50% Fresh Milled Whole Wheat Sourdough

Fall is coming, actually, it already arrived at the doorstep and asked to come inside. It doesn’t quite feel like it just yet but I see the signs: long and brooding shadows, squash and apples at the market, trees changing from dark green to slightly orange and red, and of course that innate desire to make food with a hearty slant to it: whole wheat sourdough, butternut squash risotto, soup, whole wheat pasta and an apple pie or pear tart. I absolutely love my 100% whole wheat sourdough recipe, I’ve made it many times at this point, but given the transitory nature of fall something in-between was calling, something not quite all of one, but a mix of several. Besides, there is plenty of room on the spectrum between a pure white and a pure whole wheat sourdough, maybe a fifty-fifty or forty-sixty. I like that, a fifty-fifty.

Whole grains always bring an extra level of flavor and heartiness to food, and bread is no exception. Whole grain bread begs for more savory food and it’s a perfect match for soup, minestrone being my all-time favorite. I still remember my grandma (nonna to us) cooking minestrone for my brother and I when we were young. Our kitchen may not have the “perfect” set of ingredients on-hand but she was an incredibly gifted cook, one of those cooks who can make pretty much anything from a pantry of scattered bits and pieces. She would always make minestrone when the weather started to turn cool, and in preparation I remember her saving up all the “heels” (the crunchy ends) of the baguettes and batards we would get each week as accompaniment. The perfect crunchy part of a loaf to dip. Back then we didn’t have much whole wheat bread, but I just know she would have picked that above all else.Morning Stumptown coffee before milling

In my last entry I dug deep into my new flour mill and my (somewhat new) experiences with freshly milled flour. For this bake I decided to go at it with 50% fresh milled flour. I know many are not able to get hours-old fresh milled flour, and that’s ok, this recipe will work out smashingly with aged whole wheat. Just remember the usual concerns are there when working with whole wheat flour: things ferment much faster, you might need extra hydration and a longer autolyse always helps out. I will point out below where I feel there may be some differences between aged and new flour as fresh flour usually requires lower bulk temperatures and a decreased retard duration.

And now, on to the fifty-fifty.

Flour Selection

When I switched to whole grains, the greatest revelation was a world of flavor I had been stubbornly resisting for years.Alice Waters

Lately I’ve been gobbling up every single book Alice Waters1 has written. It started with a recommendation for her The Art of Simple Food (which I wholeheartedly recommend for beginning and professional cooks alike), a gateway to her approach on simple, yet delicious, food. These books have me completely transfixed. While reading another one of her books, My Pantry, I stumbled on the quote at right just as I was working on what to bake next and it fit perfectly. She hails the use of whole grains as a revelation and a discovery and goes on to talk about how whole grain bread brings with it this connotation of a dense, dry and heavy brick — but we, astute sourdough enthusiasts, know it doesn’t have to be this way.

I tried to find that balance between flavor and loft. The whole grains in this recipe bring just the right amount of that gratifying hearty flavor without compromising loaf volume.theperfectloaf-fifty-fifty-2

Fresh milled whole wheat and aged white wheatThe flour selected for this entry was 50% fresh milled Great River Organic Whole Wheat and 50% Central Milling Organic Artisan Baker’s Craft (“ABC”, a low-protein white flour). I’m still working my way through the two sacks of Great River raw wheat berries I purchased a while back, but I’ve found the wheat to have an excellent flavor regardless. The choice to use Central Milling ABC was easy: I wanted an organic low-protein complement to the whole wheat, a flour that has a delicate flavor and would ride backseat to the real star of the show.

On to the formula and process.

50% Fresh Milled Whole Wheat Sourdough Formula

Vitals

Total dough weight: 1800g
Pre-fermented flour: 5.00%
Hydration: 84%
Yield: 2 x 900g loaves

Levain Build

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
24g Mature stiff sourdough starter (65% hydration) 50%
48g Fresh Milled Organic Great River Hard Red Spring Whole Wheat 100%
31g H2O @ room temperature 65%

Sourdough stiff levain

Dough Formula

Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain.

Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 75ºF. I target this temperature to help slow fermentation down just a little bit (my typical FDT is 78º-80º) so my bulk time comes in at 4 hours.

Note that this recipe uses a low percentage of levain in the final dough mix, this is due to the high amount of fresh milled whole wheat flour. If you’re using aged whole wheat you can (most likely) safely raise the levain amount to what you would typically use, perhaps 15-20%.

