I kneaded anything extra into it) is already "smooth" but hardly "elastic". It is simply too gooey for that second adjective. Incorporating more flour made it less smooth. Now, the dough coming from the Excalibur proofer is warm to the touch, and this adds to the gooeyness when you try to knead it. The water on the hands actually cools the dough a bit where you touch it, and that seems to help me to add some elasticity. Eventually, I got to the point where the dough no longer wanted to blob onto the counter, but seemed to retain its shape somewhat. It wasn't sticking to my hands any more. I don't think it was truly ever elastic, however. But it was at that point -- when the dough had "some" elasticity, and it was no longer sticking to my hands, and I hadn't made it too lumpy with extra flour -- that I divided the dough and formed the boules.
One of the boules I would put into the oven with no wash at all, just let the steam in the oven give it some surface moisture (This is not what the original recipe called for, by the way -- W&T wanted me to brush water on before putting it in the oven. Instead, I brushed some water on this unfloured loaf the moment it came out of the oven, to see what would happen. This was just another experimental tidbit that was different from the original recipe). The other boule I literally dipped into water and then coated with flour by hand prior to the final proofing.
I also scored the tops right away, at the beginning of the final 15 minutes of proofing, while the oven was preheating.
This time the boules retained their shape during this final proofing.
They went into the oven for 50 minutes at 400 degrees F.
The breads still flattened out somewhat, although things look a little less saggy than the best of my earlier attempts. The scoring this time was inadequate though, as the loaves ended up going sideways rather than follow my scoring. Still, you can see that there was some expansion in the oven. Different scoring (perhaps a rectangular shape), or a score that went further across the loaf might have helped this somewhat.
Longer kneading probably would have helped more than anything. If the gluten had truly become elastic, I believe it would have had less sag. Whether this is still a hydration problem, I don't know.
I sliced into the bread that was "post-baked washed" while it was still a bit warm (50 minutes after coming from the oven), and had some for breakfast with some Montforte Teleggio cheese (a softer, very mild tasting aged cow's milk cheese). The nuttiness of the bread shines through.
After the late painting of the loaf with water, the crust is soft. But the bread still has a 'cake-like' crumb.
Notes to Myself
- Let's look at some baker's percentages of this loaf. Here I compare what the original recipe's measurements called for, and what I might have adjusted it to, by kneading in as much as 1/2 a cup more whole wheat flour. Note that I include the honey in the amount of hydration. I don't think that Peter Alexander did that when he commented on my last blog, and I don't know whether it should be added, or not. I think that it is wet, so I added it to the wet. These are the numbers I came up with:
Ingredient Original recipe Wt Original Baker's % Amounts I used My Baker's % WW Flour 900g 86% 975g 87% Wheat Germ 150g 14% 150g 13% TOTAL FLOUR 1050g 100% 1125g 100% Warm Water 750g 71% 750g 67% Oil 38g 4% 38g 3% Liquid Honey 100g 10% 100g 9% TOTAL HYDRATION 888g 85% 888g 79% Salt 13g 1.24% 13g 1.15% Yeast 10g 0.95% 10g 0.89%
- Let us say I added a full 1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour while I was kneading it. That would mean that the total flour in the bread is 975g, bringing the total flour to 1125g = 100%, and the hydration would be only 79%.
I could still bring that percentage down to around 76% and the bread might sit up even better yet. These numbers assume that the honey is part of the hydration, of course. Without adding it to the hydration, the dough with an extra 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour is already at 75%.
The trouble with reducing the hydration, of course, is that the crumb becomes ever so much denser. In this probably too-fast, straight-dough method, I don't expect the yeast would have the time to make gigantic holes with their respiratory emissions. But the other thing to consider is that my gluten in this whole wheat dough is not yet developed enough to trap the gasses that the yeast is producing.
The perfect balance: I have not yet achieved it, for this bread. Experiments continue, because frankly, this bread is worth it.
- Try a still smaller amount of yeast, but pre-ferment the sloppy batter (yeast and 1/2 the flour) overnight, only adding the last 1/2 flour and wheat germ mix on day 2.
- You might want to add a tiny amount of salt to bring the percentage of it up to 1.5%. With 975g of whole wheat flour, and 150g of wheat germ, this would mean using about 17g of salt.
- Try bringing the total hydration down to 76% by bringing the water content to 720g, for 975g of wwflour.
- Try a longer, slower bulk fermentation, and another longer final proofing in a basket.
- Score a rectangle on the top of the loaves.