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Troubleshooting Bread

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

 Hello Chef Talk Community,

 It's me coconut with another question this time concerning the ancient art of bread baking. A week ago I was gung ho ready to make home made bread for sandwiches and french toast for brunch. I found it quite disapointing when the dough doesn't rise, I figure it might be the yeast I'm using (bottled instant yeast) or the cause and effect of over kneading it. I'm used to preparing pizza doughs, focaccia, you know the flat stuff. Unsurprisingly I am embarassingly unable to get a basic bread recipe to inflate...hmmm perhaps I need a new way of poofing the dough? I've been resting the dough in the sunlight or resting it next to the oven light. Still no rise. The recipe is simple, I use a simple yeast starter (yeast, sugar, water) and mix it with sunflower oil which is said to be brilliant for baking. I followed the instructions from the professional baking text by wayne gisslen by the letter (from what I recall I'm supposed to knead three times). Maybe I'll learn from trial and error...Perhaps there is a time tested tip you might want to share with me ;) lol It's much appreciated. Thanks!

 

PS- Whole gain bread is baking in the oven right now. It's small but I shaped it to look like a small loaf of bread.

post #2 of 18

a couple of  thoughts, Coconut,

 

One is to do it the old fashioned way, that is to stir the instant dry yeast into a quarter cup of very warm water (like you'd take a bath in the winter - not hot enough to burn you, but hotter than you'd wash a baby) with a tiny pinch of sugar.  Before adding it to your recipe you should see it start to foam, and you can actually watch the yeast increasing and moving under your eyes (add it with the liquid, and subtract the 1/4 cup from the liquid you use, - if it calls for 2 cups milk, you use 1 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup of water to proof the yeast - whether the recipe calls for water or milk or buttermilk or whatever).  It will take a few minutes to foam if you let it sit undisturbed and that means the yeast is still alive. 

 

The second is to let it rise until you leave an indentation that slowly fills back up when you poke or press it gently  with a wet finger up to or almost up to the first knuckle.  IF IT HASN'T RISEN THAT MUCH YOU HAVE TO LET IT RISE MORE. I';ve had bread take half a day orn more to rise properly, and others that rise in half an hour.   There is no precise time, there is no precise height, it has to be risen to that point where it leaves a dent that fills in gradually.  (If it just collapses under your finger it's too much and you should fold it a few times and let it rise again).  A warm house will make it rise more quickly, a cool house will make it rise more slowly. 

 

The third is that the recipe will determine how fast it will rise, for instance if it has a lot of melted butter in the recipe, you will have a heavy loaf.  BUT IF YOU ADD COOL BUTTER IN SMALL PIECES AT THE END OF THE KNEADING it will rise BETTER.  (the flour is already made into gluten and doesn;t absorb the butter as it would if you add it melted at the beginning,  but the butter in this case will make the gluten strands slide better over each other - or so i read - but it does work, and you can add tons of butter if you do it this way, adding cold after the kneading. 

Too much sugar (added at any point of the recipe) will also weigh down a loaf.

 

Finally, if you use whole wheat flour, you will need to be MUCH MORE CAREFUL handling it, and not smash it, punch it or tear it.  Keep the bottom of the dough, the part that is down on the table when you knead it, on top when you raise it.  It will hold the air in better.  And if you use other flours (rye, corn, etc) they will make it rise much less, since they have less gluten. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #3 of 18

If you're getting no rise at all the problem isn't kneading.  Most likely it's the yeast.

 

If you're really just learning loaf bread, as your post suggests, consider starting with the simplest recipe: white flour, water, yeast, and salt.   E.g. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html.   This is quite tasty and minimizes the number of variables to keep track of.  Practice will teach you how to "read" the dough at various points in its development, the kind of thing siduri is pointing to.  

 

As siduri says, proofing is a good idea if you are not sure of your yeast.  You can proof with water and a little stirred-in flour -- you don't need sugar.  I have found non-instant yeast more reliable and tasty.  You can also use smaller amounts of yeast, because yeast will make more of itself -- it just takes a little longer, and longer fermentations usually have tastier results.  Don't worry about optimal temperature.  Your dough will rise all by itself, on its own schedule.

 

post #4 of 18

Another thing to be careful about is your water ... not sure about where you live but my tap water has a lot of clorine in it and I use filtered water that just feels warm to the touch around 100 degrees F.

If your just getting into baking a very good book to check out is Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" I personally own this book and use it constantly and have had very good results his formulas.

