Whole Wheat Bread Consistency (need help!)
I have been making whole wheat bread lately (4c ww flour, 1c white flour, 1T salt, 1T yeast, various herbs, water) and while it is good especially when fresh, it is not exactly what I am trying for. It turns out dryish (probably because I always bake it a little too long--my recipe just says until 'golden brown on top' and this usually takes ~35 minutes but it's always a little bit more done than I wanted, sigh) and an even dryish crumbly texture, not chewy.
I was wondering if there is a trick to making chewy bread or if it is a recipe tweak. My method is to mix ingredients into a fairly sticky but kneadable blob. Knead maybe five minutes, let rise to 2x size, knead again maybe 3-5 minutes, rise to bake size, and bake. Shapewise, I let it go into a round (no pan) loaf.
What am I doing wrong? Do I have to use only white flour if I want chewy? Do I just need to bake it less? Do I need to knead it more or less? (I honestly don't know what kneading it twice does for it--I just had a recipe long ago and it said to knead twice.) Is it possible to get the sort of bread that has vacant spots--bubbles--inside (like you see in French bread) using whole wheat flour?
Thanks for any advice!
OK, kneading develops the gluten stucture, so a double knead coudl be in order as Whole wheat has less gluten and you want to get that as developed as possible, in the bread stucture.
Whole wheat tends to be a "drier" flour, so it absorbs alot more of the "wet" part of the recipe, hence a drier loaf.
Personally, I like a WW recipe that makes a sponge, it sets a bit so moisture is absorbed and you can see if you need more and allows the dough to relax, to make best use of the kneading.
I agree with Quine regarding your hydration levels (how 'wet' the dough is). Wholewheat certainly does absorb more moisture, and even if you want a more irregular, open crumb (the holes you describe) in a straight white loaf, you will need a wetter than normal dough. I wouldn't 'add as much water as possible' - try adding a it more water at a time every time you bake bread. Go for a wet dough which is still kneadable. Any wetter, and you're looking at something like ciabatta dough, which is just too sticky to knead.
If you are concerned you are overcooking it (I'm guessing here, since I don't know how hot you bake it, but you might be putting it in five minutes too long for a round loaf), try turning off the oven a little earlier, and leaving the loaf in there to crisp with the door closed.
You can also try adding a fat (vegetable oil, olive oil, even softened butter), since this tends to keep bread moister. You might need to knead it a tiny bit more or leave it to proof a tiny bit longer; fats inhibit the development of gluten, so you will need to compensate.
Also make sure you are wrapping the loaf well during storage (air is the enemy!), or try a different shape. I find round loaves have a large surface area, so they tend to dry out more quickly.
But at the end of the day,you're making gorgeous, home made bread. It doesn't contain the preservatives a storebought loaf might. When I bake a loaf, we eat it for two days, then slice and freeze it for toast. It's just not soft enough for fresh sandwiches after that.
Add water incrementally every time you bake a loaf; you'll figure out just how 'holey' you want it that way.
Try a different shape (round has a big surface area = greater moisture loss).
Make sure you're storing your loaf well wrapped. Air is the enemy here! I wrap mine tight in a cloth and store, cut side down, in a bread tupperware.
Add a couple TBS oil to your dough when mixing. Fats keep bread moist.
Turn off the oven five minutes earlier, and leave the bread in the oven with the door shut for 10-15 minutes. see if that helps with overbaking.
And remember - it's beautiful home made bread. It doesn't have the preservatives a supermarket loaf comes with. I eat my loaves fresh for two days, then slice and freeze the remainder for toast.
Those are all very good suggestions. I would like to add two notes. You said that very fresh the bread was fine, but it got dry fast. You might try using potato water for your liquid. The water left over from boiling potatoes is good. Or, you could stir a little leftover mashed potatoes into water, or even those dried potato flakes.
Secondly. you mentioned that you thought you might have it in the oven too long. I always used the old "tap it on the bottom" method for the done-ness test. That works for most breads, but the fail safe method is to take it's temperature. 190F on the instant-read thermometer and it is done. Remove immediately.
A few things I'd try (and some have been recommended already): 1) kneading longer, letting it rest a few minutes, kneading again and then letting it rise; 2) a longer rise, 3) adding more water since ww does hold onto moisture more as mentioned above (but it depends on whether you're already following a ww bread recipe or just substituting ww for a white bread recipe); 4) trying white whole wheat which I find works better; and 5) adding vital wheat gluten, like King Arthur's: