New Year, New Challenge – 100% Whole Grain Sourdough
I have always wanted to bake a 100% whole grain sourdough. But since I was experimenting with different flavor combinations in sourdough bread for the past few months, I put off this idea for quite some while. Luckily, thanks to the Chinese New Year holiday, I got to spend time at home baking.
More sourdough recipes:
- Blueberry Cheesecake Sourdough
- Chocolate Sourdough Focaccia
- Chocolate Brownie Sourdough Bread
- Double Chocolate Sourdough Babka Rolls
- Matcha & Black Sesame Sourdough Babka
- Sourdough Shokupan
- Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls (Yudane Method)
- Sourdough Challah (Yudane Method)
Challenging, Yet Rewarding
Baking a 100% whole grain sourdough is very challenging yet rewarding experience to me. On one hand, I have to adjust my expectation, knowing that I won’t be achieving the wild, open crumb that every sourdough bakers seem to be pursuing these days. But on the other hand, this 100% whole grain sourdough is super flavorful, with a slight sweetness and nuttiness from spelt and whole wheat.
Making sourdough bread with whole grains is challenging, rewarding yet super exciting. However, at the same time, it could also be frustrating and devastating. Therefore, I would like to note that this is by no means a beginner recipe and I would recommend you check out my Beginner’s Guide To Sourdough Baking before trying this recipe.
Flour Stress Test
As different types of flour absorb water differently, I highly recommend you to perform flour stress test to determine the optimal hydration for this recipe. In this recipe, I used Waitrose Very Strong Canadian Wholemeal Flour with 15.8% protein and Arrowhead Mill’s Organic Spelt Flour with 11.4% protein.
In order to perform the flour stress test, take 40 g of flour and mix it with the amount of water you would like to test. For example, in this recipe, I am aiming for 90% hydration for the whole wheat flour. So I will mix 40g of whole wheat flour with 36g water. Let it rest for about an hour. Then, test the texture and gluten development. If the dough feels very loose and soggy, it means that your flour may not be able to take all of the water in the formula for this recipe. To be more accurate, you can now reduce the amount of water and then test again, until you find the optimal hydration for this particular flour. Note that you should also be able to stretch the dough between your hands without breaking. The dough should be extensible.
Spelt are notoriously hard to handle as it has a weaker gluten network. Hence, a lower water absorption capacity. I find spelt works best somewhere between 70% – 75% hydration. And for the brand I am using, 75% is the optimal hydration. If you are using home milled flour or other brands, you can perform a flour stress test or try it at a lower hydration first.
Split Dough Method
I first read about the Split Dough Method from fellow sourdough baker Kristen from @fullproofbaking. As different flours/ grains have different properties, they differ in their protein/ gluten compositions, extensibility, strength, water absorption, as well as how they response from the autolyse process. It’s especially useful when you are using two kinds of flours with a huge difference in protein content, and in this case, whole wheat (15.8%) and spelt (11.4%).
The split dough method enables an easier dough handling, as well as a more open and airy crumb.
Soaking The Brans
Disclaimer: This recipe is relatively complicated when compared with my previous sourdough recipes. But the final product gives a very unique and delectable loaf that makes all the effort worth it.
The whole process starts the night before making the dough. First, you will have to sieve the bran from the whole wheat flour. These brans act like little knives cutting through your dough, destroying that nice gluten structure, making it unable to trap gas and create a nice voluminous loaf. What we are doing here is to soak the brans in hot water, thus softening their edges and reducing the chance of them from ruining the gluten structure.
As dough made with whole grains ferment much faster than the one made with bread flour, I used stiff levain here to slow down the process. Hence, allowing more room for errors. You may also notice that the amount of levain used in this recipe is much less than that used in other sourdough recipes. Here I used 12%, instead of 20% that I normally use. These enable the dough to rise slowly for better gluten development, as doughs of high whole grain or high hydration requires a lot of strength.
For the stiff levain, I converted my Lievito Madre of 50% hydration from using 100% bread flour to 50% whole wheat and 50% spelt. But if you don’t have Lievito Madre, you can simply convert your 100% hydration starter to 50% hydration by feeding it 1 part of whole wheat flour, 1 part of spelt flour and 1 part of water.
