The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Fresh milled. 100% whole grain. Flat loaf.

Bigblue's picture

Fresh milled. 100% whole grain. Flat loaf.

I had my first very flat loaf this morning and am wondering what went wrong. Changed a lot of inputs:

  • 15% fresh milled rye. 85% fresh milled red fife. 10% prefermented levain, NMNF rye.
  • Starter was retarded 40 hours after near doubling after 3rd feeding. Starter fed at 32c to promote Lab.
  • 90% hydration dough.
  • I milled it very fine but did not sift the bran at all.
  • 2 hour AL, flour/water only.
  • 1.8% salt.
  • Did about 8 min of SL&F.
  • Some bowl-tugs when dough went from counter to bowl. ST&F in the bowl every 20 min for the first hour. Every 30 min thereafter except untouched for last hour, about 3 hour bulk. Dough was like a pancake at the end, could not shape it. Sticky. Had increased in volume in the bowl though and bubbles looked like it was fermenting well. 
  • 10 hour fridge proof.
  • 45m pre heat at 475 with DO. 20m cook covered. 15m uncovered 430. 5 min 420.
  • Tasted good. Looks bad.
  • Crumb is nice and soft, I think the holes are good.

My first time with 90% hydration. And I did not sift the bran at all. 

Should I slap and fold longer when working with 100% fresh milled whole grain? 

Is no rise typical of 100% whole grain?

Do 90% hydration loaves with 100% whole grain rise less?

Is this to be expected with no sifting?

Was very surprised with this result.



texasbakerdad's picture

90% hydration and 100% whole wheat is a difficult recipe to properly proof and shape. I am on a mission to pull it off, but, haven't had much success yet.

In my opinion, your loaves look like they had one of the following two problems or both:

  1. The dough was not handled well enough to produce enough elasticity and tension so that the dough could hold its shape during the final proof and oven bloom.
  2. You may have overproofed the dough.

Your crumb looks pretty good for a 100% WW, so, you might have been able to put the loaf in the oven 20% - 50% earlier and had it hold its shape better and get some oven bloom. If you are looking for even more open crumb, you will have your work cut out for you, and you will need to figure out how to increase the elasticity of the dough and build good tension during shaping.

Your 10 hour proof may have damaged your elasticity (damaged your developed gluten) but proofing in the fridge should have negated some of the negative side effects, I have been told that whole grains have more protease in them that will break down the dough over time. Also, soaking or removing the bran might have helped increase elasticity.

"Dough was like a pancake at the end, could not shape it. Sticky."

Yeah, that is a bad sign. BUT, it could be that you are just not used to working with wet dough. Wet your hand with cold water before working with the dough, if it is still sticky with a slightly damp hand, then, something probably went wrong while you were developing the dough.

Watch these two videos for tips on how to shape wet dough. And remember, pre-shaping followed by a 5 to 30 minute rest is very important (shorter rest for doughs that are extensible (loose)).

Pay attention in the videos to how they are able to manipulate the dough even though it is wet. Compare your dough texture to theirs. Try to find anything you can do during mixing, bulk ferment, preshaping, that will give you a little bit more elasticity.

For example, after you mix the AL, Leaven, and Salt, wait 30 minutes before your SL & F. Check for window pane at the end of the SL & F. If after a decent amount of SL & F you still haven't reached window pane, take a 10 minute break and let the dough rest and do another round of SL & F.

Letting the dough rest is like magic... I don't get it. I think the dough knows better than you do about what makes good strong gluten bonds, the SL & F act as a guide or push in the right direction, and the rest lets the dough finish up the work.

Other things to try:

  • 2 hour AL might be too long for 100% WW due to increased protease in WW. Maybe do 30 minutes? If you want the 2 hours, maybe AL the rest of the time in the fridge.
  • Sift the bran and AL only the bran for a long time, AL the flour for a much shorter time.
  • Increase the salt to 2%, salt increases elasticity.
  • When you do your fold during bulk ferment. Be gentle, only fold enough until you've gently reached the peak tension the dough wants to give you in the moment. Don't wait so long between folds that your dough reverts to a complete puddle. With really loose dough, you may have to do folds every 30 minutes until it is time to shape.

Good Luck!

