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Whole-wheat bread. Too dense!


Anna N
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I made a couple of loaves of 100% whole wheat bread on Friday and while they were very tasty, they were also very dense - OK too dense!

I know that whole-wheat does not have as much gluten as bread flour or all-purpose flour but I don't want to add either of these. Would gluten help to make the bread a bit fluffier? If so, how much gluten would I use for 5-6 cups of whole-wheat flour?

Anything else I can do to achieve a softer crumb?

Here's the ingredient list:

1/3 cup + 1 T brown sugar

2 cups warm water

2 pkgs active dry yeast

5-6 cups whole-wheat flour

3/4 cup powdered milk

2 t salt

1/3 cup oil

Thank you

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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Hi. Your recipe looks fine at a glance. The milk and oil are there to soften it. Perhaps your yeast was old or it didn't get a long enough primary fermentation or proofing. It seems like it must be the yeast. WW has plenty of gluten to make what you want. Why don't you try it again and see what happens? Good luck

Woods

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It isn't the gluten.

A woods said, the yeast might be old - they have a very limited shelf life. Try fresh yeast

You may not have developed the gluten enough first. Did you knead until the dough was smooth and soft?

You may have overproved or under proved. I guess about an hour or two at 85F for first proof, and an hour (or overnight in a refrigerator) for second proof. Dan Lepard's method of folding the dough, like making flaky pastry every hour for four hours during the first proof stage works well.

Making the dough wetter, so it only just holds together will give a lighter texture.

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Yeast is VERY fresh - just purchased - kept in freezer - expiry date is Nov. 2005 so I don't think the yeast is the problem. I will try it again with a wetter dough, long, slow proofing and see what happens. Thanks for all the good information.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I hesitate ever to disagree with Jack, but I doubt the yeast is the culprit. The recipe has plenty of yeast (arguably too much!) and I freeze yeast all the time with no problems.

I think his other advice is more on target. Make the dough as wet as you can-- try to resist the urge to add more flour. Don't make it so wet that it won't hold together, but wetter in general is better. And if you're kneading by hand, knead a long time. As the dough develops, the color will lighten and it will become less sticky, more elastic. It is nearly impossible to overknead by hand, so don't worry about going too far. These steps will get you a lighter loaf.

Edited by SethG (log)

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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I would double check the amount of milk powder..3/4 cup seems like a lot for two cups of milk. Professional bakers who use powdered milk use a kind that has been heat treated to inactivate an enzyme or a protein that weakens gluten. That's why one is instructed to scald milk when using fresh. I don't know if milk powder from the grocery is treated this same way. I used to make literally hundreds of loaves of 100% whole wheat bread and never had a problem with no oven bang, or flat loaves. The flour was milled the previous day to production, against all conventional wisdom, but it worked well.

this formula is in pounds, make 40 2lb 2 oz loaves. To scale down, multiply by 16 to get ounces, then divide what you want by what you have. In other words, if you want two loaves, get the weight in ounces, then divide that by the total weight of these 40 loaves, then multiply all the ingredients in this big formula by that factor and that will give you the weight of what you need for two loaves. I've batches of 80 loaves, or two loaves from this formula.

Honey Whole Wheat 4x

sponge

h20 8.4

yeast, fresh .7

honey 5.8

whole wheat 19.2

1 1st, 4 2nd minutes and speeds in an 80 qt Hobart

3 hour fermentation

dough

h20 4.3

yeast .2

salt .6

whole wheat 4.8

1 1st, 2 2nd, 4 2nd

25 minute rest, take to bench for scaling and shaping. Proof at 90 degrees, 80% humidity till no rebound. Bake at 350 till nicely golden brown.

Edited by McDuff (log)
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I agree with McDuff...sounds like too much milk. I've tried different recipes but always come back to this one:

1 cup + 2 Tbsp water

1/4 cup honey

1.5 Tbsp butter

1.5 tsp salt

3 cups whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp nonfat dry milk

1.5 tsp Instant yeast

Makes 1.5 lb loaf.

A little gluten never hurts too. I usually add 1 Tbsp for 3-4 cups of flour.

Let me know if you try this.

Edited by BettyK (log)
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What kind of whole wheat flour do you use? I find huge variance in texture and gluten strength depending on the brand/source of flour.

Locally the organic whole wheat flours available range in texture from powder to just under cornmeal (slight exaggeration). These have no added conditioners and will tend to be a bit denser in the final product. The nonorganic whole wheat flours are usually lighter (mainly because they are not really whole wheat) and have conditioners added to help the rise, creating a lighter texture. I blend a couple of varieties to achieve the texture I want.