Whole wheat bulk fermentation

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
484g Central Milling Organic Artisan Baker’s Craft, Malted (~11.5% protein) 52.63%
435g Fresh Milled Organic Great River Hard Red Spring Whole Wheat 47.37%
781g H2O @ 95ºF 85.00%
19g Fine sea salt 2.11%
104g Mature, stiff levain 11.32%

Method

1. Levain – 8:00am

Build the stiff levain in the morning after milling fresh flour. Store somewhere warm around 78-82ºF ambient.

2. Autolyse – 1:30pm

Mix flour and water (reserve 50g water for mix, later) very well in a bowl and cover. Ensure all dry flour is hydrated. Store near levain.

3. Mix – 3:00pm

Using about 30g of the reserved water, incorporate levain build into autolyse and hand-mix thoroughly. Slap and fold for 5 minutes until dough holds shape well. Place dough back into bowl and let rest for about 4 minutes. Use remaining water, if necessary/desired, to incorporate salt into mixture. The dough will initially break apart and then come back together. Slap and fold an additional 3 to 4 minutes until dough starts to catch air and strength is built enough to keep dough relatively in shape on counter.

Transfer dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl for bulk fermentation.

4. Bulk Fermentation – 3:15pm

At 80ºF ambient temperature bulk fermentation should go for about 4 hours.

Perform 5 sets of stretch and folds (each set is a stretch and fold at North, South, East & West), one every 30 minutes.

5. Divide & Preshape – 7:15pm

Divide the dough into two masses, each scaled at 900 grams (essentially the dough mass in half). Lightly shape each mass into a round, cover with inverted bowl or moist towel, and let rest for 25 minutes.

6. Shape – 7:40pm

Shape each into a boule or batard, whatever your preference may be. Place into a banneton lightly dusted with white rice flour.

7. Proof – 7:40pm

Retard immediately into refrigerator at 40ºF to 42ºF for 12 hours.

8. Bake – Next Morning: Preheat oven at 6:00am, Bake at 7:30am

Preheat oven for 1.5 hours at 500ºF. Bake 20 minutes at 500ºF with steam, and an additional 25-30 minutes at 450ºF, until done to your liking.Fresh milled whole wheat

Conclusion

I love this bread. If I were to pick a “daily bread” to always have on hand it would be this recipe. The fresh milled whole wheat adds so much flavor, and the whole grain in general brings a delightfully hearty bias. Not only does it taste exceptionally good, it is a very versatile bread. You can pair this with just about anything and it won’t overpower.

CrustFifty-percent whole wheat crust

Notice the really beautiful golden hue to the crust, it sings in the sunlight. Fresh milled flour imparts a softness to the crust that isn’t immediately apparent, but not so soft as to collapse in your hand. Aged whole wheat tends to be a bit more crunchy but that is not a bad thing, just different.

After slicing into this loaf I found the crust to be exceptionally thin, in part due to the high heat of the oven when baking but also further reinforcing the fact that my method for steaming my home oven works very well.

Crumb

Fifty-percent whole wheat crumbQuite open for so much whole wheat. It has a gloss and shine to it with translucent webbing throughout. The interior is incredibly soft and toothsome, you have to be very careful to eat one slice as it invariably leads to four or five. I love how light the loaf is in the hand, when you pick it up you know the interior is open and airy, it’s one of my favorite things about baking bread at home.

TasteFresh milled flour sourdough bruschetta

Interestingly enough I almost prefer this bread a day or two after it’s been baked. The flavor of the wheat really seems to come into its own and settle out a bit into a very mild and delicate flavor. When toasted heavily (as you can see above) the entire interior becomes a sort of soft crust that crackles away and you chew. And when you have wonderfully crunchy sourdough you can’t possibly deny yourself some bruschetta. I used a little of my olive oil procured from my Dad’s restaurant, a mosto2 from Puglia that is just supernaturally good.

My favorite treat, when tomatoes are in season of course.


With this bread I think we can safely let Fall in the house and welcome its chilly attitude and strange colors. Plus it gives me motivation to start planning my next market list: everything needed for my nonna’s minestrone, the perfect complement to go with the heels of these two whole wheat loaves.

