The Fresh Loaf

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Whole wheat, Laurel's Kitchen and a pre-ferment question

JMonkey's picture

Whole wheat, Laurel's Kitchen and a pre-ferment question

I finally picked up the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, and I'm really enjoying it. It's so well written, and written with such enthusiasm -- really infectuous.

I have noticed a few places where the advice is not the best. For instance, they recommend storing whole wheat sourdough bread (she calls it "Desem" -- Flemish for sourdough. They got the recipe from a Belgian baker) tightly wrapped in the fridge. Stale city!

And their method for making a whole wheat starter from scratch requires something like 10-15 lbs of freshly ground whole wheat flour, which is far more than I've ever needed. Also, I don't think you need a home mill to make a starter -- any good quality whole-wheat at the grocery store has worked just fine for me. (Not that I'm not intrigued by the idea of grinding my own flour. It is a lot cheaper in the long run and I've heard many people attest to better tasting bread with fresh flour. But plunking down a couple hundred for a WhisperMill is just too painful to contemplate at the moment.)

Don't get me wrong -- there's a lot of gold in there too. I'd heard about their advice to let the whole-wheat dough rise twice before shaping long before I bought the book, and it's made a big difference in the flavor of my whole wheat sourdough. And the "Loaf for Learning" chapter is an excellent primer for beginners. Probably the best I've read.

Anyway, the book has inspired me to work on yeasted whole-wheat breads, if for no other reason than I've got about 1.5 lbs of instant SAF on the shelf and in the fridge. At the rate I'm (not)using it, the yeast is actually in danger of going bad. I've been pretty much all sourdough, all the time for the last four months.

This long-winded explaination is all for this question: Does the letting the bread rise twice before shaping eliminate the need for a pre-ferment like a pate fermente (old dough), poolish or a biga?

I'll probably test it out this weekend with two loaves, one with a biga and one without, but I figured someone here had to have had some experience with it.

Oh, and do any Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book affectionados have a specific recipe that I just HAVE to bake? I've got my eye on the molasses bread and the buttermilk loaf, but there's a lot there.

Any I should avoid?

Once I've plowed through a dozen recipes or so, I'll probably post a full review.

qahtan's picture

It really depends on how dedicated you are to
only eat natural. Yes Desem is the way many bakers do make their
bread, never touching commercial yeast.
Also about milling whole wheat kernels definitely gives a much nicer
taste to whole wheat baking. Whole wheat should be used as soon
after it is milled as possible.
Where as white flour if you use it should be aged before making it
into bread. qahtan

qahtan's picture

Question, Are you using a yeasted starter in your sourdough.....qahtan

JMonkey's picture

No, I didn't use any commercial yeast to make my starter. Just some rye, a touch of molasses and water in the beginning, then wheat flour and water the rest of the way through.

I have made hybrid breads before that used starter and yeast, but most of the time, I just bake sourdough with starter alone.

Mainly, I'm looking to improve my skill at whole-wheat yeasted breads for a change of pace. I love sour bread, but I don't necessarily love it all the time .... :-)

As for milling on my own, I'm really interested. King Arthur Whole-wheat flour is pretty darned fresh, so far as I can tell, but I do like the idea of home milling. Before I take the plunge, though, I need to find a local source of organic rye and wheat berries. Buying in bulk, the shipping will just kill me, and I'm not going to do it unless I can do so at roughly the same price or better than I can buy regular flour.

qahtan's picture

I get mine at the local health food store. I find to buy organic berries is about twice the price of "just" hard wheat berries.


sphealey's picture

> Does the letting the bread rise twice before shaping eliminate
> the need for a pre-ferment like a pate fermente (old dough),
> poolish or a biga?
Not for me; I typically use a preferment of some type along with 2 or 3 risings before shaping. I have added preferment steps to many recipes that didn't originally have them too.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I have to agree with sphealey on that. My oats and wheat flour behave a lot better and I get a more satiny surface that holds it's shape when I use a poolish. There are other problems with the refined low gluten wheat flour that clear up when the dough or flour is in a very liquid stage that wouldn't happen later on. I imagine the good beasties are helping me out. By the way, adding a beaten egg white per half kilo flour beating it in before kneading helps too. In fact, for me it will be a standard additive for my weak flour. :) Mini Oven

Breadwhiner's picture

Laurel's Kitchen was the first book I used to learn how to make bread. Aside from the "loaf for learning" her bagel recipe is my favorite. I've been using that recipe for more than 10 years. BTW barley malt really does make better-tasting bagels, but it is a bit expensive and unecessary to add the malt to the boiling water in my opinion. I also like the oatmeal bread and cinnamon rolls.

Laurel's kitchen does seem to assume that you have infinite time and money. Milling my own wheat is just not in my time or money budget, thank you! One thing I used to do to get fresh whole wheat is to special order a 25-lb bag from a health food store that sells it in bulk. So they would order a 25 lb bag from the supplier and call me when it was delivered. Then I would place it directly in the freezer. I can't say that I noticed a difference, but at least I was doing everything possible to get fresh flour.

As far as pre-ferments go, I like your experimental approach and have found it to work well. There's a lot of theory about pre-ferments and much of it I find contradictory, confusing, incorrect, and irrelevant. I often make two loaves with everything the same except for one aspect (usually the pre-ferment) and I have found this to be very instructional. I found, for instance, no discernable difference between a "mother" and "daughter" starter but found a big difference and I mean BIG difference with different levels of hydration. Many loaves are underhydrated because no one wants to get their hands sticky whilst kneading!

Anyway, good luck and enjoy the book!