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Old 10-18-2006, 12:05 AM   #1
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Whole wheat bread question

Hi all,
I'm new to this discussion forum but not new to cooking and baking. However, I have been struggling with baking whole wheat bread and can't seem to find where the process is breaking down.

To start with, I have been using an old ChefMate bread machine for making bread. I know it's probably not the best method but I've gotten good results with any other types of bread.. except whole wheat. What I tend to wind up with when attempting this bread is a short, dense loaf that never rises nearly as much as a white bread.

The recipes I've started with tend to have a ratio of 1:1 of bread flour and whole wheat flour. One friend told me that was way too much whole wheat and that I should cut back on it. Tonight I tried one of my favorite white bread recipes, dill bread, but decided to try and give it some whole grain nutrition by substituting part of the bread flour with whole wheat. The recipe called for 3 cups of bread flour so I used 2.5 cups and added .5 cups of whole wheat flour. Alas, it did it to me again by not rising very much.

I know the yeast is good because I can make the recipe with no whole wheat flour but adding some wheat bran for added fiber and it rises and bakes into a beautiful, tender loaf. So I don't know what to do. I want to be able to make whole wheat bread since that's all I ever buy at the store. I'm open to any suggestions you may have. I do have a kitchenaid mixer with which I could create the dough and bake it in the oven but have never made bread that way. But, I'm game to try almost anything once.


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Old 10-18-2006, 06:11 AM   #2
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There are several of us on this forum who successfully make bread with all whole wheat flour, no white flour added. So keep trying, it definitely is possible. We each have our own technique that works for us.

I use a bread machine and use the recipe that came with my machine for whole wheat bread, with one major difference. I have a Zojirushi bread machine and really struggled with the recommended recipe. I contacted the company rep, who did not do well with English, and finally contacted King Arthur Flour Company, who sells this machine. They said to use the white bread cycle, not the whole wheat cycle, and that turned out to be excellent advice.

I use King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Bread flour that I can get in several local grocery stores. I also run the knead cycle twice, but I do not really know if that is necessary, the knead cycle is 11 minutes long, so I let the machine knead for 22 minutes.

I would give the Kitchenaid method a try.

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Old 10-18-2006, 06:59 AM   #3
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Subbing that small an amount of wheat flour doesn't seem like it should cause that much of a problem as you describe--at least using a traditional method of bread making.
The advice above to change the cycle might be good. You can also use the bread machine to just mix the dough and then transfer to a bowl for the rising where you can be sure it rises adequately (as in not being on the bread machine's timer). It might take longer but you can control the height to which it rises.
Finally, whole wheat flour might require the addition of vital wheat gluten for use in bread making and most especially if you start adding even more whole wheat flour.
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Old 10-18-2006, 07:46 AM   #4
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general comments
I've never used a bread machine but I suspect this may be part of the problem for the recipes you're attempting, since you have made good bread with added wheat bran. I'll let others advise you on bread machine techniques.

I use my KA mixer for most of the mixing and kneading, but finish the kneading of the final dough by hand on the board. Over the years, this has educated me to the feel of the dough for different kinds of bread.

I've also never made bread entirely from WW flour, though bethzaring (who also answered you) has. (beth - I bet you can give specter65 some more great advice given your experience!)

Your ratio of 2.5 cups bread flour + .5 cups whole wheat is a good start for a light whole wheat loaf but it would help to have the entire recipe (including instructions) to troubleshoot. I'd especially be interested in the amount of liquid (and whether it is water, milk or some other liquid).

on flour ingredients
As mentioned, King Arthur makes an excellent whole wheat flour. Unlike other brands of whole wheat flour I've used, it is finely milled (also, it uses the entire wheat berry - some supermarket brands of WW flour omit the germ) - and it is stone milled, which makes a noticeable difference in the flavor of the bread.

Use bread (not all purpose flour) for the white flour in your recipe.

on kneading
Whole wheat flour is slower to absorb water that white flour, chiefly because of the bran. Also (on a scale too small for human eyes) the bran tends to break the gluten strands developed by kneading. Therefore, knead well. However, be careful not to add too much additional flour if you knead on the board. I find it helpful to reserve about 1/2 cup of the white flour from the original recipe. I use a Kitchen Aid mixer. I make the dough according to my recipe with the exception of this flour reserve. The dough is kneaded thoroughly in the KA but finished by hand on the board, using no more than the flour "reserve" and sometimes less. Too dry a dough makes for a heavy loaf.

on rising
If you use the "straight dough" method, I would recommend two rises, punching down the dough after the first rise. You need to be patient here, but the dough will rise. At each rise, the dough should almost double in bulk. For convenience, you can let the dough rise in the 'frig - especially for the 2nd rise. Then the 3rd rise is in the pan.

I just let my dough rise in the bowl at room temperature. Bread dough with WW flour definitely takes longer to rise. Be patient! It is the amount of the rise, not the clock time, that counts at this stage.

my approach
This method always works well for me when I'm making a dough that contains a significant amount of WW or non-wheat flour.

> make a heavy batter (aka a "sponge" or "poolish") with all of the liquid, all of the yeast and all (or most - you may want to reserve that 1/2 cup of bread flour) of the white *bread* flour. Beat well with the paddle of the KA mixer - 3 to 5 minutes depending on the quantity. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. This approach makes the ideal environment for yeast growth plus you have a head start on developing the gluten in the white flour.