I’d love to hear your results using this recipe! What whole wheat flour do you have on hand to use? How did it taste? How was the crust & crumb? Leave your comments below and happy baking!

Whole wheat bulk fermentation

Recipe and method submitted to YeastSpotting.





  1. Alice Waters is the owner of the highly praised restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. In addition she’s started the Edible Schoolyard program that aims to educate children on healthy food through their use of a garden on the school’s premises. Being a new father I just love this.

  2. This oil is derived from hand picked “coratina” olives that are harvested whole and fresh at the time of maturation. The olives are immediately transferred to the mill-stone where they are ground and slowly cold pressed. After the processes of settlement, maturation and refinement, the extra virgin olive oil “Mosto” is born. (Ref)

  • Noah

    Another wonderful post! I cannot believe the crust and crumb on that one– reminds me of the Country Brown I bought at Ken’s Artisan Bakery last week (that was my first time in Portland- what a great town!)
    I am still deciding on which mill to buy. I was wondering why you choose the grainmaker 116 over the 99 and did you consider the KoMo?
    -Noah (bartfeld1 on instagram)

    • Thanks, I appreciate that! Ken’s is an excellent place, great bread and his pizza joint is awesome as well. I just love Portland, such a great city.

      I went with the 116 just because I wanted the larger burrs. Larger burs will usually keep the grain cooler as it’s being milled, but in this case I think the 99 would have performed just fine. I also wanted the larger hopper and I didn’t want to regret getting a smaller unit down the line, when I hope to bake even more than I am currently. There’s part of my personality in that decision as well, I figured I might as well go all out if I’m going to spring for it 🙂

      I did in fact consider the KoMo — a great mill! In the end I wanted the hand operated mill to mill finer and cooler. Not to say there aren’t things you can do with the KoMo to reduce temperature but the quality, craftsmanship (to be fair the KoMo is also very well built) and small number of parts (less to clean and maintain) of the GM also called to me. It was a tough decision!

  • Jon (jonno_r on instagram)

    Thanks Maurizio – Awesome post yet again. I feel like I’m subscribed to my very own boutique baking magazine!
    Looking forward to trying the recipe with fresh milled flour when I can get hold of some. Gotta have something to go with that cheese when its ready!

    Cheers mate. – Jon (jonno_r)

    • Jon — thanks so much! Hah, I like that, “boutique baking magazine”, not bad! Your cheese ventures have me very, very intrigued. That ricotta I made last week was so easy and so good I am afraid of opening that door into a dangerous new hobby 🙂 I am probably going to do a quick writeup on that process for this site, was very easy and something I think everyone making sourdough should try!

      Thanks for the comments and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this bread — and with your cheese!

      Ciao!

  • functional

    Totally random question, but is that Heath salad bowl?!

    • Not random at all, and yes it is a Heath Ceramics bowl! It’s one of their large serving bowls and I love the thing. I’ve had it for a long while now and use it pretty much only for bread 🙂 I’d probably buy all their stuff if I could swing it!

      • functional

        Ah, thought so! I have the same one, but never thought to use it for proofing. Now you’ve got me thinking of possibilities with it. Thanks for responding. Love the blog, am learning so much from it.

  • alfanso

    Hi Maurizio, Been at the home baking thing for about two years now. One suggestion if you haven’t yet tried it: After bulk ferment completes, I place the dough into the refrigerator for anywhere from 1-3 or 4 hours, whatever my schedule allows, and then do my divide, pre shape, 10 minute rest and shape. Then back into the refrigerator for the remainder of the retard on my couche. Same total retard time, but I have more freedom of time to schedule my divide and shape, and I’m working with a firmer dough at that stage. Makes for a really nice feel to the shaping.
    Most of the steps that I see you doing pretty much mirrors mine. If you’d like to see a link to what I do on The Fresh Loaf, just look for “alfanso” in the blogs section. My batards have an awful lot in common with yours, as far as looks.
    And I do love Ken’s breads too!

    • Alfanso, your bread looks great, yes very similar. Thanks for the suggestion on retarding at the end of bulk, I actually haven’t tried that. That may help me tame the incredible fermentation power of this fresh milled flour, or at least attempt to make it fit my busy schedule a bit. I believe Dave Miller (if you are familiar with him) does something similar — I keep meaning to try a mimic one of his methods. I’ll definitely give this a shot and perhaps do a “results” post here!

      Thanks again for the comments and suggestions!

