Wheat bread in Seattle: finally holding up!

Homemade 100% whole wheat bread

We recently moved from Ohio to Seattle, and my perfect recipe for whole wheat bread was suddenly not so perfect (i.e. a complete failure!). Whether it's humidity, air pressure, or something else, who knows?! I did lots of research, tried more bread recipes, and then my husband jumped in and really made my day by turning out a beautiful, perfect loaf of 50% whole wheat/50% white flour bread!

I'm back to using our regular recipe for wheat bread (including the extra ingredients in the additional notes section), and it's turning out fabulous again. I couldn't be happier! I love whole wheat bread and I have a grain mill + some buckets of wheat + an internal desire to bake yummy bread at least once a week so that means I just have to be able to make a good loaf here, right? :)

Homemade whole wheat bread

Here is what I've changed to successfully combat my yeast bread issues in Seattle.

More gluten. I had previously been using 3 tablespoons of gluten per 3 cups of whole wheat flour. I'm now using 4 tablespoons of gluten for 3 cups of whole wheat flour. The gluten I'm using is 75% protein; some gluten I've used in the past didn't specify a protein percentage, but vital wheat gluten (also called gluten flour or just plain gluten) is required to be at least 75% protein.

More flour. In Ohio, I used 3 cups of flour/gluten total. (Meaning I took out 3 tablespoons of flour and replaced it with gluten, using 3 cups total.) Here, I am using 3 full cups of whole wheat flour, in addition to the 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) gluten flour. I'm still using 100% Prairie Gold hard white wheat.

Finer flour. Or maybe flour that's the same. I'm not exactly sure, which is odd considering I grind my own flour in a Wonder Mill on my kitchen counter. The first time I ground flour here, I used the normal bread setting, but the flour seemed slightly coarser than normal for some reason. The bread seemed to be having difficulty holding up on itself (not collapsing, or being too dense at the bottom) so I started grinding on the finer pastry flour setting and that has worked well.

(Whole wheat flour that is ground more coarsely has sharp little flakes of bran in it that effectively cut the gluten strands as it's being kneaded! Gluten that is developed properly is what makes a smooth, elastic dough and produces a bread with an elastic, even texture.)

Longer knead time. One of the whole wheat bread recipes I tried recently said to knead the dough for about 10 minutes, allow to sit for 20 minutes, and then finish kneading. Doing that seemed to help produce the smooth, elastic dough I wanted.

Now, I incorporate that 20-minute rest by turning off the bread machine (dough cycle) after 10-12 minutes, setting a timer for 20 minutes, and then re-starting the bread machine (dough cycle).

More lecithin. Along with powdered ginger and citric/ascorbic acid, lecithin is one of the natural ingredients we add to our bread as "dough conditioners". Lecithin helps produce an even texture and retains moisture, giving homemade bread that soft, fresh-from-the-oven feel/taste even after several days.

I increased the lecithin to 2 teaspoons per 3 cups of whole wheat flour and it seems to help give the bread enough support to be fluffy in the bottom half as well as the top!

Higher oven temperature. I've been baking my bread at 375*F instead of 350. I still don't have an oven thermometer, so it could very well be that this new oven just isn't as hot as it should be. Everything else seems to be baking normally in this oven, but yeast bread is more sensitive, so... I'll just do what works. :)

I'll still be doing some experimenting, but I'm very thankful for the progress I've made so far! These changes seem so minute, but somehow they're making a huge difference!

Is anyone else out there working on perfecting whole wheat sandwich bread? :) I'd love to hear your tips! And if something's not right with your loaf, too, feel free to ask for help in the comments section! :)

Comments

I'll have to try your recipe again with the "Seattle" changes. Oh, btw, I think bread bakes differently in the Summer than in the Winter here, so if for some reason around June it seems funny, you'll know why!

That was quite a hike. I was wondering were you moved.
Depending on were you live your baking could change. Good luck.

? for you. Have you tried the diet stuff on your blog?

Have you tried the diet stuff on your blog?