Inspiration: This is an example of 100% whole wheat perfection...

franbaker's picture

Tom, I'm mostly pretty new to baking, but am on a !00% whole wheat, freshly milled flour, sourdough quest, and have recently gotten some good advice here. To answer your questions:

Sifting out the bran and feeding it to the levin will help some.

300 slap and folds are recommended with 100% freshly milled whole grain. I think not a problem at 15% rye, could be a problem at a larger percentage. The rye may have contributed to the stickiness (although my doughs at 85% and 88% hydration also started out really sticky).

100% whole grain does not rise as much as white (refined) flour. Getting a good rise is considered a bit of a challenge (although much more do-able) even at 50%. 

Many work at 100% hydration, but I haven't attempted that yet; I mix my ingredients at 80% and then add as much more water as I'm comfortable with from a pre-measured cup that would get me to 100% if I used it all, so that I can calculate later what hydration I ended up at. Better kneading made a much more cohesive (and less sticky) dough the third time, even though I was at the same hydration (88%).

I'm also using red fife and love the flavor. My 1.5 hour AL resulted in a more cohesive dough than my 3 hour AL. There are a lot of active enzymes in freshly milled flour.

I didn't do any retarding, so our methods are different. You got a much better-looking crust than I have, but our crumbs look similar. I'm familiar with the pancake look on the way into the oven, but get some oven spring. My third dough was more cohesive and stood up better. I think the main difference is that my dough handling skills are improving.

If you would like to read the helpful comments I've received, they're here:

The most open crumb I've seen with 100% WW sourdough is here:

Happy baking! This is a really great challenge to take on :-)  You will learn a lot!


bikeprof's picture

What you are trying to do is really difficult to begin with...even if the grains/flours you are working with are ideally suited to the task, and we don't know if what you are using are well suited (do you have specs for the red fife??? good results in other batches???).

Putting that point aside, a few things that might help include:

- sifting

- less rye

- more/more vigorous S&F (did you ever get signs of decent gluten development??? time or number of s&f's doesn't really mean much, as you need to adjust to what you are working with).

- my read of the loaf profile and crumb tea leaves: overproofed and possibly the victim of significant proteolysis.  So less time overall from start to finish would be a possibly helpful response...shorten AL and proof (not bulk).  Again, the flour might have low (or low quality) protein and/or a ton of enzymatic activity either or both of which are going to make things difficult and you may need resort to pan loaves (which we are seeing a lot more of from progressive bakers out there, and I think much of the reason is that they are using more whole, local, highly variable, grains, milled in house, and which don't always have the performance characteristics of something from Central Milling, Giusto's, etc.)

- finally, as always, a healthy starter/levain

Bigblue's picture

Thanks guys. Some clarity:

  • I have made open crumb, decent risen loafs before with this fresh milled red fife. So it's surely capable.
  • I was  happy with the crumb of this loaf, just not the height.
  • Starter was active but was cultured at 32c to favour Lab/acid production and before a fridge retard so perhaps the yeast populations and therefore the ability to raise the loaf were compromised?
  • I will do much more SL&F on the next one.
  • I will drop the AL time to 40m from the 2 hours but 2 hours is often mentioned in TFL for high wg loafs.
  • Soaking the bran longer than the rest of the flour is a good idea. May do that. I was hoping I could get away without sifting, given the fine grind.
  • At the end of SL&F it did have some glutenous properties, cohesion, smoothing out. I never do SL&F, just bowl folds even with 70% wg, 30% bread flour, and have never had an issue so I thought 8 minutes of SL&F would be plenty (while still doing the ST&F in the bowl). Surprised it did not develop the gluten by the end of bulk.


barryvabeach's picture

Tom,  just posting to say keep on working, and posting your results.  There are not that many of us that work with 100% home milled flour  ( I sifted for a short time, but haven't sift now in a while ), and sourdough starter, so any information is helpful.  I find that when I mill hard white winter wheat -  78% to 80% hydration is a good range .   Also,  keep notes so you know what works, or doesn't work for you.  Lately,  I have been doing a fair number of bakes with low inoculation ( 8 grams of starter to 454 grams of flour ) and have been playing with bulk fermentation temps in search of a more sour flavor profile.    

