Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hand-Bolted 100% Whole Wheat Loaves

100% Whole Wheat loaf, 90% Hydration
Hand-Bolted through #30, #50 screens

So, you know how you try to do the right thing, yeah, and make 100% whole grain loaves that 1) you have to pretend to love, yes indeed, every dry, hard nibble 2) make you silently cry inside, oi, just the thought of having to abandon the pillowy loaves that you are used to making, the ones that elevate you to superstar status in all of your friendsy circles 3) could double as doorstop, or a weapon of mass destruction.

Hey listen. I get it. I have made a few boulders in my day. I have had success with a handful of loaves (all 100% whole grain loaves are on my blog, somewhere...) but frankly, I've been far too lazy to develop more than the few that I've shared with you. I've specifically had trouble with whole wheat, which is divine when in rendezvous with white flour, but on its own, it can be pretty gnarly. The oven spring is non existent. The texture is usually like some industrial agent to insulate prison walls, and the flavor, well, who cares about the flavor if you're losing teeth while eating it (and p.s., all the love and good intentions in the world will not help anyone get past a thing that could end in a visit to the dentist).

Which brings me to our post. This is actually one of the posts that made me want to come back to the page moons ago. I wanted to do this experiment making loaves with 100% home-milled, hand-bolted flour, and man alive! Did I hit the jackpot!

As you can see, the oven spring is pretty wicked for 100% whole grain, the texture was beautiful, and the flavor was so good. Fantastic plain, great with cheese, toasted with olive oil (butter for the hedonists) and jam....

100% Whole Wheat loaf, 90% Hydration
Hand-Bolted through #30, #50 and #65 screens

I did two experiments here. Both with the same ingredients, same fermentation times, same hydration. The only difference is in the bolting. For the first loaf, I sent the flour through a #30 screen then a #50, the second loaf was sent through a #30, then a #50, then a #65, so, successively finer screens. (You can get the screens here; don't forget to also get the frame). The differences were interesting. The one that was bolted through the #30 and #50 was more sour (which I love, actually), and the texture was closer, more uniform, but was by no means dense or 'closed'. The one that I sent through the #30, #50, and finally a #65 had a more open texture, and it was more mild in flavor (not as sour).

 100% Whole Wheat loaf, 90% Hydration
Hand-Bolted through #30, #50 screens

100% Whole Wheat loaf, 90% Hydration
Hand-Bolted through #30, #50 and #65 screens

Both were soft and lovely, even though the #30/#50 was tighter, and both achieved fantastic oven spring, as you can see. The loaf whose flour only went through two screens achieved a little higher spring, as you can see. I have done 100% whole wheat loaves in the past, but I added vital wheat gluten to the dough, which is sort of gross, IMHO, I don't trust it, and it feels like a cheater's way of making bread. Plus it can add an odd taste to your bread if too much is used.

Of course, I am lucky enough to own a Komo mill. I've never experimented with pre-milled flour, so, I don't know what the results would be, but I'm curious to find out. The loaves both weigh in at 90% hydration, and had a final fermentation of 19 hours

My beloved Komo

It was clear upon mixing up the dough that high hydration was necessary. 100% whole wheat sucks up a lot of h2o. The dough was pleasantly extensible but not slack. I increased the hydration because the feel of the dough with moderate initial hydration (79%) was like rubber, so I squished in enough water until it 'felt right' (weighing as I went, so I could pass the right measure on to you). The bulk fermentation was a little slow to start, only efflorescing in the final hour and a half or so. I was concerned at first, but then I figured that all of those little shards of wheat cutting at the gluten strands probably keep it from puffing up quickly. Once it was refrigerated for its long final fermentation, it increased steadily and by the next day, they were properly risen doughs. The final thing to note is that they bake much more quickly than those loaves made with white flour. I started out at 500 degrees as I usually do, then brought it down to 475 after 15 minutes of steam, then when the lid came off, after a short period of time, I saw that it was browning quickly, so reduced the heat to around 465. So, you will have to toggle, and err on the side of lower heat, I think. They finished in a nail-biting hour, meaning, I wanted to keep them in at least that long to appease my sensibility, but they were looking like they could have come out at least 10 full minutes before the hour came to its close. I may have even gone down to 450 for the last 10 for good measure, but don't quote me on that. Point being, my 'other weekly loaves' usually go for around an hour 10 minutes, starting at 500, then a solid 475 till the finish. So, make sure you don't take your eyes off of the bake.