No! :)

Tammy,
I live in Western New York and have made your WW bread with great results. However I made the same changes you did with the new WW recipe not even realizing it. I only did it for sake of ease, since I triple your recipe and wanted easy measurements.

This past week I forgot to add the honey and was worried about the taste, but the bread tasted great. I may try halfing the sugar and honey since no one noticed a difference with no honey. I still want to include the honey since it adds moisture.

Dionne

Yay for your success! Your bread looks wonderful!

I just wanted to share my way to deal with my bread making.
I just put everything in the machine, turn it on and let it go all the programm.. (1h30)
I will take care of the dough when the right timing for me comes up.
So it stands sometimes for 2-3 or even 12 ours!
It gives me a great feeling of freedom!

HI! Thank you for helping with the fact that local environment effects the bread results! I've beena trying to make bread for two weeks, 6 loaves, and only one success so far!

I just moved from Seattle to Southern California and along with realizing that my breath produces fog here in the cold when it doesn't in seattle. Your blog let me see that this change in moisture content is also effecting my bread!

Ok, down to business.
1-What is your recipe for whole wheat sandwich bread? 2-How do you use ginger?
3-why am i getting bubbles in the top of my crust?
4-why would a loaf turn out hard, hard on the second day?

THANK YOU! I love your work.

Lorita

Here is our whole wheat bread recipe, which if you use the additional dough conditioning ingredients, makes a great (soft, even-textured) sandwich bread. There are lots of additional notes on the recipe, and also read the post above and check out the links near the top of this page that go to my other posts about my bread here in Seattle.

The ground/powdered ginger is just a little sprinkle in the dough (add with all the other ingredients) and gives the yeast a boost. :)

Bubbles in the top -- not sure... do you mean the bread is very light/airy/bubbly at the top and then more dense/very dense in the lower half? That is what my loaves were doing after moving to Seattle. The tips in this post (above) were the things we changed to start producing a good loaf again (consistent even texture, no falling in the oven, etc.).

A hard loaf on the second day -- not sure. :| Our recipe includes lecithin which really helps keep the bread soft. Maybe try my recipe (use the instructions in the additional notes of the recipe, which is what has been working for me here in Seattle) and see if it's any better... :)

Ok I am pretty new to baking bread, but I have loved this whole wheat recipe. I have been using the standard "Ohio" recipe, and up until a few weeks ago it has been perfect! well, a few weeks ago it started to be light and fluffy at the top and very dense at the bottom, almost like it is just not rising all of the way. I'm starting to get pretty discouraged and would love some advice. I currently use a zojiroshi bread machine, and I let it do everything including the baking. Also i live in salt lake city (pretty high altitude), and i don't know if that will make any difference with the recipe. I've tried using less yeast, not using salt, using less salt...I'm baffled.

Any help would be appreciated!

As a bread baking connoisseur from Seattle, I agree with Noah's comment. The bread has always came out different in the Summer compared to the Winter...so watch out. I think your refined recipe is right on. The pictures look good too :)

-- Frank

Interesting information. I have always somewhat struggled with bread rising here in Seattle area. I will try your suggestions. Thanks.

I've been making whole wheat bread for about three years now. It took me a while to get the perfect loaf with extra ingredients. I like mine with flax seed, wheat germ, seeds, etc. A few months ago I run out of my packaged active dry yeast that I had stored in my fridge. I went and purchased a 2 lb bag of Red Star yeast at Costco. I'm so frustrated, my bread doesn't rise the second time now. I proof the yeast and it foams, the dough rises, but after I form a loaf, it doesn't rise. I wonder if the yeast is bad or it's an instant yeast instead of active dry?

I have the Red Star yeast from our Costco, and I believe it's labeled as "active dry yeast", and not instant (I don't have the original package, since I store the yeast in a Ziplock in the freezer). I always get a good second rise for my breads, pizza dough, etc.

