The Fresh Loaf

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(1-results) Journey to perfect a 100% WW Sourdough Pullman Loaf

texasbakerdad's picture

(1-results) Journey to perfect a 100% WW Sourdough Pullman Loaf

These are the results of my first attempt. See the (1-recipe) blog post to see what the plan was.


The wife has tasked me to come up with a sandwich bread recipe our family can bake at least once a weak to completely replace our regularly purchased box store sandwich bread.

This post is for the recipe for my second attempt to make the perfect loaf.


  • Soft and light
  • 100% whole wheat
  • Recipe must be easily repeatable and easy to execute.
  • Recipe must be designed for a covered pullman loaf pan.
  • My 12 year old daughter must be able to bake the bread from start to finish
  • Sourdough leavening only.
  • From start to finish, the bread must be completable in 1 day.
  • Process must exist to enable the baker to know with reasonable certainty that the loaf is perfectly proofed.
  • Dough needs to contain a few softened chewy seeds, grain berries, etc. for texture and flavor.

Summary of Results

The Good:

  • The bread tasted amazing and was quite sour. After toasting the bread and adding a bit of butter, I think this might have been the best sour tasting bread I have ever eaten.
  • Including the oven bloom, I'd guess the there was a total volume gain of 3x-4x.
  • The crust was nice and soft.

The Bad:

  • The bread was too sour for an everyday sandwich loaf. My sourdough starter isn't typically this sour, the increased sourness was most definitely the result of the long long rise time (20 hours at an average of 76dF). This should be easy to fix by taking steps to significantly increase the rise rate. I took those steps in (2-recipe).
  • The cooked bread was too heavy (by weight, not by texture/taste/fullfilligness). Me thinks this is due to too much water being retained in the dough after the bake and if I were to have cooked the dough significantly longer, the loaf would have been lighter.
  • The bread was undercooked, there was dense very slightly uncooked dough at the very bottom of the loaf. I will increase the bake time from 45 min to 1 hour to hopefully remedy this problem.
  • The bread broke too easily when being handled. I think this too is due to the bread being undercooked.

The Final Recipe:

  • 30g (6%) sourdough starter (50:50 hard red)
  • 50g rolled outs
  • 30g (6%) honey
  • 12g (2%ish) non-iodized salt (Accidentally added to much salt)
  • 30g (6%) virgin olive oil
  • 450g (90% if you include rolled oats) well water
  • 60g home milled hard white wheat (sifted to remove bran)
  • 390g home milled hard red wheat (sifted to remove bran) (I ran out of hard white, had to use hard red for the rest)
  • sifted bran to be used as topping

The Bake:

  • 2:00p: mixed 450g boiling water (all of the water), honey, oats, and salt until evenly combined. let it sit for 10 min to soften the oats.
  • 2:10p: mixed in olive oil.
  • 2:11p: added all flour, used ankersum to mix long enough to make shaggy mess.
  • 2:21p: smeared 30g of starter over the top of the dough mixture, then used ankersum to knead using dough hook for 5 minutes.
  • 2:26p: transferred as much dough as possible to clean bowl and covered. Took 20g of dough and put into aliquot.
  • 2:30p, 5:30p, 9:30p: Stretch and fold, the entire time, there was no sign of sourdough activity.
  • 11:00p: first obvious signs of sourdough activity in the aliquot, no visible increase in dough bulk.
  • 7:00a: Dough in aliquot had risen 2.5x. Preheated the oven to 375dF. Turned dough out onto counter and preshaped into ball.
  • 7:00a: Prepped pullman pan, brushed butter on all sides of pan, sprinkled bran flakes on butter.
  • 7:10a: Shaped loaf into log and put in pan and covered.
  • 7:40a: Brushed top of loaf with melted butter, sprinkled bran flakes on top, and scored. Loaded loaf into oven and baked for 45 min covered (note: I have misplaced my pullman loaf lid, I used an inverted cookie sheet to get by, the cookie sheet was in the warming oven, so it was already hot.)
  • 8:25a: Put dough on a rack to cool. Took about 1.5 hours to cool.
  • 10a: Sliced dough and enjoyed!

Side Note: As I type (it is currently 11:55a) the dough in the aliquot is STILL RISING! See photos.

I took the photo above before I brushed with butter, added bran flakes to the top, and scored.

You can see in the photo above the dense crumb at the bottom of the loaf. I assume this is the pure result of being slightly undercooked and the weight of the dough pushing down on itself after I took it out of the oven and set it on the rack to cool.

