The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Converting Reinhart's WGB whole grain recipe to higher hydration stretch and fold

Mason's picture

Converting Reinhart's WGB whole grain recipe to higher hydration stretch and fold

I'm in the middle of attempting to convert Reinhart's WGB recipe for transitional (50% whole wheat) whole grain to a higher hydration bread, using the "stretch and fold" with overnight fermentation method from his Artisan Breads Every Day book.  

I have tried the ABED book's method a few times now.  But I have only tried that with up to 20% whole wheat flour.  This book it doesn't have much detailed advice about adapting it to whole wheat or whole grain breads.  I'm trying a whole grain "struan" type hearth bread with this method and the hydration percentage (80%) he gives for the whole wheat bread in ABED.  

I'm hoping some of you might have tried something like this already, and can help me avoid any pitfalls I haven't anticipated.

I have steered back from the 100% whole wheat versions (a little too dense, and not enough oven spring) to a 50% white 50% whole wheat recipe.   A recipe that has worked many times for me is using the WGB method of soaking grains and whole wheat flour, using cooked Kashi grains and a little rye flour and a little cornmeal in a soaker, and using my very vigorous sourdough starter instead of a biga. 

But this WGB recipe is only about 61% hydration.  The whole wheat recipe he gives in ABED is 80% hydration (I wish he gave bakers percentages in that book BTW.)  

I have adapted it by adding to the soaker enough extra water to make total hydration in the final dough 80%.  I also added about half of the "extra whole wheat flour" he adds in WGB when combining everything, and will add the rest of it as white flour when combining.  I figure that soaking all the whole wheat flour will soften the bran better.

I added the extra water to the soaker this morning.  I'll put the dough together this evening.  I'm worried that this method and high hydration will be extra extra sticky.  I think I can handle that; use Kitchen Aid for mixing and most of the kneading; oiled counter and hands for folding).

But will the high hydration make a freestanding loaf (raised in bannetons) too weak to hold up a dough with44% white flour, 22% whole wheat flour and and 33% grains?

I'm hoping that higher hydration will improve the crumb texture and also enable a higher oven spring.  But will lots of grain weight defeat that?

I could add more white flour when combining the final dough, but that might defeat the whole purpose of the higher hydration dough I'm hoping to make.

Advice from those who have attempted similar breads would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance!


dwcoleman's picture

If it can blow the lid off of tupperware containers, I think it can rise some grains.

Change the hydration to 80% to start and see how it goes.

Mason's picture

OKay Reinhart's inconsistency in how he calculates percentages got the better of me.  His recipe alreay had close to 80% hydration, if you don't count the grains as part of the "flour" percentage.  

Reinhart does, though.  His WGB recipe is 44% white flour, 22% whole wheat flour, and 33% grains.  with about 60% water, that makes a rather high hydration dough, depending on how much water the grains absorb.

The hydration is going to vary depending on whether you use cooked or uncooked grains.  The uncooked ones will absorb water, the cooked ones already have done so.  Usually I have used about 2/3 of the grains as Bob's Red Mill 5 grain mix (rolled oats, rye, etc.)  But today I had a lot more leftover cooked Kashi grains, and I really like the little chewy nubs of grain in the bread, so I used mostly that, with just a little rye flour, cornmeal and flax seed meal for taste.

The result of both increasing the water and using cooked grains was the consistency of really thick soup.  

After ignoring the % of grains given n wb, and calculating the % of water to flour, I figured I had close to 110% in the tmixI started and put together this morning.  I had to add an extra nearly 470g flour (I make a double mix of the recipe in WGB) to compensate and get the mix to a consistency I thought would strengthen enough with folding.

It did strengthen some, and the gluten looks very good (smooth and rather tacky) but still spreads fairly well.  

Matt_in_the_OC's picture

Have you tried white whole wheat?  I used 100% white whole wheat with 70% hydration.  It turned out way better than I thought it would.

Mason's picture

I saw a bag of it in the store the other day, but I wasn't sure of the gluten content.  Is it usually "hard" enough to be good bread flour?

dsoleil's picture

Hydration percentages can be misleading for the reasons mentioned above.  If water is used in a whole grain soaker, it doesn't necessarily affect the dough more than adding particulates to it.  Hammelman has a Five Grain Levain that is 98% hydration, but much of that is soaked up by the five grains overnight before it is mixed into a dough.  That said, there are a few things to keep in mind...

The more whole wheat flour you use, the thirstier your dough will be... meaning, it will take more water to get the same consistency you would with white flour.  I do quite a bit of 100% whole wheat baking.  Without any other added grains, the highest hydration I've pushed to is 83% without losing dough structure.  At 84% and higher, the dough gets flatter and flatter.  Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread book pegs most of the recipes at 75% hydration.

As for white wheat flour, it will produce a softer crumb much like adding milk or butter to a standard whole wheat dough.

Hope that helps!

Mason's picture

Thanks for your advice, everyone.

I tihnk the final hydration was close to 80%.  The dough was very sticky and not that easy to work with.  But the result was close to what I was aiming for (a little higher portion of white flour than originally intended, though).

It came out fine, though.  I made two baguette-shaped loaves and one boule, all raised in bannetons.  The boule was baked in a cloche I improvised from a terracotta planter.

The crumb is good by comparison with my previous efforts at this kind of bread.  It's smooth and creamy, translucently glowing, with good irregular holes, and tiny glowing morsels of cornmeal and whole grains.  The crust is thin and was slightly crunchy but it  softened as it cooled. 

I didn't quite get the oven jump and grigne I'm aspiring to, though. 

sliced and whole loaves


kolobezka's picture


Only-I got a little bit lost in the changes of the initial formula.Was your final version 50% whole wheat? Could you give the overall fomula?



Mason's picture

The origial attempt was to use 44% white flour, 22% whole wheat flour, and 33% grains.  Bt what I initially thought would be 80% water took that as a percentage of the flour plus grains weight.  

But the grains were mostly cooked, which alreadyt had absorbed most of the water they were going to absorb.  I should not have counted that as part of the flour weight, as Reinhart does in his book.

As a percentage of the white and WW flour, then the original water was about 115% water.   

So during initial kneading, when I realized I was trying to knead soup in my Kitchen Aid mixer, I added enough white flour to the dough to bring the overall water % down to about 80%  of the weight of the White and WW flour only.

So what would  have been 66% white and 33% WW flour, with 50% grains and 110% water, worked out in the end by the addition of more white flour to be abut 80% white, 20%WW with 80% water, and about 33% grains.

Next time, I won't mess with the water, but will try to keep the WW flour ratio up to 50%

Biffbread's picture

It seems like everywhere I turn, regardless of the type of bread, I see people always coming back to 80% hydration. Is that the magic ratio?