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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wolter & Teubner's Wheat Germ Bread #4: I modify the method

 Wolter & Teubner's Wheat Germ Bread #4
I modify the recipe

Time to try out some of the ideas I had when I made this yesterday.  Pretty much the same ingredients, but here I am modifying how they get put together.

What did I change?
I've divided up the flour, as usual.  Approximately half of it (450g) is hydrated overnight (12 hours) at room temperature, with all the water (which I've backed off slightly to 720g), honey and oil.  Here the yeast can reproduce and grow as much as it wants.  So I am not including the salt here, and I am only using 1 tsp of yeast (3g).

On day two, I add this wet flour-yeast mixture to the second half (actually, about 75g more than half, or 525g) of the flour, to which I have also added the wheat germ and (slightly more, 17g) salt.  Then I knead it until it is "smooth and elastic."

I bulk ferment it for 2 hours, doing a stretch and fold every 30 minutes.  Then I divide the dough, give it one more stretch and fold, and let it proof in a basket for 30 more minutes, while the oven and stone pre-heat.

Just before baking, I paint a wash on it, and slash with rectangular cuts.

I also decided to use a starch wash, to see if that would give me a crust like the one in W&T's picture (which I just can't seem to duplicate).

Recap of the Ingredients

Table cells in red are the ones I changed this time:

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% 720g 67%
Oil 38g 4% 38g 3%
Liquid Honey 100g 10% 100g 9%
TOTAL HYDRATION 888g 85% 888g 79%
Salt 13g 1.24% 17g 1.15%
Yeast 10g 0.95% 3g 0.89%

What I found using this method
I monitored the 12 hour preferment before I went to bed, and again when I awoke.  It doubled in about 2-3 hours, which tells me that I am still using too much yeast.  It continued to rise, and the peak I saw was just before I went to sleep; five hours later, when I got up, it had blown the lid off the container, and was probably already falling back in volume somewhat.  I still let it sit another 2 1/2 hours, and watched it fall back some more before I used it.

There was some white goo in the bottom of this mixture: what was it?  Perhaps it was gluten; perhaps it was a mixture of starch and oil and honey.  Whatever it was that settled on the bottom, I simply mixed it back into the final dough.

I was able to stir the final dough together using a spatula -- it was still moist enough for that, despite the way I had backed off on the water content.  I did not incorporate any more liquid, and virtually no flour (less than 1g) during the kneading stage.

The dough was kneaded for about 6 minutes by hand, and then rested while I cleaned the bowl and oiled it for the bulk fermentation.  I stretch-and-folded the dough one more time before placing it in the bowl.

Every 30 minutes, I did another stretch-and-fold in the bowl, and turned the dough over.  I was hoping in this way to gently develop the gluten.  I performed 3 stretch and folds in the bowl, and then moved the dough to the counter to divide and shape.

The first fold is complete

The second fold is complete

The third fold is complete.

The dough is divided.

The shaping consisted of another stretch and fold, and gently forming a boule.  Then I placed it upside down in a basket with a tea-towel covered with flour.  It stayed this way for another 30 minutes while I preheated the oven to 400 degrees.

Starch Wash
During this preheating, final proofing stage, I prepared a starch wash, using a recipe given by Nils Schöner in his book "Brot" (part of the Quarkbrot recipe).  Basically, you mix some cornstarch or potato starch (I had cornstarch on hand), with 50g (1/4 c) of cold water.  You add to this 250ml (1 c) of boiling water, and boil it for one minute.  Then you let it cool.  (Since this was an after-thought for me, I stuck the starch-water in a cold bowl out in the snow to get it cool.  It was nicely cooled by the time I wanted to use it.)

Just before baking, I turned the dough onto a parchment-lined peel, painted it with the starch wash, and scored it in a rectangular shape.

Following Nils' instructions, I also painted the loaf another 3 times while it was baking: every 15 minutes, I applied another coat.  Because I was removing the loaf for this procedure, affecting the oven temperature, I baked it another 10 minutes -- a full hour, in total.

These pictures were supposed to show the increasingly glazed look created by the successive washes; unfortunately, the flash on the camera seems to have obliterated any colour changes you might notice.

Despite the frequent washes, this loaf's crust still does not look anything like Wolter & Teubner's picture in their recipe book:

By the way, it seems to me as if they have added a bit of cracked wheat to their water wash.

The house smells great.  If only I wanted to eat some bread, I would try it.  But I have rather a lot of other loaves to get through first...

That will be enough of this loaf for a while.  I will have to make a trip to the store to get more wheat germ before I can make another, and I can't get to the store for several days.  And by then, who knows?  I might be distracted by a different recipe.