On the left is the aliquot for today and represents the level that the aliquot on the right was at originally. This photo was taken at 11:20a on bake day. So, that would be 21 hours AFTER kneading the starter into the dough.


idaveindy's picture

What kind of oven are you using?  If convection, where are elements located? (top, bottom,  back wall.)

texasbakerdad's picture

I have a convection oven, but I was not using convection mode. The particular pullman pan I own is quite thick and I had the loaf right in the middle of of the oven. My oven has 3 heating elements. Bottom, top, and in front of the convection fan. I believe in "Bake" mode (the mode I was using), 80% of the heat is supposed to come from the bottom element and 20% from the top element.

idaveindy's picture

Was the overnight portion of the bulk ferment at room temp or fridge?

I use 90% home milled WW, 10% bread flour.   3% PPF would have worked for me with an overnight bulk in the fridge, _or_ an  overnight proof in the fridge, but more or less  same time overall.

I'm thinking your bulk was too long, and the proof too short. Just a guess.


Removing the cover 1/2 way through also helps moisture bake off.  



texasbakerdad's picture

Which problem are you saying was caused by the long bulk and short proof?

(A) The dense slightly uncooked dough at the bottom of the loaf?


(B) The 20 hour rise time?


(C) Both?

texasbakerdad's picture

I should say, that I would have liked to proof for longer, but I was scared that I waited too long to shape and that my sourdough was nearing its maximum rise. But, it is 12:38p (22 hours after kneading in the starter) and the aliquot is still rising. So, I guess my fear was unfounded.

idaveindy's picture

maybe caused:

1) The dense slightly uncooked dough at the bottom of the loaf.


2) the overall dense crumb.


bulk ferment was 2:26 pm to 7:00 am . Total of 16 hrs 34 min. For my home-milled wheat and starter, that is too long at 3% PPF, even in fridge. Was yours done at room temp or in fridge?

Your dough over-fermented. With high % WW, should look for 30-50% increase in aliquot for bulk. Not 2.5x.

7:00 to 7:10 was the "rest before final shape".

Your proof was 7:10 to 7:40.

texasbakerdad's picture

"1) The dense slightly uncooked dough at the bottom of the loaf."

Help me understand how a short proof might cause that situation. My understanding (which may be incorrect), is that if you are super gentle while shaping, that proofing is just an extension of the bulk ferment rising process. What are your thoughts on my opinion that I simply did not cook the loaf long enough? Or at a high enough temperature?

"2) the overall dense crumb."

If you ignore the bottom 5mm of the loaf, I didn't think the crumb was dense. My goal is to have a sandwich loaf that spreads easily, thus it needs to have small and evenly distributed holes, but at the same time not be dense. Box store bread loaves meet this criteria, small holes, but very light weight. Considering my loaf today had a 3x to 4x volume increase, my guess was that my volume increased enough, but that I did not cook out enough of the water.

Dense in my mind means, a high weight to volume ratio. Open vs closed crumb can be related to density, but they are not the same. Meaning, you can have a closed crumb and not be dense. And an open crumb and be dense. I would define grocery store sandwich loaves as low density closed crumb. Am I used the terms incorrectly?

Here is a better shot of the crumb. Thoughts?

texasbakerdad's picture

"bulk ferment was 2:26 pm to 7:00 am . Total of 16 hrs 34 min. For my home-milled wheat and starter, that is too long at 3% PPF, even in fridge. Was yours done at room temp or in fridge?

Your dough over-fermented. With high % WW, should look for 30-50% increase in aliquot for bulk. Not 2.5x.

7:00 to 7:10 was the "rest before final shape".

Your proof was 7:10 to 7:40."

It was all at an average of 76dF. Which is colder than I am used too. My goal was to maximize the rise. How did you arrive at 30-50% increase during bulk? That seems to low especially if I am looking to get 250% to 300% rise overall.

idaveindy's picture

No, you don't want 250-300% rise prior to baking, when using sourdough with  a high percent of WW.

You're thinking commercial yeast and white flour.  You are now in sourdough/WW territory. Different concepts are in play, so different formulas/procedures  are needed.

16+ hrs, @76 degrees F, 3% PFF,  6% honey, 100% home milled WW, warm water = way waaay overfermented.


Throwing out another factor, a one hour soak prior to adding levain would have been good.

idaveindy's picture

Your 450 g of boiling water only sat (cooled down) for 11 minutes before adding the flour. So you started "cooking" the flour early. You can do that to a  _small portion_ of the flour (which is the tangzhong method), but when you do that to all the flour, it can lead to a dense loaf.

You needed only about 150 g of hot water for soaking the 50 g of oats, and the other 300 g could be right out of the tap.