The bread has an unexpectedly airy, light and open crumb when it comes to whole grain bread. It’s not as open as the one you achieve with white sourdough. But the airiness and lightness of the crumb is a nice surprise when I cut it open.
100% Whole Grain Sourdough (Spelt + Whole Wheat)Course: SourdoughCuisine: BreadDifficulty: High
The 100% whole grain sourdough has a slight sweetness and nuttiness due to spelt and whole wheat.
- Stiff Levain (50% hydration)
15g stiff starter (50% hydration)*
15g spelt flour
- Whole Wheat Dough
162.5g whole wheat flour
146.5g water [60g (in bran) + 79g (in flour) + 7.5g (added with salt)]
20g stiff levain from above
- Spelt Dough
162.5g spelt flour
122g water [114.5g (in flour) + 7.5g (added with salt) ]
20g stiff levain from above
- Sifting and soaking the brans
- The night before preparing the dough, sift the bran from the whole wheat flour using a fine sieve.
- Soak the brans in 60g of hot boiling water. Cover and let is cool overnight.
- Prepare the Levain
- The next morning, prepare the stiff levain by mixing 15g of stiff starter, with 15g of whole wheat flour, 15g spelt flour and 12g water. Place it at a warm place (26°or 79°F) for 3-4 hours until it doubles in volume.
- 2 hours before the levain peaks, mix the sifted whole wheat flour with 79g water. In a separate bowl, mix 162.5g spelt flour with 114.5g of water. Cover and let them rest.
- Mixing the doughs
- Add the whole wheat dough, 20g of stiff levain (peaked) and soaked brans to the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix for 5 minutes. Rest for 15 minutes.
- Add salt and the additional water, then mix for another 5-6 minutes or until the dough is strong and well developed.
- Cut out about 20g of dough and place it in a small spice jar. This is called the aliquot jar. We use it to indicate how much the dough has risen during the bulk fermentation process.
- Repeat the same steps for the spelt dough.
- Using a marker or a rubber band, make a mark at the aliquot jar indicating a 50% increase in volume. When the dough rises to this point, it means that the bulk fermentation has completed.
- Bulk Fermentation
- Cover the doughs and let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Mine is 22°C (72°F ). A cooler temperature is better for the gluten and strength development of this dough.
- After 30 minutes, perform a strong bench fold. Rest for another 30 minutes.
- Combine 2 doughs by performing lamination, layering one dough over another. Rest for 45 minutes or until the dough relaxes.
- Perform 1 set of coil fold. Rest for another 45 minutes or until the dough relaxes.
- Perform the second set of coil fold.
- Depending on the dough strength, you may want to perform 1 or 2 more sets of coil fold.
- When the dough reaches 75% from the mark of the aliquot jar, perform a set of coil fold as preshaping. Be very gentle during this coil fold as you don’t want to remove too many gas bubbles you carefully developed within this delicate dough.
- Let it rest and once the dough reaches the mark of the aliquot jar. Carefully transfer the dough to a floured counter top. Shape the dough. Rest for 15 minutes at room temperature. Then retard the dough in the fridge overnight or 16 hours.
- In the morning, preheat the oven to 250°C for 1 hour with a dutch oven inside. I love baking with my challenger pan.
- After 1 hour, take the dough out from the fridge. Score the dough using a bread lame. I used my UFO lame from Wire Monkey. Transfer it to the challenger pan using a parchment paper. Place 2-4 ice cubes beside the bread, cover the pan immediately and bake for 20 minutes covered.
- Remove the cover after 20 minutes, lower the temperature to 220°C and bake for another 20-25 minutes. I love a darker crust on whole grain sourdough, so I baked a little longer.
- Turn off the oven and leave the oven door a crack open for 15 minutes.
- Remove the loaf from the oven and place it on the cooling rack until it’s completely cooled.
- * Here I converted my white Lievito Madre to whole grain one, but you can simply convert your 100% hydration starter to 50% hydration by feeding it 1 part of whole wheat flour, 1 part of spelt flour and 1 part of water.