BBA Whole Wheat Bread — In a Word, Meh

I promised myself I wouldn’t let the weekend pass without writing my blog post for BBA Challenge bread #41, Whole Wheat Bread. I think I’ve been putting it off because I found this bread just so-so. It’s easier to write about a recipe when you have strong feelings about it — good or bad. This bread wasn’t bad; but it wasn’t great either.

The problem with most 100% whole grain breads for me is that they tend to be really heavy, and they don’t rise very well. This bread was no exception. The flavor was OK. But the bread was dense and too chewy.

Here are pictures of the baking process. You’ll note that I wasn’t inspired enough by the final product to take pictures of the finished loaves.

The recipe starts with an overnight soaker, for which I used whole wheat flour and wheat germ.

The dough begins with a whole wheat poolish.

The dough is placed in an oiled bowl and allowed to ferment for 2 hours.

After fermenting, the dough is divided and shaped.

The dough is shaped into loaves and placed in oiled loaf pans. After a 90-minute rise, the loaves are baked at 350 for about 45 minutes.

So, that’s whole wheat bread in a nutshell. Onto Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes, which are getting rave reviews from those who have baked them: Paul at Yumarama; Oggi at I Can Do That.

Baker’s Math in Action

You’re about to make Vienna bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, when you notice something strange: the pâte fermentée recipe on page 105 nets 16 to 17 ounces; but the Vienna bread recipe only calls for 13 ounces. So, what do you do? Make the full pâte fermentée recipe and throw out the excess? Cut the recipe in half and make do with 8 or so ounces of pâte fermentée?

Neither. You use baker’s math to scale the recipe to 13 ounces. You’ve no doubt noticed the Baker’s Percentage Formula sidebars in Peter Reinhart’s recipes. You may even have read his explanation of the use of baker’s math. But have you ever wondered how to actually go about using baker’s math to scale a recipe?

It’s easier than you think.

Let’s take the pâte fermentée recipe as an example. In baker’s percentages, the recipe is as follows:

  • Bread flour:  100% (remember that the flour will always equal 100%)
  • Salt:  1.9%
  • Instant yeast:  0.55%
  • Water:  65%
  • Total:  167.5% (I know, I know. A total exceeding 100% is maddening; but I didn’t invent baker’s math. I just use it.)

Let’s start with the flour. To figure out how much flour to use, first divide the flour percentage by the total percentage of the recipe:

  • 100/167.5=0.5970

Next, multiply the result by the total amount you want to make, in our case, 13 ounces:

  • 0.5970*13=7.761

The recipe calls for equal amounts of all-purpose and bread flours, so as a final step, divide this amount in half to get 3.88 ounces. (As a final, final step, I rounded this amount to 4 ounces each of all-purpose and bread flours.)

Repeat this process for the remaining ingredients:

  • Salt:  1.9/167.5=0.0113*13=~0.15 ounce
  • Water:  65/167.5=0.3881*13=~5 ounces

And the yeast? To my mind, 0.055 ounce is too small an amount to bother scaling down, so I just used a scant 1/2 teaspoon.

To recap, as long as you know the baker’s percentages, you can scale any recipe to size by dividing the percentage of each ingredient by the total percentage in the recipe, then multiplying by the total amount of dough you want to make.

So, there you have it. Baker’s math in action. Please, try to contain your enthusiasm.