Sunday, December 27, 2009

#20: Multigrain bread...What went wrong?!?

I was really looking forward to baking this bread. The recent light wheat bread and marble rye both made fine sandwiches, but multigrain or 100% wheat are much more my style.

I was hoping to get a lot of baking done over winter break, but, as I explained in my last post, I accidentally ran myself out of bread flour. I had .5 ounce left in the house. Hubby and I, in the midst of our errands yesterday, meant to go to the one store in town that sells King Arthur's bread flour, but when the car started making funny noises, we had to return home. We stopped at the closest grocery store, and our choices were Gold Medal bread flour, Pillsbury bread flour, or Bob's Red Mill unbleached white flour. I remembered that Peter Reinhart says in the book that Gold Medal bread flour is actually equivalent to KA's all-purpose flour, so I wasn't sure I wanted to get that (although that is what I was using when I first started the BBA Challenge). And right on the label of Bob's Red Mill, it said, "Supurb for bread baking by hand or machine," so I got it. And then did some online research when I got home that said it worked as a sub for all-purpose flour, but didn't have as high a protein content (11.9%) as King Arthur's bread flour (12.7%). But in the BBA, Peter Reinhart says that acceptable protein content for bread flour is 11.5 - 13.5% (Bob's falls in there), and he also says that you can sub in all-purpose flour for any of the recipes. So I went for it.

Last night, I created the soaker: polenta (which I finally found - hurray!), rolled oats, wheat bran, and water. I thought the wheat bran smelled a little stale, and I couldn't remember when I bought it. I had hubby taste a bit, and he said it tasted just like chewing on a piece of wheat. Huh?! That's my Kansas boy!

Then I decided to work on the brown rice. As some others have posted before me, I didn't have any leftover brown rice around (which is what Peter Reinhart suggests to use), so I tried to make the small amount called for (three tablespoons) in the microwave. It didn't go so well. I tried a few times: one time, the rice was hard and clearly uncooked, the next time it burned. I gave up and tried again this morning: 1/4 cup brown rice, 3/4 cup water, splash of safflower oil. Microwaved it on high for 8 minutes, then medium for about 6. Still a little hard, but then again, we're not really used to the chewier texture of brown rice, so maybe it's okay.

This afternoon, I mixed everything together, weighing all of the ingredients as I always do: 13.5 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of milk, 6 ounces of water, the soaker, brown sugar, honey, yeast, salt. It seemed pretty wet, but I reread the ingredient list and yep, everything was correctly measured. I mixed it in the KA for 10 minutes. This is what it looked like after mixing:

Hm. I let it sit, covered, for 10 or 20 minutes while we did our nap time ritual with the kiddos. That's worked for me in the past when my dough hasn't been behaving. When I got back, I scooped it out onto the counter. I added some more flour and tried to knead by hand. No way. I couldn't believe the stickiness of this dough! I always do a ton of reading before I start any new bread (an advantage to being so behind in the Challenge) and no one mentioned any problems like this. Was it the flour? Did I measure something wrong without realizing it? What went wrong?!

So I decided to try the fold and wait technique. Sally over at Bewitching Kitchen swears by it, and she explained it to me when I commented on her beautiful Kaiser rolls. I patted the dough into a rectangle, pulled each side out and folded it like a letter, and then let it sit for 20 more minutes. I did this at 20, 40, and 60 minutes. It seemed like the dough, although I could see some improvement, still wasn't developing the way it should. I did some research on the Fresh Loaf and found this site, with very detailed pictures and explanations about the stretch and fold technique. I decided to try a couple of more folds (folding the sides and also from top to bottom) and then give it one last long wait time.

Finally, I gave up. It still didn't feel or look right, but I'd been at it for three hours or so. Here it is:

Doesn't look so good, right?

After forming it into a half-hearted free form loaf, spritzing it with water, and sprinkling poppy and sesame seeds on top, we left for an hour and a half to go run errands.

We came home to this:

Yikes. Still, I put it in the oven. It smelled pretty good while it was baking, and my ever-optimistic hubby thought it would be fine. It didn't have much oven spring; no surprise since it proofed so much while we were out of the house. I was soooooo curious about the insides, but managed to put off slicing into it for the requisite hour...figured it didn't need any help getting even worse!

The flavor is great: slightly sweet (some people have said too sweet, and I can totally see that, but I have a massive sweet tooth, so I like it!), slightly crunchy with the different grains, pretty complex. The texture gives away that something went wrong somewhere: it's soft like sandwich bread but has an odd chewiness.

Anyway, I'm convinced this is a great bread. I like the flavor way better than any other sandwich bread I've tried, so I will definitely make it again. But I've decided that this was not enough of an abject failure to warrant making it again immediately, so on we go with the Challenge....

Any more experienced bakers have any idea what could've gone wrong?!?


  1. I'm not a bread baker, so it looks great to me.

  2. Not sure, but still looks like a great loaf of bread! I had the same problems with the rice/microwave thing. I shaped mine into rolls and I do remember it being on the sticky side. A great tasting bread, but I will go back to making my sandwich multi-grain bread, which has all the ingredients I need and much easier to make.

  3. I had the same problem, as you read in my post, and just added WAY more flour till the dough was tacky, but not sticky.

  4. I am hardly an experienced baker, but ap269 is on the right track IMHO.

  5. You can leave the dough into a loaf pan in which it can rise as high as you expected.