My most recent attempt was a whole wheat bread loaf based on my mom's old recipe (as provided by my dear sister). So, this is a family thing in addition to a healthy and personal learning thing. It's all so complex... :-)
I actually tried this for the first time last week, but was really disappointed in the results. So, I tried again today, and was much more pleased, but I think it still needs some tweaking. I'll talk about that as I go.
Mark's Family Whole Wheat Bread in the Dutch Oven
12" Dutch Oven
12 coals below
20 coals above (I'm not sure this is enough - see below)
The basic flour mix:
- 3 Cups white bread flour
- 6 Cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup vital gluten flour
- 3 Tbsp dough enhancer (optional)
The wet mix:
- 2 cups scalded milk
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 Tbsp yeast
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 Cup oil
The first thing I did was to make the flour mix. It's pretty simple, just add the ingredients and stir it up. You won't need this much, but it's cool to have extra for next time. Also, as an aside, I used whole wheat flour that was ground for us by Jodi's stepdad. He'd found an old electric grinder, fixed it up, and made this huge bucket of flour for us. So, this really is a big family thing!
Then, I made the wet mix in a different bowl. I scalded the milk (that messes up the enzymes that would otherwise kill the yeast). You can also use powdered milk instead of scalding it. I added the honey, let it dissolve, and waited until it cooled to about the temperature of a good hot bath. I added the yeast, stirred it to dissolve it, and let it bubble.
When it had bubbled up really well, I added the eggs and the oil, and whisked that all together.
Then, in the same bowl, I started adding the flour mix. The last time I'd done this, I went too fast and it ended up too dry. It's not easy to add moisture while you're kneading. It's much easier to add the flour slowly and sneak up on it.
I added the flour in the bowl for the first few cups, stirring as I went with a wooden spoon. Once it got to the point where it was pulling from the sides, but still quite messy, I dumped it onto a generously floured table and started kneading, slowly adding more flour as needed.
Kneading whole wheat dough is a workout. I seriously kneaded for a full half-hour before I got a good windowpane stretch going on. I think in future batches, I might add even more gluten flour in the mix.
Finally, it was done kneading and I set it aside to rise. It rose VERY well, At that point, I punched it down and rolled it into two boule loaves. Next time, I'm going to try a single boule with this same recipe.
As soon as I'd set the two shaped loaves aside to proof, I started the coals to pre-heat the ovens. This is another area that I'm not fully confident in. I put on the coals listed above, and according to the Lodge heat table, that should have given me 400-450 degrees inside the ovens. But I put an oven thermometer in one of the dutch ovens and it topped out at 350 after about 30-40 minutes of preheating. I left it on a little longer, but it didn't go any higher. So, either my thermometer is calibrated wrong, or the coals count in the Lodge chart is off. I have a hard time believing the chart is that far off, though. That's like a hundred degrees. I don't know.
At any rate, I put the loaves in, each in one dutch oven, and replenished the coals. I baked them to 200 degrees internal temperature.
Maybe it's that whole heat issue, but they just didn't spring much. Not like the white breads do. Maybe that's just the nature of whole wheat bread. I don't know about that either.
When they came out and had cooled, they weren't that much bigger than they were when they went in. The crumb was much softer, and less dense than my last attempt, so I was really pleased with that. The crust was pretty hard, though. My family, and our guests tonight loved it, and ate between us a full loaf.
So, I felt like it was successful enough, and thought I'd write up my experience here. Still, I'm not feeling very confident in it yet. Doing bread in outdoor cooking isn't easy, that's for sure.