First ever sourdough bake off- tips for next loaf, especially convection oven temperatures for different types of loaves


I am quite happy with my first ever loaves of sourdough. The white loaf I made I'm particularly happy with- it tasted as good if not better than any I have ever purchased . I was probably asking for problems with my grain loaf as I just adapted the recipe of Dan Lepards white loaf and just used all wholemeal flour adding some linseed/chai/sunflower seeds that I had soaked overnight in water in the fridge.  I cooked the wholemeal loaf at 220 C in a convection oven with a bowl of water in there as well.  It came out too crusty (although inside is still very moist)-  I feel that the oven  was too hot and wondering if I  should reduce the temp down to about 180-190 C.    I'm also wondering if I am better to add some white bakers flour as well as the wholemeal to the grain bread to make it a bit lighter. I'm not sure if the air holes you get in a white loaf are achievable in a grain/ wholemeal loaf.

I'm also wondering if using a convection oven, baking at 220 C is too hot- if so what temperature do you advise.




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farinam's picture
farinam 2015 July 30

Hello Karen,

Good to see somebody having success right off.

There are a couple of things about working with pure wholemeal flour.  First, the germ and bran absorb a lot more water and so you have to work at a higher hydration (more water) to get the same sort of dough consistency and depending on the flour this could be as high as 80 (or even 90) percent.  The second is that the self same germ and bran (and additives such as seeds) break up the continuity of the strands/sheets of gluten, weakening them and making volume increase in proving and oven spring harder to achieve (but not impossible).  So, adding a proportion of white flour to your mix would made life easier and produce a lighter loaf right off, or you could persist and eventually make the grade with the 100% wholemeal.

In terms of oven temperature, it is probably the pattern of temperature change rather than the starting temperature that is more relevant.  In a wood fired oven, the bread baking is started after the coals are raked out and the temperature starts off high and progressively reduces as the bake goes on.  This is known as a 'falling oven'.  So, often, methods will start out at (say 220) and call for the temperature to be reduced to 180 or so after 10 minutes or so.  Still others start out even higher, with the oven at 270 before the loaf is put in but reducing the setpoint immediately to 250 and then progressively reducing the setpoint through the bake to finish at 180.  Mostly, this just relies on the natural cooling of the oven but with the power on to keep the temp up if it cools too fast given that a kitchen oven doesn't have the thermal mass of a wood-fired oven.

So, if you want to set and forget, you could bake right through at your 180-190.  However, you might miss out on a bit of oven spring and the crust might not brown as well and will be somewhat thinner.  On the other hand, a bit of fiddling while you are waiting could give you a more pleasing result.

Good luck with your projects.


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