The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

whole wheat sourdough bread

deepa's picture

whole wheat sourdough bread

Hello all


I am new to this forum. I have recently started baking sourdough breads from a starter I received from GEM cultures. I am interested in making only whole wheat (freshly ground at home) sourdough breads and I am not able to get a tested recipe that works. I tried Mike Avery's recipe from sourdoughhome website. My bread did not rise as much or as fast as his. I have tried other recipes too. Some of the breads have come out dense but good. They have all been soft, sometimes I wonder more soft than I want. Sometimes I feel that the crumb is kind of moist and doughy. I have tried to increase the temperature and kneading, but does not help always. I amvery new to bread making in general and I am leraning a lot everyday, so please help eventhough my grasp of cetain basics may seem lacking. 



pmccool's picture

You will find lots of helpful people on this site whose bread making experience ranges from just starting to years and years. Many bake at home, some even bake for a living. If anything, you may get more help than you know what to do with.

Let me see if I can start the ball rolling.

You mention that your objective is to make wholewheat sourdough breads. Wonderful! And you are experiencing a rather dense, moist, doughy crumb in the finished bread. There are several things to consider.

Generally speaking, wholegrain breads are more dense than breads made with white flour. (One of the exceptions to this rule would be desem breads. You can read a good description of the process posted by Mountaindog if you click on the photograph on the home page of this site.) So far as I understand it, the bran particles in the wholegrain flour tend to disrupt or cut the gluten strands which give the bread its structure and the presence of the bran and germ in the wholegrain flour leave it with a lower percentage of gluten than a corresponding white flour milled from the same grain. Some people think the heavier texture is just fine. Others prefer to blend the wholegrain flour with bread flour (one with a higher gluten content) to achieve loaves with a lighter texture. That is usually the direction that I take. Still others stay with 100% wholegrain, but add some vital wheat gluten to improve the dough's ability to trap the gases produced by the yeasts.

Another thing to consider is that sourdough cultures produce acids as they ferment in the dough. These acids weaken the gluten in the dough, which can lead to flatter, denser bread. Most bakers compensate for this by using higher-protein flours when making sourdoughs, by monitoring the time and temperature at which the dough ferments, and by reducing the kneading. I'll let some more experienced folks chip in with more detail on the what, why and how.

One technique that is very useful with wholegrain baking is the autolyse (pronounced auto-leez). It is simply mixing the flour and liquid for the main dough and letting it sit for 30-60 minutes before mixing in the starter and salt. This helps hydrate the gluten in the flour, allowing it to begin to develop, as well as softening the bran. Using an autolyse step will probably cut your required kneading time by half.

A doughy texture in the finished bread usually indicates that it hasn't been fully baked. The simplest, and best, way to be sure that your bread is fully baked is to stick an instant-read thermometer in it when you think it may be ready. If your bread recipe is lean (typically flour, water, yeast or starter, and salt), the bread will be completely baked when the temperature in the center of the loaf is in the 200-210F range. If your bread recipe is enriched (contains milk, sweeteners or fats), the bread will be completely baked when the temperature at the center of the loaf is in the 185-195F range. Those temperatures are good if you live at or near sea level. Folks who live at higher altitudes will tell you that those temperatures have to be reduced. I'll let them chime in, since they will have better information than I do.

Shaping and baking conditions can also affect the outcome of your bread's texture. If you are baking your loaves in bread pans, they will probably be somewhat more moist than if you baked the same bread on a baking sheet or stone, simply because there is less exposed surface for moisture to evaporate. Loaves shaped as boules (balls) tend to retain more moisture than loaves shaped as batards or baguettes for the same reason. In addition, the larger cross section of a boule or panned loaf means that it will take longer for heat to penetrate to the center than it will in a skinnier loaf like a batard or baguette.

Keep the questions coming. And have fun with your baking.


deepa's picture

Thanks for the reply and all the suggestions. I do read the temperature of the baked bread and remove it only after it reaches 205'F. I bake a little longer when I use my glass loaf pans. Of all the recipes I tried, I liked the recipe for basic sourdough bread in Peter Reinhart's BBA. They were the two loaves that have given me some encouragement. Two recipes I used with milk, honey and oil (I used coconut oil) didn't seem to work for me. I will surely try the autolyze. I get good sour taste in my breads, but not a yeasty smell. Also, of late I don't see my starter doubling that well, eventhough I keep them well fed 2x a week. I am planning on making a desem bread too and hope that comes out ok. I am just trying to figure out the key stages of bread making and how to optimize them for my set up to make the best bread.


I am very confused about kneading. Should I or shouldn't I? What do I do when my dough doesn't raise in a decent amount of time. Sometimes I get an acceptable first raising but after I shape, the 2nd raising is not very good. Especially if I form loaves, it is pathetic and I end up over-rising the dough.


Also, I start to activate the starter two days before baking by feeding 4 oz water and 4 oz flour to 1/2c starter. I repeat the same another time or sometimes two more times before I use the starter for making the dough. Is this a good or a bad thing?


Thanks again to everyone for your welcome and help.


beanfromex's picture

I know you already received one welcome, but two just makes it better, no?

 Good luck with your sourdough experiences, mine never worked out as I had hoped.

Regards from Tabasco. 

Srishti's picture

Hello Deepa,

Welcome to this wonderful site.

I share your goals in your bread journey :D

Have had a little bit of success, (which you can see in my blog), but then I have just started making breads a couple of months ago.

Have Fun



Srishti's picture

I think this should help you.