Tag Archives: whole wheat bread

Bread Challenge: Altitude Matters

I’ve talked before about my challenges baking cakes at my apparently high altitude (~4400 feet).  But somehow I thought I was immune to altitude problems when it came to making yeast breads.  My dough rose nicely after all.

After making my last loaf of bread, I started thinking about what I could do differently to improve the texture.  It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps my altitude was affecting my breads.  I did some research and learned a lot!

Second Try at the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

According to my book High Altitude Baking, yeast bread dough rises more rapidly above 3500 feet.  And since the development in flavor depends in part on rising time, bread at made at higher altitudes may not be as flavorful.  Most sources I looked at suggest punching down the dough and letting it rise a second time before shaping and doing a third rise.  This extra rising time allows the flavors to develop and allows for “the changes in the gluten that make bread tender, light and of good flavor”.  This might also explain why I have had success with the no-knead artisan breads:  they take advantage of a long, slow rise.

I also found out that my dry climate as well as my higher altitude causes flour to be drier and thus absorb more liquid.  Recommendations to remedy this include using less flour or adding more liquid.

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

With this new information I made another loaf of 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. I made the following changes:

  1. I used the orange juice recommended by the book to improve flavor, which I left out last time.
  2. I added an extra 2 tablespoons of water.  This was a little too much: the dough was pretty sticky and I had to add a touch more flour to make up for it.  Next time I will try only 1 tablespoon.
  3. I let the dough rise a second time before shaping.  Unfortunately I had to leave the house before the first rise was finished so I had to punch it down early.  I didn’t want to risk it rising too much and collapsing.
  4. I accidentally left out the dough improver.  Oops!

Results:  Much better than the first loaf, but still needs improvement.  The texture was much improved and it toasted better.  I didn’t discern any change in flavor by using the orange juice.  The bread was a little soft and wanted to break apart easily, especially when toasted.

Next time I use this recipe I will make the following changes: Use only 1 tablespoon of extra water.  Let the dough finish the first rise before punching it down.  Remember to use the bread improver.


Next Challenge

My mom and sister are participating in the bread challenge with me.  Next bread-related post I will share some of their results as well as my results baking the “White Bread Loaves” from Baking with Julia.

We would love to have you participate too!  If you wish to join in the fun, make a loaf or more of bread, then leave a link to your blog post or photos (if you don’t have a blog) in the comments or send to me though the Contact Me page.  Next week I will to a round-up and will do so at the end of every month.


Filed under Cooking

Bread Challenge 2012

I have decided that this year I am going to challenge myself to improve my bread-making skills. I have always liked the idea of baking bread on a regular basis. My results have been mixed: some winners, some losers, and a whole lot of mediocre.

Quick breads have always worked well for me, and in the last couple of years I have had success with artisan breads using the no-knead method described in Jim Lahey’s My Bread. Where I struggle is with everyday breads used for toast and sandwiches. This is where I will focus my efforts, at least initially. I also intend to focus on whole grain breads since bread is the primary way I get whole grains into our diets.

To help ensure success, I purchased a couple of products designed to improve breads: King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Bread Improver and their Baker’s Special Dry Milk (why yes, I have drunk the KAF Kool Aid).

The top is a little lumpy.

One of my biggest “issues” with homemade bread is the texture.  It just isn’t the same as store-bought bread.  It is hard for me to explain what is different, it just isn’t as smooth and soft, and it doesn’t toast the same.  I don’t know if the texture I get is just the way it is with homemade bread, or if it is something I can strive to improve.

For my first challenge bread, I turned to King Arthur Flour’s book Whole Grain Baking. I made the “100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread”, which they describe as “the Holy Grail of 100 percent whole wheat breads”. This book is great because they give a lot of tips for successful baking, such as letting the dough rest before kneading to allow the whole wheat flour to absorb more of the liquid.

It slices nicely.

So how did it turn out? At first blush, this bread has the best texture of any sandwich bread I have ever made, but it still toasts a bit differently than store-bought bread.  It has a nice amount of moistness and has stayed fairly fresh for several days now.  It tastes good toasted and spread with my orange fig jam.  One minor complaint is that it has a bit too much of a “whole wheat” flavor, for lack of a better way to describe it. A blurb in the book discusses the use of orange juice in their recipes to help temper the “tannic flavor” of the whole wheat. I didn’t have any orange juice, so I left it out.

What’s next? I want to try the “100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread” again with orange juice to see how it changes the flavor. After seeing all the wonderful loaves of white bread made recently by the Tuesdays with Dorie folks, I would like to try that recipe as well. Lola’s Kitchen successfully substituted half of the bread flour with white whole wheat flour, something I definitely want to try!

I will keep you all updated with my bread-making efforts! Anyone want to join me in this challenge?


Filed under Cooking