Yep 115 is pushing hottest. I've probably killed a few organisms from time to time. But then I figure in for some small changes; especially in cold weather 'cause I keep it really chilly in my house.
Like if you put 115 water in a cold measuring cup, instant reduction. Or even sitting the cup on a cold surface, etc.
Stainless mixing bowl cold. All sorts of things.
So I try to start on the top end to account for changes.
You can always "warm" your vessels with hot water or whatever, and then shoot more towards 100, which I think is kind of optimal.
I have never been able to get good dissolve with water less than 90 or so.
Glad you like your Country Living Grain Mill. It has been on the "Most Wanted" list for me for a while... it just seems other things like medical care and car insurance seem to keep circumventing the list and jumping to the head of the line... Oh well. Such is life.
I haven't read anyone else's posts, I'll read them after I respond to yours. Nothing I say is meant to cause disturbance in anyone's life force or contradict whatever works for them. That's why I'm not reading the other posts yet.
First, your yeast is elderly. Had it been in the freezer the whole time, it would be in it's late 30's to early 40's now in people years. But storing it outside the freezer for that long is kind of like one of us motorcycle racing. It has an effect on our life span or at least on our function... So, you need to sacrifice a tablespoon of the yeast and test it. Take 1/2 cup of warm water, 90 - 100 degrees is ideal, but you can test it with your wrist. If you wouldn't feed it to a baby because it's too warm, it's too warm for your yeast. If it doesn't feel warm enough to not give the baby a belly ache, it is too cool for your yeast. If you have good sensory perception on the inside of your wrist, a few drops of the water should feel wet... It shouldn't feel cool or very warm, just about the same temperature as your wrist and you're good. Ok, now that I've over discussed water temperatures... Take 1/2 cup of the warm water, add 1 tablespoon of yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Stir them together briefly and let it set. In 10 minutes, if your yeasty water isn't bubbling, you need to feed the yeast to the compost pile. If it is bubbling a little and yeast is hard to come by, you can make it work, it will just take more yeast and we'll walk through something called a levain. If the yeast is available and the budget will permit, become the proud owner of some fresh yeast... and store it in the freezer. I've got some yeast from about that same time frame that has been stored in the freezer and it works just fine. The freezer is your friend with yeast storage.
If your yeast passes the test or you replace it or you want to discuss stretching its life out as much as possible (if it bubbled at all in the test, if it didn't or it only had one or two bubbles, it's time to play taps for the yeast), there are still a couple more things to keep in mind.
First... your recipe sounds good as far as ingredients. Salt, yeast, flour and water are the only ingredients necessary to make bread. Every thing else we add can make the bread richer, lighter, fluffier, prettier, etc... but the basic music of bread is salt, yeast, flour and water.
Whole wheat flour, especially whole wheat flour we grind ourselves has more "stuff" in it than bread flour or even store bought whole wheat. It takes longer to hydrate and hydration is important in making bread. It also takes a little more liquid than a standard bread recipe that is made using commercially ground flour.
To make bread that will rise more, you need to add an extra step when using home ground flour and that is to mix the water (all except 1/2 cup) plus an extra 3 tablespoons of water to the flour. Don't proof your yeast yet, don't add the salt, just mix the flour and water together and let them sit there just hanging out absorbing each other for about an hour. If you are storing your yeast in the freezer, this would be a good time to measure out how much yeast your recipe calls for and just put it in a bowl or cup to come to room temperature. Don't stir that flour and water after that first time! Just let them get to know each other. What that is doing is the bran and different parts of the wheat that is included in your much better flour is having enough time to absorb the water so it will be ready to make your bread.
Ok, an hour is past and the get aquainted session for the flour and water is over. Now, warm the rest of your water (1/2 cup that you held out during the hydration stage), and mix your yeast into it. Once you are more comfortable, if you have instant or fast acting yeast, you'll be able to skip this step, but get comfortable with what you are seeing for now. After 10 minutes mix the yeasty water into the bread.
You can add your salt now too. You'll see "salt kills yeast" all over the place in the bread world... and I wouldn't add the salt to the yeast when I was proofing it, but salt is as basic to bread as yeast is and it's kind of like saccharine causes cancer in rats... if you drown the rat in it... there's not enough salt in a loaf of bread to kill the yeast, unless you mixed them together in the water and let them sit there all alone and stuff.
For basic bread - Once you get the bread dough mixed together and knead it that first time, you should by about 5 minutes into the kneading have a fairly elastic feeling dough. It won't feel too sticky that you can't work with it, and it won't feel so dry that it is hard feeling. If it is too sticky, work a little bit more flour into it - a tablespoon or two at a time. If it is so dry it is hard feeling or it tears as you are needing it, work a little bit more water into it - a tablespoon at a time. It is easier to add flour than water so don't add too much and end up needing to try to work more water into the dough.
It is almost impossible for a person to over-knead dough when needing by hand. It's just one of those things. Bread is pretty hardy. It is not the delicate balancing act some companies say it is... if you think about it, bread has been made in one form or another in more campsites than Michelin star kitchens and it turns out just fine.
When you are kneading bread, it gets more elastic the longer you knead it. Most people have accomplished enough at about the 10 - 12 minute point in kneading dough. What the kneading process is doing is developing gluten strands and then binding them together. I know it's the evil "gluten" word, but gluten is a protein. Wheat, barley and rye have the potential to develop gluten strands, wheat has the most gluten potential. Other grains do not hold together to make bread without some manipulation because there are no gluten strands to bind the bread together. (Think how crumbly cornbread is without any flour in it. No gluten...)
At the beginning of the kneading, the gluten forms rather straight strands. As you knead the bread more, the gluten strands wind together and form bonds. No knead bread doesn't rise as much because it didn't have that structure developed into it. Biscuits are never kneaded, that is why the bread of a biscuit is so tender. They rely on baking powder for their rising agent and some other magic to do with steam and stuff, but if your loaf bread was that tender it would just fall apart.
I'm not really a fan of no-knead breads. They don't build the structure we think of a bread having. They can be delicious but you most likely cannot make a sandwich with a no-knead bread, and kneading is not that hard to do after the first couple of times when you stop being afraid of it. It is really rather therapeutic... although pretending it is someone you are mad at could result in that rare over-kneading issue. If you do use a no-knead bread recipe, just be prepared that it won't rise quite as much and it will be a great bread to eat, just not maybe to make your ham sandwich from the next day.
Whenever you get your dough kneaded and are ready to put it in the pan or bowl for it to rise, most recipes will tell you to oil the bowl and then turn the dough over after you have put it in the oiled bowl. It will also tell you to cover the container, whether with a lid or a tea towel (a tea towel is any non-terry cloth towel that won't lint all in your bread.) The purpose of the oil is to keep the dough from forming a dry "skin" on the outside of the dough ball. That will form lumps in your bread when you knead it again that will stay in the bread when it bakes. You cover the dough while it is rising to prevent drafts or cool air from preventing a good rise in the bread dough.
I'm sure I've left something out. This is kind of the background of making bread, so you know what is happening in the bread making process.
Whatever you do, don't give up! It's fun playing with your food!
@partndn - I'd love to do a pate' choux thread. It has many uses in the food world and doesn't rely on any conventional rising agents, just steam. I'm thinking about asking Grevlin for a food section in the subscriber area so we (I) can relax and discuss some food topics.
Oh, I understand they're more like slipper socks, but that's what I've been looking for. Yeah, Bean is seeing a lot more of me again, since Duluth went stupid on women's clothes and my other favorite has picked colors they couldn't pay me to wear.