Look at the loaves above. I just pulled the loaves in the left-hand photo out of the oven. I baked the loaves on the right about two weeks ago. I used the exact same process for each set: Long autolyse, 24-hour bulk ferment, 24-hour final proof. The difference? The loaves on the right used 30% King Arthur 100% Whole Wheat flour, while the loaves on the right used 30% Azure Standard 100% Whole Wheat Flour. The Azure Standard flour is Unifine milled, so it’s A LOT finer. The KA flour is pretty smooth, but you can definitely feel the bran particles in it.
When I was shaping the loaves on the left yesterday morning, I knew I wouldn’t get an ear. I knew the oven spring would be good, but I knew I wouldn’t get an ear just the same. The reason, is that I couldn’t develop a really taut skin without tearing the dough. And no, the dough wasn’t at all over-fermented. I wouldn’t have gotten the spring that I did if the dough was over-fermented.
But as I’ve mentioned previously, course, whole-grain flour contains lots of bran particles that cut the gluten strands. You have to be extra, extra gentle handling the dough! For instance, I did six rounds of stretch and folds, but by the third set, I had to switch to coil folds because I knew how delicate the dough would be due to the bran in the flour.
By no means is this a complaint. I was expecting this. But it is definitely a lesson in how different flour types – or brands of the same flour type – affect the resulting loaves. That said, I’m okay with how the loaves turned out. But I have to admit that I would’ve been totally pissed off if they didn’t spring. It would’ve indicated a break in my technique and that’s a totally different story!