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Kneading vs. Needing Whole Wheat Bread

I can hardly believe it, but it’s time for another monthly update on this project. Hopefully I can get to that in the next few days! 2013 has really been flying by, and it’s completely crazy! At work, we’ve started to get busy brainstorming (and now executing) Christmas promotions and programs, which is exciting for me since I believe this to be the best time of the year. (Finally, the rest of the world joins me in listening to Christmas music!) I’m certain the next 7 1/2 weeks until the new year will be gone before I know it with all the extra projects at work and traveling for the holidays. But like I said, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

With this new season comes colder weather and more reasons to stay cozy inside…. in the kitchen working on bread or other seasonal treats. Unfortunately, I have yet to land on my ideal no-knead, whole-wheat sandwich bread. I’ve tried two different recipes so far, and although they certainly turn out, they aren’t quite what I’m hoping to achieve. For whatever reason, my bread always seems to rise too much. (I have even tried kneading the dough a time or two part way through the rise so that it won’t just keep expanding forever like that greedy blueberry girl on Willy Wonka, but it always seems to rise too much anyways.) Since I live in an apartment where I cannot set the heat/air, environmental factors are always different and practically impossible to control. The latest time, I stuck the dough straight into the fridge to rise, and even then, the rising was surprisingly fast. Perhaps I bought the yeast with super powers…?

Exhibit A: The Fallen Loaf

Exhibit A: The Fallen Loaf

Besides this phenomenon affecting the appearance of my loaf, I also feel like the texture of the bread is almost spongy. I’m still trying to figure out if this is a result of the rising or just the nature of no-knead bread. The photo below is from my most recent attempt, and after I let the dough have it’s final rise in the loaf pan, I pulled the sides of the dough (at that point starting to expand over the edges) to overlap on top of the loaf. I think this helped a lot with it not falling while baking.

Exhibit B: The Still Spongy, But Not Fallen Loaf

Exhibit B: The Still Spongy, But Not Fallen Loaf

I did learn from some research that the reason why whole wheat bread is typically denser than its white wheat counterparts is because the bran on the wheat is actually sharp enough to cut the gluten strands in the bread, thus making it not stretch the same way. Maybe because my whole wheat bread is no-knead, the bran isn’t cutting through the gluten, thus making it rise differently? But I would imagine this should just make it softer, like white bread… But then again, the purpose of kneading is to activate the development of gluten, so I suppose not kneading bread would have a pretty direct impact on the bread’s texture. Maybe without the smooth and elastic-y gluten, the gases released by the yeast just creates little air pockets instead of causing the dough to evenly expand. If anyone has insight into this, please let me know!

Exhibit B, Again: Good Crust on This Loaf

Exhibit B, Again: Good Crust on This Loaf, Minus the Little Corner Bit that Got Stuck to the Pan

I’ve also done some research on amounts of yeast in bread. I know that longer rise times (and therefor less yeast) produce more flavorful breads, but I’m wondering if it’s also better for your body to use less yeast. I know that a couple teaspoons of yeast divided between a whole lot of bread equals out to a small amount per serving, but somehow it makes sense to me that there be a nutritional significance to it. However, any searching for answers on this one just bring me to information on nutritional yeast, which is obviously different, and seems to mainly serve the purpose of making vegans feel like they can have their cake mac and “cheese” and eat it too.

Exhibit C: Sliced and Ready to Go. A hungry belly does not discriminate against spongy-textured fresh bread!

Exhibit C: Sliced and Ready to Go. A hungry belly does not discriminate against spongy-textured fresh bread!

In any case, my favorite thing about these no-knead recipes is they require just bits of time over the course of a day or two (and they seem to be pretty forgiving if you get off schedule) which works very well for me. Now, if only I could discover the perfect recipe!

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