The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole wheat flour sourdough

2brownbaydogs's picture

Whole wheat flour sourdough

Hey guys, I have just started grinding my own flour from hard red and hard white wheat. I have just started making bread at all.The flour my grinder turns out is very course. My starter gets on well, but when I try to make a loaf, I get almost no rise and almost no spring. So far I have made an inedible brick, a barely edible brick, and tonight a decent but very heavy loaf. I have searched here and found with heavier flour add more water. This was before tonight's loaf, and I added more water, but was hesitant to add to much. Add more? Am I on the right track? Thanks

ade's picture

I am having the same results as 2brownbyadogs.  The whole wheat loaf that I end up with is dense and chewy.  Lots of flavor but very dense.  I have tried several recipes and this is this the sour tone and the flavors I am shooting for but definitely the wrong texture.  I need some air in this thing! 

Starter is great and bubbly...nice fruity fragrance.  I use rye flour for the starter.
Poolish was beautiful.
I used a mixer for the first part of mixing with a bread hook, then the subsequent work was with stretch and fold.
I used King Arthur's whole white wheat flour.
I did add 7ml more water.

Thanks for any suggestions.



Sourdough Pain Naturel

Ingredients for the Poolish



wheat  flour








sourdough culture


Making the PoolishIn a bowl stir together the 115 grams wheat flour, 115 ml water at room temperature with 15 grams sourdough culture. Mix it well until you have a homogeneous slurry that looks like very thick batter. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let the prefermenting begin. After 12 hours at room temperature it should be bubbly, light and ready for use. So if you want to begin your bread making in the morning, you should make your poolish at 9 in the evening.

Ingredients for the Pain Naturel   makes 1 loaf (approx 65% hydration)







wheat  flour








sea salt



Making the Pain Naturel

Put the poolish starter and flour in your mixing bowl and add 2/3 of the water (do NOT at the salt yet). Now start mixing and gradually add the rest of the water and let the dough come together. Mix for only 1 minute, leave it in your mixing bowl, cover with clingfilm and rest for 20 minutes (this technique is also referred to as autolyse).

Now add the salt and mix for another 4 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover and leave to rest for 50 minutes.

Ideally the temperature of your dough after mixing should be around 24-25 ºC / 75 ºF. You should adjust the temperature of the water you add, so the total dough reaches this temperature. For us this means in summer adding cold water to this recipe and in winter (when our little bakery gets much colder then the rest of our house) adding water up to 50 ºC /122 ºF. You can measure the temperature of water and dough with a food thermometer. These measurements are important because they correspond with the proving times in the recipe.

After the first 50 minutes rest take the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured work surface and do one stretch and fold (a full letter fold, left over right, right over left, bottom over top, top over bottom.  Transfer to the bowl, cover and again leave to rest for 50 minutes. Repeat the stretch and fold (full letter fold) one more time (so 2 times in total) and leave to rest for 50 minutes (so this is the third and last of your three 50 minutes resting periods). During each stretch and fold the dough should feel firmer and less wet.

Now it’s time to shape. Shaping is a tricky subject. It’s something for which everybody develops his or her own favorite technique over time. You can make a batard or loaf shape or a boule (ball) shape.

Preheat your oven to 230 ºC / 445 ºF (at what stage you preheat your oven depends on how long it takes for your oven to heat through, some take 30 minutes, some, like ours, with stone floors take a lot longer, up to two hours.

Transfer the shaped dough to a proofing basket / banneton, cover and leave to proof for 2 hours and 30 minutes (provided your dough has a temperature of around 24-25 ºC / 75 ºF.   When you think it has risen enough, use your finger to carefully make a very small dent in the dough. If the dent remains, the bread is ready to bake, if the indentation totally disappears, the dough needs a little bit more time.

Now your loaf is ready for the oven. Slash the top of the loaf with a lame or bread scoring knife. To get a nice crust, try to create some steam in your oven by putting a small metal baking tray on your oven floor when you preheat the oven, and pour in half a cup of hot water immediately after putting the bread in the oven. Release some steam by setting your oven door ajar (perhaps with the help of a wooden spoon or oven mitt) 5 minutes before the bread is ready. If you are going to create steam with a baking tray, you may also want to turn your oven temperature a bit higher, because you are going to lose some heat in the process.

After 45 minutes of baking your loaf should be ready. Transfer onto a rack and leave to cool. This loaf also keeps very well in the freezer. But please make sure to eat at least some of it while fresh. This bread is great with just about anything, but also very tasty on its own.

Pain Naturel Time Table
day 1 21.00 h Make starter let ferment for 12 hours at room temperature
day 2 0.900 h Make final dough

  • 09:00 h – Add flour and water to starter, mix for 1 minute
  • 20 minutes rest (autolyse)
  • 09:20 h – Add salt
  • Knead for 4 minutes
  • Rest for 50 minutes
  • 10:14 h – First stretch and fold
  • Rest for 50 minutes
  • 11:04 h – Second stretch and fold
  • Rest for 50 minutes
  • 11:54 h – Shape
  • 12:00 h Final proofing 150 minutes
  • 14.30 h – Bake for 45 minutes at 230ºC / 445ºF
  • 15:15 h – Your loaf is ready!

