Whole wheat vs. white?

 A majority of the sourdough recipes I stumble across deal with starters raised on white flour or a combo of white and rye flour. Call me a snob, but I try to avoid white breads when I can and prefer whole wheat. So, I've been raising my sourdough starter on whole wheat flour instead. He's been very healthy, grows well, and does a great job in baking. However, I'm wondering exactly how much of the chemistry is doing to be different by this flour substitution. In other words, is there going to be a noticeable difference in crumb, texture, or baking time based on the fact that there is no white flour in my dough? Is there any major difference in the gluten formation and content? Thanks!

 

10 comments

I think you're on the right track, and if it's working just keep at it!

As for the chemistry, well, I shouldn't pretend to know what's going on in that incredibly complex, interwoven, and multi-interdependent world of cereal chemistry. But that's never stopped me before ...

To try to answer your questions directly, I doubt that the crumb, texture, or baking time will be affected by the fact that you are using whole wheat flour rather than white flour. Note that ww flour has everything in it that white flour has, plus a little. What the ww has that the white lacks is a modest percentage of the total amount of the flour, and none of it, so far I can imagine, would get in the way of what the sour needs to do. It might be worth upping the percentage of sour starter in your doughs if they aren't moving well, but it doesn't sound like that's your problem.

Good luck,

Muff

:-) eom Muff

As I understand it, white has more gluten does it not?  in which case the white flour improves the stretchiness and risability / lightness. 

 This is an older thread.. but.. I'll add my comment, that I have two starters in regular use, one fed exclusively on whole wheat and one on unbleached all-purpose plus say 20% of whole wheat.  (These are grocery-store flours, not organic, have vitamins and conditioners added.)  Both starters were captured wild.  They are wet (100%) starters.

 

The whole wheat one is very vigorous and easily doubles or better in a few hours.  Also it doubles in the fridge in about three days, despite the cold.  I make a 20% whole-wheat loaf, often with ground flax and honey, from this.

 

The all-purpose one is very sluggish and difficult to use. It never doubles while being rebuilt from the fridge: I'll rebuild it a couple of times from fridge-cold and it finally gets little bubbles and rises about 60% at most.  It gets pretty sour.  It will double the (white flour plain sourdough) bread I make with it ok, but it takes a long time (8 hours bulk + 8 hours final).

 

The improved structure of the white flour is certainly observable, compared to the whole wheat dough.  But its swings and roundabouts, because the white flour starter is so very unenthusiastic.  Sometimes I use rye flour with it and make a rye bread -- in this case it rises much better.  I believe that the problem is the grocery-store white flour, which (I suppose) is too sparse, or dry, or refined, or processed, or something, to appeal to my wild yeast culture. 

 

If you have a vigorous starter successfully fed mostly with white flour -- what exactly kind of flour do you use?  If commercially labeled, what ingredients are on the label?

I use gp non bleached mostly. My starter will sometimes come close to doubling in the fridge, mostly not though. (at 35 degrees F). However once it has been taken out it reacts like a pissed off Bruce Banner. I only need to feed it twice before making dough; once the day it is removed and the morning of the next day, just enough to make enough to have some left over to store. If I want pancakes too I'll feed it three times. I don't keep my flour in the package so I'll post what the label says next time I buy some. -- James

 I have a starter that started off on a very carefully controlled diet of organic whole wheat with a bit of organic rye, but in the past 6 months it has moved with me across continents, countries and states.  I have been feeding it whatever flour I could get my hands on: white, wholemeal, mixtures, organic and conventional.  I was surprised how it really seems to make no difference what I feed it.  It just goes and goes.  Of course the different flours have a big impact on the resulting bread, but as to the sourdough culture itself... it seems to perform well no matter what kind of flour I feed it.

By contrast, this starter I have here (the "white" one) will not rise by more than 1/2 when fed on equal weight of unbleached white flour and water.  It can more than double if I feed it at 2:1 flour:water, or if I make dough from it, but it takes a long time (24 hours altogether) and it gets too sour for me.

 

I've tried feeding this starter on, twice daily for two weeks, to see if it would behave better, but it never does.  It rises 50% in about six hours, and then falls, and is sour and goopy.

 

The starter's cousin is fed on whole wheat flour exclusively, and rises like gang-busters, and makes lovely bread.  

 Maybe the white flour you are using isn't strong enough, not enough protein to promote gluten formation? What kind of white flour are you using?

Maybe.  I've used three different brands of "all-purpose flour" from local (Ontario) grocery stores.  All are "fortified", as I believe is required here for white flour, with ascorbic acid, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and iron.  Two were "conditioned" with amylase and one of those also with azodicarbonamide, which is legal in Canada.  The third only has the vitamins.  None of them make made much difference to the observations, although the one with azo performed the worst.  (I cannot understand why that is allowed to be labeled "unbleached", but that's another story.)

 

It may be that I should use a "bread flour", though before I started sourdoughs (couple of years ago), and for the whole-wheat starter still, I use the above flours and it's fine.  

For anyone's interest: after the last post I started again from scratch, hoping to encourage a yeast that likes organic unbleached white wheat.   That would be 21 days ago, during which time I've fed at 100% hydration every 12 to 36 hours and used up about 1 Kg of flour.  Typical behaviour during that time has been 24 hours of rising to no more than 25%, followed by dropping back to zero with a pungent and familiar smell of acetone.  Also very very sour.

 

 

Wll, in the last 12 hours though it seems finally to have got on the ball: 70% rise in 24 hours, much less acetone smell, and today after feeding and a few hours' fermentation, a hopeful and intriguing fruity smell, more like my delicious whole-wheat starter (which does not like to be fed white flour).

 

Conclusion: patience is a virtue.