How to Get an Open Crumb with Whole Grain Sourdough Bread

(Melissa) #1

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(volpinab) #2

Rubbed method?


(KimVT1111) #3

Rubaud method:

(bbehnes) #4

Thank you so much for this post!!! I purchased the Mockmill a month ago and have been milling and baking a storm of bread but was wondering what was ‘normal’. Seeing all the variations and the final crumb has helped me a lot! The fresh whole grain home milled flour does produce a denser but more delicious loaf than I am used to. Thanks again for sharing all this information! I sucked it up like fresh milled flour :).

(volpinab) #5

I thought the Ribaud method was familiar. Ah Trevor Wilson…best of the best. He has been such an inspiration for me.



(wendyk320) #6

Thanks for the wonderful research, Melissa. I’m still working my way through Yohan Ferrant’s approach with mixed results. Once I’m finished playing around with that, I’m going to spend some more time reading through your experiments and try applying some what you found to my own bakes.

I’ve read a lot about bread baking for several years but never seen such a great, straight-forward, systematic approach to whole grain bread baking. Mostly what I see applies to white flour breads, much of which isn’t directly applicable to whole grain. You really ought to think about writing a book at some point!

(Melissa) #7

Thank you! I’m so glad my research and obsessing is helpful and interesting to you.

I’d love to hear how your microlevain activities are going too.

It’s funny how every time I said to myself, ugh I think I’m done with this, a few days later, I’d think of something else I wanted to tweak and test “just one more time.” I imagine you’re having the same experience with the Ferrant tests.

On the microlevain front, I want to try it with the breadtopia whole grain bread flour. Also someone on Instagram ( laminates her sourdough, no oil or butter, but stretching to the extreme and folding in squares around the time you’d do a first stretch and fold. I want to try that too.

And another person mentioned pre-gelatinizing 5% of the flour a la tangzhong in a whole grain bread - making a roux of sorts. Not clear on the purpose of this, but it’s easy so why not try it …

The list goes on!

(wendyk320) #8

Exactly! So many breads, so little time! I tried sifting bran and then cooking it which had a really nice effect on the bread, I think that may have been a gelatinizing issue. Never heard of the lamination approach. Cool.

I’ve made 4 microlevain loaves so far, the first was 100% turkey red at 90% hydration, the second was 80% turkey red/20% AP at 80% hydration, can’t remember #3, and the fourth, pictured below was 80% Pennoll, a local wheat/20% AP at 85% hydration. I used 1% starter which make a dough that was ready to form in about 20 hours. These are all small loaves - 300g of flour. They all turned out pretty much the same, although the 80% hydration loaf was noticeably easier to handle and shape, the others had to be scraped into the banneton.

I baked all 4 of them in a small square ceramic casserole, placed on a cookie sheet with no sides, and I put a large stainless steel mixing bowl over the casserole for the first 20 minutes. There was reasonable oven spring with a moderately open texture. All 4 of them had a weirdly moist, spongy texture, just shy of gummy, almost cake-like. It occurred to me that all the photos I saw of Ferrants breads were ciabatta shaped and obviously not baked in a vessel, so I’m wondering if the wetness of this dough precludes the use of a container, that it might need the surface area to evaporate some of the high hydration. I might give that one more try.

I want to try a hybrid approach to his recipe. I think there might be some value to allowing the enzymatic action that takes place during a long fermentation before the small amount of levain kicks in, but I’m not convinced that doing some more stretch and folds would adversely affect the bread. So, I may try a 75-80% hydration, 1% levain, loaf with 4 standard stretch and folds to see if I can get some better gluten development.

I haven’t tried this approach with a commercial flour. One of my issues is always that my local grains are from Pennsylvania or Ohio. I’ve read that wheat grown east of the Mississippi has different characteristics than wheat grown in the northwest which has ideal growing conditions.

(Melissa) #9

Interesting about the east vs west wheat differences.

