ACJ 028| Issues with 100% Whole Wheat Bread

In this podcast I help Pat trouble shoot some of the issues he's been having with his 100% whole wheat bread.

Here's Pat's Question:

Dear Jacob,

I watched your video on the bakers percentage after baking a few batches of whole wheat bread which roughly resembled edible bricks after baking.

I understand the math in the bakers percentage and that everything needs to be weighed not measured by volume. (There are very few recipes that use weight which I suppose should tell me something about the recipes).

At the end of the video you mention a number of breads but not a whole wheat bread. So can you advise what bakers percentage to use with pure whole wheat flour?

I'm also curious about kneading of whole wheat bread.
Before the first rise, I understand that kneading activates the gluten (makes the proteins stick together), creating structure for the bread later, however, does a second kneading of whole wheat dough, destroy the structure created by the first?    I've read that the flakes of bean can act like small knives and chop the gluten up, is that true?

If this is true, how do I go about baking the loaf? Do I let it rise in the baking pan and skip punching it down then proofing?

Is salt of any value to bread, other than the taste?  (My wife has a severe heart condition so I avoid as much added salt as possible.)

For convenience most folks use dry activated yeast. In truth I know I can grow it and store it in my own home rather than buying it over and over. If I do it the old fashioned way and the yeast is wet, how do I gauge how much yeast to use?

I appreciate any advice you can give me.


Pat S.

Site Categories
Podcast Category: 
Featured Techniques: 

Download & Listen To More Episodes

The Ask Chef Jacob Podcast is your chance to get culinary questions personally answered by a knowledgeable, professional chef. You can ask your questions and listen to all episodes by visiting the The Ask Chef Jacob Podcast Index.

Subscribe to Podcast

Subscribe Via RSS Subscribe via iTunes Subscribe Via Soundcloud Subscribe Via Stitcher

There are 11 Comments

schrizzity's picture

I've been seeking this "holy grail" of 100% whole wheat sourdough for a couple years now. As of now I'm settling for about 50% whole wheat for that ability to have a quick win, as you say, with acceptable results.

Anyway, you mention the difficulty of turning out the loaf after it's proofed into the cast iron dutch oven. This is the method I've come to use--once the loaf has proofed, I place a sheet of parchment paper over top of the proofing basket, then I place my oven peel on top of that, flip the whole thing over so then I have my proofed loaf on parchment on the peel; finally I pick up the loaf by grabbing the four corners of the parchment and lowering it into the dutch oven.

I had an "aha" moment recently too. I found that a lot of the deflation of my loaves was a result of over proofing. Being afraid of having a dense loaf, I made the mistake of allowing it to proof too long.

Great show! I may have to try that method of sifting out the bran for later use... that makes a lot of sense. Thank you.




Elinore's picture

I proof my dough in a mixing bowl and scrape it carefully to avoid breaking the ball up too much on to a well floured parchement sheet to fold and shape. Then I gather two side of the parchement up like a tent and clip them with a binder clip. I cover the "tube/tent" with a towel and let it rest for an hour or so. When I'm ready to transfer the dough to my hot dutch oven I take the clip off and use the parchment like a sling and simply slide (or pour sometimes) it in to the dutch oven. You end up with a bit of extra flour, but it works pretty well.

BTW I don't punch down my dough. I fold it like a letter as best as I can with the wet top side up. I then pinch the dough from above into a round and then turn it over seam down. It should look like a flour covered ball. All I'm trying to do here is create a stretch for texture while trying to avoid disturbing the "skin" that will be my crust. I suspect that the rest while covered with flour is helping my boule keep it's shape.

jacob burton's picture

Awesome comment Chris! The use of the parchment paper for loaf transfer is a good tip.

I'm going to have Peter Reinhart on an upcoming episode of Stella Cast, and I plan to talk to him about whole wheat bread at length.

Glad you're enjoying the show.

schrizzity's picture

Yes, I'm looking forward to that show! My recipes right now are a mash-up of your bread tips and his Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor book.

Thanks again!

Elinore's picture

As I was listening to this show it became clear that kneading seems to be a big problem for whole wheat bread. So this weekend I tried a 100% hydration no knead version using stone ground whole wheat with no white flour at all. 20 hr ferment and a light fold and shape. It turned out pretty good. Fairly open crumb and a nice taste. If you can plan ahead, this seems simpler than sifting and separating the components of the wheat to avoid bran "punch through" during glutten development. Here are some pictures: BTW I'm really sucking at this comenting interface. ;)

schrizzity's picture

Looks very nice!

Is this a free-form loaf at 100% hydration? If not, what form are you using?

BTW, if you want to display an image... when you click the "Image" button, put the direct link of the image (link ending in ".jpg") in the Image Info tab URL field. That's all you need to do. You may want to resize the image though...



jacob burton's picture

Looks great. +100 Stella Stars.

Did you use yeast or a sourdough starter for your fermentation?

Elinore's picture

Thanks! Your podcast inpired me to do it. I've just started playing with no kneed bread. I've been using Jim Lahey's method and what you said about kneeding and hydration fit right in with what I was learning.

I used 1/2 tsp standard dry yeast, 1-1/2 teaspoon salt and 400 g water and flour. I baked it in a hot 3-3/4 quart duch oven for half an hour covered and then finnished it, lid off, for 10 min.

Elinore's picture

Thanks! It was held together in the dutch oven, but it didn't spread as much as you would think. The whole wheat flour soaked up a lot of liquid and wasn't even that hard to handle after 20 hours. I'll look into fixing my images. :)

jcbaum's picture

Nice looking whole wheat bread!  I also barely knead my loaves, which I let rise in a bread pan.  I merely perform trifolds in each direction 3 times in about a ten minute interval.  I have had good success with only natural leaven, which might take a little longer with definite flavor plus.  Interesting reading and comments with this show.  I have noticed an improvement in rising with whole wheat breads when I used a very finely ground low cost 100% whole wheat white grain variety or sifting out the dense and harsh bran of a red variety of whole wheat.   I have been basically making 50/50 whole wheat and bread flour version as my favorite mix.  Increasing hydration has really helped my breads probably around 80%, since I am not perfectly accurate with the weighing and final product.  Nice work everybody.  Cheers,and Blessings, JCB

Elinore's picture

I like the idea of the spaced out trifolds and letting it rise in the loaf pan. As nice as boules are, a sandwich loaf is a handy thing. I'd like give your way a try sometime. Thanks for the tips!