The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Convert tassajara rye oatmeal bread to soaker/biga

mrgnlit's picture

Convert tassajara rye oatmeal bread to soaker/biga

Hi there I am a new baker and I have been fooling around with the recipies in the tassajara bread book. I really love the whole wheat rye oatmeal bread (I took out the white flour and just put all whole wheat, rye and oats) but it never rose well (becuase I took out the white). Then I tried  Peter Reinheart's 100% whole wheat bread recipie and it rose very well! The soaking overnight seemed to really do wonders to the bread. So I thought I shoudl adapt the recipie i like in Tassajara and make it a soaker/Biga recipie which might require me to do some bakers math and monkeying around.

Pretty much I took all of the ww flour,  took out about 7tbs and then  added half the water and 1/4tsp yeast to make the soaker. Then I took the stuff you add to the sponge (rye and oat) and I put the other half of water in it along with 1/4tsp salt to make the biga. The next day you would add biga, soaker, the rest of the salt, and yeast, molasses, and oil and knead. the rest progresses like the peter reinheart thing.

Can someone check me on this and tell me if I am on the right track?

questions and concerns

1. I had to mess with the salt is this. Do I have enough in the soaker?

2. Should i be taking 7tbs out of the origional wwf or should i just add more flour near the end?

3. Did i do the bakers percentages right? It looked straitforeward enough but I wasn't sure.

The total recipie is as follows. I converted cups to grams and also halved the recipie.

  • 480g wwf
  • 204g rye
  • 180g rolled oats
  • 10.63g yeast
  • 84 g molasses
  • 54.89g canola oil
  • 21.33g salt

So then I separated it into something that looked like the soaker biga thing


  • 49% wwf
  • .002% yeast (huh? it was so small)
  • 41% water


  • 21% oat
  • 24% rye
  • __salt (i didnt do this one oops)
  • 41% water


  • 6% flour
  • ___ salt (ugh i had salt issues)
  • .009% yeast (another small number?)
  • 9% molasses
  • 6% oil (its on page 27. keep in mind i halved it)

Janetcook's picture

When I learned about PR's method I too converted all of my whole grain recipes to his process with great results.  A fellow TFLer gave me the %'s to use before I learned how to do it myself so I will simply pass on to you what she shared with me.

To start off  the flour for biga and soakers etc are initially based on %'s on the total amount of flour in your recipe. The water % are based on the individual flour quantities in the biga and soaker.  Salt and yeast are a bit different.


44% used in the BIGA

44% used in the SOAKER

12% in the FINAL DOUGH


Once you have your flour quantity for your biga you take that amount and multiply it by 75% for the biga's water.  The reamining water goes into the soaker.


This amount works differently than the water and flour.  Take the total amount of salt in your formula - you listed 21g, and  then MULTIPLY it by:

44% for the amount needed in your SOAKER  (21 x 44% = 9.2g which I would round down to just 9g.)

56% for the amount needed in your FINAL DOUGH (21 x 56% = 11.76g which I would round up to 12g.)


Works in the same manner as salt is figured though %'s are different

17% is multiplied by total amount of yeast for the BIGA ( 11 x 17% = 1.8g which I would round up to 2g)

83% is multiplied by the total amount of yeast for the FINAL DOUGH (11 x 83% = 9.1 which I would round down to 9g)

Your recipe has rolled oats so I am thinking they would be added to the soaker and you would probably have to increase the water amount a bit due their thirstiness.  That you will just have to do by feel.  If it is too dry in the a.m.  just take note and adjust with water in the final dough.

Hope this helps.  It made a huge difference to me once I understood the math involved and I now can convert any recipe I see though I went a step further and I now convert all recipes to ones using wild yeast instead of commercial yeast :-)

Have Fun,


mrgnlit's picture

Hey sorry for the late reply! Thanks for all the info but I do t think I understood. 

First off. Think I got the soaker and biga mixed up in my Previous post 

20 ,minutes ago I started it and when I put 75% water in the biga and it was really really really wet. It was pretty much mud. So I kinda went out n a limb and added more flour and some more yeast. I'm a little worried because I had to add way more flour then was in it originally but oh well. Pics to come tomorrow. 

Janetcook's picture

My error  :-(  Thanks for bringing it to my attention.  The % are done differently in Whole Grain Breads when broken down into the soakers and bigas and I goofed.

I did everything right EXCEPT the water quantities which should have read:

Biga: Multiply flour weight in your biga by 75% to get water amount you need for the biga.  So lets say 44% of the overall flour that you are using for the biga = 100g.  You would then multiply 100g by 75% and that would be your water.  The remainder of the water in the formula would be added to the soaker.

I will edit the above info. so that it reflects this.  I would have added additional flour too.  

Hopefully your bread turns out.  I am so sorry for my goof...

Take Care,


mrgnlit's picture

Hey its no problem! I'm just happy you responded In The first place c:

But one more thing, I understand the whole biga water process but what about the soaker? Do I put the rest of the water plus other water? Or just the rest of the water In the soaker. I guess I'm asking how do you get the amount of water to put in there because looking at the master recipe in his book, it looks like water is split pretty evenly between the two. 

So let's say soaker is 100g and biga is 100g I would take 100*75% to get biga water which would be 75g and then I would add 25g of water to the soaker and be done with it? Or is there additional water that I'm not accounting for.

Thanks so much again I'm pretty new to this so pardon me while I climb the learning curve 


Janetcook's picture

No need to apologize.  I am still learning too and what people always told me is that there are no dumb questions.

WHen I use his pre ferments I total up the all the water in the recipe so I know what I am working with.  

To keep with the 100g flour in the soaker and biga example for simplicity sake.... lets say your recipe has 160g total water and you know 100g flour goes into the biga so the 75% is multiplied and gives your 75g for biga.  The remaining 85g would go into the soaker.  (with baker's math we would know then that the amount of water in the soaker is 85% )

 The water is generally is a pretty even split except when there are eggs and butter added to the biga in heavily enriched breads like the challah.

The final dough doesn't get any except as needed to make adjustments.  SOmetimes flours are thirstier due to weather conditions etc.

Hope this doesn't confuse you.  Trying to write things down can get complicated so feel free to ask away :-)


mrgnlit's picture

OK so I am going to try this again.

Tonight I started the pure ferments and the water levels looked right. I used 75% in biga and 87% water in the soaker. 

No big bowl of mud so I assume it was OK 

Thanks so much for the advice! I hope this batch turns out better. The last batch made HUGE loafs because I added so much flour. 

I also got my hands on a copy of the whole grain breads book so that will help me sort through it also

Janetcook's picture

Thanks for the update :-)  I look forward to reading about the results!

Glad to hear you got a copy of the book.  I think you will find it very helpful.  He explains things very well and it is hard to find books that discuss straight whole wheat.  His Master recipe can be used for just about any bread you might want to bake.