My first attempts at this bread were flawed in that I got very little rise. Debra Wink (DW) contacted me and suggested some tweaks. As a result, I introduced some Vital Wheat Gluten (VWG) to increase the protein percent of my whole-wheat flour. I also pre-fermented 5 percent of the flour in a stiff levain. I wasn’t sure what effect the levain would have; rise, flavour enhancement, crumb or all. I’ve had a great result by incorporating both the VWG and the levain now for many weeks.
I wanted to check what effect the levain was having on the rise, crumb, and flavour of the baked loaf. Today’s bake: I eliminated the levain and recalculated the formula.
I compared the rise, crumb, and taste of both loaves (my lovely wife was also a judge).
Rise: at all stages throughout the process, the rise hit the milestones. Picture 1 is at the start of the final proof. Picture 2 is at the end of final proof after 3 hours at 22C/71F. I concluded that the levain did not enhance the rise in speed or volume over time. The baked loaf had a good oven spring and baked with a nice golden colour. Pic 3.
Crumb: The crumb of both loaves was identical. I put this down to the low per-cent of pre-fermented flour. DW advised that 4-5% would not have a detrimental affect of the crumb. Both were soft as a sandwich loaf should be. Pic 4.
Taste: This was the only discernible difference. The loaf with the levain had an enhanced flavour. The loaf baked without the levain was very nice but lacked the flavour of the levain loaf.
I will continue to include the 5% PFF in the formula.