July 24, 2010 - 5:39am
Peter Reinhart Whole Grain Bread Recipes - too wet and too sweet
I live in the UK, and purchased a copy of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain recipes book as soon as it came out on sale. I was really looking forward to his book, and trying out complex, wholegrain flavour breads.
However, every recipe i have tried so far has came out too sweet, and my biga and poolish always come out too wet, much wetter than the consistency in his pictures.
Has anyone else had a similar problem with Peter's recipes? Am I doing something wrong?
I understand. I've had success with a few recipes from WGB and BBA, but I could not stand the sandwich loaf rye seigel from WGB. It was far too sweet with all that molasses and honey. I had to toss it since I just couldn't take it. I was following the recipe accurately as well, measuring out each ingredient to get it right. I also had a problem with BBA and WGB Miche, I tried each recipe a few times with different flours (locally milled high extraction, homemade high extraction and high extraction from my work), but wasn't thrilled at all with any of the miches from either of those recipes.
So no, I don't think you are an odd one out in this situtation. Not all recipes and loaves taste great to everyone either and that's something to remember.
As for the wetness, another thing to remember is perhaps your flour is of a different mill than North American flour, which I presume Reinhart used for the recipes in the book. That's just a thought, not sure though if it is true.
I found that I got different results based on whether I used cooked or raw grains in the soaker, the combination of grains, etc. Some absorb more water than others so sometimes I get a really dry dough and at other times a really wet one. I think that if one is using cooked grains, one has to hold back water and add it later when mixing the final dough.
I also only used the sourdough or wild yeast version.
The basic WW sandwich loaf came out really well and consistently for me. It was some of the more esoteric grain ones that were iffy.
i did think that maybe American taste in bread is a bit sweeter to the one we are used to in Europe. I must say, i am glad to hear the some of you are having similar issues, as all the reviews i have heard so far have been brilliant. Dont get me wrong, i think Peter's books are great, full of really good information, and lots of pictures. But i am glad to say that i have had a great success with another American book - La Brea bakary is working out really well for me.
Thank you for your replies
I think that many North American breads are sweet (too sweet) to the British palate. We visited Canada last year - for the first time since I started baking my own bread - and all the bread we bought or were provided with was sweeter than a similar loaf would be in the UK, even sourdoughs were noticeably sweeter than we get in the UK. One place we stayed made all their own bread (it is a wilderness lodge) and I asked the chefs if they added sugar to the basic yeast, flour, water, salt in white bread and they confirmed that they added a significant amount to all their recipes, something that we don't get in UK recipes.
I do see some recipes with sugar and oils added in for quite standard bread recipes. I tend to make my breads with just flour, water, salt and starter.
I guess i just have to keep on looking for another book on wholegrain breads - any ideas?
out of the recipe? I do it all the time.
I don't ditch my cookbook because all the dessert recipes contain too much salt. I just strike it thru and decide how much I want to add, if any when the time comes.
There are some techniques in Reinhart's book that were relatively unexplored when this book came out. I have experimented with his mash bread, to good success.
I am also UK based and think there are a number of differences between established/accepted baking practice in UK and North America. Flour grading is one area, and so too sugar levels.
For instance, I make croissants quite happily without sugar, but I suspect that would not be to the taste of many in US/Canada.
But why not look at it the other way? You can experiment with the Reinhart formulae, but with reduced sugar. All you need to know is that sugar will tie up water, and it is more thirsty than carbohydrate. That means loking at a small reduction in overall hydration. So long as you can understand the rationale behind Peter Reinhart's formulae, you should be able to adapt them to your taste.
I (as a German) also find Peter Reinhart's whole grain breads too sweet. And I don't care too much for the taste of molasses, either. I always reduce the amount of sweetener per his standard bread size (510 g flour) to 19 g honey. I also add spices or seeds etc to certain breads or change some flours. Therefore my book is covered with scribbled notes on how something turned out and what needs to be adjusted.
The European flours are different from the American ones, (I had to figure out what worked for my German recipes) and you have to go by what your dough looks and feels like. Peter Reinhart always mentions the desired consistency of the dough (tacky but not sticky), and gives you advice on when to adjust with additional water or flour during the process.
