The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The right grain for "whole grain sourdough"

Peggy Bjarno's picture
Peggy Bjarno

The right grain for "whole grain sourdough"

I am hoping that today I have finally perfected my sourdough -- we haven't cut into it yet, but it's been a long time a-comin', having experimented with a variety of tips, hints and suggestions in the sourdough forum. Let's assume that my sourdouch has all the right features, crust, crumb and taste, and now I want to make it into a whole grain loaf. Many of the grains that are added to whole grain breads have a sweetness to them that would overwhelm the sour that I've struggled to achieve. I wouldn't mind nutty, but it can't be sweet nutty, it would have to be sour nutty.

What whole grains should I try, and when should they be added? And if I wanted some on the top of the loaf, how are they applied?

I am a newbie at this bread thing, having started with my experiments in the late fall of 2009, so to have come as far as I have is an accomplishment. . . I would just like to take it a step farther.



clazar123's picture

I make all my whole grain with sourdough but it isn't at all sour.I like the sweetness of the grain and add a little honey,also.I use the starter as a leavener so my bread tastes.....just slightly yeasty. I do use a little commercial yeast if i don't have time for a full sourdough rise.

Whole grain acts differently in dough. It takes a while to absorb the liquid into the bran bits and if you don't allow that to happen, your loaf will end up crumbly textured or dry. Take a look over in the Whole Grain forum for a while.

If you want to add some whole grain,all you really have to do is make the dough sticky instead of tacky and allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes after the initial mix and before the final knead.This will work well if less than half the flour is whole grain-a guess,really.By the end of that time, most of the extra liquid is absorbed and the dough should feel the usual.

If you want to sprinkle grain over the loaf, I'd just spray the loaf with water after the loaf is shaped and sprinkle oats,wheat germ,sesame seeds,poppy seeds or whatever you want over and just press them in lightly with your hand. If you really want them to stick, use an egg wash and then apply the seeds/grain.

There is much more to sourdough than "sour"


Yerffej's picture

You may find that sweet compliments sour rather than diminishing the sourness.  A wide variety of subtle flavors will produce a loaf that is infinitely more tasty than a loaf that leans in one direction flavorwise. 

I would look to introduce diversity to the palette of flavors rather than a different tone of sour.  To that end feel free to experiement with just about any grain.  I would start with the various possibilities in wheat and go from there.  Make little changes and take notes so that you do not forget the outcome of various changes.  This is a process that can go on for a long long time so relax and enjoy the trip. 


Peggy Bjarno's picture
Peggy Bjarno

I think you're right, Jeff, it is journey. Somewhere out there is the perfect whole grain, nutty, varietal, subtle, whole grain sourdough! Thanks for making these suggestions!


dsoleil's picture

I make whole wheat sourdough all the time. (2-3 day process)  What makes whole wheat bread sweet is usually honey or some other sweetener.  Peter Rinehart has a whole book on whole grain baking that is excellent.  He has many outstanding techniques, but they are certainly not part of your average baker's repertoire.  It's a must-buy if you want to get serious about 100% whole grain baking.  

Don't worry about the whole wheat canceling out the sour taste either.  It doesn't happen.  You just get deeper, nuttier, more complex flavors with whole wheat.  I'm experimenting now with different whole grains.  I will post my thoughts when I'm further along.   

Have fun with it!

Peggy Bjarno's picture
Peggy Bjarno

Thanks for directing me to Peter Rinehart's book on whole grain baking. I really don't want "sweet," but I can definitely understand when you talk about deeper and more complex flavors, so I need to get his book.

I don't like most commercial "whole wheat" breads because of the sweetness. But every once in a long while I find something that "hits" my tastebuds. I guess that's what I'm going for. STARTING with my sourdough starter, which is mature and ready to go!




copyu's picture

you were interested in moving towards adding 'whole grains' I interpreted that to mean something such as whole or rolled oats, or rye 'Flocken' (or both) added to your favorite dough. They would give you the 'nuttiness' that you requested, without being terribly sweet, by themselves.

If you really want the "whole shebang" ;-) I'd suggest soaking whole rye, wheat or barley berries overnight [perhaps with boiling water poured over the top before the soaking period starts—experts please chime in here!] I would probably add such 'whole grains' after the primary fermentation, and just fold them into the dough.

To get seeds and grains to stick to your loaf, you can use a variety of tricks, many outlined above in previous posts. My favorite is to lightly mist a Brotform with cooking oil spray and distribute the seeds/grains over the surface of the form; then place the loaf into the form for the final rise. It seems that the weight of the dough is enough to impress most of the seeds and grains into the top of the loaf. This has worked for me with oats and flax and all the smaller seeds and grains.

I hope this is helpful...






eatbread's picture

i agree that most of the sweetness of whole grains come from sweeteners used to make the whole grains more palatable to the average taste bud. extra sugars also provide extra food for the yeast giving a somewhat better lift. i bake exclusively with whole grains, havent used white flour in years, and don't add any sweeteners. i only use flour, water, and salt, and have never gotten a loaf that wasn't distinctively sour, unless adding sprouted grains.