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The bread I make has been inconsistent in how it turns out each time. I follow the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" method for making bread. Sometimes it rises really nice, other times it barely rises at all. I know their methodology uses regular all purpose flour, however due to a food allergy, I can't have any malt. So I usually use Gold Medal Organic All Purpose flour that does not have malt listed as an ingredient. Somehow I think these are related, though I don't know for sure.

I realize malt is a sugar that the yeast feeds on. Could this be why I have inconsistent bread from time to time? What can I add to make up for the lack of malt in the bread?

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So... do you want to know why you have inconsistent bread, or are you wanting to make bread with no malt? I was also not aware that it's part of normal processes to put malt sugar into flour. –  baka Jun 12 '12 at 19:22
    
Two part question. Is my theory right: "Could this be why I have inconsistent bread from time to time?" and is what is the fix if I am "What can I add to make up for the lack of malt in the bread?" –  Mike Wills Jun 12 '12 at 19:27
    
I could also be totally wrong and am looking for suggestions if I am. –  Mike Wills Jun 12 '12 at 19:28
    
I'd suspect temperature and relative humidity of the kitchen and possibly yeast health before I'd suspect an issue with sugars in the flour, but I know nothing about your process. –  baka Jun 12 '12 at 19:31
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2 Answers

Added malt is not necessary for yeast action.

The starches in flour are huge sugar molecules. They are too big for our tongue which is why we can't taste them. They are also too big for yeast to break down.

Given some time amylase enzymes in the flour will break some of those starches down into natural malt. This gives dough more complex flavors as well as a considerable amount of sugar for us and for our belching yeasty slaves. For this reason it is added to some flours by millers. Peter Reinhardt has made a career talking about this.

However, this malt, while delicious, is not always necessary. The flour milling process produces plenty of damaged starches that the yeast will happily munch on. For many breads this is entirely sufficient for proofing.

If your flour does not have much amylase and no added malt (which can also add enzymes) then your dough won't be breaking down any of your starches into new sugar. If you age your dough for a long time your yeast could simply be starving to death. You monster.

If you consider your constant quest for convenience to be corrupting the quality of your carbohydrate-consuming companions and curtailing the quantity of carbon-dioxide- an easy way to test this theory would be to mix in a little sucrose (table sugar). Your indentured yeast will love you and will honor your reign with gassy uprisings.

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+1 for the awesome answer. –  Mike Wills Jun 12 '12 at 20:14
    
The amylase enzymes don't do a whole lot of work until they're in the ~130-165 degree range, though (howtobrew.com/section3/chapter14-1.html). Could the malt be the vehicle for the enriching process? –  baka Jun 12 '12 at 22:16
    
@baka- it's true that amylase is most effective at those temperatures but it is still active at much lower temperatures. It takes a good day for enough activity to be useful in bread- which is still much less than is required for beer. The artisan bread recipes referenced by the OP can go for days in the fridge. –  Sobachatina Jun 13 '12 at 3:03
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I wish I could give +10 just for "You monster." :) –  Marti Jun 14 '12 at 16:54
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I use the same recipe. I find as the dough gets older, it rises less. Maybe some of the gasses have already been created and gone away. But it tastes nicer when it's had some time in the fridge, probably because wild yeasts are growing. My solution is fourfold:

  • use a little more yeast (2 tsp instead of 1.5)
  • slash the dough more than in the pictures, to make sure I don't prevent any rise
  • skip the steam generating step (the tossing a cup of water onto a preheated pan)
  • use a heavier piece of dough, so you can get the same size even if it's denser

The result is a slight less crunchy crust, but a slightly large loaf. It's delicious so I also don't get too worked up about some loaves rising more than others.

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The only reason I really ask is when I make bread for sandwiches. For the standard boule it isn't as much of a problem. –  Mike Wills Jun 12 '12 at 19:07
    
you reminded me of the other thing I do when I want to have a loaf that's at least a minimum size... use more dough. –  Kate Gregory Jun 12 '12 at 19:11
    
I make 2 lb loaves. The American Bread recipie then creates 2 loaves. –  Mike Wills Jun 12 '12 at 19:16
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