The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to get more height in 100% whole wheat sourdough?

GardenGirl's picture
GardenGirl

How to get more height in 100% whole wheat sourdough?

I make a nice whole wheat sourdough, but I can’t seem to get more than 2-3” of height regardless of the moisture content or size of loaf.  Any ideas? I use the following recipe with a kitchen aid mixer and water on my hands and board, so no added flour.  Makes 4 1lb. Loaves.  Flour is freshly ground.  90% white wheat, 10% red wheat. 

300g starter (homemade and maintained with equal weights water and flour)

880g flour

777g water (from reverse osmosis)

20g sea salt

i feed starter 12 hours earlier.  When doubled, I mix by hand flour and water and autolayse about half an hour.  I then measure out and add starter and salt.  I mix with hook 17 minutes until forms nice ball.   I rise until double at room temperature.  Preheat oven and stones to 400 deg for hour with steam while forming loaves on parchment paper for second rise.  I slice tops and spray with water right before putting in.  Remove paper at 15 min.  Take out to cool when reaches 210 deg.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

GardenGirl, if possible please post an image or two. Pictures are very informative.

Danny

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Some home-millers here include:  DanAyo, barryvabeach, SheGar, ifs201, Our Crumb, and some others.

I've been home-milling for a few years, but have only recently joined TFL.  These guys have really helped me.

DanAyo  patiently helped me get over a big misconception, and that was fermentation with whole grains.

Here's my experience.... use what you think best for you:

1. I have to do what I thought was underferment, in order to get a good oven rise for a fluffy (for WW) loaf.

2. High percent Whole wheat dough ferments FAST, especially if your starter is fed with whole wheat.  All those natural enzymes in the bran quickly break down the starch into sugar.

3. I have to do a long, like 1.5 to 3 hour autolyse, aka "soak", before adding starter and salt. Part of that is because I mill coarse, not fine.

4. Keep an eye on "percent prefermented flour".  Dan taught me that. That is the weight of flour in your starter/levain, divided by the total weight of flour, including what's in your starter.  For me, with a 100% or near-100% whole wheat formula, and a 1 to 3 hour soak/autolyse, then 6 to 7% PPF, is enough such that I can start mix/soak in the morning and bake in the evening.  If I want to bulk ferment or final proof all day or overnight, even in the fridge, then I have to lower it to 3 to 3.5% PPF.  That's how fast and powerful fermenting a 100% WW dough mass with a whole-wheat starter is.

In your above formula, you had 150 / (880 + 150) = 14.6 % PPF.   That's about twice as much I need for a same-day bake with WW, at least in my experience.

5. Taken together, all the above means that instead of a 100% rise (doubling) for the first rise (aka bulk ferment) I am  looking for a 30 to 50% rise, and a good "window pane".  Let us know if you're not familiar with the window pane test.

6. Then I  do a final letter-fold, and shape into a boule, dragging it, scooching it across the countertop, so the top skin gets tight, and then let it proof until it passes the finger poke test.  Some people here proof in a banneton, either linen lined or unlined.  I use a lined banneton,  usually dusted with a 50/50 mix of rice flour and AP flour, or what's on hand.  I put it in the banneton so the top is down, and the "seam side" is up -- that helps draw moisture out and give me a good skin on it that scores well. And then I flip it over, score the tight top skin, and bake it with seam side down.

I am not good at 100% WW loaves yet. I've tried.  But my best so far has been with 10% AP flour, and 90% home-ground WW, which impressed a white-bread-loving friend of mine. It was a same-day bake, so the taste could have been better if either the bulk ferment or final proof had been overnight im the fridge.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Dave,  do you have much success with the finger poke test?  When I first started baking again years ago,  I made a pan bread using white flour, and had a true finger poke success - as i poked it , it sort of sighed and sagged telling me I have over proofed the final proof.   I have not had any success with WW, especially when I retard during final proof, and instead I now try to judge by volume - though it is extremely hard to tell volume increase in a boule shaped banneton .  If you have had success, let me know what you are looking for, and whether it works with refrigerated final proof or just room temp.    

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Barry, IMO, the easiest way by far to final proof is to shape the dough after bulk ferment and put in refrigerator overnight. Bake the cold dough the next day straight out of the fridge and into the preheated oven.

It is the easy way out, but I like it. No more judging the final proof. You know my mantra, “have faith in the oven spring”. The day I started bulk fermenting much less (actual 30-50%) was the day I started getting huge oven spring.

Guess what? I started 2 levains tonight. 2 identical doughs using your 100% whole grain formula and Turkey Red berries. The only variable is 1 dough has a 65% levain and the other 125%. I wanted to go 50 & 100% but used the middlings from the grind in the levain and it was way too dry. Want to test the difference between a stiff and wet levain.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

"Dave,  do you have much success with the finger poke test? ....  If you have had success, let me know what you are looking for, and whether it works with refrigerated final proof or just room temp."

Yes, but only with non-refrigerated.  I haven't figured out how to time or judge a refrigerated final proof, so I just guessed for the couple of times I did that.

