New recipe: Whole Wheat Sourdough
Whole Wheat Sourdough (Pictures below)
OK, this is another long description. Skip down to the pictures if you like.
This bread, which I'm happy to say worked out nicely, was new for me for several reasons. 1) Using 30% whole wheat flour was a significant change, as I have been sticking pretty close to Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough recipe, with either 10% rye or whole wheat flour. 2) I was fiddling with my starter. After 5 months of tangy service, the culture was losing some of its sour, perhaps because I don't bake every day and do refrigerate the starter to slow its activity, so that I don't waste a lot of flour. 3) I changed my scheduling significantly, thanks to reading Bill Wraith's extremely interesting table on temperature, inoculation percentage, and timing of sourdough ripening.
Fiddling with the starter
After reading Antonis's post about regaining sourdough tang, and sensing my own starter's sour was on the wane, I tried using semolina flour, as his post suggested.
There is some confusion for me whether the difference between semolina, a coarse grind of the endosperm of durum wheat, or durum flour, which is (according to Practically Edible) "a by-product [of the semolina milling]; the fine powder off-cast", would make a significant difference. But I had the semolina so I figured I'd give it a shot. The results were positive.
I split my starter into 2 separate containers. I maintained one more or less as usual, feeding it AP flour and a small percentage of whole wheat. The other I fed only semolina for 2 days, one feeding per day. This wasn't following Antonis's prescription to the letter, but it felt right. On the third day for this starter I added rye to the mix, as Antonis suggests toward the bottom of the thread. By the end of the third day it smelled (and tasted!) quite sour.
Meanwhile I was implementing a couple of ideas that had been percolating in my head for a while. The first is stirring any mixture, if it includes sourdough culture, as it develops. That means stirring the final levain as well as any intermediate builds, and basic refreshments. Normally I had been refreshing my culture (at 12 hour intervals) with flour and water and letting it sit. I now make sure to stir it at least once, maybe twice, before the next feeding. Antonis tells us that his food-scientist friend says that yeast move around but the bacteria don't move. He suggests stirring for the sake of the bacteria. My results tell me that stirring is good for both the yeast and the bacteria.
Second, I have been letting the culture develop longer between feedings. How often do you refresh your culture? At what ratio of flour to culture? Some people say it takes a minimum of 2 feedings per day to achieve an active enough culture to raise bread. I had been following this path, but started seeing with my own culture that this was too frequent. Too frequent feedings will not only dilute the sour-producing bacteria in the culture, but the yeast as well. My refreshment regimen had lately been a "simple" 1:2:3 ratio (culture, water, flour). What I discovered was that when I let the culture go longer than 12 hours, stirring it once or twice along the way, it kept on rising. No doubt it was letting the bacteria build as well. What if my culture likes to be fed, say, every 16 or 18 hours? It's not very convenient, but I noticed big benefits to extending the feeding duration. Put it this way: isn't it possible that your average garden-variety 12-hour feeding cycle could allow the starter to double, but that there might still be plenty of unused food left in the mixture?
Changing the schedule
(This is where Bill Wraith's table came in really handy.) For scheduling convenience, I had been mixing my final levain in the morning, letting it develop for eight hours and then mixing the dough and letting it ferment. (Sometimes, I had had to find a little extra warmth to help the levain get to the finish line.) By the end of this day I would shape and proof for an hour and retard in the fridge, then bake the next morning. I wanted a longer development for my final levain, so I decided to mix it at night and let it develop for 12 hours, as I had lost any anxiety that the culture would exhaust the available food in 8-hours' time. For the penultimate build of my starters I mixed a 100% hydration version of each, for the sake of measuring and calculating.
For the final levain I used 10 grams of the semolina-rye starter and 20 grams of my regular starter. That meant I was using 15 grams of flour from my starters. I mixed this with 285 grams of flour (divided 70% bread flour and 30% organic white whole wheat) . To this I added 185 grams of water (total 200 grams water in final levain), resulting in a stiff levain, at 67% hydration. Using Bill Wraith's terminology and methodology, if I understand them correctly, this is an inoculation of 5% of the total flour (15 of 300 grams). Bill's table says that it will take such a mixture 12.34 hours to double if kept at 65 dF. The room temperature downstairs was 66 dF, and I used water a little cooler than that (with the help of a couple of ice cubes). I stirred the mixture again after 3 hours and went to bed. In the morning I had a beautifully bubbly final levain, which had more than doubled during this time.