 

And if you don't have one I recommend getting a scale

 

I myself have never used "bottled active yeast" I have always used the "active dry yeast" and mixed it directly into the flour and have had very good results with it.

 

Let us know how everything turns out!!!!

post #5 of 18
Bottled active yeast IS instant dry yeast, but sold in supermarkets as "recommended for bread machines" The bottled stuff is about 10 times more expensive. Hope you reuse the bottle because you paid something like 6 bucks for it alone.

This type of yeast -- which is freeze-dried -- very seldom goes bad; and if your municipal water has too much chlorine or anything else to allow yeast to propagate, you've got bigger problems than baking.

Still sometimes you do get bad yeast, and sometimes even instant yeast does go bad.

Find out. Proof a tbs of yeast by stirring it into a pint (2 cups) of baby-bottle warm water with a tbs of sugar, and let it sit somewhere out of the draft for 15 - 30 minutes. If it's dead there won't be any activity. If it's weak, there will be very little. If it's healthy, you should get a lovely, scummy, bubbly grey mass on top of the water. If not already clear, this isn't to use for baking -- just to check the yeast.

Reinhart's Apprentice is definitely the way to roll for your first, serious baking book.

BDL
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post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 

 Wonderful advice! I'm definately going on the prowl for Reinhart's book now. The shere mention of baking formula's brings back a memory working in a Boston Pizza not too long ago. The step-father of a supervisor was hired for part-time as a line cook, formerly a baker from another chain restaurant, he was able to foretell the 'turn out' of the dough.

"Proof a tbs of yeast by stirring it into a pint (2 cups) of baby-bottle warm water with a tbs of sugar, and let it sit somewhere out of the draft for 15 - 30 minutes. If it's dead there won't be any activity. If it's weak, there will be very little. If it's healthy, you should get a lovely, scummy, bubbly grey mass on top of the water. If not already clear, this isn't to use for baking -- just to check the yeast"

 

 ""  Will do!

 

post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by coconut View Post

 
"Proof a tbs of yeast by stirring it into a pint (2 cups) of baby-bottle warm water with a tbs of sugar, and let it sit somewhere out of the draft for 15 - 30 minutes. If it's dead there won't be any activity. If it's weak, there will be very little. If it's healthy, you should get a lovely, scummy, bubbly grey mass on top of the water. If not already clear, this isn't to use for baking -- just to check the yeast"

 

 ""  Will do!

 


No, not baby bottle warm, it's not really warm enough for dry yeast - that wojuld be good for live yeast cakes.  For the dry yeast, i use the temp i would use for my own bath in the winter - not hot enough to burn but nice and warm

 

I use a part of the liquid for the bread for proofing and i always use water (if it calls for 2 cups milk, use 1/4 cup water and 1 3/4 cups milk - won't make a difference in the flavor) and a tiny pinch of sugar, then when it gets all bubbly, YOU DO PUT IT INTO THE BREAD MIX WITH THE REST OF THE LIQUID.  (Why waste it?  It's perfectly good, and has already doubled it's quantity)

 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #8 of 18
Siduri, you wrote:
Quote:
No, not baby bottle warm, it's not really warm enough for dry yeast - that wojuld be good for live yeast cakes.  For the dry yeast, i use the temp i would use for my own bath in the winter - not hot enough to burn but nice and warm

 

I use a part of the liquid for the bread for proofing and i always use water (if it calls for 2 cups milk, use 1/4 cup water and 1 3/4 cups milk - won't make a difference in the flavor) and a tiny pinch of sugar, then when it gets all bubbly, YOU DO PUT IT INTO THE BREAD MIX WITH THE REST OF THE LIQUID.  (Why waste it?  It's perfectly good, and has already doubled it's quantity)

 


You're making a very basic mistake, probably because you haven't lived here for awhile. American yeast isn't what it used to be, in part because of the revolution brought about by stand mixers and bread machines.

In this case, at least as I understand it, we're not talking about ordinary "dry yeast" (from tiny packets) but instant yeast (from the jar).

Old fashioned dry yeast has about 20% live yeast, but instant yeast has about 80% -- in other words it's far more virulent and vigorous and takes less time to develop, as it's already three generations advanced straight from the container. It's also a more active and robust strain, and should do fine in straight from the tap cold water. Indeed, the yeast is so dependable that commercial and advanced home bakers usually mix it into the dries, rather than proofing first; and do not warm the wets at all either. Same for bread machines.

The big companies like Fleischman and SAF use an improved and more robust strain for ordinary dry yeast as well. The switchover occurred in the mid nineties.

