The Fresh Loaf

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Course ground whole wheat needs less water than fine ground?

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aloomis's picture
aloomis

Course ground whole wheat needs less water than fine ground?

This is a puzzle.  I usually bake with my grocery store's generic whole wheat flour (shur fine).  This is a very fine ground flour.  It's done well following recipes in Laurel's bread, but it's next to impossible to encorporate the flour into my desem starter (50% hydration).  Lately, I discovered a super course ground whole wheat flour cheap at the local adventist store.  It's got enormous chunks of bran in it.  The bran is fairly light colored, so it might be white wheat.  The puzzle is that it needs much, much, less water to get the same dough consistancy.  Like, 70% hydration dough spreads a lot in proofing.    I had no problem feeding starter at 50% hydration with it.

I thought course ground flour was usually thirstier.  I'm not finding it difficult to develop gluten (although it's obviously interrupted by the big chunks of bran), so I don't think it's low gluten.  I'm trying to figure out why it behaves so differently than I expect. 

 

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

I wonder if you are weighing the flour of each kind?  Home ground can be 'fluffier.'

aloomis's picture
aloomis

That's why I'm so puzzled. 

charbono's picture
charbono

Coarse flour will absorb water more slowly. 

Another possibility is that the finer flour has more damaged starch, which is more absorbent.  

aloomis's picture
aloomis

I don't think the speed of absorbtion was the issue, since I gave it so long.  Damaged starch is an interesting idea.   

ETA: do you think this is a common issue with whole wheat flours?  I ask because I've used the KA white whole wheat, Trader Joe's white whole wheat, and now my local groceries generic whole wheat (when I got sick of needing to drive to buy flour every time I ran out) and they've all seemed similar.  This coarse ground flour is far and away the outlier. 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

First, a finely-ground flour has a great many more particles per unit of weight.  That also translates to a much greater surface area for that same weight of flour than for a more coarsely-ground flour.  More surface area leads to greater absorption in a given amount of time.  If you let the coarser flour soak for a longer period of time (maybe even more than the 24-hour period you worked with), it will eventually absorb the same amount of water.  Even then, its texture and behavior will be different than that of the more finely-ground flour.

Second, there's no way for the consumer to fully know the differences in the wheat that went into the flour, or the milling processes used.  If we know the protein content, that will suggest that the higher-protein flour will be more absorptive than the lower-protein flour.  But that isn't the only factor.  Without knowing more about the flours, there's really no way for you or I to do anything but guess.

Since I am guessing, I'll guess that the grind has the biggest influence in this case, with flour composition being an important but secondary influence.

Paul

 

ssor's picture
ssor

I use a rather coarse ground WW flour and it definitely calls for more water than all purpose flour. Generally about 3% more. I haven't used any finely ground ww flour in recent time so I can't compare.

aloomis's picture
aloomis

I think my fine ground whole wheat differs much more than that from AP.  Not sure how much though.  I've tried bagels at 60% hydration, and couldn't get my stand mixer to do much with the dough until I dribbled some more water in.  I thought 50% hyrdration was normal for white flour bagels.  

Until I heard this, I was a little scared it isn't really whole wheat.  My dad once fooled me with a bag of flour labeled "better for wheat bread" by which they meant high protein white flour with dough conditioners plus a few big chunks of bran to make it look good.  Apparently they meant for you to mix it with whole wheat when you made bread.  It confused me no end until I read the bag more carefully.  I assumed it was whole wheat bread flour.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I'd expect the bran would cause the WW to absorb more water than the branless AP.  The OP's question was about two different WW flours with different textures.

Paul

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

aloomis,

I have puzzled over this very same phenomon when I feed my leaven.  I grind my own flour and use a combination of hard white whole wheat, Kamut and spelt.  My results are the same as yours.  Finer needs more water.  I have never been able to figure out why but Paul's thoughts on surface area and absorption time plus charbonos thoughts about starch damage make sense.

Imagine someday we will know the answer...

In the mean time....

Another bread mystery to continue to ponder over :-)

Janet 

ssor's picture
ssor

part is physical, finer particles have more surface area than coarse particles. There is also the absorbtion of water by the starch. So we have absorbtion and adsorption. One is a surface factor and the other is a chemical factor.