The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

50% Whole Wheat with Soaker(?)

davidg618's picture

50% Whole Wheat with Soaker(?)

I've been wrestling with producing a 50% Whole Wheat sourdough loaf that has good flavor and an open, chewy crumb. I've described my difficulties, and, finally a successful attempt in:

I won't repeat the details here, but I'll summarize what I've learned. I believe the comments are relevant to all lean  dough sourdough breads to some extent, but the degree of importance may vary depending on the flours used.

Flavor: Flavor is developed in p1refements, and during bulk fermentation. Retarded bulk fermentation improves flavor. All of my earlier exploration flour prefermented during the levain building ranged from 15% to 25% of the flour, all whole wheat. I also experimented with retarding the doughs' bulk fermentations 0 to 15 hours at 38°F to 56°F. Most recently, I've settled on a formula that preferments 15% of the flour, all whole wheat, and retards bulk fermentation 15 hours, at, nominally, 54°F.

Crumb: Crumb development has many variables: flour types, mixing and kneading, hydration, baking temperatures, steam or no steam, and oven spring, arguably the most probable major contributors. In my 50% Whole Wheat failures I found, with dough hydrations nearly constant between 65% to 68%, the biggest influence was Whole Wheat's effect on a dough's strength. i.e., its shortening effect on gluten development. In early attempts I tried hand-mixing and post-autolyse kneading, followed by periodic S&F; and two-speed machine mixing, without post-autolyse machine kneading, followed by periodic S&F. I subsequently, tried one or two speed mixing, followed by post-autolyse machine kneading followed by periodic S&F. Not until I increased the the machine kneading time to more than twice what I use for white flour sourdoughs did I achieve the crumb we like.

Ultimately, I found mixing all ingredients (including the 2% salt) on speed 1 (Kitchenaid Pro 600, spiral dough hook), followed by a one hour autolyse, then with 7 minutes of machine kneading on speed 2, and subsequently doing 3 S&F at one hour intervals does the trick.There are pictures in the aforementioned post.

However, there is one negative side-effect from building the levain entirely with whole wheat flour. I maintain my refrigerated seed starter with KA bread flour only, and I replace my seed starter entirely every week with fresh levain, scavanged from excess intentionally into my weekly sourdough bake's levain build. Unfortunately, in weeks I build levain with other flours, I also separately build a bread flour levain to replace my seed starter.

This week, wanting to bake 50% Whole Wheat sourdough, I tried something different. I built the levain with 15% of the formula's KA bread flour, and soaked all of the formula's Whole Wheat flour in an equal amount (by weight) of the formula's water for eight hours. Subsequently, I made the dough exactly as described, and replaced my seed starter with the excess levain.

I don't know if the pre-hydrated Whole Wheat flour qualifies as a Soaker, since it was not "hydration neutral", but for lack of a better name that's what I'll call it. Soaker or otherwise, I'm pleased with the results.

Flavorwise, we didn't loose anything, It may even be a bit better than usual, and...

the crumb is everything we ask for.

David G




FlourChild's picture

Looks like a great bake!  Nice to hear about the variables you tried, both the ones that worked and the ones that didn't.

nicodvb's picture

David. So extensive kneading influenced the development of the crumb? My rare  WW explorations never resulted in  a decent loaf. I was always afraid to overknead this fragile dough, but I'll have to redo a test following your method.

davidg618's picture

Hi Nico,

Yes, slightly more intensive kneading was the key. You can find Txfarmer's comments by using the search "Txfarmer". I think all Txfarmer posts now have a "Click here for...index". When you get there scroll down you'll find five or six posts re 100%WW. I'm not a fan of 100% WW, but I do like it as a major ingredient. I also wanted a crumb akin to what I get from mostly white flour sourdoughs, so I used Txfarmer's post as a guide, not a gospel. 

David G