Posted by: lemonator | October 6, 2008

Whole Wheat Bread

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Lemonator Here.

I’ve been promising everyone a primer on bread baking for a while now… and I finally got around to making some bread this weekend, so here we go!

 

At its most basic form, bread is a mixture of 4 ingredients:  flour, water, yeast and time.  Lots and Lots of time.  And a few other things.  For these loaves you see here:

  • 6 C flour (I used half and half rye and whole wheat)
  • 2 3/4 C water
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 6 Tbs gluten
  • .5 tsp ascorbic acid

 

Ascorbic acid, you say?  Yes.  Ascorbic acid.  It will become clear in time.

So, I’m sure you all know about gluten, a la gluten free items.  Some people are allergic to it, but gluten is a protein found in grains that helps the bread form and keep its shape.  Most non-bread flour has had part of the gluten removed, and since I don’t make bread all that often and have a small kitchen, I tend to keep normal flour around and supplement with whole foods gluten

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So… that plus a little sugar and salt finishes up the dry ingredients.  onto the liquids.

First things first.  The yeast.  If you get the active dry yeast, you need to let it re-vitalize itself by putting it in 1/2 a cup of warm water for ~10 minutes.  I bake enough that I have a jar of yeast, but if you’re just starting out, they sell single-use packs of yeast in grocery stores.

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Okay… finally, the ascorbic acid, provided in a nice well labeled Ziploc đŸ™‚

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It almost looks like I stole it from lab, doesn’t it?  A small amount of this helps the yeast to get to its optimal growth conditions.  Too much will kill the yeast though… so use in extreme moderation… unless you like unleavened bread when you expected leavened!

Onto the actual creation process.  The first step is to mix the wet and dry ingredients together… every book I’ve read suggests that you do this by creating a well in your dry ingredients and putting your wet ingredients into that well. 

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If anyone knows the ‘real’ reason why you do this, please let me know!  As far as I can tell, you do it primarily as a good way to check that your ratio of liquids to solids is correct… but I’m sure there’s a better reason.  Ah well.  After mixing it together, you should have a fairly dry dough… still moist to the touch, but not so moist that it sticks to your fingers at every opportunity.

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Something like this… although you can see from my hands and from the open container of flour in the bottom right corner that I needed to do some emergency starch addition to get it to the right consistency.  From here, we knead… a lot.  Most books recommend a full twenty minutes of kneading.  I say… knead till you get really tired, then, as long as its been at least 8-10 minutes… you’ll be fine.  From here, we get into the 4th ingredient:  TIME.

The first rise will take ~2 hours at room temp.  If you can heat up the dough to 80-90 degrees, it’ll finish in 1:15-1:30.  At the end of the two hours, it’ll look something like this:

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Now, we start doing something counterintuitive.  We press all the air out, shape it into a ball again, and let it rise for roughly half the time of the first rise.  It should reach the same size, at which point… we press the air out.

From here, we shape our actual loaves… the recipe above will make 2 loaves of bread, so get a knife and cut the dough in half and form each half into a loaf.  By now the outer layer of the dough will have become nice and elasticity… this is good! So try to maintain as much of that around the outside as you can.  Lightly grease some bread tins and put the loaves in and let them rise for another 30-45 minutes.

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Now, onto the question of why we’re  wasting ~2 hours of our lives having the bread rise when we’d already gotten it to rise this same amount after the first rise.  The answer is flavor and durability.  The gluten takes time to fully develop when it is interacting with the yeast.  After the first rise, the dough is very flimsy… barely touching it will cause it to collapse.  By the end of this final rise, the dough is ready to take a much more significant beating.  Also, the yeast is providing bready flavor to the bread while it rises… so we let it go for a few rounds, letting the yeast fully spread to all the parts of the dough and make the entire loaf full of bubbles and rising well.

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Here they are right before baking.  A hot baking temp will lead to crispy loaves, but you might get charred husks if you a) forget about them or b) have a denser bread (like this one) that needs time to cook the inside.  For these loaves.  I started them at 425 for 10 minutes, then lowered the temp to 325 and let them go for another 35 minutes.  They were absolutely delicious.

I’m often trying out new bread varieties.  Hopefully more breads will come soon!

~Lemonator

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Responses

  1. You’re quite the bread-baker!! Looks great!!

  2. […] Homemade whole wheat bread  (courtesy of the Lemonator) […]


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