I would suggest trying the bread without proofing the yeast first. That, or else find the same brand/kind of yeast you were previously using! It is frustrating at times when I feel like I have something "down to a science" and then it stops working! :)

what a coincidence! i stumbled upon your site when i mentioned on fb that i was looking for a good w/w sandwich bread recipe and my aunt googled it and found your recipe. the part about moving from ohio to seattle stuck me because i've done the same thing! although i'm originally from the seattle area, i lived in nw ohio for 2 years before returning back here! interestingly enough, i never thought about differences because of humidity or whatever, but i haven't had any interest in baking bread since i lived there, until recently. but of course now, i'm dying to know where in ohio you lived and what brought you out here!

Fun! :) I hope your bread baking goes well. :)
We were in Seneca county when we lived in Ohio (my family is from there). My husband Joshua grew up in the Seattle area so we had family and a church out here before moving; when he was offered a job here in 2008 we moved! :)
You can always email me through this site's contact form if you have more questions. :)

I moved from Dublin OH to Seattle in May '05. It took me several tries too to make the same bread in Seattle that I made in Ohio. I'm looking for the most economical way to provide bread for my family. I buy 5# bags of King Arthur, use a Kitchen Aid and make a basic white bread. I've been baking two loaves a week for 10 years. I add oat bran, flax, whole wheat flour to get a little 'heft' in the bread. But I'd really like to buy a bread machine to grind my own flour. Do you recommend the Wonder Mill? Do you like it? Where do you buy bulk wheat to grind your flour? I read that bulk wheat storage is v. imp. Thanks a bunch. KathyS in Kirkland

I'd really like to buy a bread machine to grind my own flour. Do you recommend the Wonder Mill? Do you like it? Where do you buy bulk wheat to grind your flour? I read that bulk wheat storage is v. imp.
I'm guessing this is a typo, but I did want to point out that a bread machine won't grind flour. You probably meant to say grain mill instead! :)
Yes, we do really like the Wonder Mill. We did lots of research and I think the NutriMill and WonderMill are very comparable.
I have bought bulk wheat through a co-op in Ohio. Here in WA, I plan to order more wheat either through Azure Standard (co-op), although I first need to price it at our local health food store and Winco. :)
I have some of my grains packaged for long term storage (see details here for the wheat stored in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers for storage for 10+ years) but my regular use wheat (etc.) I store in 5-gallon buckets. In a room-temperature environment (without a lot of temperature fluctuations), away from sunlight and excessive moisture, I find that wheat berries (whole grain wheat) keeps for at least several years just in a bucket. :)

I just stumbled onto your site and I'm so happy to see that there are others around here that seem to be having the same problem that I am with my bread. Today it fell in the pan while baking and when I cut into it there were big holes in the top and it was very dense on the bottom half of the loaf. So frustrating because I did everything the same as I had in Portland, Oregon.
Also, I'm running out of hard white and wanted to know where you purchase your grain. I live in the Sammamish Plateau and am new to the area. Thanks for sharing your information.
Summerdinga

I have been using hard red wheat for our bread recently, which has seemed to produce a better loaf here (in Seattle) than the hard white... although both have the "issues" mentioned in this post! :)

That said, I'm not sure if WinCo carries hard white wheat, but I know they do carry bulk wheat and for a good price. If you can find out how to order from Azure, a co-op, in your area, they have wheat and may carry the hard white. And, you can always call around to health food and/or bulk food stores and see what they carry! :)

I used lecithin, ascorbic acid and a piece of ginger ( which I removed before baking) in my bread today ( I have a Bosch universal machine) and the bread was great!! I use Dave's killer bread recipe ( found on you tube) and add 1 cup bread flour per loaf ( not all whole wheat like he does). With these simple conditioners, the bread tasted very good. Thanks. I live in NJ. I have a friend who has allergies, so I'm planning to try a loaf with egg,lime juice and a piece of ginger( it's hard to know if the lecithin granules have ever come in contact with nuts before getting to you).

and that is the more often you make the better it goes. That there is something in the air, like a yeast molecule or something. So the odd loaf made in the off season is totally flat. Three of us women all made bread this early summer for VBS and all of us had a bread issue.

Just a thought...............

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