So, before every lid comes off at steam, I say to myself, as sort of a good luck utterance 'drum roll please', always have, and probably always will because every time I've said it, I've never once pulled the lid off to a shite loaf. Gotta be something to the mantra, so I won't mess with it. This time more than a little nail-biting went on, and I think I might thrown in a quick hail Mary for good measure. Et voila! When the lids came off... HEAVEN! Like little golden pillows they were, and I knew the rest was a sure thing. The crust was shattery and wonderful, not at all tough or hard. And the next day when cutting the bread, it was soft and lovely and I ate a slice of it every time I walked into the kitchen. It's the sort of bread that's good for you but tastes really amazing, so you don't have to grimace with every healthy bite.

Onto bolting.

It takes a long time, a lot of muscle, and a wide open pocket book: you are looking at about, 30-40% of resulting bolted flour from the total milled. I'm sorry, I didn't weigh the berries/flour before and after, but I winced a little when I realized the yield. It's okay though, the resulting breads were enormously worth it, and I will weaken an arm any day to bolt flour to bake more of this bread. Start with a wider mesh, like a #30, to remove the largest bits, then move onto a #50 to refine the flour, removing more bran. You can stop here or choose to go onto a #65 which will remove a lot more bran, but it will also remove more endosperm, thus making for a lesser yield. I have, listen up, milled my grain and put it through a #30, then remilled the remaining flour, sending this remilled grain through a tighter screen. This will increase your yield wholly, but you will be getting more endosperm and more germ. It yields a flour so fine that if you were to close your eyes and run your hands through a mass of it, you wouldn't feel a thing.

This is what I did for my Pane Siciliano, milling both 2 and 3x. Man alive! Remilling makes fantastic flour! It does, however, heat your flour as many times as you mill it, so if this is a concern for you keep that in mind. It also clogs your mill, so you have to brush it out after you are done milling or it will go rancid in there, or solidify and later come out in horrible hard sheets that look like whole fingernails. It's pretty horrifying, and it will ruin whatever batch of flour you are milling at that point. If you do decide to remill your flour a second go round, you will have to stir the flour over the hole for the whole milling time or it won't feed into the grinder. Oh, if you don't own a mill, you should know that the flour output is admittedly hot. One way to offset this is to keep your grains in the freezer like I do. Your flour will still be warm, but not nearly as if not frozen first. You could also hand mill, but this is how I feel about that: 😳

Speaking of flour/grains, I used Great River Organic hard red spring wheat for this project (I've never been able to tell the difference between spring and winter wheat, though admittedly, I've never had them side-by-side). I have had great luck with their buckwheat (they carry whole buckwheat, fyi, rare these days, since it's usually winnowed before being packaged up and sold to you), and wanted to try their wheat. Wow. The flavor  is beautifully floral. I have tried a lot of different wheat berries, but theirs is my favorite to date. Just lovely. I got an enormous bag of it (Amazon, yo! I've added a link to the grains just below the comment section of the post☟), necessary since the yield in flour bolting is so very low.

OK, so, to bolt the flour, you literally mill your grain, cool it, then send it through a succession of screens. Fit your drum with a screen and whisk your hand back and forth over the milled grain, quickly. Press the grain as you do this (use a lighter hand when starting with the #30), essentially, rub the flour through the screen until no flour falls from the other side of the drum. It takes some time. I think it took the better part of an hour to do the lot for these two loaves.

A #30 screen will remove the biggest bits. Send the resulting flour through a #50 and you will arrive at a wonderful, useable flour, as seen in the photos above. If you are an over achiever and have more stamina, send the #50 bolted flour through a very fine #65 and you will arrive at a lovely, soft flour that yields a heavenly crust and crumb.

On that note, I'm gonna run. All this talk about bread makes me ready for a slice. Let me know if or when you decide to try these breads, and by all means, contact me if you have any questions before you give it a go. I'm here for you, and check my email often.

To the staff of life!

Hand-Bolted, 100% Whole Wheat, 90% hydration 

For the levain, you will need

75g freshly milled whole wheat flour
75g h2o
12g 100% hydration, 100% rye starter

Mix together your levain ingredients and ferment. Mine fermented for 8 hours.

For the dough, you will need

All of the levain
453g h2o
500g hand-bolted whole wheat flour*
   (*either send through #30 and #50 screens successively for a tighter crumb, OR #30,
     #50 and #65 screens successively for a more open crumb)
10g kosher salt, I used Diamond

When your levain is properly fermented, dissolve it in the water and mix it together with the flour and the h2o until you reach a shaggy mass. This will take some muscle and it may feel a little tough/rubbery (hence the need for more water), but don't fret. It will relax in autolyse, and you can always add more water during salt if you need to.

