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Monday, May 30, 2011

Holy Grail 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough from 100% WW Wild Culture

100% Whole Wheat Bread 
made from 100% Whole Wheat Wild Yeast Starter
using Tartine Bread Techniques

Chad Robertson in Tartine Bread calls the 100% Whole Wheat Bread "the holy grail", and says it is hit and miss whether one can get a nice airy crumb -- but he says it is worth going for it.  In his book, the whole wheat bread recipe is not 100% whole wheat, and the starter is not 100% whole wheat either. 

But that's what I wanted.

The last few days I've been trying to put together a Tartine starter, and it is almost up to fermenting strength, but not quite.  At the same time, I've been refreshing my old whole wheat starter daily using Tartine techniques, and today I decided to bake with that 100% whole wheat starter, to make a Tartine-style loaf, but using 100% whole wheat bread.
Tartine Starter on the left, my old Whole Wheat Starter on the right, 5th day of daily refreshing
I hadn't intended on going for the 'holy grail' before trying the official Tartine recipe a few times to get the feel of it, but that is what happened.

So this recipe is almost but not quite from the Tartine book.  To recap: What is different?

  • This starter is 100% whole wheat.
  • This flour is 100% whole wheat.
  • My starter did not pass the Tartine CO2 test.
  • I did not bake it in a dutch oven, I just used a casserole dish.

I made two loaves, using the same techniques that Robertson describes for his basic country loaf.  And I have to say that I am quite impressed with the way the dough performed.  I felt sure that the whole wheat dough would not respond the way bread dough would, with that wonderful elasticity, during the folds.  But it did, it was far more elastic than any other 100% whole wheat dough I have ever used.

The secret of the dough seems to be the long rests, the firm but gentle folds, the long bulk fermentation, and of course, getting the correct timing of the starter.
leaven is mixed the night before

next morning: at 8 hrs we don't see much aeration, expansion or evidence of fermentation

at the 14 hour point, still no airiness noted

Briefly, in my case I mixed the leaven from the starter at 2310 the night before the baking.  This starter actually sat out until 1330 the next afternoon: just over 14 hours!

At that point, I mixed the dough, using Tartine recipe weights (but using whole wheat flour), despite the fact that my leaven wouldn't pass the Tartine float test.  I wondered: is this because the leaven is spent?  Is this because I'm using whole wheat?  Is this because I squished the dough in tearing off a piece, releasing the gas before I put the blob in the water?  Of course, I went ahead and used the leaven anyway.

Only a FAIL if you do not TRY
After this, the method was fairly close to the Tartine time and methods: I mixed the dough;

The salt and extra water was added 40 minutes later, then I started the bulk fermentation stage.

Now I had the time to fold the dough in the bowl every 30 minutes, and I only did this for 3 hours, then we had to leave for a dinner party.

At the 3rd hour, I divided the dough and formed the loaves and tossed them in some rice flour lined baskets.  The dough, despite being 100% whole wheat, still performed with elasticity almost as nice as the pictures in Tartine Bread where they use some bread dough.  I'd never seen this amount of elasticity in any other 100% whole wheat dough, not ever.  I was able to form a decent boule that I knew would not unfold.

One loaf I left at room temperature, the other I refrigerated, for baking in the morning.

The room-temperature dough was baked when we got home around 2100 (a 4 hour proof).


The loaf that was retarded overnight was baked in the morning, about 14-15 hours after having been formed.

I baked these loaves for 40 minutes following the Tartine Bread temperatures, and I'm happy with the way they turned out.


Woo Hoo!

I cracked into the loaf that had the long, overnight refrigerated retard this morning.  The crumb is airy in places, dense in others.  I did forget to score this loaf, which may have something to do with the dense crumb toward the top crust -- it had nowhere to go in that direction.

Overall I'm happy with the crust, not too crunchy, not too squishy.  And the taste is marvelous.  Lots of interesting nuances in the flavour, but despite the long fermenting and proofing, the taste is still quite mild, not sour.

So is it the holy grail?  Perhaps this is as good as it ever gets, who knows?  Still, I continue to wonder, what the bread might have achieved had the leaven passed the float test, or if I had remembered to score the loaf, or if I had an actual dutch oven rather than a casserole dish.

Of course, I'll keep trying.

This is the crumb of the second loaf:

Notes to Myself
  • My intention is to write a review of the Tartine Bread book, if I can ever bake an official loaf from its pages. So far, suffice it to say that I'm enjoying the book immensely, and I can heartily recommend it, especially for other bread makers who, like me perhaps, thought they could get away without yet another bread book. To give away early what my review will say: this book is worth it.
  • You forgot to put some rice flour on the dough, just before transferring it to the hot casserole dish, and that caused a bit of sticking.  Remember to sprinkle the rice flour on the dough (top of the dough in the basket, which makes it the bottom of the dough in the baking pot / dutch oven).  By the way, that rice flour makes a really nice texture on the loaf, very pretty.

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