I have to warn you a bit here at the beginning: this whole wheat sourdough is a little more involved than some of my previous loaves. While I think it’s achievable for a “beginner” baker to experiment with, it may take a few tries before your results are to your liking. However, this should not dissuade you from attempting! Making a more whole wheat loaf will provide a very interesting flavor profile and added nutrients not normally found in straight white bread.
The recipe in this entry is based on Chad Robertson’s Ode to Bourdon receipe found in his absolutely epic Tartine Book Nº3, a book dedicated to natural and whole grains. My take on this has some slight modifications I’ve found to work well for me and my starter, I hope they help you as well.
So, I’ve been practicing this whole wheat sourdough for quite a while now trying to really get things working the way I’d like. I usually mix in an “experimental” batch of bread here and there to keep things interesting and to speed up my learning, but this whole wheat bread has a purpose.
My wife has recently taken up the quest to remove most refined carbs, processed sugars, and other heavily processed foods from her (and subsequently my) diet. We’ve always been healthy eaters, but this is another step further in trying to keep things simple and use the most basic of ingredients possible. Since I make two loaves of bread every two weeks or so, I’ve tried to mix in a whole wheat version with as much whole grains as I can (there is still room for me to add even more whole grains in the future) this turns out not to be as easy as one would think!
Whole wheat sourdough bread is a completely different beast when it comes to baking. Many of the plastic-bagged-breads you’ll find at the store that are “whole wheat” contain a bunch of additives to get it to rise high, and taste sweet. Who wants all that added junk anyways? Let’s make our own whole wheat bread.
Maybe I should start with a brief background on whole wheat flour, some challenges to overcome, and how it differs from white flour.
Whole Wheat Flour, What’s the Big Deal?
The word “whole” refers to the fact that all of the grain (bran, germ, and endosperm) is used and nothing is lost in the process of making the flour. This is in contrast to white, refined flours, which contain only the endosperm. (Wikipedia)
Whole wheat flour retains the bran and germ, the two most nutritious parts of the wheatberry. These two, while desired for higher nutrition, causes issues when baking bread. Namely, when doing turns and working your dough they will cut through your developed gluten strands as you’re doing your turns, weakening the loaf and preventing a higher rise during baking. It’s ok though, we can work around this somewhat with a very gentle hand when doing turns and interacting with the dough.
In addition to these troublemakers reducing overall rise, they also absorb much more water than just the endosperm. We’ll have to compensate for this by increasing the overall hydration of the dough. No biggie there.
One more thing to keep in mind: whole wheat flour ferments much faster than white flour. Due to the increased nutrients (bran & germ) your starter will go into overdrive when fed with so many goodies. Keep an eye out during your bulk fermentation step, things can go too far very fast. If you’re using a clear-sided container be on the lookout for those bubbles on the sides and bottom, they are a good indicator of when fermentation is rapidly increasing.
So in review:
- the bran & germ will effectively cut through your developed gluten strands so be gentle with turns and shaping
- the bran & germ absorb more water than the endosperm, we’ll need to increase hydration
- whole wheat flour ferments at a rapid pace
One last note, please read through the entire entry before starting! The ingredients and method have changed from my previous posts; like I said, a whole new beast.
Let’s get started!