  • Bdreg

    Just discovered this beautiful site while looking to add more whole wheat to my recipes. Your passion comes through in your poetic descriptions and photos. That crumb looks incredible!
    I noticed your footnote places Chez Panisse in San Francisco which might ruffle some feathers of the proud, distinguished people of Berkeley. When traveling, I hesitatingly use SF to refer to the entire Bay Area, knowing however, many people from Berkeley and Oakland are proud of their distinct identities.

    • Thanks for the comments! Indeed, bread has totally take over — and I love it.

      I didn’t know that about SF/Berkeley/Oakland, I fixed that footnote. Actually I think that’s how it was listed online (Wiki). Good to know, regardless. Cheers!

  • jinal contractor

    I am trying to up my game with more whole wheat and wholegrain in SD baking, this is very encouraging results and post. As beginner I have found KAF very consistent and reliable. Will you share your insights about different types of flour, if I wish to venture in to local, fresh milled flour. Your recommendation for sources as well as how to find local sources here in DC,MD area. I will appreciate it.

  • Mestre Boleira Sr Salgado

    Hi! This weekend I tried a kind of mix of flours: wheat, whole wheat and rye. In the end I got a bread that looked like a “dense cake”. I done all steps and it looks a good bread after baking but when I cut it… the truth appeared 😉 maybe it needed more retarding time in the fridge? I left for 8h and it wasn’t fresh milled flour.

    • There are a lot of things that could cause a more dense bread, so it’s hard to say! Know that the higher the percentage of rye and whole grains you use the less loft and open crumb you’ll see, for various reasons. If the crumb looked extremely dense with no smaller holes throughout but rather just dense flour, it usually indicates you didn’t proof long enough (there wasn’t enough activity for enough time). Hope that helps, hard to say exactly without more info and pictures!

      • Mestre Boleira Sr Salgado

        How can I send you some pictures?

        • Shoot me over an email: maurizio (at) theperfectloaf (dot) com

  • Mestre Boleira Sr Salgado

    Hi again Maurizio,
    In Portugal, I never found malted flour. Can I use regular white flour instead? The same amount?
    Another question. My starter is 100% hydration. Should I create one at 65%? Or is possible to adjust this recipe?
    Thank you!

    • Malted flour means they add a small percentage of diastatic malt to the flour to increase enzymatic and fermentation activity. It’s totally optional, but I find it helps get a really nice color on the crust (due to increased caramelization). If you don’t have malted flour just use non-malted wheat it its place.

      If your starter is at 100% hydration it’s not a problem at all, just reduce the final dough mix water percentage a little to compensate. The overall hydration of the dough is what matters 🙂 I’ll think about adding this in for future posts, showing percentages for lower hydration and higher hydration starter/levains!

  • Andrew

    Hello there. Been making this bread close to ten times now and every time I just can’t seem to get the loaf tight enough during shaping to hold its snap, the bread ends up not rising much and spreading out a little to much and the cuts are not super good due to the fact that it seems to lack the tension.
    With all that being said the crumb is still open and nice.
    I guess it’s just a learning curve with getting wet dough tight during shaping
    Thanks!
    Love you’r blog

    • Andrew,
      Sounds like you’re in the right track! Of course taste is most important but we all still want those nice tall loaves. Shaping is definitely something that takes quite a bit of practice to get just right. If your dough is lacking tension try to give it a few more “spins” on the counter if you’re making a boule or tuck the dough in tighter if making a batard. Either way it sounds like your bread is well in its way!

      • Andrew

        Thanks for the helpful words.
        Yea shaping is an art. Iv been shaping by just folding then spin then folding and so on then flipping and rolling it to get it tight. How do you go about pre shaping? And do you degas at all during shaping?

        • Andrew

          So I had yet another idea why my bread is not shaping up well. I’m using winter red wheat from nc so I’m thinking the protien of the whole wheat is possibly 2% less protien. So I went down to at least 78% hydration to cominsate. and I me checked my fridge temp and its 58. So the bread was probaly over proofed for sure.

          • 58ºF is definitely quite high! My fridge is typically around 38ºF so yes, my times listed above will be far too long — your dough probably overproofed!

        • When preshaping I do very light turns of the dough after it’s divided, just enough to build tension on the dough so it holds itself into a round for 20-30 minutes on the counter. I do not do any degassing.