I’ve been on a quest for the past 1-1/2 years to make a mainly whole grain sourdough with decent ovenspring and an open crumb. I finally did yesterday and even got ears for the first time! I tweak it every week, and my schedule makes it so that no two bakes go through exactly the same process, so I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to make it again, but I have some points to take away from it.
This time I used 518g flour (85% whole wheat, 10% rye, 5% white bread flour), 90% hydration (part was whey from yogurt I make), and 150 g starter (combo of WW, Rye and Wh). Since I tweak the ingredients every week, I don’t think that really enters into the success. For this one I did an autolyze of about 6 hours, then a 6-day bulk fermentation with a stretch and fold each morning if I remembered (probably 3 or 4 total), being careful to not overproof on the final rise (I think this is where I often go wrong), and a cold bake in a parchment-lined clay baker (I planned on preheating, but changed my mind because my oven takes 50 minutes to preheat and I wanted to serve the bread at dinner).
I’ve done cold bakes before with varying success and compromised expectations. For this one, I suppose it wasn’t 100% cold because the oven was on for 5 minutes before I put the bread in. I baked it for about 40 minutes covered and about 10 minutes uncovered (I go by the smell). The crust is never as thick as I would like (we like thick, well-done crusts) but I’ll take it!
I’ll say again I think the main thing was getting the final proofing right. That has always been the trickiest for me, not just knowing when it’s ready, but having my schedule work. But with the cold bake, that takes a lot of guess work out of it since I don’t have to figure out when to start preheating the oven. By the way, the bread tastes great, too!
With the very long bulk fermentation, it means I have to start the next one now!