Your bread looks really good to me! It could be interesting to try a free form bake, though, and see how that affects the crust and crumb. Adding to my to-try list.

The first microlevain bake I did with 30%? rye had the wet strip at the bottom. Otherwise my crumb hasn’t been too wet but I wonder if like panettone could I let the bread cool upside down :slight_smile:

I bet four somewhat spaced out stretch and folds would be beneficial … would love to hear how it goes.

(wendyk320) #10

I took advantage of having some friends over for lunch to try a Melissa-style experiment. I made 2 loaves of bread using the same ingredients in the same amounts except for the water - 260g whole Pennoll wheat, 40g AP, 4g salt and some honey. One loaf I made Ferrant style at 85% hydration, 1% (3g) starter, and this time, I didn’t use a vessel, baked it ciabatta style. The other I made in my usual way at 70% hydration, sieving the milled Pennoll and using the bran plus a little more of the flour to make a 20% levain with 10g starter. The levain sat overnight, in the morning I autolysed the remaining flour for an hour, then mixed it all, bulk fermented until 60-70% risen, formed, into banneton second rise for an hour then baked on stone with baking dish inverted over it. Both were baked to around 205 degrees.

The results were interesting. Visually, they looked remarkably different. The Ferrant loaf was indeed very flat, the crust was very light in color and dull, the crumb was again quite moist but a smidge less so than when baked in a vessel. The usual method loaf had a deep brown crust with a good shine to it and considerable shine on the scored area. The Ferrant loaf was noticeably more sour than the usual loaf. On bake day, I definitely perferred the usual loaf. By day 2, the usual loaf was considerably drier, the Ferrant loaf was still remarkably most.

I wonder if the difference in crust might, at least in part, be due to the fact that the Ferrant loaf was baked uncovered, and the usual was covered.

I asked my guests to do a taste test. Their opinions were all over the place, some preferring one loaf over the other, some preferring the texture of one and the taste of the other. My conclusion is that it is totally a matter of individual taste. It was a lot of fun to do.

I want to see a photo of your hanging-upside-down bread when you try the pannetone style!

(Arlo48) #11

Thank you, Melissa. This is all very interesting as I strive for more whole grain. Two questions:

  • what do you suggest for those of us who use commercial flour? I don’t have a mill, or Breadtopia flour. I do have access to King Arthur, BRM, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, I don’t know what flour to use for your recipe.
  • what temp is “room temp” in your recipes? I recently bought a room thermometer and learned that room temp in my kitchen (far from the house thermostat) is usually 59 - 63.

(Melissa) #12

You’re welcome!

I would use whole wheat flour. I think most store’s whole wheat is going to be a hard red wheat. If you want to buy a white whole wheat and do the mix, that would maybe yield a milder flavor, but it’s not a necessary part of the recipe.

Because every flour has a different thirstiness, you may want to add the water slowly, though, and stop if the consistency is too wet for you. If after some time and a stretch and fold, the dough feels elastic, you could add water if you wanted too.

My room temp is 65-68 F. Good for you for conserving electricity/oil/gas with those thermostat temps :slight_smile:

(Arlo48) #13

Ok, thanks. I was just wondering if some brands might be closer to what you’re using but that’s probably hard to know. I can get a fine grind WW at Whole Foods, so I’ll probably try that. Thanks for the advice on holding off on water and getting the feel for it.

(Melissa) #14

Oooh fun experiment. I love how the guests were all over the place in preference. It’s always like that at my house, too. One person will be like “This is amazing, an explosion of flavor in my mouth.” Another will say, “Meh, it’s fine, but I don’t like it as much as other breads you’ve made.”

I did a one-percent starter bread Sunday into Monday. I was trying to see how weaker gluten flours would turn out, and aiming to make a “gold” whole grain bread. I used half kamut and half hard white wheat home-milled flours. The bread was flatter than the others, but not tight crumbed. Moist for sure. Tasted a little cheesy in a fresh, not funky, way. Yummy. Less sour than my previous microlevains, perhaps because of the character of Kamut.

