The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Weekend Reclamation Project – Less is More

wassisname's picture

Weekend Reclamation Project – Less is More

Back to basics in my quest for a whole wheat sourdough that doesn't take over my weekend or keep me up half the night.

The method this time is about as conventional as it gets, except for the long, refrigerated pauses.  Some of my previous attempts were so far from my usual routine that simply getting my head around them was a chore, and the bread suffered as a result. My brain will only put up with so much! 

The guiding premise of this attempt did turn out to be "less is more".  The dough sits around for so long that it tends to get worn out by the time it goes in the oven.  So, this batch was subjected to less kneading, less bulk ferment time at room temperature and less final proof time.  And it feels like I'm moving in a better direction.  It's not perfect, but it's something worth tinkering with.

This formula is for 2 loaves - approx. 2 kg total final dough.

Day One - starter build

286g whole wheat bread flour

50g whole rye flour

252g water

110g whole wheat starter @ 75% hydration

Mix everything, knead for 5 min.  Ferment @ room temp (65F) for 12 hrs, then refrigerate 10 hrs.

Day Two - final dough

700g whole wheat bread flour

525g water

All of the starter

2 ½ tsp salt

+20g water for kneading

Mix flour and water. Autolyse 20min

Add starter and salt, knead gently with wet hands 7-8 minutes.

Bulk ferment 1 hr at room temp. then 21 hrs in refrigerator.

Day Three - proof and bake

Flatten out the dough and let it warm (covered) 1hr at room temp.

Divide and shape.

Proof  1 ½ hrs at approx 75F.  Preheat stone to 500F.

Bake 475F 15minutes - 10 minutes covered to steam.

Bake 425F another 40 minutes.


Next steps -

Leave out the rye.  As much as I love a little rye in everything I fear that it may be working against me in this case.  Maybe my reasoning is off, but I'm trying to protect the dough during its long, cold fermentation and rye generally encourages more fermentation, right?  We'll see.

Lower slower bake.  The bread is a little dense and takes while to bake through.  It improves considerably after a day or two on the counter, which makes me think a little more oven time could help.  I'll keep the hot, steamy start then drop the temp a little more and bake a little longer.  I'll give it a bit of drying time with the oven off as well.

I think that will be enough tinkering for one bake.  Except maybe I'll also try... =) 

Side experiment - photos below

As I was shaping the first loaf  I decided to try something different with the second.  The loaf  on the right was shaped in traditional  batard fashion:  flattened into a rectangle, long ends pulled to the middle, then folded in half.  The loaf on the left was shaped along the lines of the boule method described in dmsnyder's excellent tutorial.  I gave it three foldings instead of one (not because I thought it would be better, but because I couldn't quite remember how it went, I just knew there was folding - now it is locked in my brain for next time!) and then gently coaxed it into an oblong shape.  There was no visible difference while proofing, but when they hit the oven they sprang very differently.  The boule shaped loaf clearly tried to return to its original shape, resulting in what I think was a better spring and a more attractive final loaf.  Thank you David!



arlo's picture

Those loaves look very nice, considering they're whole wheat too, the crumb is great.

Three days for two loaves of bread though? And I thought this was going to be about bread that took less than a long day to make ; )

wassisname's picture

..and, did I say 3 days?  It actually ends up dragging on until the 4th day if you consider that I'm baking in the evening and the loaves aren't cool enough to cut until the next morning.  Yikes!  But, weeknights I'm at home with one eye on the clock anyway so it works, leaving my weekends free for... baking some other bread!


wally's picture

And thanks for sharing the outcome of your shaping experiment.

I doubt the small amount of rye you're using is impacting the fermentation.  The two things that occur to me with respect to a tight crumb are 1) you're using all whole wheat flour (with the exception of the small addition of rye), and 2) my back-of-envelop calculations are that your hydration is probably close to 80%.  Combine the two and I'm not sure you're going to get a very open crumb structure.

In any event, nice looking breads.


wassisname's picture

Your math is right-on, that's where the hydration ends up.  I'll probably start messing with that eventually, but for now 75-80% is a comfortable place to work.  There's just something about the feel of the crumb that could use improvement.  It may not be possible with the constraints I've decided on, but it's fun to try.  I know I'm asking a lot of 100% WW.  Each version feels like it is right on the edge of going gummy, and occasionally they go over that edge.  If I can get just a little breathing room in that regard I think the rest will come together.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Thanks, Marcus! Great loaves!

Maybe something small like use of ice water in the first day might be the slow down you're looking for or moving the starter to day 2 making the first 24 hrs a soaker.  (salt?)  


wassisname's picture

Good suggestions!  I hadn't even thought of spelt, it's been a while since I've used it, if I have any handy I might have to try that.  I've wondered what would happen if I used a soaker on day one, but I worry about having so much of the flour hydrated and refrigerated for so long.  Am I worrying about nothing in this regard? 

Do you mean salt in the starter?  I tried that once, not sure what effect it had, but I think it's a little out of my depth - too much science to think about!

Keeping cold - I haven't tried ice water, but instead of starting my bulk ferment with an hour or more at room temp would it make sense to refrigerate it immediately?  Since it is in the frig for 20+ hours might that be enough?



Mebake's picture

Lovely, looking Whole wheat, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, Marcus! You did a great job with shaping..

I noticed that you baked 2.5 hours after the dough left the fridge, is 2.5 enough? I recall P. reinhart recommending 2 hours warm up time. Maybe leavin percentage in your dough is high?

Anyway, lovely.. i want to bake 100% wholewheat, only with yeast, its too sour with levain only.

wassisname's picture

Thank you!  I recently went through a period of regularly overproofing my breads so, you're right, I probably went too far toward underproofing this time.  2 1/2 hrs does seem awfully short now that I look at it again.

Levain percentage, good point.  I didn't have a good idea where to start so it's a fairly arbitrary amount.  I was focused on speeding up the final rise, but that may be hurting more than helping. 

It occurs to me that this project has been a great way to learn how much I don't know about baking bread.  Many of my "solutions" end up creating problems I had never even thought of.  The phrase, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing..." really proves true!  Humbling and intriguing at the same time.