75% Whole White Wheat Sourdough Bread (makes two ~850g loaves)
The recipe is artful, and I may enhance it over time. However, it makes two fabulous ~850g loaves. BP stands for Baker’s Percentage. Instead of whole white wheat flour, the common whole red wheat flour can be used. To plan ingredients, see https://www.myhobbyjoy.com/bakers-math-to-plan-ingredients/
Last updated: 10/6/2023
Whole White Wheat Flour – 775g (75% BP)
Bread Flour – 120g (25% BP)
Rye Flour – 30g (counts as whole wheat flour in BP)
- Spring Water
710g (14% BP)
- Fine Sea Salt
- Ripe AP or Bread Flour Levain at 100% Hydration
300g (14% BP)
- About 300g of ripe levain must be available before getting on with this recipe.
Making levain, or starter as most folks may call it, takes some 5 days. Until I complete my own instructions for making starter, read up on doing so at Maurizio Leo’s blog:
or watch a good Youtube video by Mary:
- Day 1
AUTOLYSE LETS WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR ABSORB WATER AND SOFTENS THE BRAN
- Mix 775g whole white wheat flour in a large tub or bowl with 600g of water until just incorporated.
Whole wheat flour, white or red, needs time to absorb water as that is also helpful in softening the wheat’s sharp bran. Do not try to stretch and fold or otherwise develop the dough’s gluten structure yet.
- Let this batch of flour/water mixture soak for about 15 minutes.
- In a separate container, dissolve the 300g of levain into the 110g of remaining water, then add the 120g of bread flour, 30g of rye flour, and 21g of salt, and mix until well incorporated.
The dough’s optimal temperature would be around 75° to 82° F. On hotter days, use cooler water. On cold days, use warmer water. To more precisely force the optimal dough temperature, see:
- Add this second batch to the earlier batch of flour/water and keep mixing for up to 10 minutes or until light/dark streaks have gone and the dough looks uniform.
- Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. A gluten structure will begin to develop by itself. The dough will still feel shaggy during and after resting.
If the dough ends up much warmer, placing the container in the fridge for 15 minutes or whatever it takes to reduce the dough’s temps is okay. If the dough ends up much cooler, placing the container on a heating mat during bulk fermentation is okay to raise and maintain the dough’s temps.
- BULK FERMENTATION INCLUDING STRETCH AND FOLDS EARLY ON
- The gluten strands have started to form, and the act of stretching those strands and folding them makes them stronger. If the dough is very slack and tacky, a few slap and folds may be helpful. Otherwise, proceed to Step 2.
Slap and fold a wet and sticky dough (>75% hydration) to let it become supple enough for subsequent stretch and folds. The dough will continue to develop a gluten network, and a windowpane test will tell some.
Watch Richard Bertinet’s demos at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gftmmtI_cbg, if using a stand mixer.
- This wet or high-hydration dough can take 4 sets of stretches and folds, preferably during the first 2 hours after mixing. Stretch and fold until the dough feels smoother and suppler, though still somewhat soft and tacky. Be gentle and keep the hands wet to not tear sticky dough or disrupt any developing gluten structure.
Each set takes about a minute and comprises 4 stretches and folds. With a moistened hand, fold the dough by gently scraping the edges of the bowl and pulling the edge of the dough that’s farthest away from you and towards yourself (stretching) to fold the dough over into the middle. Make quarter turns with the bowl and repeat, stretching and folding all four sides until the dough has tightened.
Let the dough relax for 10 to 20 minutes between each set of stretches and folds to allow for it to relax or naturally degas a bit, that is, flatten out by dispelling some carbon dioxide. The rest will dissipate during baking. The dough will get firmer each time. Again, be gentle so as not to tear the gluten structure and damage air pockets. In the end, grab the ball and invert it so that the seam side faces down.
Elasticity is the dough’s stiffness and resistance to stretching, while extensibility is the dough’s ability to stretch without tearing. Seek the middle ground and stretch and fold the dough so that it has moderate elasticity and extensibility.
- Cover and let the dough relax (bench rest) and again rise for a few hours until it has risen in its original volume to a desired level − let’s say 35% to 50%, which is less than double, has a slightly domed top with larger bubbles emerging.
Some recipes call for a rise in dough volume of 100% − double its original volume or even a 150% rise. Bulk fermentation depends on starter strength, ambient temps, and hydration. I prefer to be out of the gate much sooner than later, wishing to avoid the case of irreversible over-fermentation.
Bulk fermentation starts when mixing in the levain with the main dough and might take as little as two to three hours in warmer or as much as five hours in cooler climates. Bulk fermentation completes faster with whole wheat flour.