(I didn’t hang it upside down lol)

(Jurgen) #15

Impressive piece of work, many thanks for sharing all this!!

The only thing I don’t get is that you are shaping cold dough (even 45min after the pre-shape the dough wiill still be cold coming out of the refrigerator)… I have never had very good results with shaping cold dough. Impossible to build up tension with tearing…

(Melissa) #16

You’re welcome!

So I looked back at my notes to see if I did indeed pre-shape a cold dough.

Round 7 – no cold shape. It was bulked room temperature for a little over 2 hours, then fridge overnight, and then room temperature again for about 5 hours.

Round 8 – yes, 7-8 hours RT, then fridge 9 hrs, and pre-shaped directly out of the fridge. Bench rest was 45 min. Final proof was 1 hr 5 minutes. So it went into the oven 1 hour and 50 minutes after leaving the refrigerator at the end of the bulk.

I don’t know why my results went against this commonly held practice/knowledge of let it warm up or it’ll tear. Perhaps there isn’t all that much surface tension to be pursued with whole grain? But then my cold shape (8) had more bloom than the RT shape (7).

I’ll try preshaping cold again with my next bake and see if there are any issues. I do often use cold dough when I preshape pizza, naan and pita. The convenience of putting the fermentation into slow motion, so I can bake when it’s convenient to me, is huge.

(Jurgen) #17

Thanks for your answer!
I totally understand the convenience factor and the flavor evolution of retarding, I do it all the time. And as an additional benefit, it’s easier to get some shape in wet dough when it’s cold.
It’s just that I never seem to get as good results with it as you seem to do. I live in France, and grind my own organic flour. I think I have less protein/gluten than what I usually observe in video’s, perhaps this is part of the reason.

(Melissa) #18

Could very well be flour. Breadtopia has a new stone mill. @eric could tell you more, but the gist I think is that they’re making very very fine whole grain flours.

Here’s a photo from me shaping the home milled kamut and white wheat dough I mentioned to @wendyk320 above.

You can see that between the weak gluten of the wheat, the probably bigger bran and germ pieces, and the high hydration – the dough didn’t even cohere enough to be sticky in the usual way. It was more clumpy wet.

It came out well though all things considered :slight_smile:

(wendyk320) #19

I decided to give the Ferrant method another try with a few adaptations. The loaf was 100% Turkey Red with 1% starter. My past efforts at higher hydration produced unmanageable dough that was overly moist, so I lowered the hydration to 75% this time. I also did 4 stretch and folds at approximately 45 minute intervals after mixing everything together at 3:30 pm and left in on the counter at 75 degrees. At 3:00 am, it was already risen about 1/4, so I put it in a closed microwave with an ice pack to slow the rise. By 6:30 am it was ready to go into the banneton. Next time, I’ll begin it later so I don’t have to get up in the middle of the night! I baked it on a pizza stone at 480 degrees with a cover over it for 20 minutes, then removed the cover and lowered the temperature to 450. The dough spread quite a bit but had moderate oven spring. Unlike past attempts, this crust looked, well browned with a very nice shine on the exposed areas where it was scored and in the crumb. This time, it was perfectly moist and had a wonderful flavor with a mild sour and surprising sweetness and none of the bitterness that whole wheat can have. The crumb was also respectably open for 100% whole grain. I was quite please with this one.

I have no idea if Ferrant’s claims of increased nutritional value for this method are valid or if the decrease in hydration and the stretch and folds would have a negative effect, but the simplicity and timing of this method make it an attractive option for me. I’ll continue to play around with it.

(Melissa) #20

Interesting so about 15 hrs in a spring/summer temp kitchen - that’s sounds like what I’ll probably get. My version of the microwave ice pack is putting the dough in my basement which is about 5 ’ cooler.

Glad you got good results!