Bigblue's picture

Thanks, Barry. How are your loaves given you don't sift? 

barryvabeach's picture

Bigblue,  I like them, and find that while it is not as open as white flour, if you get everything just right, and I mean bulk fermentation and final proofing, it comes out fine.   These are two different loaves, in the first , I got the final proof just right and got some nice oven spring.  In the lower loaf, I the bulk fermentation went well, and the loaf was pretty airy.   I read somewhere that one of the differences between bread flour and wheat flour, is that for bread flour, if the ideal final proof for that loaf at a particular temp was 1 1/2 hours, there would be a window of 1/2 hour where the loaf would still be fine, but for ww, the window was more like 5 or 10 minutes.   I find ww, especially with sourdough, very challenging, and am no where near consistent yet.  I think I would be much further along if I could bake the same recipe every day for a few weeks, but do to work, most of my baking is on the weekend.   What I find pretty interesting I that i have been making a loaf with exactly the same ingredients and same proportions for a few months now, yet  the texture and taste still varies quite a bit, depending on how long I BF, FP, and how many times I have refreshed the starter before baking. 


moneypitfeeder's picture

barryvabeach, would you be able to share your recipe/approx. timing for the loaves that you have pictured? I'm currently working with 75% white ww (prairie gold) and 25% rye, and using the recipe in Forkish for the Saturday white (with extra hydration) if you are familiar with that (long ferment less yeast than a standard bread recipe) and my results are closer to the OP's pictures too. The taste is great, but I am also not getting much oven rise even though I'm getting the rise in the different stages, and the correct "spring-back" when I check the loaf as it is proofing. I am home milling and not sifting currently too. Those photos give me hope!

barryvabeach's picture

moneypitfeeder,  I would like to say that my recipes and timing are a closely guarded secret  . . .   but that is far from the truth.   Frankly,  I can't remember what process I was playing with in July of 2018, though my base formula has been the same for quite some time.   450 grams of flour 360 grams of water, 8 grams of salt.  As to starter, for the longest time I was using around 8 to 10 grams of starter.  I refreshed it every 12 hours, for 3 cycles, before baking  ( Since  I was using such a small amount - I didn't bother to adjust the flour and water portions )   I then  fermented around 8 to 10 hours, and hopefully it had risen about 75%   ( I kept it in a wine cooler with a heating pad and a temperature control so it was around 82 F )   If I was lucky and used cold flour  ( I store mine in the freezer ) and everything went well, it was fermented in just around 8 hours.  If I overslept, or the flour was a little warmer, it would be doubled or even tripled when I woke up to check on it ,  the taste was great, but the oven spring and airiness suffered .  I then preshaped, rested 20 min., then reshaped and put into a banneton and put into a refrigerator till I came home from work and through it in the oven  10 to 12 hours later.  Same issues with final proof, though it is much harder for me to judge that from volume in a banneton , for bulk, I used a straight sided container with a rubber band at starting line.   If i went into the oven before it was mostly proofed, I got fairly dense loaves with a little spring.  If I went late, the loaf was airier, and more volume, but no spring, and in fact in many cases it shrank while in the oven.

    Note that much of my timing was not based on ideal time frames, but on work and sleep.  If you ignore the photos,  this is a great recipe and procedure, though it doesn't fit into my work life.    I say ignore the photos because they are just incredible. 

 Also,  note that with rye, you will get less oven spring than whole wheat, so you are really tying one hand behind your back.  If you want to play with your particular recipe, I would substitute some AP flour for half of the rye   -  the results should give you more volume, and then once you have perfected the recipe, you can switch back to rye and see how to tinker with the results.  I read somewhere, and fully believe it, that one of the main differences between AP,  BF  on the one hand and WW on the other, is that the process with WW moves much quicker, so you have much more flexibility with AP or BF .  I am completely making up the following, but with AP,  your loaf may be at ideal final proof at 12 noon, but if you put it in the oven between 11:30 and 12:30 you will get good oven spring,  but if that loaf was WW,  you will only get good oven spring if it goes in between 11:50 and 12:10.  Again, totally making it up, but the few times I play with extra AP or BF in the recipe, I think oh I messed something up, and still get great spring because it is so forgiving.