Woohoo! Using freshly milled whole wheat flour from a local farmers market for this 100 percent whole grain bread. Before I even mix the dough, the questions floating around in my mind are:
- Will the bread taste different, perhaps amazingly better, than breads made with the dull-tasting whole wheat flour from major U.S. flour manufacturers?
- Will I be tempted to shift to buying a good percentage, or most, of my whole wheat and rye flour from the farmer who has a corner of the farmers market stall?
- Will I become so curious about those wheat berries and rye chops that he sells that I will have to step up my bread game by purchasing one of those home milling machines?
This bread has the potential for putting me closer to the nutcase category of people who do not eat factory-produced foods of any kind and won't touch anything with commercial yeast. Wait, all of that has pretty much happened already. I usually do not shout it out loud as we recently had dinner with a similar nutcase, a lovely person by the way, who kept spewing pseudo-science to explain her eating habits, which were surprisingly close to mine. I can only imagine what I sound like at a dinner party. Well, except that she seems to have joined the 90 percent of the population of a major metropolis who are no longer eating anything with gluten. The other 10 percent only eat artisnal breads from hipster bakeries and boulangeries.
Back to plastic wrap and factory slices?
This is enough to send me back to Wonder Bread. Almost. Not quite. Starts me wondering about my own science knowledge, though I do try to critically read health news reports, but I am not actually out there collecting data, performing experiments, or crafting statistical analyses. Just like religion, I take what I consider to be good information on faith. Still, just for a wee bit of bragging, I never succumbed to calls to give up butter or eggs.
So, I find myself on the DC Metro train traveling 40 minutes each way just to buy freshly milled flour, though I also happened to pick up some handmade mozzarella that is unavailable at my own farmers market. FYI: The mozzarella was nothing to write home about. Nothing like the real thing.
500g freshly milled whole wheat flour
20g bread flour - last minute addition to a wet dough
Hydration percentage - 71 percent, taking into account the starter and its own hydration percentage.
100g starter - pretty stiff, probably about 65 percent hydration percentage (made with white flour)
200g freshly milled whole wheat flour
300g freshly milled whole wheat flour
20g bread flour - added in anxiety mode later on. Details below.
I used the bread #38 template and the partial whole grain adjustments I have made to that template since I first tried out that fabulous white bread recipe.
Sponge - Mix well all ingredients; cover with plastic; and put in the refrigerator. I use a cheap shower cap instead of plastic wrap. No, I do not use said shower cap for hair. In the morning or evening, take out the sponge for an all-day or all-night fermentation. Wake up or return home to a bubbly sponge.
Dough - I would recommend mixing the flour and water first for a 20-to-30 minute autolyse to get some gluten development going. Cover. I did not do the autolyse and I will next time around. Instead, I mixed the sponge and the dough ingredients in one swoop. I added the 20g of bread flour after the second stretch and fold - more on that in a second -because the dough was very wet.
Stretching and folding
I did four stretch and folds over the course of the hour and a half after mixing the dough. First, I had a 30-minute rest. Then the stretching and folding. I found that the dough was so wet that the gluten strands were extremely weak, leading to easy breakage. I added the 20g of bread flour after the second stretch and fold. I kneaded for two minutes after the fourth stretch and fold.
I was nervous. The dough was much weaker than previous doughs I have made with this method.
With a nonverbal dough prayer, I shaped the dough - difficult - and put it in a well-floured kitchen towel in a small wicker basket. Covered with the shower cap. Let the dough rest for about 24 hours in the fridge. Was very anxious that this dough would turn into a bread disaster.
Baking and worrying
Preheated the oven to 500 degrees and put the top of the la cloche on the baking stone to preheat as well. Due to the wetness of the dough, and this is one of my routine practices, I turned the dough onto parchment paper on the baking peel. This dough, particularly, had a high risk of sticking to the peel upon transfer to the baking stone. Parchment paper is a miracle product.
I did my cross slash on the top of the dough and brushed some water on top.
I covered the dough with the top of the la cloche. After 10 minutes, I reduced the temperature to 475 degrees. At 30 minutes, I removed the parchment paper and the top of the la cloche. The oven spring was much reduced from what I have seen with the other doughs I have made using this recipe template. Generally, the top slash opens up like a flower that fully blossoms. Not this time, though there was expansion.
Total baking time only 32 minutes because the bread went wider instead of higher. The dough was so wet or slack that it spread out rather than springing up. Wish I had made this bread in a loaf pan or a dutch oven. It needed some support.
Aftertaste of questions
Taste, however, was not a disappointment. Indeed the bread had a delicious, very hardy wheat taste. I might like it a bit toned down to perhaps 60 or 80 percent whole wheat. Maybe play around with the percentage of water.
A few possibilities regarding the lack of oven spring:
- Increased hydration percentage from 65 to 70 percentage by itself made a substantial difference despite the fact that I went from less than half whole wheat flour to about 90 percent.
- Every package or bunch of flour is different and this package, perhaps, contained whole wheat flour that did not need quite so much water.
- All would have turned out differently with a loaf pan or a dutch oven.
- I am expecting too much from a dough that is overwhelmingly whole wheat instead of half or majority white flour.
Answers to above questions
1. Will the bread taste different, perhaps amazingly better, than breads made with the dull-tasting whole wheat flour from major U.S. flour manufacturers?
Much better than major flour brands, but on par with the smaller, more expensive, producers. Difference is paying the farmer directly, without any middleman.
2. Will I be tempted to shift to buying a good percentage, or most, of my whole wheat and rye flour from the farmer who has a corner of the farmers market stall?
On the fence about this due to the hour and a half total travel time involved, though I like making the connection due to my daydream of creating a fresh-ground flour collective business.
3. Will I become so curious about those wheat berries and rye chops that he sells that I will have to step up my bread game by purchasing one of those home milling machines?
A stepped-up game of my own small-batch milling remains a possibility. Hoping that if I adopt this practice I do not wince whenever less-involved bread-making is mentioned in my presence.