The whole temperature thing -- at least in terms of the modern yeasts we use in America -- is overwrought anyway. A warmer environment will help the yeast propagate more quickly, but a merely warm or even room temperature environment is plenty good for almost all common, commercial yeasts; and fifteen minutes in 100F (warm to the skin) water, should be plenty to let you know if the yeast is sufficiently active for baking or not. The difference in activity from 110F (old fashioned, recommended temp) will barely signify, if at all. I don't want the poor OP mixing water with a thermometer when it's not at all necessary.

Italian yeast? I'll take your word.

The "just proof, don't bake" advice was given for the sake of convenience so that the OP didn't need to schedule proofing at a time which was right for baking, or to stand by with all the ingredients for bread -- just in case the yeast did not proof. I'll plead guilty to a violation of the Law of Conservation of Yeast, throw myself on the mercy of the court and accept the consequences.

Maybe I should have explained all this before, but I get self-conscious.

BDL
Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/12/11 at 5:15pm
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post #9 of 18

Thanks bdl,

I actually got that information ab0out the temp for proofing (not for rising or mixing) from an american cookbook.  It always worked well for me, though I don't doubt it would work also with cooler water, just it would take a little longer to see if the yeast is alive.  Here, i have no idea WHAT kind of yeast it is.  All the kinds i've found say to put the yeast in with the dry ingredients, but they also say to use 2 packages for a loaf of bread and let rise an hour!  If they say anything.  Which is unusual.  Hardly anyone bakes bread anyway.  They usually use the yeast for the batter for frying baccala'.

 

I had really good luck with the baby bath water temp for fresh yeast and the hot-shower-in-winter-for-adults temp for dry yeast, for whatever type i use (i believe there ARE different types here, but kind of randomly and they don't seem to have specific designations.)

 

As far as i can see, all the dry ones can be used by mixing into the dry ingredients and with cold water, but you just have to be very patient while it gradually reproduces and makes the dough rise. 

 

For proofing, instead, and not to waste time doing two different procedures, if i have any doubt about my yeast, i will proof using very warm water and a little sugar just to speed up the process (if your water is too cool it might take so long you (or at least I) will lose patience and think it's not active any more.  Then since you know if it's good, you might as well use it in your bread and not throw it out, no? 

 

So probably you can proof with cold water and a little flour, but it will take longer.  If the water is too hot it kills the yeast.  But warmer activates it quicker. 

 

I think we share the need to use a lot of words and probably should both edit down what we say, but in the end, we then get misunderstandings that require even MORE words.  ah, well.

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #10 of 18

I had a friend of mine who's a chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Chicago do a video for me on bread making.  I highly recommend watching it:

 

http://vimeo.com/27352685

 

Watch your kneading and fermenting/proofing times.

 

I use dry active yeast at a ratio of around 3% by weight to the flour (letting that proof in hot tap water with a pinch of sugar or flour for 10 minutes), 2% by weight of salt (get's added after the slow kneading) and anywhere from 62-67% water.

post #11 of 18

This sounds very eloquent. But it is not reality. Sorry Rob, I did not follow the link, but I don't think I need to. Boar and Siduri offer knowledge from the residential side of baking.

Which happens to be all correct. You cannot compare this type of baking to commercial wholesale baking. There is two totally different worlds. You can't compare a dough with a wet mopine

over it to proof to commercial balancelle proofing.

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post #12 of 18

Actually, the video Rob posted is great.  Thank you, Rob.

 

As a home baker I lack controlled proofing and steam ovens, and I don't have the kind of regular schedule (and intense practice) that a pro does.  This makes it harder to do something like French baguettes, which have a relatively short fermentation.  I also don't have that mixer! -- the part of the video that deeply impressed me was the kind of dough texture he got right out of the mixer.

 

So in some ways, sure, the video is aspirational rather than something I can replicate.  Home conditions are better suited, I've found, to longer fermentations and rustic loaves.  

 

(One of the reasons pros are more likely to nail down proof temperatures and so forth is that they're on a schedule.  I'm not, so I can just sprinkle a few grains of yeast in with some flour and room-temperature water, and let it tell me when it's ready.)

 

Back to the video: with longer fermentation and a little care, yes, I can get doughs that are both relatively wet *and* that hold together, like the one shown.  It was great to see that.  The video warns against the common home mistake of flinging too much flour around as you work the dough.  The parts on loaf formation, final proofing in cloth, and sliding into the oven are all home-replicable, and things that took me a long time to figure out on my own.  So the video would have been very useful to me when I was starting out, and it's pretty cool now.

post #13 of 18
In the sense you mean, baguettes -- even really good baguettes -- aren't hard for a home baker.

