wholewheat and 'sourness'
I try to cook with as much wholemeal I can get away with, but I noticed that when I approach 100% wholemeal making sourdough, the bread becomes much more sour. This is just a little too sour for my tastes. Here is how I made the dough:
Feed the starter an leave to grow overnight
1/2 cup starter
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
6 cups white whole wheat flour
mix it up and autolyse for about 20mins
mix a little more then leave at room temperature (about 65 in our house) for about 11 hours.
stretch and fold, then leave in refrigerator overnight
Bake in the morning
When I reduced the rising time to one day instead of two I lost the sourness but also much of the taste. Using the timings above with about 30% wholewheat also lost the sourness, but a little too much. I even thought of titrating the amount of wholewheat to get the optimal sourness, but I guess that would vary with the temperature.
The scientist in me is curious as to why it is more sour with whole wheat. Any thoughts?
I have no clue as to the "why", but I have noticed a connection between sourness and whole wheat, too. Some of the most intensely sour (way more than I enjoy eating) sourdoughs that I have made had significant whole wheat content. Let's see what the community brain trust can come up with.
The outer coatings of the grain tend to have more natural yeast intact, so by using more whole grains, you're essentially adding more sourdough culture as well.
It's why some starter recipes call for some form of whole grain to get a culture going.
Somewhere on this forum is a discussion of extra sour in whole wheat. The theory seemed to be generally held that the extra minerals, or other compounds, in whole wheat increased the buffering capacity of the flour. Thus, the microbes could generate more acid before the pH got low enough to diminish their activity. As a corollary, it's best to maintain your starter with refined flour.
I had the same problem when I let my whole wheat sourdough rise all day. It was so sour that I could barely eat it. Mike Avery addresses the problem of sourness in his website, Sourdough Home. I won't say too much since Mike knows a lot more about this than I do, but it basically boils down to this: the longer you ferment, the more sour your bread will be.
So, you were right to try reducing the rise time. Unfortunately, as you found, a shorter rise-time often yields less flavor. What's a baker to do?
I now use the method in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread. This method basically splits your recipe in two: one half with leavening, the other half without. You let them ferment in separate bowls all day, then combine them a few hours before you're ready to bake. The dough without leavening sits all day developing the flavor of the wheat, while the dough with leavening develops sourness. A high dose of yeast added at the end allows you to bake within 90-120 minutes after mixing.
You might want to get a copy of WGB from your library or bookstore. There's a wealth of scientific information that might answer your question better than I can. It's an excellent read for a rainy day.
I let my dough sit and age a little before I add sourdough per Reinhart. Then add sourdough. Let it rise and then bake. I think it helps that I am using Desem.
I'm currently experimenting with using two leavens - one for flavour and one for leavening. No commercial yeast involved. Today I baked a batch with a 3-day ferment on the flavour portion and my regular 6-hour rise on the leavening portion. Very interesting bread resulted. I'm still searching for a way to get it sour enough for my taste, which is VERY sour. By adjusting the amounts of the two leavens the theory is one can achieve a balance that is appealing to your own distinct palatte. Per this thread I think I'll use more whole wheat in the next load. This one was 95% white and 5% rye.
What a terrific and fun resource TFL is!
I have been making my sourdough using 2 starters to build the final levain for about 6 weeks now and I like this method. I only bake once or twice a week, so some of the time the starters spend in the fridge. I keep only a small amount of each starter, 'cause I only bake 2 - 3.5 pounds of bread at a time. As a result, I never throw any starter away (hate throwing any food away!) and incorporate any "discarded starter" into the next bread, whatever it is. No problems doing this so far.
One starter I use, as you say for the leavening, the other is a mostly rye starter which I feed less frequently and which provides a nice sour tang. This tangy starter gets 67% Rye to 33% AP flour, and gets fed (mostly) once a day. I've also experimented with 16-hour feeding cycles for the rye guy, but somewhere along the line sleeping winds up interfering with the 16-hour routine!
I usually use 67% of the leavening starter to 33% of the flavor starter, BTW.
If you haven't tried rye for your flavor starter, by all means, that'll kick up the sour several notches.
Good luck with your baking!
This current experimentation is based on recommendations from "The Bread Builders" - for sourness he recommends starting with 30% of the water in the form of a 50% hydration over-ripe leaven (72 hour ferment) and for leavening 20% of the water in a 100% hydration regular ripe leaven. The remaining 50% of the water is added with the appropriate amount of flour and salt to create the dough. The proportions worked OK at a 70% dough hydration, but it was a little slack for shaping, I think I'll try 65% next time. I imagine the acid environment of the over-ripe leaven weakens the dough structure. The bread was really good, though. I made 12 baguettes for a bake sale and we only kept 1, but we really enjoyed the one that we kept.
I, too, hate throwing away food, although I have been doing that lately. I stopped refrigerating my starters and had been feeding them twice a day at room temperature. I ended up consolidating 3 starters into one; I now keep back 10 grams of starter and feed it 20 grams of water and 20 grams of flour, and I do this routine twice a day in a 70 F environment. I'm just playing with establishing a routine to use the remaing 40 (or so, discounting what gets stuck to the container and spoon) grams to keep these over-ripe leavens moving along in various states and with various flour combinations. I have one in the pipeline that is 100% rye. I use three flours, Giusto's Bakers Choice (white), Giusto's Old Mill (high extraction - all the germ and 20% of the bran) and a local whole dark rye. It feels like in a month or so I could have something figured out.
Very interesting, Paul. I don't have that book but have read positive things about it elsewhere.
I'm trying to do the calculations...
As an example, does the following fit the method? If you were building, say, a dough with a total of 600 grams of flour and 400 grams of water (67%), 120 grams of the water would be in the sour leaven containing 240 grams of flour; the other leaven would consist of 80 grams of water and 80 grams of flour. That would be 320 grams of fermented flour out of 600 total. Of the 400 grams of the total water, 200 would be in the leavens; final dough would consist of all of both the leavens plus 280 grams of flour and 200 grams of water. Something like that?
That, assuming I didn't mess up the math, which is a mighty big assumption, would be quite a different method than I use, but an interesting alternative seeking the same goal.
I'm a firm believer in using whatever works, so keep us posted on how the bread you build using this method turns out!
Yes, that's it (very close on the math) - my little calculator program comes in quite handy for the figuring. Of course there's salt as well. I've been doing 1% of the total dough weight for salt. That keeps me between 1% and 2% of the total flour weight and it's blessedly easy to calculate. I've only actually baked it twice so far, with different flours, but the flavours have been wonderfully complex. I'm still in pursuit of the (to me) elusive "sour". I'll start my own thread once I have some data instead of hijacking someone else's related thread.
I am guilty as charged as well for diverting a thread or two on TFL. But sometimes an issue comes up that doesn't deserve its own thread but does deserve a little exploration, so I'm not sure one can be too hard line on such things.
I remember reading elsewhere that you are in pursuit of the Big Sour. I am content with a nice tangy sensation without getting an overwhelming acetic flavor in the bread. In any case, I would think that if your flavor-maker was high in rye (not on rye!) and you left it for 3 days, it would pack a pretty sour wallop!
The exploration is the goal!
Thanks for all the posts relating to wholemeal sourness, I have learned a lot! I have added the Reinhart whole grain bread book to my Amazon wish list, so hopefully some kind soul will oblige.
For the record, as the person who started this tread, I don't think you posts have been off thread at all.
Yeah, thanks. We all get pretty wound up sometimes. All that exploration David was talking about.