I see these recipes as something you try out once as is, and then change around according to your own taste and circumstances. But the basic technique works so well; I used to hate whole wheat breads (always crumbly and brittle, with a kind of raw, "too healthy" taste when I bought one sometimes in German health stores). The improvement in taste by soaking the whole grains is really remarkable.
I adapted all my old German bread recipes (originally for 1 day making and baking) to P.R.'s technique, with an immense improvement to appearance, taste and ease of making.
If you tell me what bread recipes you have in mind, I'm happy to give you my adjustments to the formula. I also found a better way to achieve a thinner (but crispy) crust for P.R.'s lean European type breads.
Greetings from Maine,
Hello, I just stumbled on this thread trying to find some insights how to treat german wholewheat flour in relation to North American flours.
I noticed that in general a lot of american recipes seem not quite to work with the "standard" german flour types. For example 550 is lacking gluten potential in relation to US bread flours.
Having my first experiences with Peter Reinharts Wholewheat or Char Roberts' Tartine No.3 recipes I felt that this might be even more true for german wholewheat flours. Basically most of it does not even come together as a dough but rather as a sticky superglue which is not getting any shape.
I reduced the hydration and at least it came together as a dough, but I wasn't sure if I was missing some of the desired reactions due to my less hydrated flours.
I would be really interested in starting a discussion of how to adapt those recipes to german flours. How and where to start. I found a 55–75% Hydration with wholewheat rather a save realm to start with.
Maybe adding a little "backstarkes" (high protein bread flour) flour to the wholewheat bread could also help?
As far as any attempts to get the Tartine No.3 recipes working I feel quite lost. No pictures in this book resemble my outcome in any way.
So I would be very happy for any experiences and shared knowledge on this topic.
And more specifically which flours are availabe to you? W700 tend to be a bread flour. Whole wheat will have higher numbers. You can make small hydration tests if you have a scale. Some flours need time to hydrate so after adding water, check on the test dough samples after ten minutes, and 30 min. of hydrating.
I have long wondered if the dough in those pictures isn't maybe, just maybe, a little on the dry side for the purposes of the picture. Now, I'm not accusing anybody here, and maybe I'm being too suspicious (or envious of how easy he makes it look!), but isn't it maybe possible? After all, I admired the crumb on the spent grain bread for a long time before I realized the loaf didn't come halfway up the side of a pint glass! (Tongue in cheek for all of the above)
But seriously, IMHO these breads come out better if the dough is a little wetter rather than drier. And I generally leave out the sweetener altogether. It really is an amazing book, don't give up on it too quickly. Between it and this website you are well on your way to marvelous whole grain breads.
As for alternative books that really focus on whole grains, there's surprisingly little out there, at least that I've been able to find. The classic is the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. But honestly, until I had PR's methods worked out, Laurel's just made my head spin.
... and did someone mention a better crust technique?
Peter Reinhart suggests in his hearthbread chapter for the Whole Wheat Hearth, Transitional Country Hearth, Multigrain Hearth, Transitional Multigrain Hearth, Transitional Rye Hearth Meteil (the others in this chapter I didn't try yet) to:
Preheat the oven to 500 F and bake bread for 20 mins at 450 F, rotate bread 180 degrees and continue baking for another 15 - 30 mins. (This results in a fairly thick crust).
I achieve a better, thinner crust with these modifications:
Preheat oven to 500 F. Place bread in oven, steam, reduce heat to 475 F and bake for 10 min. Then reduce heat to 425 F, bake for 10 mins, rotate loaf and continue baking for another 20 - 30 mins. (The steaming procedure is the same).
Before I read WGB I found this setting to work best (after weeks of trial and error) for my German everyday Feinbrot. When I realized that following P.R.'s suggestions resulted in a crust that was less good than mine, I baked all those breads with my temperature setting and it worked much better.
German Feinbrot Crumb
That really is fine looking bread!
I'll have to give that a try.
It is our everyday bread, 100% sourdough, which I bake only for private use. I will post that, together with what we like with it, German Fleischsalat.
Enjoy the moussaka - I envy you - and avoid being gored by the Minotaur.
I’m from Canada. I milk my own flour and have had fantastic results with sour dough recipes. I also use no or miniskirt sweetener. Would you happen to have a rye bread recipe with only whole grain flour? I sound love to have it.