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I usually make bread with 100% whole wheat flour, but I have never been able to make good sandwich bread that way, because it is does not have a very elastic texture to it.

I have heard of adding gluten to bread to increase its elasticity, but is there another way of achieving this effect?

  • We're about food and cooking, not health, so I've removed the bit asking about health. Also, you might want to clarify whether you're using only whole wheat flour, or a mix. – Cascabel May 4 '13 at 4:17
  • @Jefromi Thanks! Yes, I mean 100% whole wheat flour. Although I added the health part not because I was asking how healthy a certain method was, but rather because I was not looking for answers that would include unhealthy options. – Stephen May 4 '13 at 4:22
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    Right, but the problem is that no one ever agrees what's healthy, and it leads to a lot of debate, and it's not food and cooking debate. If there are specific other things you're trying to avoid, please do add them into your question, though! – Cascabel May 4 '13 at 4:23
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I have found the water roux or tangzhong method effective for 100% whole wheat bread, as it makes the texture less dense, and therefore less crumbly.

Also, you may simply be using too little moisture overall. Now that I'm baking bread for a 2 year old, whose tastes lean slightly less rustic in bread than mine, I've rediscovered high-hydration loaves, which, when baked at a lower temperature than my beloved crusty, chewy breads, are pretty suitable sandwich material.

Another strategy, if you want to embrace the density of whole grain breads instead of avoiding it, is to try the strategy employed by dense German multigrain or pumpernickel loaves, which often employ moist sweeteners (honey, molasses or sugar beet syrup), sometimes additional moist ingredients (apples, carrots) along with various nuts and seeds that offset the grains, sometimes alternate grains like rye or spelt, and moderately high hydration. A picture of one example can be seen here: http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/1168871222955627/Apfel-Karotten-Mehrkornbrot.html. Then you get a fairly chewy but reasonably topping-friendly bread. (Most German sandwiches using this type of bread are remarkably minimalist in comparison to contemporary American preferences, sometimes meant just as a take-along "second breakfast", and may only have a slice of cheese or salami, some butter and mustard on thin slices). The combination of factors makes for a moister-than-you'd-expect, less-crumbly-than-just-grain, dense bread.

  • Is there a not so complicated way of describing the tanngzhong method? Please as the blog is quite lengthy and doesn't really get to the point and is lost in all the other ramblings – user18760 Jun 15 '13 at 17:44
  • I'm sure there are several sites that describe it more tersely; basically it's the same as a pate a choux base but with less flour per volume of water, so that it never gets quite as smooth and solid as a typical choux pastry. You add it to a yeast sponge after the mixture has cooled a bit. I'm not 100% sure what the right ratio is for best results; I tend to use a rough eyeballing and get adequate to good results most times. – JasonTrue Jun 15 '13 at 21:54
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According to King Arthur Flour, starting your dough with an autolyse step may achieve the results you desire:

"An autolyse is the gentle mixing of the flour and water in a bread recipe, followed by a 20 to 60 minute rest period. After the rest, the remaining ingredients are added and kneading begins."

An autolyse brings the following benefits to challenging bread doughs:

  • The flour fully hydrates. This is particularly useful when working with whole-grain flour because the bran softens as it hydrates, reducing its negative effect on gluten development.
  • Gluten bonds begin developing with no effort on the part of the baker, and kneading time is consequently reduced.
  • Carotenoid pigments remain intact, leading to better color, aroma, and flavor.
  • Fermentation proceeds at a slower pace, allowing for full flavor development and better keeping quality.
  • The dough becomes more extensible (stretchy), which allows it to expand easily. This leads to easier shaping, greater loaf volume, a more open crumb structure, and cuts that open more fully.

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