Earlier today I pulled out of the oven four of the best whole wheat sandwich breads I have ever eaten or made. The recipes (I made four variations, each slightly different, each equally excellent) were tweaks of the one I sent out to the testers earlier this week, but I believe I have, today, pushed them as far as I can and finally have a "keeper" for the book. I have only just begun to receive results from Saturday's version and, as I write up this final version, which I will send out next week, I again realize one of the most challenging aspects of this project: how to convey in words how the dough should feel. This is especially important because everyone is working with different kinds of whole wheat flour and that means the amount of water or liquid will vary. The only thing we can rely on is how the dough feels, and that is what I need to describe for you. Even then, the brand or type of flour may alter the flavor and performance but if the dough feels right we have a pretty good chance of getting a great loaf. What I really want and need to do is to make a video or a send out a string of photos (hopefully the book will have plenty of instructional photos) but, really, nothing is as good as seeing and feeling it in person.
The reason I am pointing this out is that it is getting close to recipe writing time and I want to be as precise and descriptive as possible in the final versions. As you evaluate the next round of recipes, please let me know how the instruction's details work for you. Are they too wordy, fuzzy, fussy, helpful? Do they paint a word picture that helps you to visualize or sense how the dough should feel? These are tricky doughs. In order to get the kind of structure and rise that we all want,they need to be wetter than regular sandwich breads but not so wet that they mushroom over the pans. The dough feels like ciabatta dough, but that does not help anyone who has never made ciabatta. The dough is springy but also sticky--there are so many ways to handle such a dough, so many ways to describe it. If you have any word ideas feel free to send them.
As you can see, this is where every word counts. I imagine that some of the feedback from the June 10th recipe will be that someone was not sure what I meant by something, or that I left some information out or it was too general. Today's loaves were similar, yet made in a different way from Saturday's-- both Saturday's and today's worked for me but will they work for you? I know that today's loaves were even better than Saturday's, but the method is a little more involved. My hope now is that those of you who have been wanting a more open crumb and a softer, airier loaf will have one to shout about. Meanwhile, it's back to the manuscript--we're coming to the homestretch, but the recipe testing will go on long after I turn it in, as we can tweak it during the editing process.
By the way, for those wanting to test the rye bread recipe I sent out last week, my suggestion is to first make a rye starter (convert a small piece of your whole wheat starter by switching to rye flour (1 part starter to 3 parts rye flour, and enough water to bring it all together into a dough that feels like normal bread dough. Give it 4 to 5 hours at roomtemperature and it should be just about ready to go or to put in the fridge--the starter does not have to be 100% rye to make the bread and it will gradually become more rye each time you refresh it). Then use the rye starter and wheat flour instructions, rather than the wheat starter and rye flour version. Also, and here's a great addition, add 1 tablespoon of fancy molasses or, even better, sorghum molasses (I love sorghum--so smooth and buttery). Don't replace the honey, use both. Together they make a wonderful flavor combination. If you do make this addition, please note it on your questionnaires and let me know what you think.
I'm looking forward to hearing your results.
May Your Bread Always Rise!