Autolyse for 1 hour 30 minutes. After the autolyse, squish the salt into the dough until it's fully incorporated work the dough into a smooth mass. Now it's time for the 3 1/2 hour bulk fermentation. Here you will perform a series of turns every half-hour for the first hour and a half taking care not to deflate the dough. Leave it be for the final 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a workspace dusted with some freshly milled brown rice flour. Shape into a loose round. Let it rest on the bench for 10 minutes.

After the bench, shape the dough into a taut boule and pop into a banneton or a bowl lined with linen that you have dusted with brown rice flour, or, if you prefer, some leftover chaff from bolting your flour.

Pop in the fridge and ferment for 19 hours.


Preheat the oven to 500 with a dutch oven and baking stone inside.

Unearth the dough by placing a sheet of parchment over the mouth of the dough bowl, then place a peel over this and quickly invert the bowl so that the dough ends up sitting on the paper and the peel, seam side down.

Snip the thing in some divine manner. A note, with very highly hydrated loaves or slack dough loaves, I find it best to snip vs. slashing the dough to prevent bleeding. These, however, I scored with a razor blade with great success.

Slide it into the shallow half of the hot dutchie. Cover with the fat half, slide it into the oven, and steam for 15 minutes at this temp, then turn the oven down to 475 and steam for another 15 minutes.

After the steam, remove the fat end of the dutchie, then stack the pan over its mouth to create a buffer between the hot stone and the bread. This will help keep the bottom of your bread from blackening.

Toggle the oven between 460 and 475 until the boule is baked to desired darkness. I baked mine to an internal temp of 210 degrees.

Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.


(and some other breads I made this weekend for friends...)


  1. I read some where (probably tartine) that for whole grain flours you should soak the flour before combining with the yeast for several hours. Have you experimented with that?

  2. Hey argh128. I know all about soaking grains to neutralize the phytic acid, but not flour. What is the purpose of it?

    1. It’s just a line in the first Tartine bread book (p114)

      “some bakers prefer an overnight rest for whole grain - a technique worth exploring as long as you wait to add the leaven until you begin to give thre dough turns”

      The gist seems to be to give the flour more time to absorb water, but I am not sure what impact that would have? Better gluten development?

    2. I'll give it a look. Maybe something to explore. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Could I get a similar crumb by using a regular wholemeal flour? This for the blog, I'm inspired - great post!

    1. Hey Barry, you mean, store bought flour? I've not tried this. I've only milled my own flour. However, I cannot imagine that it would be any different. Give it a go!

  4. What percentage of the milled flour do you end up removing with the double screening? Is it really correct to call it whole wheat with all that bran removed? I'm not being self-righteous, just trying to understand what I'm making. I have the same mill and use those same wheat berries. Fresh-milled flour is definitely a challenge. Keep bumping the hydration and retard time. You bake some beautiful bread!

    1. Good point, but no, it is still whole grain. White flour is commercially processed (we cannot make white flour at home, no matter how many screens we put our flour through). Even with bolting, the entire grain is existent in the resulting flour, the germ, endosperm, and bran. There is a reduction in bran, but it is by no means processed or stripped. Hope this helps.

    2. (Also, there is no way to quantify the ratio of endosperm/bran/germ in the resulting flour. I would also venture to guess that high extraction flour is made by combining milled whole grain and milled grains stripped of their bran rather than bolting through screens. There is no literature on this that I can find, but this is my suspicion. White flour is made from the endosperm solely. They start by removing the husk and bran and crushing the remaining stripped grain. This is not what we are doing when we bolt. We are milling the ENTIRE grain, then sifting out some of the larger pieces of bran. We are not stripping the grain first, leaving a small amount of bran, and then milling the resulting stripped grain. This is a rudimentary technique that allows us to lighten our loaves. If you have not made the bread, try it. You will see that what you are working with is 100% whole grain. There is no mistaking this once you add water and start working with it).

  5. Where'd you buy your flour sifters? :)

    1. Korin. http://www.korin.com/Kitchenware_2/strainers


  6. For the past couple of months I've been working with a starter inherited from a friend -- its been very good to me, recovering after overly long periods of hibernation and producing nice bread with good flavor. BUT after reading your amazing blog I decided to try my hand at starting my very own rye starter to give my bread more oomph when experimenting with weirder recipes.

