The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help baking w/ heritage flours

LauraJP's picture

Help baking w/ heritage flours

I've been baking from FWSY since March with good success using KA flours. I recently experimented using some of our regional heritage grains in the Country Brown recipe. While the product wasn't a total fail, there is much to improve. The flavor was great, but the loaf was very dense. 

Any tips or resources for working with higher extraction heritage flours? I used 604g Great River Unbleached Wheat Bread Flour, 200g Great River Wheat Whole Wheat Bread flour, and 76g Bakers Field Whole Wheat. I added an additional 10g water to the FWSY recipe. 

When I mixed, the dough was very very stiff despite the extra water. And there was little extensibility in the dough during the stretch and folds. 

What can I do to improve outcomes? I'd like to continue experimenting with the heritage high extraction flours. I know the loaves will be more dense than those using white flour, but I'm sure I can do more to improve baking with these local flours. 

Tips to incorporate into my go to recipes? Should I use diff recipes? Should the be specific for whole wheat or heritage? 


Thanks for any guidance!


idaveindy's picture

Those are good ingredients and a good recipe, but they don't exactly match each other.  I do think they are close enough that you can make adjustments, if you're willing to experiment by trial and error.

Instead of 604 g of white bran-less germ-less grocery store "bread flour", your Great River "bread flour" has all the germ and 20% of the bran still in it.

So it's  not the same "bread flour" that you buy in a grocery store.  

The description on their web page may not be clear to newbies about what it means. Them calling it "bread flour" runs counter to the actual description.  It is -for- "bread-making",  but it just won't work exactly the same as what other millers, big and small, call "bread flour."   They are playing a word game.

Great River's is  bran-ier, and much oilier (due to the germ) than white flour, so therefore it will take more water, and it could ferment faster.

It's the enzymes in the bran that make whole wheat flour (and any wheat  flour that is milled in a way that leaves in more bran) ferment faster than white bran-less germ-less flour. The enzymes are what breaks down starch into sugar to feed the yeast and LAB.  

White flour (AP or bread flour) has to have malted (barley/wheat) flour or amylase added in at the mill or order to replace enzymes that were removed when the bran was removed.

How much more water you need is up for experimentation. Go by feel and try to get it close to what the feel was before.

Update: I just realized that only 20% of the bran, _may_ make it ferment just as fast as white flour that has had enzymes added.   So that is a big question for me now... "how fast will this ferment compared to grocery store white flour that has enzymes added?"

To counter the faster fermentation, if needed, you have 3 options:  use less levain, ferment/proof at lower temps, or ferment/proof for less time.  How much less? That's up to you to discover as you learn the flour.  

So, net... no hard answers. Just add water (and keep track/notes for next time) until it feels right, and watch fermentation/proofing closely.

Bon appétit!

LauraJP's picture

Yes, I could reduce the levain. The bread had fantastic taste, but just no extensibility, it was like working with hard clay rather than dough. Would more water be the answer there? I see other recipes for lower hydration and whole wheat/heritage, so unclear if hydration is the only issue? 

I also wonder if less handling is better with these flours, to reduce opportunity for the bran to cut the gluten?  

idaveindy's picture

"The bread had fantastic taste, but just no extensibility, it was like working with hard clay rather than dough. Would more water be the answer there?"

Yes, for two reasons: 1) it has more bran and needs more water for that alone, and 2) hydration adjustment +/- is almost always needed when you switch flours, or even open a new bag of the same stuff.  

Flour will gain or lose moisture over time depending on conditions from the farmer's field all the way to your kitchen. 


That said, there are other ways to add extensibility if you want to get fancy, such as adding nutritional yeast.


idaveindy's picture

If you used the Great River "bread flour" in the levain, the extra bran and germ tends to super-charge the levain with enzymes and make it stronger, more powerful, further boosting/speeding fermentation of the dough.

suave's picture

I am fairly certain that the book by Hewn bakery deals with heritage grains, to a large degree, if not completely. 

LauraJP's picture

I'll check it out, thank you!


headupinclouds's picture

As an extension of the above hydration comments, you may want to try a soaker (autolyse + salt) if you aren't already.  I use an overnight soaker for whole wheat (including heritage grains) as in as in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.  I find this approach to work well for fresh milled whole grains, so I suspect it should work very well with your commercially milled high extraction flours (you can probably get by with a shorter soak).  With this approach, time will do most of the work in forming your gluten, and very little kneading is required after the final mix.  It is useful to reserve some water for your final levain/starter mix, which should loosen up and then come together again with further mixing.  I'm not sure if this is too much of a deparature from your FWSY recipes or not, but I believe many, if not most, whole grain bakers rely on this to some extent.

RedPentacleB's picture

Flour makes a huge difference. I have tried many high-extraction "unifine" flours from Azure Standard and found they tend to produce gummy bread no matter how much I increased or decreased hydration. Then I tried Central Milling high-extraction and got great results. If you are getting consistent results using KA then your technique is probably pretty good. Try starting with 90% KA and 10% Great River and see how that turns out. With each next bake, increase the percentage of Great River.

Also you probably need to add a lot more water than 10g. Remember to add enough water so that all your doughs have a similar feel.

Have fun,