The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sponge for whole wheat bread, Should I add sugar?

ken2400's picture

Sponge for whole wheat bread, Should I add sugar?

The last whole wheat bread I made did not work out all that great.  The sponge did not bubble like most of my others do. I had it sit for like 12 plus hours.

 Should I add sugar to the sponge?

 I also want to soak the rest of the flower because there was dry patches in the bread.   It also had a bit of a ting to it.


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

With so little information on your ingredients and procedures, it's difficult to venture a guess on what might have gone wrong.

Yes, you can add a sugar to your sponge but you probably have already noted that most most bread formulas or recipes don't include sugar in the sponge. It's not a traditional ingredient but it is your bread.

As far as soaking the remaining flour, you should investigate the step known as an autolyse. Use the search button at the top of the page for information from bakers more knowledgeable than myself. You should be able to clear up the matter quickly.

ken2400's picture

I made the sponge like this

The Sponge Method:

Whatever the bread recipe calls for, put the water the recipe requires, one cup of bread flour, and 1/2 teaspoon of yeast into the bread machine's mixer.

NOTE: You might have to add a tablespoon more water than the recipe requires, because the fermentation seems to use up some of the water. Try this method once, and if the loaf has dry streaks of flour, increase the water.

Start the bread machine on the Basic cycle. After about 10 minutes, turn the machine off. Your sponge will look like pancake batter.

Add the rest of the ingredients on top of the sponge. If the recipe requires oil, add it first. Then add the rest of the flour and top it off with the salt, sugar and dried milk (if needed). Do not add more yeast.

Set the timer to start the machine again for the full time the recipe calls for, plus 4 to 8 hours. I have left it for as little as 3 hours - that's 3 hours of fermenting before the normal mix and bake cycle) and as long as overnight. The yeast starts growing and the sponge will increase in volume with gas bubbling to the surface. If you peek, you will see bubbling yeasty batter erupting through the surface of the dry flour.

Rip it apart while it is still hot and load on the butter and jam. Enjoy!

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

The first thing I suggest is to read the owner's manual for the machine to find out if you can be selective in the choice of functions you program. If you can't change the program, what I'm about to suggest won't be of help to you.

Next, reconsider the process for the sponge. You really don't need to beat up on the sponge for ten minutes. If you're using instant dry yeast, you could mix up your sponge in a bowl, giving it about 100 whisking motions, and pour it into your machine in about half the time. That distributes the yeast and isn't a threat to overheat the sponge to a point where the yeast is killed. Even if your water is at a warm room temperature, an eight hour rest will give it plenty of time to hydrate and go to work. You can blanket the sponge with the rest of the ingredients at this time or simply cover the container for the sponge with plastic wrap so you can enjoy the spectacle of the yeast doing its magic.

The rest of the instructions seem to be reasonably safe except for one. Let your bread cool off on a wire rack before you slice or tear it open. even though your bread machine may say its done. The interior of the loaf will continue to cook as it cools down. If you've ever opened up a loaf hot out of the oven and found that the interior is gummy in texture and appearance, that's the result of not letting it cool. As the bread cools, flavor compounds found in the crust go into the interior, leading to a better and more complex tasting loaf.



ken2400's picture

I am on the whole wheat setting

Too late on letting the bread cool down.  I just cut into it.  Next time on the cool down.

So I made another loaf and grabbed rye instead of whole wheat on the sponge.  I just grabbed the wrong bag.

I put the rest of the whole wheat flower into the autolyse and put that in the fridge for 12 hours and had the sponge in the bread maker.

Other than getting to much water in the whole thing it turned out better.   My last loaf had white parts in it after it cooled all the way.  I don't think I have that problem with this one.

I added a tablespoon of sugar to the sponge and than added another tablespoon after I bought the two parts together.

I also used 1/2 a teaspoon of yeast to the sponge and the added a 1/2 teaspoon of yeast to it after I bought the two together.

To add some lift I also added a tablespoon of wheat gluten when I bought the two together.


It tastes better than the last one.  Attached photobread with both parts soaked