This is yet another instance of a home baker who believes (s)he has to replicate professional techniques in order to get professional results. Nothing to be ashamed of, it's not at all uncommon.

If you don't have all the equipment you might lose a little crust texture -- but any problem getting every other desirable quality is related to lack of technique or poor ingredient choice. Also, we who bake at home have the freedom to allow a little extra time or cut things short by a bit if circumstances indicate and can adjust on the fly to an extent professional bakers cannot.

Things like "lift," formation, "tang," and so on... you can do them just as well as a pro. Maybe not the first or tenth time, but with practice... You might do some things differently, but you can do them as well. As to that crackling crust -- you'll do that almost as well. Surprisingly, people baked good bread before steam injection.

That's what Panini was getting at. And he's right.

Videos of professional bakers are all well and good, but if you're not baking in quantity almost everyone -- including professionals who bake in small lots -- will do a lot better doing things like getting a copy of the Bread Baker's Apprentice, and joining the Fresh Loaf.

Colin -- If you've found "non-instant yeast" more reliable, you're in a minority. Nearly all of the good bakers I know -- amateur and professional -- use one or another of the SAF (includes Fermipan) Instants, because instant is faster, more convenient, and more reliable, but otherwise no different. Which yeasts do you use and recommend? In what ways do you think they taste better?

BDL
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post #14 of 18

These days I'm using SAF "traditional" active dry.  

 

But most of my bread now relies on starter/levain, with new yeast added only as a supplement to control funkiness, so I'm no longer going through large volumes of the stuff.  

 

Re steam, what has been fun lately is baking under a homemade cloche -- a modified flowerpot -- to get better rise and crust.  But that means round to oval loaves.

 

It's not like I've never been able to produce baguettes, but it's a PITA to get the steam right, and my results have been OK, but not deeply compelling.  When I want short-fermentation airy & crusty, I tend to do focaccia.  But I'm open to another assault on baguettes if you can point me at a method, and I'll put _Apprentice_ on my list.  I've been mainly baking out of Carol Field and Bernard Clayton Jr for the last few decades so it may be time for new inspiration.

post #15 of 18

It might be the yeast, it might not. I'd bet not. Any chance you can share the recipe with those who don't have Gisslen's book? Other suspects include too much flour/not enough liquid, too much fat, % of whole wheat flour...

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post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 

 There is no recipe I use from Gisslen's book because most of the time some ingredients might require scaling (The book is aimed for commercial kitchens). I merely experiment with the 'professional techniques' he talk's about in the first bread chapter. It's interesting the current discussion has evolved into a question of whether professional techniques produce a excellent result for home bakers.
 

@ Rob W: Thank you kindly. I was unable to find this type of video on YouTube last week. Also, how does one say a home baker, covert percentages in mL, oz, so on? :0)

@ Thread Subscribers: Okay here it goes...I'm stepping up to multi grain bread right away. My yeast's (feischmann's and safeway brand instant yeast) are very powerful. Siduri, the temperature you recomended works well and I have a good fermentation. Here come's the scary part...waiting... lol I prepared three different batches, two of them identical, because I was facing a problem with gluten formation. The gluten formation wasn't very strong so I attempted countering the weak gluten by mixing 150 ml of All-Purpose Flour into 250 ml multi-grain. It seem's to me it doesn't make much of a difference adding all purpose flour to strengthen the gluten. I used the straight dough method for the dough, 'polished' the dough, and let it rise. It grew alright, hours later it has a crusty skin on the dough, and it stopped rising at the top of the bread pan.


Edited by coconut - 9/17/11 at 11:43am
post #17 of 18


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by coconut View Post

@ Thread Subscribers: Okay here it goes...I'm stepping up to multi grain bread right away. My yeast's (feischmann's and safeway brand instant yeast) are very powerful. Siduri, the temperature you recomended works well and I have a good fermentation. Here come's the scary part...waiting... lol I prepared three different batches, two of them identical, because I was facing a problem with gluten formation. The gluten formation wasn't very strong so I attempted countering the weak gluten by mixing 150 ml of All-Purpose Flour into 250 ml multi-grain. It seem's to me it doesn't make much of a difference adding all purpose flour to strengthen the gluten. I used the straight dough method for the dough, 'polished' the dough, and let it rise. It grew alright, hours later it has a crusty skin on the dough, and it stopped rising at the top of the bread pan.

Some things you should know about whole wheat bread.  First of all wheat has gluten, but other flours have very little, so you need to make sure there is plenty of wheat. 

