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Help me diagnose my 100% whole wheat loaf, is it over proofed?

rachmoriah's picture

Help me diagnose my 100% whole wheat loaf, is it over proofed?

Hey everyone, I've been trying to get through my 60lb bag or wheat berries so all my breads recently have been 100% whole wheat. I've been loosely following Maurizio's method and schedule from The Perfect Loaf (, doing around 90-100% hydration. I've had a lot of trouble getting a good (or any) oven spring. At first I thought it was just that the whole wheat is too heavy or that it was my starter. I've now got to a point where I feel like my starter is strong and the dough seems good through the whole process until I bake it.

My process:

Day before grind 500g whole wheat flour, in the evening mix with 375g water and let autolyse over night. Also prepare preferment 20g starter + 40g flour + 30g water. In the morning mix the autolyse, the starter, salt, and 50g more water. Let rest than begin bulk fermentation. I do 3 sets of turns at 30 min intervals at which point the gluten seems fully developed so I just let it rest for the rest of the bulk ferment (about 1.5 hours) to not over work it. Then I preshape, rest, and then final shape and it goes in the fridge overnight. Bake in the morning in combo cooker at 450 F.

Kitchen temp is usually ~68, but I like to do the bulk ferment in the oven with light on so around 80F and my dough temperature was just under 80 by the end of the bulk. My fridge temperature is around 40F.

I'm now inclined to believe it's over proofed because it deflates when I score it and I get basically no oven spring (I've tried not scoring at all and it still goes flat in the oven). Another thing I'm noticing is that there are lots of large collapsed bubbles at the top of the loaf which I've read on other threads is a sign of over proofing. But my real problem is that I guess I'm not able to tell when it has finished proofing. I have been doing the poke test but this last time when I poked right before transferring the dough to my combo cooker it sprung back so I thought it was all good. Then pulling off the combo cooker lid I saw that it had gone flat.

So I guess I'm asking if this bread seems over proofed to you guys? and if so what is the best way to test for this?

barryvabeach's picture

First,  I was not familiar with Maurizio's method, but went to the web page, and you loaf looks a lot like the photo on that page.   

I am nearly always baking with 100% home milled whole wheat, and often I am around 80 % hydration, though others are in the 90 to 100%.  I would start with dropping the hydration a little and see if that helps.

As to overproofing, I have not had much success with the poke test.  While I prefer to go by the volume of the loaf,  I use a banneton,  and make the same size loaf every week, even so,  I still have a great deal of difficulty judging the amount of volume increase during final proof .  My guess is that your loaf is a little overproofed, just from your description that it starts to deflate when scored.  On the next loaf,  try to put it in the oven a little earlier, and see what happens.

Finally, while oven spring is a great thing to see, in my experience,  if you put the loaf in too early,  it will be pretty dense.  Just right, and you get a lighter loaf, with a nice spring.  A little bit late and you don't get any spring, but the loaf may still be more airy then if it was underproofed,  so I don't get too upset if it is a bit overproofed.   


rachmoriah's picture

Glad to see I'm not the only one having trouble with the poke test. I've had trouble judging when the dough has increased in volume to the right size but I'll lower the hydration and start experimenting with proof times more

chelseasf's picture

For a 100% whole wheat bread, that crumb is amazing!  I have personally found that reducing the hydration slightly on Maurizio’s breads helps a bit. But it really depends on your flour.  

I have a similar fermentation/proofing dilemma every time I make a whole wheat loaf. Hard to tell when it’s ready. 

By the way, you might want to join the Facebook group, Whole Grain Bakers - limited to discussion of 100% whole grains breads etc. 

BXMurphy's picture

Hi, rachmoriah,

Your loaf looks absolutely proofed to perfection. You couldn't ask for any better. You have a nice distribution of fermentation pockets. The larger holes look like a shaping error as I can see a swirl pattern.

Over-proofing is usually accompanied by a crunb that separates from the crust. Being flat could be a matter of too much water and too much sitting around.

I don't think anyone would expect a network of lacey, large holes with 100% freshly ground wheat but I will stand corrected as I don't have direct experience with that.

I think that a dough that high in water ought not sit around too long. Shape it up and into the fire it goes!

Hey, how'd that bread taste? How is the chew? It looks scrumptious!


rachmoriah's picture

Oh yeah, I gave up on getting nice large holes pretty soon after working with 100% ww. But what it lacks in big open crumb it makes up for with more surface area for toppings and spreads, good trade off I think. I'll try dropping the hydration next time. Originally I was pushing for higher hydration to get a more open crumb and I guess it just became habit, but seeing as that's no longer my goal I guess it might be doing more harm than good.

And the taste was great, I've started baking two half loaves instead of a single one. One to cut into immediately out of the oven because I can't resist, and the second I leave un cut for at least a day for the flavor to develop. Wheaty and just a touch of sour.

idaveindy's picture

If Maurizio's formula is using pre-milled (store bought) flour, or even if it was aged a little, and you are using fresh milled, your flour will ferment much quicker.

I had to reduce yeast or leaven a lot when I started home milling.

I use 7% pre-fermented flour (about 14% starter)  for a same day bake, and oniy 3.5% when bulk ferment or final proof goes over night, even in the fridge.  WW, especially home-milled, keeps chugging along in the fridge.

rachmoriah's picture

Ah ha! That's something I hadn't given any thought to. I will definitely try my next loaf with less leaven. Thank you for the insight!

charbono's picture

That's not an autolyse; it's a soaker.  A soaker needs salt, or you will get too much protease activity.

rachmoriah's picture

ahh interesting, I wasn't aware of the term soaker. I will add salt next time

chelseasf's picture

Think it looks fantastic. The only thing I’d say is, 80 degrees is a very high temp for fermenting a whole grain bread. I’d probably do it at 72-ish for a longer period.