For a room temp final proof finger-poke test, the mostly WW dough is a bit slower to move than mostly white-flour dough. But I look for it slowly springing back at least half way.

For the bulk ferment, it's a balancing game of fermenting slow enough so the dough is not over-fermented by the time the gluten works its way to a good window-pane test.

For my last bake, http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/62206/17th-bake-01212020-best-so-far    I had a two hour autolyse, and 5 hour bulk ferment.  It just barely made a "good enough" window-pane at the end of the 5 hours.  But right after I did the final fold/shape and put in banneton, it passed the finger poke test right away.  

Hence, I conclude that the 7% PPF was too high.  That is...  7 hours was "good" to get the gluten developed, but was "too long" based on the innoculation amount and it fermented too much.  Two ways to solve that next time:  Knead by hand or mixer a bit to get gluten ready earlier and reduce bulk ferment time, or.... reduce innoculation so I can use the same amount of time without over-fermentation.

I'm leaning toward the latter, reduce innoculation, because a long ferment is what I want for flavor.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

GG, your hydration of ~89% sounds right. I wonder if you are not over kneading in the mixer. 17 minutes sound long. Also if your loaves are free form, you may want to raise the oven temp to at least 450F. If they are in pans, I have no experience with that.

Try to post images so we can take a look.

 Danny

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Dan,  I normally do final proof in the fridge overnight -  as well as bulk ferment, and refreshing the starter, since I normally try to fit it into my work schedule.  Sometimes FP overnight leaves the dough underproofed, sometimes overproofed, sometimes just right.

  It is easier for me to see the same variance in BF, since I use a straight sided container.  Sometimes it has increased 50% in height, sometimes 200% over the same time at the same temp.  My guess is the variance comes from the strength of the starter.  On occasion,  I refresh and leave on the counter at 1:3:3 for about 8 hours, other times I use a similar ratio but have the starter in a wine cooler to get a less mature starter.  Other times, I refresh and keep it at 90 F for a few hours, then into the fridge.  I am still playing to get more sour, and that is why I vary the timing and temps on the starter. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Your experience is not something I’ve encountered. My starters are predictable and although the BF is not judged too much by time it seems to be fairly predictable also, considering variation in flour(s) (white four/whole wheat, etc).

I assume you have a Brod & Taylor. Mine is almost always used for both starters and dough.

You mentioned 90F for your starter. I imagine you are fermenting that warm for LAB, correct?

I have written this many times, but it bears repeating. The sour flavor I build in sd bread takes place mostly in the bulk ferment, and fermentation in general. I no longer keep super sour starters, because experience (100s of loaves) have taught me different. I can take a super sweet (1:5:5) starter and ferment an extremely sour bread. But 100% WW is not something I have experience with concerning sour flavor. It ferments too fast for me. Because of the quicker ferment, the dough is unable to build the acid load required for super sour flavor. I do believe the actual WW gives the dough a sour-like taste.

Think about this -
We know that our starter (acidic or not) will get raunchy sour if it is fermented long and warm. Should we expect the dough to do exactly the same thing. The great obstacle to this seeming simple explanation is that dough degradation can bite you in the rear...

Danny

Just thinking... Ever notice that the stated authentic formulas for SFSD are 100% white flour? Maybe they knew something.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'm seeing a starburst across the top of each loaf.  Try different scores especially one that doesn't cut across the very top several times.  One cut off to the side instead of the middle may also get a taller rise.  A wide # or pinwheel is also worth a shot.  

GardenGirl's picture
GardenGirl

thanks for all your advice!  I’ll try less bulk rise, longer autolayse, shorter knead. Try to get it a bit tighter, a moon shaped score, perhaps a slightly longer second rise (I only let it sit one hour while I warm up the oven and stones.   I’ll post results tomorrow night. 

GardenGirl's picture
GardenGirl

Ok, well, like got in the way and it still rose until nearly doubled.  I did, however, knead in the mixer only 12 minutes until the bottom just started joining the ball.  I always do enough for four one pound loaves, so it does take a while. The windowpane test went fairly well, but the bean from the small amount of red wheat did tend to make it pretty fragile.  
I used a semi-circular cut before baking at 425 degrees.  It cooked faster without getting too brown.  I do think I got a little bit (maybe a quarter of an inch) more rise than with the starburst pattern.   I’ll try some of the other suggestions next time. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Garden Girl, Assuming this last bake utilized your initial formula, your hydration is 90% and the percentage of prefermented flour is 14.5%. This looks good.

In my opinion no scoring technique will solve this particular issue. The very first thing to direct your focus is towards oven spring. Without oven spring there will be no height, bloom, or ear. Scoring technique is very important, but without oven spring the results of any type of scoring will be subpar. I know this because I learned the hard way. I spent years trying to improve my scoring with no success.

So, focusing on oven spring and nothing else at this time, what are some possibilities for improvement?