    So I started it two days ago and after 24 hours it had produced a good amount of bubbling action -- looked healthy to my eye. But the smell is not something I am used to -- doesn't have the same slightly sour and sweet smell of my other sourdough starter, smells more like fruit that is slightly off and raises some alarm bells for me. Is this just the more complex smell of the rye? Or is something wrong with my starter? I don't see any visible signs of mold or rot, despite the smell. I used BRM organic dark rye, and ended up adding water when the 50/50 ratio looked to be too pasty a couple hours in. I have a kitchen full of fermentation -- with krauts and kombucha, also a lot of animals (but could that cause a problem?). But I have never had problems with other fermentation projects and think I have a good nose when it comes to discerning between rot and fermentation. Any guidance is helpful! I am going to continue feeding this starter and see what happens for now.

    1. Madelyn! I'm so glad you've made your rye starter! Mine smells fruity too, Madelyn. And sour. It smells more fruity some days than others. I think it smells more fruity closer to feed time, and gets more sour smelling as the day moves on and it eats through the sugars. Don't worry. Sounds like its right on target. As long as there is no mold, you should be golden! Sometimes mine smells like acetone. In hot weather it's far more sour/pungent. Just keep feeding it twice a day. And my starter IS ALWAYS pasty! I like to use a denser starter. You can add more water and use it like that, certainly, just know that as it ferments, it will loosen up considerably. It doesn't stay pasty. I find that I have much more control of my doughs when my sourdough starter is on the thick side. My levains are also super thick. I slow the fermentation down this way, build more flavor, extend the time in final fermentation, get better results in autolyse etc. etc. But I think my friend Joe prefers a 125% hydration starter... I think he also uses a wheat starter though. It's allllll about what floats your boat. Sometimes my starter and levains are thick as heck! Check out some of my posts, you will see. Hope this helps. And no, your other ferments and animals are fine. I have a dog and always have kombucha, kraut, kimchee, or some other thing happening in my house! It's all part of your happy little ecosystem! xo

    2. By the way, I've only ever had one minor 'might be going to be mold' incident. It was at the lid of the jar. I simply scooped out the culture, put it in a new sterilized jar, and it just kept rocking along. No other mold. Something must have touched that lip. And I'm UBER sterile in my kitchen. I wash my hands and use paper towels when handling everything. I know it's not the most eco friendly, but paper towels are vital to the fermenters kitchen. So much mold lives in our sponges and hand towels, and no matter how clean we think our hands are, as soon as we dry them, whatever remains on those hands builds up on the towels. Paper towels rock (brown, recycled, of course...) So, things WILL happen from time to time. You just have to remain calm and be the mistress of your ferments, know how to handle things when they arise, and all will be good.

    3. Thank you so much for your swift words of encouragement! I will sally forth and see what adventures rye and I can get into.

    4. Just wanted to say the rye starter is thriving and was the starter for my best loaves so far -- in fact I love it so much that I have kind of forsaken my plain jane starter. I have become completely smitten with its more complex aroma and it's thick texture. There is no joy that compares to the joy of watching a sourdough starter fill with bubbles and transform throughout the course of a day, there are so few other things in life that provide such immediate feedback to input. I tried putting it aside for a brief hibernation this week when it felt like baking was taking over my life, but I missed it viscerally and now its back out on the counter where it belongs getting strong in preparation for baguettes! Also, I made crackers with near 100% discard and the rye discard added a perfect delightful cheesy sweetness -- they were dangerously addictive. Thanks again for your great writing and insight. So in love with your work.

    5. Thank you Madelyn! That means to much to me.

      I'm in the process of working on a new post. It will (hopefully!) be up next week. I'm so glad that you are in love with your starter. I am too. I pass it in the kitchen, pick it up and smile, and you know? It winks right back. I swear it does! It's funny, I was telling someone about my sourdough starter the other day, the process, how it evolved, all that, and she said 'wait a minute, you've been feeding this thing twice a day for 8 years?!' I counted on my fingers, and realized that it's only been 7! Wonk, wonk. 🤷🏽‍♀️

      Alas, it has fed me and the people I love (or in the very least appreciate!) for a very long time. I must say, my Desem culture is stealing my heart but I would never in a million years give up my sourdough starter. It has me hook, line, and sinker. Speaking of, I'm in the process of baking up a serious bread that I've been tinkering with for a while now, I have things fermenting that need my attention.

      Thank you for writing!



Hey. So, I answer all of my comments, but it may take me a few days to get to it. Go ahead and leave a comment or ask a question and I will respond the best I can!