- Several hours or so later
DIVIDE AND PRE-SHAPE
- To test if the dough is fermented enough and ready to be divided, snip off a small piece of dough and see that it will float in water. Also, check for the dough to display visible bubbles on top, have a slightly curved dome on top, be wobbly like jello when the vessel is shaken a bit, and rise by anything from 30% to double.
- Lightly flour a flat surface like a cleared kitchen counter or tabletop, or large cutting board.
- Ease the dough out onto the lightly floured flat countertop. Try not to touch the sticky upper surface of the dough. Doing so will lead to unnecessary tearing and deflating of the dough.
When the dough is released onto the lightly floured surface and stretched out, it becomes a bit nonstick on the bottom but will remain sticky on top. Be mindful that there are now two sides of different characteristics to the dough: the slightly nonstick underside and the probable sticky upper side.
- Gently shape the batch into a round with a dough scraper.
- Pat the dough a little without trying to flatten or degass it too much. Fold a few sides or corners into the middle and let the sticky seams/layers come together. Turn the dough over, leaving the dough’s non-stick underside on the top.
- If the dough has flattened or spread out too much, repeat Step 5 to continue to build strength.
- Divide the dough into approximately two equal batches. Shape each batch of dough into an approximate round and/or oval shape suitable to be fitted into its banneton.
See a short shaping video here = https://www.youtube.com/shorts/I0V3ZdgvaBQ
- Cover, and let the two batches bench rest for 20 minutes to relax again to be extensible for final shaping.
- 45 minutes or so later
- Dust two bannetons with a little rice flour.
- On the still lightly floured surface, form each dough carefully into a round and/or rectangle, depending on the desired shape of the loaves. Final shaping depends largely on the dough’s condition and the loaves’ desired shape.
Getting the final shaping right is important as it builds tension in the dough to help keep its shape and rise.
Watch demos from Maurizio Leo and Jeffrey Hamelman at:
- Gently flip the dough over into bannetons seam-side up.
- Stitch up any gaps left between seams to create a smooth, airtight top surface.
- RETARDATION or COLD FERMENTATION (Second Rise)
- Cover each proofing basket loosely with a produce bag or shower cap to prevent the dough from drying out.
- Refrigerate overnight or for 12 or more hours. The ideal environment for a cold fermentation is less than 50° F or 10° C, but perhaps not below 4° F.
During this cold fermentation, the dough will continue to rise (unless food for yeast is already exhausted due to too lengthy bulk fermentation) and build flavors. Artisan bread bakers often stress the importance of a long, cold fermentation period to allow lactobacillus to develop flavors.
- On the following day, bake the dough.
Poke a dough with a finger to test its readiness. If the indentation fills fast, the dough may need more time to ferment. If the indentation stays deep, the dough is perhaps over-fermented and needs baking ASAP.
- Day 2
PREHEAT KITCHEN OVEN
- Preheat the kitchen oven, with the lid-covered Dutch ovens inside, to around 500° F, or even 520° F if the oven gets that high. This may take an hour or more for two Dutch ovens. Use an external oven thermometer to check the oven’s temperature as an older kitchen oven’s built-in thermometer may not be that accurate.
- 60 minutes or so later
RETRIEVE PROOFING BASKETS AND SCORE LOAVES
- Take out the proofing baskets from the fridge and tip them over to let the proofed loaves drop onto parchment paper.
- Dust off the tops of the loaves with a little white flour for aesthetics and then score the top with a lame or sharp knife at a 30° angle to the surface and a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch depth.
Scoring a loaf just before putting it into the oven gives it a pre-designated spot — the long slash — to expand while in the oven. Without scoring, bread may bulge or “blow out” on its side or at weak spots, creating a misshapen loaf.
- BAKE LOAVES
- Remove the Dutch ovens from the kitchen oven using long mittens.
- Carefully place each parchment paper holding a loave into an uncovered Dutch oven.
- Cover each Dutch oven with its lid and place them back into the hot kitchen oven for around 30 minutes for these larger loaves.
- After about 10 minutes, reduce oven heat to 475° F for the remainder of baking.
- After 30 minutes of baking with lids on, remove lids and bake for another 15 minutes at 475° F or until a desired browning of the loaves is reached.
Baking the loaves to 190° F internal temperature will make for a moist but fully baked bread, while a more traditional 210° F will make for a little drier and a bit chewier bread.
- LET LOAVES COOL BEFORE SLICING
- Remove loaves from each Dutch oven and place loaves on a cooling rack. They are obviously very hot on the inside and still baking. Let the loaves rest or ripen on a cooling rack for 2 to 8 hours to reach at least ambient temperatures before slicing.
- The following recipe on someone else’s blog is 50/50 % whole wheat but otherwise describes the process very well. See at https://www.theperfectloaf.com/fifty-fifty-whole-wheat-sourdough-bread/