All Things Bread No.14

Hello Friends of Sourdough!
In today’s All Things Bread we take a look at one of my favourite bakeries in the world!

I’m renaming ‘Zoom Debrief’ to ‘Bread Briefing’ 
In flying we say Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. The briefing is essential to proper preparation. So Bread Briefing is where you’ll find relevant operational briefings, each one covering an important aspect in baking.

In today’s Bread Briefing we recap the Baker’s Percentage system and cover some of the specifics of working with Whole Grain flours!

All Things Bread
Tartine Bakery in downtown SF is where Chad Robertson and Elizabeth Pruitt achieved fame for their incredible creations. Chad does the sourdough and Elizabeth the pastries and confections.

Chad uses a young leaven technique where the leaven in fed several times a day to keep it in an active, sweet, but not too sour state.
The acidity and flavour are then developed in a long cold proofing before baking. Another fascinating aspect of his bread is how deeply he caramelises his crust. Just look at these:

The couple have since opened Tartine Manufactory a few blocks away occupying a much larger space.

Tartine’s bread to me is second only to Poilane’s, and if you’re ever in SF, you must go see for yourself what the fuss is all about!  

Our favourite place for sourdough in Dubai (apart from my own bread, I mean, C’mon) is Birch Cafe in the Greens and their bakers are said to have trained under Chad.

Bread Briefing

The Baker’s percentage system (A recap)
Simply put, we take the Total Dry Flour Weight to be the “100% ingredient”
Every other ingredient is then expressed as a % of this weight.

Example : Say your master recipe calls for 70% hydration, 20% leaven and 2% salt. And to make things interesting say you want to use half water and half milk for hydration.

Now if you have a mix of 400gm of AP flour and 100gm of rye flour, the Total Flour weight is 500gm.  

So the rest of the ingredients then are:

Water/ Milk : 70% = 350gm so thats 175gm water and 175gm Milk (70% of 500)
Leaven 20% = 100gm (20% of 500) 

Salt 2% = 10gm (2% of 500)

Working With Whole Wheat
Thank you Abir for prompting this discussion! 
I always recommend you start out in sourdough using AP (all purpose) / bread flour / maida.
This is because keeping this one critical variable the same will help you form a solid “base recipe”
After that you can then confidently start exploring other flour types and mixes.

When you feel ready, here are some of the specificities you will encounter when working with whole grain flours. This applies to any species of grain; wheat, rye, emmer, spelt etc.

1. Whole grain flours include the bran and this means you have a lot more wild yeast. This in turn means you will have a much ‘faster’ and active dough than you are used to with AP flour. I re-discovered this fact the hard way the other day when I over-proofed a batch of 90% Whole Wheat and 10% Whole Buckwheat sourdough.
The result was a loaf that fell flat so we had to change the zoom class from Sourdough to Aerodynamics: 

2. Whole Grain flours are THIRSTY! They include a lot of fibre from the bran, so they will absorb a LOT more water than you are used to. So if a 70% Hydration was giving you a pliant soft dough using AP (where almost all the fibre is sifted out), the same 70% water will give you a very stiff dough when using Whole Grain! I routinely use 85-90% hydration for Whole Grain flours.

3. Bran acts like a needle to the bubbles that give bread it’s nice open crumb structure (the outside of a loaf is called the crust and the inside is called the crumb) So you can expect a less airy loaf when using whole grain flours.

4. Each grain brings it’s own characteristic which you then have to manage! For eg. the tradeoff for incredible flavour that Rye imparts to your loaf is the fact that once Rye is hydrated (ie, made into a dough) it is very sticky and makes the dough challenging to handle. (This is due to compounds called Pentosans, which by the way are almost as important as gluten)

Also, if you are working with non-wheat varieties like rye, emmer, spelt etc, they contain little to no gluten and so will not contribute towards that nice airy structure you are looking for. One way to mitigate this is the epoxy method.
I love that our community is quite nerdy at heart and so If you would like to nerd out some more on Rye characteristics, please, be my guest 🙂

5. Last but not least, the flavour! There is a reason I hardly ever work with 100% AP doughs anymore. The flavours that whole grain flours give you are just wonderful. And there are so many permutations and combinations to try!
My personal favourites are a 100% WW where you REALLY get to see, smell and taste the true nature and terroir of the flour, and my 80% AP 20% Whole Rye loaf. 

Abir also asked about Whole Rye Breads and I can’t think of a better, more delish recipe than Danish RugbrØt
See you today at 4pm Dubai!