  • is your whole grain milled or store bought
  • if home milled what is the protein percentage
  • is the dough overworked, possibly breaking down the gluten
  • is the dough overfermented, either at BF or final proof
  • is the oven hot enough initially - baking on stone or covered pot
  • *** is your starter up to the task ***

Hopefully others will write in with alternate possibilities for this solution. Of all of the points above, the health of your starter would be my best guess. For whole wheat, a starter should be able to triple or quadruple. (We can help if needed) Seconded by the possibility of over fermentation. In my opinion, the very best book for learning to bake 100% whole wheat is Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. In it there is a chapter called , “A Loaf for Learning”. If the book contained only that chapter, it would be worth the price.

What Is lacking in intelligence (I lack a lot), is compensated for with persistent tenacity...

Here are 2 post with accompanying videos that were published during the time the bright light came on for me.
http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/61181/tip-have-faith-oven-spring
http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/61659/ear-bloom-and-oven-spring-skin-deep-beauty

OH! Don’t get caught up in the “Steam Thing”. You don’t need external steam to get huge oven spring.

GardenGirl's picture
GardenGirl

Great info, thanks.  I never thought to see if my starter would more than double.   I only feed my starter every two weeks (30g starter, 50g 100% whole wheat flour - sometimes hard red, sometimes hard white, occasionally a little rye, depending on what I have ground), so I might be able to improve it there.  I grind with a Nutrimill classic on quite fine, so it’s about as fine as you can get at home.  The bran on the red tends to cut, but the white seems more gentle.  All white is a bit bland for us.  We liked the 150g of red better this time for taste.  

I’ll try not letting the bulk rise go quite as long next time I am able to be home and awake while it rises.  That’s probably going to be key.  That will be assisted by trying a reduced amount of levain which will slow it down to fit into my schedule, as suggested above.  Perhaps I needed so much because my starter is not robust enough.  it may take a few weeks, but I will give all this a try. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Garden Girl, would you like to explore your starter? From what you’re writing, it seems a better feed routine may need to be established. 100% whole wheat will require a very robust starter to make “great” bread. Fermentation won’t make up for a sluggish starter, IF your starter is the problem. Maybe it is fine, but it should be considered.

If this is something you want to pursue, tell us everything you can about your starter.

Things like;

  • how long it takes to double and at what temperature does this take place
  • you wrote 30g starter and 50 milled whole grain, how much water?
  • how long does it remain in refrigeration before refreshing
  • once taken out of refrigeration, what is your regiment to get it ready to bake
  • what type of water are you using for the starter and bread dough
  • anything else you can think of
  • Closeup pictures should be a great help

A starter that is fed 100% freshly milled whole grain should double in 3-4 hours at a slightly warm temperature. Many triple in 6 hr. Some quadruple. Any healthy starter (even if weak) should gain activity in a relatively short time if refreshed  with that goal in focus. It does takes some experimentation and a watchful eye, but it’s habits can be learned. We can control our starters if we feed and maintain with that goal in mind.

Here is a time lapse video showing the growth of a healthy and active starter. During the video you will see the growth cycle during the initial feed and the last half (12 second mark) showing after a refresh.
https://youtu.be/Iv0gA8bLpRY

I want to help to get that “great” 100% whole wheat bread!

Danny

By the way, you told us that you only bake every couple of weeks or so. Have you considered baking a single smaller loaf (~400-500 grams) more frequently, to speed the learning process? You could make the neighbors very happy :D

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

I would try doing the bulk ferment rise to less than 50% instead of doubling. Is RO water the only option for you? Some minerals are helpful for yeast activity. A longer autolyse of two hours or more would be another thing to try. My attempts at 100% WW have mostly produced door stops and bricks. The little bit of extra nutrition was not worth the trouble so I max out the WW at 50% to made a decent loaf.

Good Luck

GardenGirl's picture
GardenGirl

I had many, many doorstops before getting to the place where my 100% bread is quite good.  Now I’m going for great.  That’s why I am trying to change one or two things at a time to incrementally improve, based on convenience more than priority - I overslept, so the bulk rise was not less than before, oh, well, change the score.   We don’t buy bread, so this bread I bake every two weeks is all we eat.  I don’t want to eat bricks for two weeks.  

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

Some other thoughts I had would be to do a fold or two during the bulk to develop more layers and tension in the dough and that would help give it more height and spring in the oven.

The amount of dough you used would normally make two loaves for me. 

GardenGirl's picture
GardenGirl

The results were underwhelming.  I fed my starter three days, twice a day (always with Equal weight water and flour), with 50 more flour and water than starter, so it doesn’t run out of food.   For the bread,  I used 200g starter (starter had not yet doubled, only about 50%).  I also only bulk rose about 50%.  It took quite a while because of the lower amount of starter.  The dough seemed so much smaller, I only made three loaves.  They spread more than usual and rose a bit less than usual.    I didn’t seem to give me any more spring.  I don’t have time to bake more than once every two weeks. 

loydb's picture
loydb

I didn't start getting a really great rise from my milled WW sourdough until I started using a cloche.