The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New starter and whole grain questions

bcemail's picture

New starter and whole grain questions

I've just started getting into bread baking seriously, since the last efforts were a bit half-hearted.  We eat mostly whole grain breads, so I'm working from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.  I decided to order some diastatic malt from KAF, and since I was already paying shipping decided to throw in some sourdough starter.

Now that I have a sourdough starter going, do I need to start a whole grain starter as well?  Or, when following a whole grain recipe can I either a) convert some sourdough starter to whole wheat a couple days in advance, or b) just use the sourdough starter in the recipe?  Is either method better than the other?

Will the sourdough change the taste much?  I assumed it would, but then I noticed he refers to the wild yeast starter as a sourdough starter, so then I wasn't sure what the difference was, other than his whole grain wild yeast starter is made with whole wheat flour, whereas the sourdough is made from and fed with white flour.

Thanks for the help, as I've spent many hours reading through the pages here!


clazar123's picture

Because my whole grain flour is more expensive, I opt to use an AP flour starter. It works just fine for any type of bread though there are some high percentage ryes I would build a rye starter to make. But even that is easy enough once you have a  good AP starter going.

There are purists who say you must have a whole grain starter for whole grain bread but I just can't be that pure.

As for the taste, I make all my bread with anAP starter and sometimes a little commercial yeast to decrease the rise time-there are only so many hours available in my day for baking. My breads do not taste sour at all-which is how I like them. My daily Breakfast Bread is a Honey Whole Wheat flavored with cardamom,coriander,craisins,gold raisins and walnuts. One slice every morning.Yum. Sandwich bread  is usualy a Whole Wheat. I have done brioches,pumpkin,French,Hokkaido Milk Bread,Chive Blossom and some Ryes-all with my AP sourdough starter (sometimes alone and sometimes with a little commercial instant yeast to decrease the rise time.)

I also use a preferment for max flavor and I will often do an overnight retard in the refrig for my whole grains.

Janetcook's picture

I bake with whole grains only and got started with WGB too.  I use my own ww to feed my starter because I grind my own grains.  I have never used AP or BF simply because I can grind my own grains and prefer using the whole grain.

With a ww starter the feeding procedure is a bit different than with a AP or BF since there are so many enzymes etc in whole grains.  I prefer a mild sd so I keep my hydration level low, @ 65% and my feeds frequent when I am doing a build for a loaf I am going to bake.   (This gives the yeast a head start on the LABS as their 'lag' time is shorter after being fed.)

In WGB the starter he uses is kept at a 75% HL and is pretty easy to maintain.  It is all up to your personal taste in how you feed your starter but if you want to convert yours it is easy to do.  Just start your next feeds using the flour you prefer.

Guess what I am saying is that you will have to experiment.  THere is no one way, at least I haven't found that to be so in my kitchen, you simply have to find what works for you and what you prefer.  

The most helpful suggestion I got here was to bake and then to bake some more and then bake some more.....In other words, baking bread will teach you as you go along and this is a great place to find answers when something catches you up.  

WGB is the best book I have come across for working with whole grains.  Peter Reinhart is a great teacher and once you have mastered his 'Master' loaf it can be used as a base for pretty much any bread you want to make.  The transition from IY loaves to WY loaves was so simple using his 'epoxy' method otherwise I never would have attempted baking with WY.  

Enjoy :-)