Sunday, October 24, 2010

Whole Wheat Baking Basics...Part II

Looking back at my baking posts, I saw that it has been over a month since I last wrote about bread making, and all I did was touch on ingredients.  Honestly, I meant to post much earlier than this, but for one I kept forgetting to take photos while I was baking, since flour + water + Nikon D70 don't mix.  Then finally, I remembered to take photos.  Then I forgot to write the post, probably because I was busy dusting flour off my camera.  You see, it all becomes a vicious cycle.

Anyway, I'm not even sure if anyone out there has been waiting for the sequel, but if so, here it is.

In Part I, I talked about ingredients.  Here I'll address the first part of the actual baking process, step by step.  These are probably applicable to almost any basic whole wheat bread recipe, but I will try and post some of my favorites in the coming weeks, including the pizza dough recipe we use every. single. Friday.

1.  Once my ingredients are assembled, the first thing I do is mix the yeast with about half a cup of the water measure in a small bowl.  Remember, yeast can only react with water that is 105-115 degrees, and so using a thermometer during this step can prevent a lot of heartache later on.  Mix until the yeast has dissolved, then set aside.

2. Combine your other liquid ingredients, such as water, oil, and honey, and take care that these aren't too hot or cold, either. For instance, the yogurt bread recipe I'm into right now calls for water to be mixed in with almost a cup of yogurt, which is obviously cold. In that case, I make sure the water is sort of hot so that the mixed temperature of the dough will be warm.  When this is done, add in the yeast mixture and combine all the liquids.

3.  Now add your dry ingredients, namely flour and salt.  Some recipes call for you to sift these together, but I'm a big baking cheat and never do that sort of thing; I just kind of stir everything around a couple times before combining it with the liquid.  When you combine the dry and liquid ingredients, make sure you mix everything well so that it's homogeneous - this isn't a lumpy pancake batter!
Flour and salt ready to be mixed with the liquids.

4. Kneading time! Okay, don't flip...twenty minutes, by hand, for a two-loaf recipe. I used to do this, and I totally recommend starting out that way the first few times! If you have a mixer, half the time. Here's a chart of sorts to make that easier:
  • Standard two-loaf recipe (5-6 cups flour): Knead 20 minutes by hand, 10 by machine
  • Doubled, four-loaf recipe: Knead 40 minutes by hand, 20 by machine
  • Half, one-loaf recipe (sounds silly, but practical for a pizza crust): Knead 10 minutes by hand, 5 by machine
Make sense? Think 10 minutes by hand per loaf.  If you're using a mixer, it's a good idea to check the dough periodically, because it could take a minute more or a minute less, depending on the gluten quality of your flour (all this means is that some wheat berries naturally have a stronger gluten content than others, but all hard wheat should work in the end). The fully kneaded dough should be able to be easily formed into a roundish ball.  If you're using a mixer with a dough hook, much of the dough will have formed a ball around the hook.  And I should mention that if your recipe calls for butter instead of oil, add the butter, cut into small chunks, a couple minutes before kneading time is up.

I need to scrape the bowl once or twice during kneading.

The fully kneaded dough forms around the bread hook.
A quick word about mixers: I have a Kitchenaid Pro, which can handle about 9 cups of whole wheat flour without swallowing my dough, chewing it up, and spitting it back up at me before bursting into flames.  It works for our family of four, and before I got the Kitchenaid I just used the mix cycle in my bread machine.  If you have a larger family, you may want to consider getting an Electrolux or Bosch mixer.  They are the Cadillacs of mixers (and unfortunately priced as such) but can handle larger quantities of whole wheat flour.  And like Kitchenaids, you can purchase various attachments for them. 

5. Rising time: Place the dough in a clean bowl, or if you hate washing dishes as much as I do, leave it in the mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and a towel, and place it in the oven with the light on (not with the oven on!). In the winter, I like to place mine in front of the woodstove.  Rising time will really depend on how much yeast you use and how warm the dough is kept (keep in mind that more yeast = poorer keeping quality).  As a gauge, I use about two teaspoons of yeast for a recipe that calls for six cups of flour, and depending on how warm I keep the dough, it can take an hour to an hour and twenty minutes to rise.  As for rising temperature, somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty degrees is probably good.  To tell when the dough has risen enough, it should about double its size.  Or, a nice trick is to wet your finger and poke it 1/2" into the dough. If the dough closes back in, let it rise a little longer. If the dough sinks a bit, it's risen too long. If the hole just sits there and looks at you, it's perfect. Punch it down and let it rise again.

Bread rising in the oven, with the light on only.
I admit...I poke two or three or seven holes in the dough to see if it's done.
6. Again??!! Yes! Though you can get away with letting whole wheat bread rise only once before shaping it, remember it doesn't have all those additives white flour has to strengthen the gluten. Let it rise again, and the good news is that the second rising should take half as much time.

Dough punched down...and you can see strands of gluten on the left.  See? It was worth the second rise!
Now the dough needs to rest for 10 minutes before you shape it for the final rise, which is called the final proof.  Since I took lots of step-by-step photos of dough shaping, I'm going to write another post about that.  Soon.  But probably not before the dough pictured above is done with its second rise.

No comments:

Post a Comment