The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

85% Whole Wheat Sourdough

wassisname's picture

85% Whole Wheat Sourdough

These are a couple of the bakes from my ongoing attempt at combining methods from Whole Grain Breads and Tartine Bread into a simple, mostly whole wheat sourdough.  The bread is turning out pretty well - crackled crust, soft, springy crumb, lovely flavor.  It's amazing what even 15% white flour will do for the texture of a whole wheat bread.  The hardest part is just making up my mind about the details!

I'm still tinkering with the hydration (the first photo is 79%, the second is 82%) and trying to hit the proofing time just right (first photo could have used a bit more, the second a bit less).  I think I like the first loaf better.  The loaf in the second photo is also a product of forgetting-to-turn-the-oven-down-when-you-take-out-the-steam-pan.  It baked at 500º F for better than 30 minutes before I noticed.  It was a very near miss... whew!  I'm also thinking that reducing the size of the loaves would help lighten up the crumb a bit, I'll have to try that one of these days.

Trying to apply this to a 100% whole wheat bread is turning out to be another matter altogether, but that's for another post.


This is where the formula stands at the moment, but the tinkering is far from over.



charbono's picture

Your recipe is very close to mine.  A little refined flour makes a significant difference.  After many trials, I ended
up at 20% refined flour and 81% hydration. I abandoned Reinhart’s technique of refrigerating the levain after a few
hours in favor of leaving it out all night; I get more flavor and more vigor.  I would be worried about too much protease
activity with the high hydration of your soaker.  In addition to the refined flour, I save a third of the whole wheat (and some water) for the final mix, for some fresh-milled flavor.    Like you, I use stretch-and-folds, which Reinhart doesn’t mention in his whole grain book.  He doesn’t even have 100% sourdough in his whole grain book.

 What’s the Turkey Red like? Aren’t you obscuring its flavor with the other flour?  Is its gluten too weak on its own?



wassisname's picture

Thanks for the comments.  It's a work in progress, so the more info I have the better.  I started refrigerating the starter after a short ferment partly to try out the Tartine idea of using it "younger" and partly because my kitchen is pretty warm this time of year - but definitely something to tinker with.  I have had some success using the formulas in WGB and simply leaving out the yeast, but your right, it isn't really how the formulas are designed - another reason to tinker!  I started this as a more forgiving way to practice some new (to me) methods before trying a 100% WW version, but I really like this bread.  I'm still working on the 100% version but the 85% version will, I think, be in the line-up for good.

The flour - I like the Turkey Red a lot.  I think it could stand alone, though it's noticeably more coarse than the Bob's Red Mill WW so the crumb may change.  I have to admit, the Bob's is mostly in here because I happen to have it in the house.  When I run out I plan to try just the Turkey Red.  I also tend to be a little stingy with the flours I order from Heartland Mills because the shipping to where I live is reeeeally expensive.  I need to get over that because I really do think they are worth it.

Thanks again for the input,


plevee's picture

I love your method for listing ingredients and bakers' percentages and breaking the recipe into the various stages. I often have difficulty with other recipes here and in baking books.

Yours it is the most easily understandable layout I have seen.

And your breads look great.  Patsy

Mebake's picture

Premium Quality Bakes, Marcus! Lovely Looking loaves. The crumb looks wonderful! i have never applied Sourdough starter only to Peter Reinhart's Whole grain bread recipes. Seeing your results, i'll have to try that. How sour does you loaves get, marcus?


wassisname's picture

     It’s nice to hear that this makes sense to someone besides me, Patsy.  Baking directly from other people’s recipes doesn’t always work well for me either, and I finally got tired of  endlessly re-writing formulas long-hand.

     Occa, the long soaker certainly has its weaknesses.  I think the loaf in the second photo was drifting dangerously close to a breakdown.  It also makes the math in the formula a little strange.  I’ve been going back and forth with it, but aside from whatever it is doing to the flour I like that it saves some time on bake day by cutting out the autolyse step.

     Your kind word are always appreciated, Khalid.  These loaves are pretty mild, I think.  The starter-only versions of the WGB formulas have a more distinct sour flavor as I recall, though I’ve never tried them side by side.  The variation presented here uses much less starter fermented for a shorter time, then a somewhat warmer dough fermentation.  This is all very subjective, of course, but it makes sense… to me.  =)



alpinegroove's picture

I have made this recipe with great success a number of times and am very happy with the results.

Can anyone suggest any ways of making this recipe produce more sour bread?


wassisname's picture

Glad to hear this is working for you.  I think the simplest way to get more sour out of it would be to slow the rise(s).  Find a cooler spot and let the dough ferment a couple hours longer.  Or refrigerate the dough overnight for either of the rises.  Long refrigeration can be a little risky with this much whole wheat – you might get more sour than you bargained for – but it’s worth trying.

If you don’t want to change the timing so drastically you could try bumping up the percentage of flour in the starter to 30% or so of the total (reducing the amount of the soaker proportionally). 

Best of luck!


alpinegroove's picture

Attempting to make this bread more sour, I did the following:

Left starter and soaker on counter overnight.

Mixed dough. 3 stretch and folds, one every 30 minutes.

12 hours in the fridge.

30 minutes bench rest.

Final shaping.

Overnight in the fridge.


Flavor is the same as always, which is delicious, but not a hint of sourness.