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Thread: smooth and elastic bread dough

  1. #1
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    smooth and elastic bread dough

    Both of my recent attempts at baking bread have yielded heavy, dense loaves. I used two different recipes and the first loaf I think was a yeast problem. The second loaf came out much better but still really heavy and dense and I'm wondering if my dough was too dry. The first, by the way was a whole grain recipe using all whole wheat flour plus a little oats. The second was half white flour and half whole wheat, with a little oats.

    The recipes say to knead until the dough is "smooth and elastic." In both cases it took some serious arm muscle to knead the dough, but eventually it became smooth and more manageable, though I wouldn't say elastic.

    When you bake bread, do you follow the recipe or do you hold back on some of the flour and add until you get the consistency you want? Should I be able to pull on the dough and it be stretchy? Should it be a bit sticky? And can you over-knead?

    I really, really want to get this right!

  2. #2
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    Bread is an art, not a science. I have never gotten mine to "windowpane" but I get acceptable results, so have stopped worrying about whether it's elastic enough.

    I keep back about a cup from what the recipe says, and add more as needed. Flour can vary in how much water it absorbs due to the overall humidity; better to put in too little than too much.

    You *can* overknead dough, but I heard somewhere that it takes a really long time.

  3. #3
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    In my experience it is difficult to bake whole grain bread (even 50% whole grain) that is not dense. Whole grain flour has less gluten than white flour, and the gluten threads that form when you knead the dough are what traps air/gases while the dough is rising. Some things that will help –

    Don’t use more than ½ whole grain/whole wheat until you have done it a number of times and gained some experience and confidence.

    Use bread flour or another high-protein (high-gluten) white flour, like King Arthur all purpose, for your non-whole grain flour. Regular all purpose flour does not have enough protein/gluten.

    Add vital wheat gluten to the dough. You can get it at most grocery stores. It adds gluten and helps to “lift” the dough. I add about 1 T. per cup of whole wheat flour.

    It is virtually impossible to over-knead whole grain dough by hand. It's much more likely that you will under-knead it. If you have access to anything that will knead it mechanically (stand mixer with dough hook, bread machine, food processor with dough blade) use that for at least part of the kneading.

    Good luck! Baking bread is very satisfying, but it can take some time and practice to get it right.

  4. #4
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    I don't automatically put in the amount of flour the recipe calls for...I stop when I can pull out of the bowl and put on a floured board to knead and then I add the flour in as I knead and keep adding until the dough is not sticky and is smooth and more elastic...it may take the whole amount or it may take a little bit more...I have gotten better at determining it as I have become more experienced...keep trying...
    EmptyNestMom
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  5. #5
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    I use only whole grain flour (from hard red winter wheat) and add 1 to 2 tbs of gluten/cup of flour. This really helps. I also tend to use more liquid/less flour than general cookbook recipes call for - I try to get the dough just past the stick stage. The sponge method or overnight raise in a very cool area both help with the loft for whole grain flour bread. There is also 'dough conditioner' on the market but I have never used it. Potato water helps in some recipes - not sure why but it is especially good with cinnamon rolls. As far as I can tell, you will never get 'air bread' with whole grains.
    Anne

  6. #6
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    Thanks all for the great info! I had already purchased a bag of gluten and added 1 Tbsp. on the last batch of bread, but maybe it wasn't quite enough. I'm going to try again, of course, and this time add more gluten and hold back on the flour and see what happens.

    I'm assuming when you bake bread at home, you can achieve the tender crumb of store bought bread. I just gotta keep practicing! DH likes all of it no matter how dense, dry, or whatever, so none of it is wasted.

  7. #7
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    Yeast does not die if it is frozen! And it would be nigh impossible to add salt after the dough has risen!

    Julie, I bake all of my own bread (except bagels, I just cannot get those right!) and I have found that all whole wheat bread is very dense even with the wheat gluten added. I use at least half bread flour, the the other half wheat or oat or whatever (adding wheat gluten, too).