Taste Test

The next morning I sliced into one of these loaves to have a look at the crumb, and I was disappointed.  Probably due to the uneven baking (I was pulling it out of the oven to wash it every 15 minutes), the crumb shows unusual stress marks toward the top and bottom edges -- like it wanted to have some oven rise, and decided against it.  The crumb is actually denser than the straight dough method of the original recipe.

But that is not the worst part.

In a side-by-side taste comparison test with one of the other loaves I'd previously baked, this one is just ... blah.  So much for wanting to improve the flavour by leaving a preferment over night.  Gone is the nuttiness that I so much enjoy in this loaf.  Now all I taste is mealiness.  And I'm not impressed with the crust either: it is just soft, not glazed.

If I want to preferment again, it will be in the refrigerator, like Josh suggests.  And I won't be pulling it out of the oven to wash it several times while it is baking anymore.

Notes to Myself
  • That rectangular scoring did not improve the rising of this loaf, in fact, it made it worse.
  • The long pre-fermentation seems to have broken down the gluten more than it has improved it.  Why?  What is going on with this bread?  It has less hydration, but FEELS like it has more than last time.
  • Try a wash with starch and cracked wheat.
  • Try adding some sunflower seeds to this loaf, it would complement the taste -- it would go good with it in the interior and/or on the crust.
  • The frequent folding might have helped strengthen the gluten, but the final proofing in the basket could have been a bit longer.  Instead of going by time here, I should have waited until the dough completely doubled before putting it in the oven.
  • DON'T wash the loaves while they are baking
  • REFRIGERATE your dough while it is prefermenting


  1. "The long pre-fermentation seems to have broken down the gluten more than it has improved it. Why? What is going on with this bread? It has less hydration, but FEELS like it has more than last time"

    I'm going to guess it's the protease. The bran in the whole wheat flour is loaded with it, and it weakens gluten. I've come across a few threads on The Fresh Loaf where people have had protease break down the gluten and ruin the bread. I don't know much about enzymatic activity, so I can't suggest more than that, but it could be a place to start.

    Instead of resting it overnight at room temperature, I would try refrigerating it.. it will allow the flour to hydrate while inhibiting yeast and protease activity.

    Personally, the only thing I ever let sit out overnight at room temperature is a poolish and I'm using it primarily for flavoring, not leavening, so it could have degassed a lot and I'd be fine with it.

    With final proofing, I've read in several places (and Hamelman is a particular advocate of it) that it's best to let it slighty underproof; you want, say, 80-90% of doubled volume, because otherwise you won't get enough oven spring. I haven't done any comprehensive testing on whether this is true, but I'm inclined to think it is.

    At this point, I never ferment or bake based on times, mostly sight, smell and feel. In the past, I've ruined breads by not trusting my instincts and letting something overferment.

    Definitely don't get discouraged, though, because each iteration you make is closer to what W&T show in their photo.

  2. I want to commend your perseverance to stick with one recipe and meticulously try to work on it.

  3. Thanks muchly for the tip (and the encouragement). I'll look into protease.

    I was indeed hoping that there would be an enhanced flavour from the longer rise. Probably I should have refrigerated it when I saw it doubled after 2 hours. Didn't occur to me then, though.

    I am still developing my instincts. Or rather, trying to eliminate my expectations to get to the point where the innate instincts can shine through.

  4. I've read over some of what the Fresh Loaf bloggers have said about protease.

    I suspect that this is just more guesswork about what is going on (like the one you often hear repeated in recipe books, that the sharp edges of the bran is responsible for slicing the gluten strands as they form. To me, this is hardly an adequate explanation).

    The reason I say the idea (that increased protease might be responsible for poor gluten formation) is just guesswork is because there is also a lot of protease-inhibitors in whole grains (as much as 5-10% of the water-soluble protein, and there is actually more protein in wheat flour than there is in a processed flour) -- incidentally, it is precisely because it has lots of protease inhibitors that it is suggested it might have health benefits, like thwarting certain cancers. So perhaps the situation is more complex than just 'extra protease' inhibiting gluten.

    As I was stumbling around the Internet looking for a different answer, I came across a Google Book by Diana Ballard (Master Bread Making Using Whole Wheat)

    She suggests that it is the glutathione in the wheat germ that breaks down gluten (and this bread adds a lot of wheat germ). To prevent this, she suggests adding Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid, especially in dough that is to rise more than just once (and by altering the method of M&T, this dough did rise more than once). In those breads, the glutathione has more opportunity to "work against the gluten". She advises 50-200mg of ascorbic acid to 24c of flour; or for two loaves, add 15-50mg. That's like, a pinch, if you grind up a vitamin C pill.

    Probably the situation of why whole wheat dough behaves the way it does is fairly complex, and I'm just (perhaps we all are) just scratching the surface. I'll keep digging for answers...