The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bran in Starter

mom3tami's picture

Bran in Starter

Hi, I'm new here, so please pardon and gently instruct if I'm posting int he wrong place, etc.  I've been reading for days and don't *think* I've seen anything about this anywhere in the forum.


I've been baking for 20 or 30 years off and on, mostly with white flour and only once or twice with sourdough, and then with a starter someone gave me.  Just recently I've purchased a home milll.  I much prefer the idea of "natural" yeast to genetically engineered, and so would like to not only make the switch to home milling and ww, but also to soudough.  Oh, and I want to start my own starter.  I've never been a tiptoe kinda person.  I'm well aware of the admonitions to change only one thing at a time.  I dive in head first anyway and take responsibility for the frustrations along the way.

So....  The starter was started with "Manuel's" method from the Laurel cookbook, using organic whole grain Rye 11 days ago.  It had rye the first few days and then changed to ww, sometimes KA brand and sometimes my own grind which is organic hard white wheat (I think Spring, not positive.)  It's had mixed success, mostly due to ignorance of course, but is getting there.  I used it too early, and while the bread was pretty good (certainly not a brick), it about killed my starter to have that much removed and then be bombarded with that much new flour.  So Im back to just feeding once a day without removing anything for a few days, as it slowly revs back up.  I'm happy to report some growth (though not double), bubbles, and a nice smell today, when yesterday was flat as a flitter.

To the question:

One of the things I struggle with in using ww, is the effects of the bran on gluten.  While I have friends who seem to make nice, light loaves, I have yet to reproduce that with my home milled flour without sifting out the bran, which I'd rather have in there in some form, just not to where it wrecks my gluten.  I'd experimented with soaking a bit, and it occurred to me that I might "soak" my bran in my starter so that it would "soften" before going into the daily dough for consumption.  At first I thought I'd use the bran to feed, but then it occurred to me that the yeastie beasties eat starch, which is not in the bran so much as the rest of the grain, so that's probably not a good food source for them.  so now I'm wondering how it would go to feed with ww flour AND ADD extra bran to that.  Will it still bubble and do its thing, or will the bran wreck that?  Will it soften enough to matter?  I tried splitting my starter and feeding one of them with extra bran, and that seemed to go well at first, but then when I added it to both, they fell.  That was about the time I used it too early.  Yes, I know...  too many things changed too soon.  I'm realizing the mistakes there, but I still think the bran thing is a viable question not specifically related to my wanton ways.  Once REALLY established this time, I plan to split and feed bran to one (along with ww to eat) to see how it goes, but I'd love to know if anyone else has ever tried this or what they think the result will be.

Bottom line:  What do you think about using the starter to soften bran?

Thanks- I look forward to your input.

Tami in TN

MichaelH's picture

Why don't you just try it and see what happens? The worst outcome is that that waste a few pennies worth of flour.

mom3tami's picture

I have kinda tried it.

The problem was that it was a very young starter that kinda flops occasionally anyway, so I'm not sure which precipitated which, ya know?

And once I get it really strong, I plan to split it and test one with the bran.  But until then, I was hoping someone would have a solid answer of why it would/would not work.

LindyD's picture

We have some very accomplished bakers here who also mill their own grain.  The holidays can be hectic for those who do a lot of baking, plus lots of folks leave town, so you may have to wait for a while before getting a definitive answer.

In the interim, you might be interested in reading about Gérard Rubaud's method of building a levain and baking with freshly milled grains, as posted on Farine's blog.   If you type "Rubaud" in the TFL search bar, you'll find pages of information.

As to your sourdough starter, it is a living entity and really should be fed at least daily with a portion of it being discarded before the refreshment.  

mom3tami's picture

Thank you so much for the encouragement :-D I had kinda figured folks were busy. 

In the meantime, I"m anxious to read the info you suggested.

Sidenote:  My baby starter has really taken off the last couple of days.  So much so that I am mixing up stuff for pancakes and bread tomorrow morning as I type :-D



LindyD's picture

Glad to hear your sourdough culture has taken off; with some time and patience you'll have a lovely sourdough starter to flavor and raise your breads.

I think you'll enjoy exploring MC's (Farine) blog, and especially her experiences with Monsieur Rubuad and his bread. 

Happy baking in the New Year!

K.C.'s picture

Bran should have little if any effect on your starter other than adding volume. It's not going to interfere with the fermenting process. The yeast is growing and living on what it can easily digest. The bran is incidental.

Here's a WW starter that I put together a couple weeks ago. You can see the bran in it. I made bread with it 2 day ago and it had a nice mellow sour taste. It's still a little young.

hansjoakim's picture

Hi Tami,

And welcome to TFL!

There's been some research performed in Finland on adding bran to the sourdough - it's found to have positive effects on particularly high-fibre wheat breads. The results are presented in a thesis available here. Here's a short summary of the research and findings.

hanseata's picture

Hansjoakim, I should give it a try.

Happy New Year,



mom3tami's picture

I read the study and a few other articles about the study- very exciting!  Did anyone else read it?  I don't see anywhere that she specifies how the bran starter was made.

Did she add extra bran to plain 100% extracted flour, or did she add it to ww flour which already had its bran?

Did she start/feed the starter with bran alone, or did she add a certain amount of extra bran when feeding with ww or white?

She writes "20% bran sourdough on flour basis".  What does that mean, exactly?

It's about time to feed my starter tonight.  Not sure if I have the energy to grind and sift just now- maybe next time.