The Fresh Loaf

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Tips for making bread with lower gluten flour

steffanie.f's picture

Tips for making bread with lower gluten flour


I recently bought a 30lb box of heritage wheat berries from a local farm, the variety is ancient and unique to Southern Arizona and I haven't been able to find any information on it. I ground some flour and tried making my usual 100% whole wheat bread recipe with it today, and it was a complete failure. After the first rise, I tried shaping the dough and it just tore into pieces, no stretch whatsoever. I know ancient grains will behave differently, but I am at a loss as to what to try next. What can I do to make bread with this wheat?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

What's the name of this flour?

You made your usual recipe but can you simply just swap the flour and keep everything else the same for this heritage wheat? What about hydration and fermenting times?

What type of bread are you making? Sourdough? 

I think we would need a lot more info.

If you are making sourdough then one way to strengthen the dough is to use a low hydration starter.  

lepainSamidien's picture

When you say that the dough "tore into pieces," what do you mean exactly ? It might be that your shaping technique is a little too violent for the flour with which you're working. Typically, heritage wheats make for flours with very fragile gluten networks that can't stand up very well to rough shaping. You might also need to play with the hydration in order to make it more workable.

Provide us with a recipe and we will better be able to troubleshoot with you. Thanks !

charbono's picture

Check the recipes and other info here:

steffanie.f's picture

It's White Sonora Wheat.

I was not making sourdough, just following a very basic recipe. I expected the heritage wheat to behave differently than modern wheat, I was just starting with my usual recipe as a beginning point to start to understand the new wheat's characteristics.

5 cups flour

2 cups water

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup honey

2 1/2 tsp yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

The texture of the dough after mixing and kneading felt a little dense but pretty normal. After the first rise though it changed into something I've never felt before. I lifted the plastic wrap and it was making the sound of rice krispies, snap crackle pop. I picked up the dough, and the best word that comes to mind is brittle. It didn't have any of the pull or stretch of a normal bread dough that I am used to. It was kind of mealy.

So my main question is, is there anything I can do to give this flour enough structure to turn into bread? Would doing half bread flour/half whole wheat flour be enough? Adding vital wheat gluten? Changing techniques and doing some kind of preferment?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

And while I've seen positive feedback there aren't many recipes dedicated to solely Sonora wheat bread. All of them seem to do a mix of upto half and half. So half Sonora wheat and half bread flour. 

How about finding a 50% Poolish recipe and using the sonora wheat for the Poolish and saving the strong bread flour for the main dough? 

steffanie.f's picture

I really like this idea, thank you so much for the input! This will be my next attempt!

clazar123's picture

I did a google search and discovered articles that give the grains interesting history and it's characteristics. Very interesting. It is said to be a low protein (9%) flour that was especially useful in making large, flour tortillas, pies and some breads. When modern bakers started working with the flour, they noted it was delicate and didn't stand up to vigorous mixing or kneading. It was also very extensible and could be made into a loaf but needed a pan to support the rise. The grain itself is described as semi-hard or even soft and has been used as a rice substitute when cooked.

I wonder if it behaves more like spelt? There are special considerations when working with spelt or spelt as additive in making bread. It could be that researching spelt would be helpful. Also, very gentle handling and perhaps very little bulk fermentation time.

Keep posting. Very interesting grain that seems to be making a comeback.


dabrownman's picture

cakes and tortillas.  Like C123 says it is a weak flour for bread.  The first time I saw it the lady there said don't try to make bread out of it.  Well she was wrong about bread but it depends what kind of bread you want to make,  Mixing it with other flours to make a multi-grain is fine.  You can add VWG to it to make it better for regular AP bread.  Ciabatta is not a big deal but use less water that a regular ciabatta because this will spread a lot on its own.  Panning it up is OK too but still use less water than usual and don't over work it as C123 says.  It makes killer Naan bread or pita too.  I use it mostly in Multi-gra.

I think there is way too much water in your recipe with all the oil and honey in it breads though.  If you cut the water to 1.5 cups the hydration will be 57% which seems low but with all that honey and oil will feel more hydrated.  Just do some stretch and folds and let time do the gluten work for you.  I would still pan it up to get the best results though. 

SW is a fun grain to work with.