 My bread:  my_bread     my_bread1   

     What the bread should look like:  bread_should_look_like        bread_should_look_like1



dabrownman's picture

but to me a polish is made with a little bit of commercial yeast and on the more liquid side that is allowed to ferment for 12 to 24 hours depending on how much flour water and yeast used.  Using a SD starter you are making a levain - not a poolish.  Also an autolyse is usually flour and water - no salt, no yeast and or no SD levain.  It is just letting the flour soak up the water and sit there for extended periods of timeto soften the bran so the gluten can form better without being cut.

You are making a 65% hydration 100% course home ground whole wheat wheat bread.  This requires a long autolyse 4- 8 hours is about right and much more liquid.  If you want rise and holes you are going to want to mill the flour finer by milling it more than once, make sure the gluten is well deveoped and get the hydration up to around 78-80 % and autolyse longer.  This should help your crumb a lot make sure that the dough doubles during ferment and nearly so, say 85-90% for final proof.  This should give you a very nice loaf of whole grain bread.

Keep at it and your bread will get better.

Happy baking

Syzygies's picture

We use a Wolfgang Mock (KoMo) grain mill every day for many purposes (bread, pasta, tortillas, desserts) and it produces a fine flour. For most uses we sieve out the bran, with a flour yield (extraction rate) of 82% to 85%. The bran doesn't taste that good, and in bread applications it slices up the gluten while kneading. We went through several inadequate mills before buying this grain mill. An adequate grain mill is essential.

Freshly ground flour is "green" (not aged) and is notorious for gluten problems. A standard fix is to add an infinitesimal amount of ascorbic acid: 40 parts per million. As Suas coaches, one can do this by mixing very carefully a 1:20 blend of ascorbic acid to flour, then using this to mix very carefully a 1:400 blend of ascorbic acid to flour (sift and stir seven times, like you were shuffling cards). Then 10 grams or so in each of my loaves makes a huge difference. While I'd love to be a "flour, water, yeast, salt" purist, I'm not willing to give up freshly ground flour for the supermarket stuff that tastes like unbleached paper towels. Something has to give. Plenty of hippy types take ascorbic acid pills (vitamin C) and after seeing the effect of 400 ppm on dough, I'll never take the accepted dose as a vitamin again. The effect is striking.

Conventional whole wheat recipes might only include 30% whole wheat. Consider yourself lucky for now if you can manage 60% whole wheat; there are worse evils than white flour.

Use a spreadsheet. Unless you're adding walnuts or cocoa powder, there's no such thing as distinct bread recipes. Bread is a continuum. What works for me in the 60% whole wheat range is 45% red winter wheat, 15% rye (both freshly ground and sieved) and 40% white flour. 72% hydration, 15% leaven, 2% salt, 40 ppm ascorbic acid, 0.5% diastatic malt, 1/4 tsp yeast per loaf. I autolyse the whole flour with most of the white, the 1:400 AA, diastatic malt, and water. Meanwhile I mix the yeast and some white with the starter to make a similar consistency levain. An hour later I mix the two together with salt, wet knead on a board (a bench knife helps here), then bulk ferment three hours or so at 70 F, folding every 45 minutes as many folds as the dough will allow. I shape the loaves, rise two hours in linen couche canvas. Meanwhile, I set the fire in my yard oven (Komodo Kamado) or later, preheat my indoor oven. Either way, I use Bouchon Bakery's recommendation for 350 grams of steam, which takes some serious thermal mass to generate, such as several rolls of stainless steel chain in a large cast iron skillet. If one uses a plant spritzer on the oven walls, weigh it before and after as a reality check. Water expands 1600x to steam, and one's goal is to displace several times the volume of the oven.

barryvabeach's picture

2brownbaydogs,  first,  love the dogs.  Second, I can't offer too moch help.  Nearly everything I make is 100 percent wheat, all home ground.  Unfortunately, I have not had much luck with sourdough, but did make a few loaves of pain au levian recently thet came out well. My method was to make the recipe first with 100% regular bread flour.  After i did that, i tried 100% home ground wheat flour - which was a disaster.  But then I made another loaf of the bread flour version and noticed the differences in how it felt at various steps, then did another loaf of 100% whole wheat and it came out much better.  I ended up adding more water, and doing more kneading with the wheat.  So my suggestion is to try your recipe with while flour, then switch to wheat, and go back and forth until you can get a similar amount of rise ( it will always be somewhat less with whole wheat ) .  I have decided I need to use that process to make the conversion.  Others suggest you make it 100% white, then in later attempts, increase the wheat percentage, and that would probably work as well.  I usually try one silce of the white loaves, then give away the rest.