Whole wheat bread every day

Whole wheat bread every day

I make bread almost every day. Being retired, I have  time to experiment, which I did not have when I was a chef in a commercial kitchen.  And, I do not have customers that expect consistency.  On the other hand, I have other things to do,  and seek to produce my bread expeditiously. 

There is always the yeast v. sourdough dilemma. The easy resolution is to use both! The easy path to using both is to use a bit of [yesterday’s] bake as the sourdough starter for today’s bake. This is a approach used by traditional European bakers. They knew what they were doing!  Reserved dough has salt it and it has lower hydration so it grows slower than most modern starters. It is good, but it is too much bother for many commercial bakers. Growing slower it will hold until tomorrow or the next day, this is a big advantage to the home baker – you do not have to bake – or feed your starter every day.  It has salt in it so you do not have to adjust the bread dough recipe for the weight of the starter.  

The old bread dough gives enough sourness to condition the dough, allow the bread the keep longer, and it makes the bread more moist without the addition of fats/oil.  it gives a rich flavor without a long bulk fermentation.  Usually, my dough save back is ~50 grams.  If I decide that my next bake will be larger, I add flour, 2% salt, and water to my reserved dough to make a dough starter of about 10% of my next bake, and I let it sit on the counter for a few hours.

I  have moved to putting 2% barley malt in my bread. It gives better crust color, faster rise,  and a nice sweetness.

These days, I add 20% strong white bread flour to some bakes.

I remain convinced that making less than 5 lb. of bread dough is faster and easier in a dough trough than with a stand mixer.

I weight the flour, yeast, and other dry ingredients into the trough, putting the salt in one corner. Yeast is usually 1% of flour weight.

I mix the old dough with most of the warm water that I think I will need.

I make a well in the flour in the trough, and slowly pour in the water mix with my left hand as I gently stir the water so it gradually pulls flour in to the pool of water in the well.  This process of stirring the water surrounded by flour seems to develop gluten easier and faster than any other method I know. The actually time is about the same as mixing in the stand mixer, but the product is better.  Ok, I know I have to stand over it, but I usually do this while breakfast is cooking.  Stirring the water into the flour is faster than breakfast,  so both can be done at the same time.

There will still be some dry flour and the salt in the corner of the dough trough. A rest allows the dough to autolyze. A few minutes later I add warm water by drips and work-in the last of the flour and the salt and knead the dough for 2 or 3 minutes.  Because the whole wheat flour has had a chance to absorb water,  I can adjust the hydration more precisely.

Then I do bulk fermentation at 90F, usually 1.5 hours; stretching / folding the dough as often as it needed or as often as I need to come to the kitchen for coffee.  Fermentation is done in the oven or in a Styrofoam “cooler” with a warm cast iron muffin pan in the bottom.

There is  pre-shape, bench rest, shape and  rise.  Bake temperature varies from 350F for loaf pans, to 375F for whole wheat French bread baked on aluminum sheet pans to  400F on a pizza stone for a 2 kilo miche of Pain de Campagne