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I would cut the quantity of whole-wheat flour with regular flour, at least a cup. You'll get a lighter loaf.

I agree with Lesley, 100% whole wheat bread is know to be denser in texture, I think you might want to try 60% wheat flour 40% bread flour combination. I know you cannot freeze fresh yeast but I not sure about dry (instant) yeast.

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Thanks for all the suggestions. I deliberately do no want to cut the whole wheat with other flour - I want a 100% whole wheat bread. I have other recipes that are partially whole wheat and partially white bread flour and they do work fine but this is a different challenge.

As far as I know you can definitely freeze dry yeast without harm.

Tomorrow I will attempt the bread using the recipe without change but aiming for a a moister dough and a long, slow second proof and see if that improves it. If not, I will follow up on some of the other suggestions you have been so kind as to offer.

Thank you.

Betty K. I suspect your is a bread-machine recipe and I will certainly be giving it a try but for now, I am working with mixing the dough in a stand-mixer to compare results. All of your bread-machine recipes have produced wonderful results for me :rolleyes:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Betty K.  I suspect your is a bread-machine recipe and I will certainly be giving it a try but for now, I am working with mixing the dough in a stand-mixer to compare results.  All of your bread-machine recipes have produced wonderful results for me  :rolleyes:

Anna, glad to hear you've had good results with the recipes I posted :smile::blush:. Yes, this whole-wheat is a bread-machine recipe but you can use it in a stand-mixer without any problem. You will just get one loaf. Any bread-machine recipe can be used in a stand-mixer or hand-kneaded but usually not the other way round because the amount of flour used in other recipes is usually too much for a bread-machine. Of course, you can convert some recipes for the bread-machine if you know how to.

I've also found another recipe using whole-wheat on the Fleischmann's website. This makes 2 loaves and instructions are given for the stand-mixer.

May I ask where you found the WW recipe you just tried? Personally, I don't usually trust recipes posted randomly on the internet unless it's from a reliable source such as Fleischmann's, King Arthur Flour, Robin Hood or a T&T from a poster.

I buy instant yeast by the pound and pour some in a little jar which I keep in the fridge for everyday use and freeze the rest. Works for me. :smile:

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Betty K.  I suspect your is a bread-machine recipe and I will certainly be giving it a try but for now, I am working with mixing the dough in a stand-mixer to compare results.  All of your bread-machine recipes have produced wonderful results for me  :rolleyes:

Anna, glad to hear you've had good results with the recipes I posted :smile::blush:. Yes, this whole-wheat is a bread-machine recipe but you can use it in a stand-mixer without any problem. You will just get one loaf. Any bread-machine recipe can be used in a stand-mixer or hand-kneaded but usually not the other way round because the amount of flour used in other recipes is usually too much for a bread-machine. Of course, you can convert some recipes for the bread-machine if you know how to.

I've also found another recipe using whole-wheat on the Fleischmann's website. This makes 2 loaves and instructions are given for the stand-mixer.

May I ask where you found the WW recipe you just tried? Personally, I don't usually trust recipes posted randomly on the internet unless it's from a reliable source such as Fleischmann's, King Arthur Flour, Robin Hood or a T&T from a poster.

I buy instant yeast by the pound and pour some in a little jar which I keep in the fridge for everyday use and freeze the rest. Works for me. :smile:

Yes, I realize that bread recipes can be converted and I mostly use the dough setting on the bread machine but bake in the oven - I have found this to give me much better results.

I will certainly pop onto the site you have given the link to and check out that recipe.

Yes, like you, I am very dubious of recipes on the web unless I know the pedigree of the site. The recipe I am using is from Kitchenaid and designed for the stand mixer (I am just too excited about my new toy! $80 at a garage sale for the 350 Watt Professional (and it is barely used!).

I buy yeast in large quantities (not quite so large as you!) and keep it all in the freezer as I can sometimes go a long time between bread-making when life gets in the way.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Anna N I thought you might be interested to know that coming up (after Alton brown) is a Q&A week with bread expert James MacGuire.

Be sure to hold on to that question for James because I'm sure he'll have some good answers and solutions. :wink::smile:

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Anna N I thought you might be interested to know that coming up (after Alton brown) is a Q&A week with bread expert James MacGuire.

Be sure to hold on to that question for James because I'm sure he'll have some good answers and solutions. :wink::smile:

Thanks!