 

I've made 100% whole wheat bread for years, not artisan bread (though i made that too) but soft american style bread, with some milk or buttermilk and butter and some form of sugar (sugar, molasses, honey, malt syrup), because i can't find that here and i love it for breakfast and because my kids liked it for snacks and i wanted to be sure they got some whole grains in their diet. 

I got a book that is NOT by a professional baker but by a home baker who put her intelligence to use as a "housewife" and researched very thoroughly the process of making bread.  Her bibliography is worthy of a phd dissertation.  The book is exceptional because it is VERY  realistic for a home baker.  No doubt will be looked on with disdain by some professionals, but they;re baking in a professional kitchen.  It's called Laurel's bread book.  The fact that it's written by a non-professional makes it more suited for home use.  And i guarantee the recipes work.  She has a mission to make stuff 100% whole grain and also to make it good.  And she succeeds. 

 

Anyway these tricks allowed me to make 100% (no addition of any white flour or gluten or any other thing) whole wheat bread with a soft crumb and high rise that had NO brick-like qualities. 

 

1.  coddle your gluten.  You will have less gluten in whole wheat flour (because part of the volume is taken up by non-gluten elements like bran and germ) and i think even the flakes of bran of whole grain flour probably cut up the gluten a little too, though this is my own intuition speaking.  Anyway, no punching down dough.  You need to knead well, long enough for that satiny surface feeling to emerge, which is the gluten, and to feel the elasticity (you press on it and you feel it wanting to come back into a ball).

     A. then you make sure the surface that was on the bottom (the "skin" - where the sheets of gluten are all rounded and can hold in the air produced by the yeast) is on the top. 

     B. Never break that "skin"

     C. When you go for the second rise, if you do, you would normally be told to "punch down" the dough.  NO.  Just gently detach the dough from the walls of the bowl, so air escapes, and press it down (gently) till it's squashed out all the air. 

     D Always let it rise with some protection from the dry air - i turn a plastic shopping bag over the bowl, but you can use a damp dishtowel (not touching the dough but over the bowl), plastic wrap, etc.

 

2. If you add butter to your recipe, add it AFTER having kneaded,  add it in small slivers and knead them in, and add it unmelted.  It will NOT make your dough heavy, but actually will make it lighter and rise higher.  (she says it greases the gluten, which may not be scientific terminology, but it makes sense.  But you have to produce the gluten first.)  You can actually add quite a bit of butter this way, and it's the technique used for brioche, at least according to julia child.   

 

3.  After the second rise, when you're about to form the loaf, take the ball of dough out of the bowl and turn upside down (the "skin" is always worked face down on the board, always left to rise face up)

     A. Flatten it gently, then pull in a part of the outside inwards toward the center, then do the same to the adjacent part, overlapping with the first flap, and so on all around sort of like a flower folding in.  Turn it over and let rest ten minutes under a cloth. 
     B. Turn the skin down again and flatten with your hands.  NEVER STRETCH, JUST PRESS the dough - no tearing.  form it in a loaf making sure it's all curled up so the skin covers all - fold down the top half to the center, fold in the two sides slightly and then froll it up from the top and press to seal, and turn over and put in greased pan. 

 

With these techniques you can make high rising whole wheat bread without any other addition of gluten or white flour.  I prefer the half-sifted whole wheat flour (where the larger flakes of bran are sifted out)- it's still brown but hasn't got that sawdusty aspect to it, it's finely ground.   but i've also done it with the regular unsifted flour and it works too. 

 

If you want more grains in there, make sure they don't exceed a fourth of the whole if you want a good rise.  half a cup out of two cups works, and does give a different flavor.  Or you can add more, but it will not rise as high. 

 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #18 of 18

Whole wheat bread is a much more significant challenge than white bread. All the gluten that you take care to create is at risk from the sharp bran in whole wheat flour. In reading your initial post I gathered that you are new to bread baking. Is this true? If so I would recommend finding a simple white loaf recipe and baking it repeatedly. Once you know what a well hydrated/risen dough looks and feels like you will be better equipped to take on the challenges of whole wheat.

 

As to baker's percentages, it's just math. All ingredients are given as a percentage of the total flour weight. The flour weight is said to be 100%. If you have a flour weight of 18 ounces, and the yeast is given as 2%, you would use 0.36 ounces of yeast. If the water was given as 65%, you would use 11.7 ounces of water. The combined %'s of all the ingredients WILL NOT add to 100%. 

At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.
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At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.
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