The Fresh Loaf

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Fragile Sourdough Loaves

ngdale21's picture

Fragile Sourdough Loaves

I have started having increasing problems wit loaves that look and taste great but when sliced (after cooling) yield fragile slices that break apart easily. It's become pretty well impossible to make a sandwich as the slices end up falling apart, even as they are buttered. The only change in my recipe has been that I stepped up the proportion of whole-wheat flour from about 150 g of a total of 1000 g flour to 250 or 300. I'm wondering if folks think I may need to compensate for this with more working of the dough to develop more gluten or simply go back to the higher proportion of white flour. Or what else could I try? 

happycat's picture

Lower gluten may be part of it... but higher bran might also be an issue for damaging gluten if you don't soak it and allow more time for it to hydrate than white flour.

You can soak the whole wheat, sift and soak the bran, sift the bran and add to starter or levain to ferment and soften, or scald a portion of the whole wheat or sifted bran

For instance, I scald freshly milled wheat kernels and rye kernels and have no issues with a 20% proportion in my bread.

Also if you're not sure about 250 or 300... are you not weighing? Might be good to weigh and ensure proportions as you experiment.

Also check your salt.

ngdale21's picture

Thanks. That's very helpful. I do weigh everything but said "250 or 300" because I've tried both. When you say "check the salt"— do you mean that it may be too salty and thereby inhibit gluten formation? I have been following the Tartine recipe which has 20g in the standard 1000g flour recipe. 


happycat's picture

I just meant check the weight of salt as it plays an important part, Sounds like you already do.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sounds to me like the dough can rise and over extend while proofing.  Then baking sets the crust.  Does cutting with a serrated bread knife also tear the crumb?  

Try baking before the dough doubles.  It could also be the dough needs to be degassed more before the final proof.  A crumb picture might be helpful.

suminandi's picture

I think if you up the whole grain from 150 gm to 300 gm, you would need to add a bit more liquid, as bran is absorbent. I think 30 more grams of water would take care of it. Also, agree with Happycat that letting the dough soak a bit longer before adding salt and yeast (or starter), will allow the bran to soften before kneading etc. 

mariana's picture

Hi ngdale21

I would simply add a couple of Tbsp of dry vital gluten flour for each cup or two of whole wheat added, since it has such a drastic effect on crumb elasticity in your case. In lieu of gluten flour you could substitute egg whites. They would work just as well. 

Beth Hensperger uses gluten as improver for bread machine dough, I use the same amounts, but in weight of egg whites:

1.8- 3.5% (of weight of flour in recipe) for white flour dough

2.7-5.3% for whole grain wheat dough

5.3-10.6% for stiff whole grain dough and dough containing non-gluten flour (oats, rye flour, etc.)

Banfield recommends to use egg whites as improver in similar amounts:

3.3% of weight of whole grain flour or 7% of weight of liquid in the recipe for white flour. Because I get liquid egg whites in cartons from the store, in practical terms, it's 2 Tbsp of egg whites (about 30g ) for me when I mix dough for a full size loaf (from about 450-500g of flour) in Zojirushi bread machine and 3 Tbsp of egg whites (about 40-45g) for a full size whole grain loaf, or wheat with rye, wheat with 7grain cereal, etc.

I don't change the weight of water (or milk) in the recipe. I ADD egg white to that. I.e. it takes care of itself, it doesn't liquefy the dough too much and it doesn't absorb additional water, as vital gluten would.

Fresh Egg white is already a fully hydrated protein, which when kneaded-aerated (or, more commonly, beaten as part of cake foams or pastry creams) ends up as stiff foam, capable of holding its shape. Whereas vital wheat gluten still has to absorb n times its weight in water, depending on its quality, in order to be able to hold gases and keep shape/

You can also switch to egg white in dry form, powdered egg whites, to be able to mix it with flour and that will make recipes suitable for the delayed mixing cycle in bread machine. Then your would have to recalculate the amounts, about 1:8 by weight.


I.e. 30g of fresh egg whites equals to 4g dried,


40-45g fresh - to 5-6g dried.