    Try white whole wheat flour-- it has the same fiber/ nutrients as regular whole wheat but is much finer in texture and makes a lighter loaf. Also a tablespoon or two of olive oil per loaf makes the finished bread moist.

    Good luck-- practice makes (close to) perfect!
    Vicci


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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by VictoriaL View Post

    Try white whole wheat flour-- it has the same fiber/ nutrients as regular whole wheat but is much finer in texture and makes a lighter loaf.
    I just bought a big bag today!

  9. #9
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    I love white whole wheat flour!

    Another idea is to try the bread-making techniques described in "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" and "Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day." The authors' "wet dough, long rise in the refrigerator" technique makes fabulous bread with minimal work.

  10. #10
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    The lightest ww bread I ever made was the one from Laurel's Kitchen bread book, the Featherpuff bread. that was amazingly light. I have to use some artificial heat to get my dough to rise well. too cool here most of the time. sink full of warm water, slightly warm oven, etc.
    "If the world were a logical place, men would ride side saddle." Rita Mae Brown

  11. #11
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    I'm with Valerie on Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. Whole grain breads do best with extra rising. The Loaf for Learning is a revelation, and no extra gluten needed if you use whole wheat bread flour.
    The Blog is open again!
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  12. #12
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    It's very easy to overdo flour. I used to do hand kneading and for me, ww dough was usually still sticky compared to white flour doughs.
    I eventually used a bread machine or a cuisinart to do most of the kneading and finished by hand. minimizing adding in extra flour worked best. I'd add a little flour and use a bench knife to scrape up where it stuck. I haven't made bread in a while but I remember "slightly sticky" turned out much lighter than if I added flour until it was easy to handle.
    I used to sometimes add extra gluten flour or use one of the 'bread improver" add ins you can get from king arthur.
    "If the world were a logical place, men would ride side saddle." Rita Mae Brown

  13. #13
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    I am very intrigued by the long rise in the refrigerator technique, but unfortunately with my small boat frig is not an option. On that note a bread machine or electric mixer are not practical either due to space limitations. You've given me lots of helpful information though that I will use.

    At the moment, a warm place to rise is also a little bit of a challenge because the boat is a bit drafty, but I made a big pot of soup the other day and had it summering on the stove with the bread rising just inches away and that worked. Another potential problem is that I knead on a marble counter in the galley, which sits over the refrigerator and stays cold all the time. But I warmed it with my hairdryer last time and I think that helped too.

    This is actually fun, I just need more experience, using all the tips you've given me!

  14. #14
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    Gluten, adequate rising, and the right flour/moisture ratio are the keys.

    Can you put the dough in the oven to rise? That will keep the drafts away and if you leave the door open a crack the light bulb will provide a bit of gentle warmth. In the end, though, the temp isn't as important as just allowing adequate rising. If it's a little cooler than optimal, you let it rise longer. The first rise should go until you have double the volume. Try to find a way to measure that. There are special proofing buckets you can buy, but if you don't have room for that, measure water in a bowl that you do have and mark it.

    Also, what the Laurel's Kitchen book recommends for WW doughs is THREE risings. The first is the typical 90 minutes, GENTLY deflate and allow to rise another 45 minutes, then gently shape and do the final rise.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by funniegrrl View Post
    Also, what the Laurel's Kitchen book recommends for WW doughs is THREE risings. The first is the typical 90 minutes, GENTLY deflate and allow to rise another 45 minutes, then gently shape and do the final rise.
    Interesting!! Yes, I can do the risings in the oven.. good suggestion. I let it rise the first time for an hour and 15 min. I will let it go a full 90 next time, being more careful about making sure it has doubled. And I'll try 3 risings. I really want to make whole grain bread instead of white, which is all I've ever made before this latest adventure (and did so quite successfully).

    My next recipe I found quite by accident in search of a good Navy Bean Soup recipe of all things. This bread was on the same blog. If it turns out good, I'll start a separate thread about it. Of course I'm not using a bread machine and will adapt. My only concern is it doesn't seem to call for enough yeast..