> after the first rise, return the bowl to the mixer and incorporate your salt, oil and sweetener, mixing thoroughly with the paddle (the paddle works better than the dough hook for incorporating small amounts).

> switch to dough hook and add the whole wheat flour in increments, incorporating well after each addition. Knead in mixer on low ("2) or medium ("4) for about 5 minutes (again, depends on quantity - I don't know if you're making 1-pound, 2-pounds or even 3-pounds of dough - the more dough, the longer the machine kneading)

> *very lightly* flour the board with your reserve and finish kneading by hand, incorporating the bread flour reserve in *small* increments until the dough is smooth but not dry. The dough should still leave a small residue or film on the board.

> *lightly* oil the KA bowl, dump in the dough, give it a twist and then flip it upsidedown, so there is a small film of oil on the top. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until about doubled (or at least until risen 1-1/2 times the original bulk). This is the point where you could let it rise overnight in the 'frig.

> once the 2nd rise is completed, you punch it down, shape the dough and let rise the final time in your pan(s). Let the dough rise in the pan to 1-1/2 to a little less than double the original bulk. Make sure your oven is preheated to the required temp before baking. The time your oven takes to preheat is part of the total rising time for the "rise in the pan".

> ok, you've reached the baking stage, and I'll let you take it from here...

Again, it is always easiest to trouble shoot if we have the complete recipe you're using, including the instructions (not just the ingredients).

Post back! There are many experienced bread bakers here and I'm sure our collective wisdom can help you achieve that WW bread you lust after!

Best of luck...
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Old 10-18-2006, 02:41 PM   #5
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Thanks for the very informative replies. As requested, here is the recipe I was using along with some details about the machine.

recipe: ( 1-1/2 lb loaf)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 Tbs butter
3 Tbs sugar
2/3 cup cottage cheese
1 Tbs dried minced onion
1-1/2 Tbs dried dill weed
1 Tbs dried parsley flake

3 cups bread flour (I subbed 1/2 cup of WW flour for part of the bread flour)
1-1/2 tsp yeast
I am using King Arthur flour for both the white and WW

I put in all wet ingredients plus herbs then add the flour and top that with the yeast and turn it on. This is the method describe in the machine's manual and works great for white bread.

The machine, when set to white bread, will perform these steps:
30 minute knead
1st rise, 65 min then turns dough to punch down
2nd rise, 30 min then turns dough to punch down
3rd rise, 50 min
bake 65 min at unknown temp set by the machine

if I set the machine for wheat, the first rise is 90 min, the second is 30 and the last is 45 and uses the same bake time. This setting hasn't worked any better for me.

Maybe this can shed some light on where the process is failing. I may just have to do it the old fashioned way using the kitchenaid mixer and baking it in the oven so I might wind up asking for good WW recipes.
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Old 10-18-2006, 02:47 PM   #6
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I also run the knead cycle twice, but I do not really know if that is necessary, the knead cycle is 11 minutes long, so I let the machine knead for 22 minutes.
BethZaring, I would say that the second knead cycle IS necessary for whole wheat bread.

It was more than 30 years ago, but I remember all too well my first attempt to make 100 percent whole wheat bread. HOCKEY PUCKS! even tho I already had many years of "regular" bread baking experience. My rule of thumb is that you cannot knead whole wheat bread too much. 20 minutes is essential for a tender loaf.

I personally have never used an electric bread machine. My bread machine is writing this! so I can't give anyone any advice on that.

I'm going home to bake some whole wheat bread tonight!
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Old 10-18-2006, 03:31 PM   #7
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Since you have had success with all white I am still surprised that it doesn't work for that quite small change in the flour--as I said before. For my experience with baking both in a bread machine and without, I am even sort of surprised that with all those ingredients that it works so well in the automatic rising times of a bread machine. I assume it is a recipe designed for the machine and hence works.
My experience is that those additions of milk, egg and cheese, etc. really slow down the whole rising process. And you have assured us that the yeast is fresh and active.
Don't know. I guess I'd make it the regular way and see how long it takes for the several rises.
I will say that when I have had bread failures similar to yours (low rise loaves), I have sliced the bread VERY thin and oven toasted it to make a kind of melba toast. It has been quite good.
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Old 10-18-2006, 05:48 PM   #8
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That bread recipe is definitely outside my range of expertise so I'm gonna bow out of this one - c'mon all you bread machine experts out there - I know you have good ideas!
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Old 10-18-2006, 06:04 PM   #9
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I think Gretchen has hit upon your problem here. I have never had success with whole wheat flour and milk. I can't describe the chemistry for you but it DEFINITELY works better with a water base not milk.

Why don't you look for a recipe for whole wheat flour here that uses water and see if that works for you.

Also, agree with needing the extra knead cycle. I would try it in your KA and knead the crap out of it. LOL! Also agree with 2 rises and 3rd in the pan.

Keep us posted.
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Old 10-18-2006, 06:56 PM   #10
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These all sound like valid ideas and I'm such a novice when it comes to baking bread I'm game to try anything. I didn't get into baking until after my father passed away and I inherited his bread machine along with missing his breads. I'm going to try again soon using water instead of milk and making sure there is enough moisture. That is one thing which I've learned will keep a dough from rising as much and I can tell this last batch is a little dry. I might have to try the melba toast idea that Gretchen gave which would at least give this last loaf a more usable form. when I can get it figured out, I'll post my results and how I achived them.

Thanks again to all of you for your input. It has been helplful and informative.

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