I'm having another attempt today - the bread is now proofing in the pans and I will see if there is any improvement. I made a softer dough and have given it loads of time to proof. I think it will be better - the dough "feels" better (as if I would know!) but I do think I am learning.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I have been making a very successful 100% whole wheat loaf lately, and my recipe is:

1 3/4 cups water

4 cups wheat flour

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup oil

2 t dry yeast

1 1/2 t salt

I am in Denver, a mile above sea level and very low humidity. The elevation is one of the reasons why the yeast is lower than yours, but I also like to slow it down some, and I give it 2 rises before shaping and a final proof. The low humidity accounts for some of the increase in water from yours, but, as others have mentioned, your recipe seems dry.

The main thing I have been doing, which really made a difference in my volume, is that I buy freshly milled whole wheat flour from the Great Harvest Bakery in my neighborhood--it seems like a very different product from packaged whole wheat flour. This recipe makes a large 2# loaf, and is substantially lighter than any of my previous attempts

Fred Bramhall

A professor is one who talk's in someone else's sleep

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if you want a 100% WW flour bread and a lighter texture add a heaping tablespoon of gluten to your recipe. i think the reduced quantity of milk powder is appropriate. the milk powder and sugar will add moisture to the crumb, a fine texture, color to crumb and crust, and of course flavor.

mix the dough with the gluten powder until a "window" forms.

industrial bakeries use gluten powder (along with a cocktail of additives) to make "100% Whole Wheat Bread" because it is permitted by law. it is impossible to achieve a bread of comparable lightness without it.

happy baking.

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So, the second batch turned out much, much better. I chose not to change the recipe except for reducing the amount of flour to keep the dough a bit slacker and giving it two long, slow rises. I still think there's room for further improvement and will try yet a third batch giving it an overnight rise in the fridge.

I would like to stick with this recipe for the time being only because I think I learn much more by sticking to one recipe and trying to "tweak" it to my taste. I definitely do not want to duplicate the stuff you can buy in the store - I want something with some "bite" to the texture.

When I have pushed this recipe as far as I think it can go, I shall attempt some of the other ideas you have all been kind enough to share.

Thanks again!

P.S. I tried to get some photos to post but the camera (which fell off my daughter's car) seems much sicker than the original diagnosis!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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So, the second batch turned out much, much better. I chose not to change the recipe except for reducing the amount of flour to keep the dough a bit slacker and giving it two long, slow rises. I still think there's room for further improvement and will try yet a third batch giving it an overnight rise in the fridge.

I would like to stick with this recipe for the time being only because I think I learn much more by sticking to one recipe and trying to "tweak" it to my taste. I definitely do not want to duplicate the stuff you can buy in the store - I want something with some "bite" to the texture.

When I have pushed this recipe as far as I think it can go, I shall attempt some of the other ideas you have all been kind enough to share.

Thanks again!

P.S. I tried to get some photos to post but the camera (which fell off my daughter's car) seems much sicker than the original diagnosis!

Glad to hear about the improvement. And I agree with you about sticking to one recipe at first.

Enjoy your new toy! :smile:

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My two tips are:

Desolve the salt into the water, salt sprinkled in the dry mix will kill yeast cells

Add the oil when you turn out the risen dough for its 'knockback''stage. Oil added to the start of the process can make the glutenized mix too slipery to get good volume.

:biggrin:

If all else fails, add some white flour.

Martial.2,500 Years ago:

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.

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100% whole wheat flour bread will never be as light as 100% white wheat flour bread. The specs of bran literally cut the strands of gluten.

Thanks, Sam. I am not aiming for fluffy white bread by any means but my first attempt at whole wheat more closely resembled very dense rye bread! Nor do I even want the texture of purchased 100% whole wheat which is pretty soggy to my mind - I am hoping for something lighter than rye bread but definitely not Wonderbread! What I want to avoid, as I reach for this ideal, is the addition of white flour.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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  • 3 weeks later...

After numerous tries with the one particular recipe that I started with I finally abandoned the effort.

BUT ... I have now made 3 count 'em THREE 100% whole wheat loaves that had exactly the texture I was seeking.

It's the recipe from Robin Hood (a Canadian brand, I believe) web site for 100% whole wheat bread. It's designed for the bread machine but I bake it in the oven.

I am guessing that the egg in the recipe makes all the difference.

Should have grabbed a link to the recipe but I will edit and add it in a minute or so.

Here it is:

100% whole wheat bread recipe

Edited by Anna N (log)

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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