Total flour for the dough I had calculated at 1100 grams, total water 740 grams, 67% hydration. So I put 800 grams of flour, 70% Bread flour to 30% WW again, and 540 grams of water in my KA mixer and brought it together. (Thirty grams of the whole wheat was from red wheat.) Then (as per Janedo's suggestion), I let it autolyse for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes I added the levain and salt (20 grams) and mixed for 2 minutes on medium. The dough came together easily, and was clearing the sides and almost cleared the bottom of the mixer. (This was another good sign, as lately the dough hadn't developed as easily.) After that, slap and fold, slap and fold, until the gluten development was strong but extensible.
Bill Wraith's table's highest inoculation level is 25%. My inoculation level for the dough was 27%, pretty close (300 of 1100 grams of flour). Bill's table indicates for 25% inoculation at 75 dF it will take 4.14 hours for the dough to double. I really liked seeing that number! I had been fermenting my sourdough final dough for 2.5 or 3 hours, according to the recipe, and I felt this wasn't long enough. (BTW it was 73 dF in our kitchen.) So I let the bulk fermentation go for 4 hours, folding twice at 80-minute intervals. I should add that this new recipe used more final levain than I had been using in the Vermont Sourdough recipe. Not surprisingly, given Bill Wraith's comprehensive approach to everything, his inoculation percentages, i.e. flour to flour, make more sense to me than percentage of levain to flour does. (The next time I make Vermont Sourdough I will surely allow for longer bulk fermentation!)
The dough was stronger than my more recent efforts, in spite of the whole wheat flour! And it was rising better, by far, than my recent attempts as well.
I let it proof for an hour, and it rose noticeably during this time. (My recent efforts showed little rise until the oven spring pole-vaulted the bread higher.) Then I put it in the fridge, at around 3 PM. What with stronger dough, and a healthy rise in the bannetons, I have to conclude my wild yeast, at least so far, were much happier!
At 8 AM the next morning the dough had retarded for 17 hours. I took it out of the fridge, turned the oven on at 480 dF, and 45 minutes later I was scoring the cool dough and putting it in the oven. (There has been a recent tiny teapot tempest about this technique on another thread.)
As usual with cool dough for me, the scoring left the dough standing proud. Loading into the oven, likewise.
I used a steam pan on the bottom rack and spritzed at 2-minute intervals for 10 minutes. (The cooler dough allows this, as the crust doesn't set quite as quickly.) The dough got a good oven spring. The height of each loaf was excellent, and contrary to certain recent efforts, never in doubt. I turned the oven down after 15 minutes to 440 dF and baked for another 10-12 minutes, moving the loaves around to let the second one have the hot spot for a while in order to catch up. Also I removed the steam pan. Once the crust color was established on both loaves I turned the oven down once more to 420 dF and let them bake for another 12 or 15 minutes, when an instant read thermometer said 207 dF. Then, out of the oven to cool on a rack.
Whole Wheat Sourdough
WW Sourdough Loaf2
The bread was lovely to look at and smell, and is delightful to eat. Contrary to certain prognosticators the crumb is consistent throughout, not doughy or gummy in the center in the slightest. (One baker's science is another's test lab I guess.) It has the tang I like, though not a big sour taste. It is wonderfully wheaty. In fact, it tastes just like what it is: sourdough whole wheat.
WW SD Crumb1
Total ingredients (includes levain ingredients):
1100 grams flour =
(755 gr bread flour + 300 gr WWW + 30 gr RWW + 15 gr Mix from Levain)
740 grams water (67% hydration)
20 grams salt (.18%)
30 grams active culture (100% hydration)
285 grams flour =
(200 gr bread flour + 85 gr WWW)
185 grams water
800 grams flour =
(555 gr bread flour + 215 gr WWW + 30 gr RWW)
540 grams water
500 grams levain
20 grams salt
WW SD Crumb2
Now I just don't know whether to mix my starters or to maintain them both, at smaller weights. But I will definitely make this recipe again.
Edit: It's three days later and the tang is getting better all the time.