Shoa-ping's Wholemeal a l'accienne


 Hi all,

I'm a newby.... just 4 months of sourdough baking but I'm hooked. I have tried this beautiful looking wholemeal Pain a l'Accienne  three times now. The flavour is good but the loaf is heavy, very heavy and doesn't have the lovely airy texture of Shiao-ping's loaf. I have followed the recipe to the letter but no success. Some digging around on this site has revealed that wholemeal flour is low in gluten. This sounds like a reasonable cause but how did Shoa-ping achieve such great results if tha's the case. Anyway, am I better to add some wheat gluten to the recipe and in what quantities or better to add some white flour? I would really love some ideas.



zarniwhoop 2012 July 20

You haven't provided a picture, so I can't tell if this is a general "not as full of holes as I wanted" problem , or if it is specific to wholemeal.


Certainly, wholemeal flour does provide a close-textured loaf. I started sourdough some time after reading Joe Ortiz's "The Village Baker" and noting that the French bakers he spoke to used (for white bread) used some strong flour, but more general-purpose flour. For my own all-wholemeal loaves I tried that (one third strong wholemeal, two thirds general-purpose wholemeal), but I now use all strong ('bread-making') wholemeal flour to get slightly more air.


I didn't find that recipe from Shao-ping, but I did find a picture, and another recipe where she spoke of using (some) 85% flour, which is a bit lighter than we in the UK call wholemeal, with white flour. Terminology varies - I've bought "wholemeal" bread in France meaning "contains some wholemeal flour".


If you are using all wholemeal flour, I think you will only get large holes with a majority of white flour. Strong wholemeal flour will do a little better, but it won't make a vast difference. I've only once found a supermarket that sold gluten, and that was many years ago.


To get large holes, you also need a wet dough - for an amateur, wet dough is hard to shape. Some people suggest wholemeal flour needs more water, other people think weak flour leads to bigger holes, at least in white bread. All I can suggest is that you find an approach that works for you.  Also consider: a little more water (removing excess water after the dough has become unmanageable is hard, so try little-by-little ), perhaps less salt (it inhibits rising), and perhaps bake the loaf sooner if it isn't springing in the oven.


All I can really suggest is : experiment.  So much can change (different flours, humidity, ovens) that a bread recipe is only ever a guide.






dmkentish 2012 July 29

 Thanks for your reply, unfortunately I'm still struggling. I have had great success with Sourdom's Ciabatta a'Lancienne, the recipe is below. It is quite a wet dough but rises beautifully and tastes delicious. The gluten seems to develop so well, I can do a good window pane and I love the feel of the dough before shaping it.


The Dough

IngredientWeightUS VolumeBakers Percentage
Flour500 g17.64 oz3.92 cups100.00%
Starter200 g7.05 oz1.57 cups40.00%
Iced Water360 g12.7 oz1.53 cups72.00% (hydration)
Salt10 g0.35 oz0.64 tbspns2.00%
Total Weight: 1070 grams / 37.74 ounces
Total Flour Weight: 500 grams / 17.64 ounces


Now Shiao Ping's loaf. Below is the recipe and the instructions;


The ingredients immediately below are for the Wholemeal Pain a l'Ancienne.


The Dough

IngredientWeightUS VolumeBakers Percentage
starter @ 75% hydration (5% rye)182 g6.42 oz1.43 cups38.32%
Wholemeal flour475 g16.76 oz3.72 cups100.00%
ice cold water (or room temperature water)414 g14.6 oz1.75 cups87.16% (hydration)
salt11 g0.39 oz0.8 tbspns2.32%
Total Weight: 1082 grams / 38.17 ounces
Total Flour Weight: 475 grams / 16.76 ounces

Bakers percentages are relative to flour weight (flour equals 100%) and every other ingredient is a percentage of this. Flour from the Starter is not counted. Note: This recipe was uploaded in grams and has been automatically converted to other measures, let us know of any corrections.


The night of Day 1:  Refresh the starter (in 2 feedings over 24 hours to arrive at the quantity required)

The night of Day 2:  Combine all ingredients (except salt) and autolyse 20 minutes, then add salt, mix by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, then place the dough straight into the refrigerator overnight

The morning of Day 3: Take the dough out and fold once, return to the refrigerator

The night of Day 3:  Take the dough out again and over the next 4 - 5 hours stretch & fold the dough onceevery hour; then shape and place the dough in a banneton, proof at room temperature for one hour, then move it into the refrigerator again overnight

The morning of Day 4: Pre-heat oven to 250C; once the dough is loaded, steam the oven with 1 cup of hot water and turn the heat down to 230C.  Bake for 15 minutes; rotate the dough so it gets even browning; turn the heat down to 210C and bake for a further 30 minutes. 


I have made this three times now and keep getting a rather heavy sturdy looking bread rather than the lovely light loaf Shiao Ping gets. I am using an Organic wholemeal flour with a protein of 15.5% but I am not getting that lovely silky feeling of the gluten with this dough. I am using the folding method for both doughs but I don't think I am getting the gluten development in this wholemeal loaf. Sorry about the lack of photos but I'm not very tech savvy.



stoneground 2012 August 17
Hello dmkentish, I sympathise with you. This recipe was my first also and I also created very dense loaves. My experience was that the loaves improved as my starter matured. I noticed that my loaves where rising more in the proving stages. I also experimented with looking at the loaf rather than sticking to the time frame. My loaves needed more kneading than stated in the recipe. Another variation I had was that I milled my own flour so I couldn't judge the heaviness or fineness of the flour like you can when you buy it. I experimented with taking more wheatgerm out to lighten the flour. In the end I just used the flour as is and the starter did the rest.

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