    Multi grain Bread ( makes a 2 lb loaf)

    1 1/4 cup water
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    1 cup whole wheat flour (red or white wheat)
    1 cup whole wheat bread flour
    1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
    1/2 cup spelt flour
    1/3 cup of 6, 7, or 9 grain cereal (such as Bob's Red Mill)
    2 teaspoons sea salt
    3 Tablespoons Natural sugar (I use Succant)
    1 1/2 teaspoons millet
    3 teaspoons flax seed meal
    1 Tablespoon of yeast

    Add all the ingredients to your bread machine according to the manufactures directions. ( I use the dough cycle and finish baking in the oven, if you are going to use only your bread machine make sure you cook on the whole wheat cycle) Once the dough cycle ends, take out the bread knead a couple times and place in your greased bread pan, cover, and let rise until double. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by JulieM View Post
    Interesting!! Yes, I can do the risings in the oven.. good suggestion. I let it rise the first time for an hour and 15 min. [/SIZE]
    I think most whole grain loaves need 1 1/2 - 2 hrs to rise the first time.
    The best lesson I learned when first making bread was to ignore the clock, even more important with whole grain breads. The time needed to rise is dependent on too many things to set an absolute time. Two indicators have been very valuable to me. When the rise is complete, a hole left by gently sticking a finger into the dough DOES NOT FILL IN. This may take longer than the recipe states. I once accidently added half the amount of yeast. I ended up putting it in the frig overnight and then set out again the next day to get the complete rise- it was a wonderful loaf . After the final rise, the dough feels springy and the finger test hole FILLS IN SLOWLY. It is ready for the oven. Since you have so many variables due to your "kitchen" I think these tests may be helpful.

    Alice

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADM View Post
    Three commercial SPAM links. Reported.
    ADM, Thanks for explaining to all why I started my post by stating that freezing yeast does not kill it... The spammer also said that since salt kills yeast, to add it to the bread after the first rise. Right.

    I was too tired to realize that it was spam, alas...


    Julie, have fun using the white whole wheat flour. Using it should make your breads lighter than using all regular whole wheat.
    I just bought 40 pounds of the stuff because it was on sale (but I live in a house with a huge basement and lots of shelving!).
    Vicci


    Can't you just eat what I put in front of you? Do you have to know what it is?
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  18. #18
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    I have enjoyed reading through this thread. I taught myself how to make bread some time ago from the info on bread in the front pages of The New Laurel's Kitchen. Then I got their bread making book. I agree with alicerh on the indicators she mentioned. Each dough/yeast combo may act a little differently, and letting each one rise as needed instead of by the clock is a great idea.

    One time I spent a whole week tending a sourdough starter and then finally making a sponge (part 1 of a 2 part dough) and the final dough. It was sitting in a sunny area in my house getting warm for the final rise---and then it was gone??? Where was the whole bowl of dough? I had the door open a bit to let in some breezes, and the neighbor's dog popped in and scarfed up the whole thing and left without me seeing her. Well, it must have continued to rise for a while in her stomach because her owner told us she threw up dough for several hours.

    I've made lots of doughs, but that one just makes me laugh to remember it.

    Julie, about your question of elasticity. When I knead the dough it will eventually seem to "push back" when I knead it. It gets a feeling to me of rubber bands starting to pull the dough back into shape when I am stretching it out of shape by kneading. And, sometimes I use the stand mixer and just watch for the dough to start forming a "tornado" on the dough hook and call it done.

    I have been using spelt flour lately due to some problems with regular wheat. It has a weaker content of gluten, so I am learning how little to knead it to get a good result.

    Good luck in your breadmaking adventures, Julie.

  19. #19
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    "My only concern is it doesn't seem to call for enough yeast.." Julie - I often start with less yeast when I am going to do a long rise with whole grain flour bread. I might start with less than a teaspoon - proof it in the amount of water the recipe calls for, and make a sponge to sit for a day or so. The yeast has lots of time to grow so the starting amount isn't critical.

    lantana - I use spelt and kamut quite a bit and add the full 2 tbs gluten per cup of flour for yeast breads. I also really like those grains for quick breads.
    Anne

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