One of the net effects of the 450 g of boiling water was to make the dough hold on to the water and not bake it off. Keeping the lid on for the whole bake also likely helped to retain some water, too.

idaveindy's picture

"Help me understand how a short proof might cause that situation"

That's not what I said.  I said the way too long bulk and a too short proof likely caused it.

You used up too much fermentation during the bulk.

I think you are stuck in "commercial yeast/white flour" mode and have not switched your ideas/thinking to "sourdough-with-Ww" mode. It's a different animal.

And home-milled WW makes it "even more" a different animal.  You just cannot treat WW flour like white flour. And you cannot treat home-milled WW flour like store-bought WW flour.

You need to let go of your previous ideas of how white flour and commercial yeast behave, because WW and sourdough behave differently. The idea that "it needs to rise -this- much" does not carry over from white flour with commercial yeast to WW with sourdough.


DanAyo's picture

TBD, the oats could be affecting the wetness of your bread. Oats hold a huge amount of water.

You may want to consider reducing the hydration a bit. 

Also, you may be interested in this method for your weekly breads.

The method above makes life much easier...

One other suggestion for thought. Probably the best.
You may be better able to bake out the excess water, if (after the bread has set) you remove the loaf from the pan and allow it to finish baking in the open air of your oven. I think that will help.

texasbakerdad's picture

"You may be better able to bake out the excess water, if (after the bread has set) you remove the loaf from the pan and allow it to finish baking in the open air of your oven."

I have been thinking about that. It is a tradeoff, if I take the loaf out of the pan, I will harden the crust. Right now, the crust is perfect. I think I am going to keep trying to just cook it longer and see if the crumb keeps getting drier and only switch to taking the top off or taking it out of the pan if cooking longer doesn't work. I just finished my second loaf and will be posting a blog for it soon. The 2nd loaf was very close to the first but with an even higher hydration but a 15 minute longer bake. The crumb came out drier (an improvement but not good enough yet). I have a strong suspicion that if I lengthen the bake another 15 to 30 minutes, I could get the crust exactly the way I want it.

texasbakerdad's picture

From your other post:

"in an effort to simplify and streamline the sandwich bread I wondered if the dough could be shaped immediately after mixing and then placed in the Pullman to BF and later bake. I supposed that the pan would constrain the dough from spreading so shaping might be done at the beginning of fermentation rather than towards the end after the BF."

I like this idea a lot. For a couple reasons. (1) It is much simpler, (2) it also skips the hassle of shaping the dough when the dough is fragile. Right after kneading, the dough lacks so much structure that it will likely just ooze into position in the pan. And, since I want my 12 y.o. daughter to be able to execute the recipe, this is a very attractive option.

My one hang-up on this approach. I have baked recipes that take this route in the past and these recipes are more likely to stick in the pan. But... I guess if I can perfect the process and perfect the pan preparation, there is probably a way to guarantee the loaf doesn't stick. Thoughts?

DanAyo's picture

I grease the Pullman with Crisco and then dust with flour. Bread releases easily. If you expect the bread to rise to the top, don’t forget to grease and dust it also. 

Oh! With the covered Pullman, do remove the top after 10-15 minutes or so. That way the steam can be released. 

texasbakerdad's picture

Ok, that is what I normally do, except I use butter instead of crisco. I'm sold. I won't be switching to that method just yet, I want to get my bake times down first before I make that big of a change to the process, but hopefully I can make the switch in 3 or 4 bakes.

idaveindy's picture

On your next post,  "(2-results)", clazar did a much better job explaining the concepts that I wanted to get across, and he/she gave good links to back up those concepts.

I believe you'll make quicker progress following clazar's tips.

I think I came across too strongly in my comments here, and for that I apologize.

texasbakerdad's picture

I sometimes have difficulty responding to feedback I don't agree with. Often, I don't know how to find that balance between being gracious, not being to confrontational, and being honest about my opinions. It is hard for me and I know I tend to rub people the wrong way.

I definitely want all the advice and feedback people are willing to give even if I don't always agree with other's opinions. It is funny that the same things that rub me the wrong way about how people give advice are identical to how I give advice to others. :-)

Ultimately, we all want to become better bakers and to enjoy some excellent bread.

In response to your advice. I understood all of it. I have been baking bread for the past 15 years, sourdough and WW for a lot of it, and the past 5 years I have been baking bread and making pizza at least weekly. I still have a lot to learn, I am not a professional, and there are tons of people on thefreshloaf with loads more experience than me, but I am no spring chicken. I find the bread baking community to be interesting, baking advice seems to change every few years and new techniques come into and go out of vogue, it is like an evolving organism.