This is a 70% wholemeal bread, but would also work well as a 100% wholemeal bread because the soaker technique and use of tangzhong combined makes it really really soft, not hard like some home made wholemeal breads can turn out! As it’s sourdough too, it has a great flavour and stays fresh for longer. This recipe is very experimental really, I just thought that there’s no reason why tangzhong shouldn’t be used as a technique in conjunction with sourdough and the use of a soaker (a Reinhart technique used in wholemeal breads).
I know there are a few components going on in this recipe, but I hope I have managed to explain it well. And this will definitely GUARANTEE soft wholemeal bread, no more rock hard bread!
This is my own recipe but I found it interesting looking at other recipes combining sourdough with the tangzhong technique people had come up with – especially in wholemeal bread. E.g. these sourdough tangzhong buns, this durum tangzhong sourdough, and these buttermilk sour cream oat sourdough tangzhong rolls (now my recipe doesn’t sound so fiddly, right!)
For the sourdough sponge: 25g starter (active and bubbling, 100% hydration)
100g strong white flour
For the tangzhong:
25g strong wholemeal flour
For the soaker:
All the tangzhong
240g strong wholewheat flour
1 large egg
30g melted unsalted butter
(plus one extra egg to brush on top before baking, and seeds of your choice e.g. poppy seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds)
DAY 1 Things to do the night before baking the bread: (e.g. if you want the bread baked for Tuesday evening, start this on Monday night). Just before you go to bed, prepare the sponge by mixing the starter with the wholemeal flour and water. Cover with cling film and set aside (room temperature) to ferment overnight, until active and bubbling.
Next, prepare the tangzhong paste. Mix the flour with cold water, then stir over a low heat until thickened and a temperature of 65C is reached (I use a laser thermometer, but you don’t have to check the temperature to know it’s ready. It will look smooth, thick and paste like when it’s ready). Cover the paste and place in the fridge to cool to room temperature.
Then, mix the tangzhong paste with the following ingredients: the strong wholemeal flour, salt, sugar, milk, egg and melted unsalted butter. Mix until there is no visible dry flour and everything is roughly incorporated, then cover with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature overnight. This is a ‘soaker’ – a technique that is used by Reinhart to help the wholemeal flour to become fully hydrated and to soften the sharp bran that can stop gluten developing during kneading. This will make kneading the bread much easier later on and allow for good gluten development for a soft and airy bread. I think a soaker is basically a really long autolyse, except that the salt is added (though not in all cases).
DAY 2 In the morning, mix the sponge with the soaker until fully combined. Then knead the dough for about 5mins, until smooth and a little more elastic. The dough should be sticky and not easy to handle. Use a small amount of flour sparingly to help with the kneading. It doesn’t have to be really elastic at this stage as the dough continues to develop whilst it is rising with the use of stretches and folds.
Next, place the dough into a plastic bowl, covered with lightly oiled cling film, to let rise for roughly 3 hours. At half an hour intervals, perform two stretch and folds, keeping the dough in the bowl. Dip your hands in water to stop them sticking to the dough.You will have to be more gentle towards the end of the rising period as the dough becomes more aerated. See how stretchy the dough is after this rising and stretch/fold period:
When the dough has finished proving and looks nice and stretchy like in the pictures above, cut it into 8 equal sized portions (weigh it to make sure – mine were approx 100g each). Shape these pieces into buns by rolling the dough up tightly and then shaping into a ball. See pictures below for a visual depiction:
Arrange these on a baking tray (can line it with baking paper), leaving a small gap between each one, as seen in the photo below:
Loosely cover the dough with cling film, and let prove at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Just before baking, ensure the oven is preheated to 240C and brush the buns with beaten egg wash – then immediately sprinkle with seeds of your choice (i’ve used pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds and sesame seeds):
Place a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven, then put the put the tray of buns in on the middle shelf. Bake for about 5-8 minutes, then lower the temperature to 200C, and bake for a further 25-30 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven during the first 15 minutes or so, as once the buns have a deep brown colour they will need tenting with foil to prevent them browning too much.
Then let them cool and get ready to eat and be amazed!!
Note: You could also do the first rise overnight in the fridge, but the times may need adjusting a little. On day 1 in the morning you can prepare the sponge and the soaker, then mix these together in the evening of that day, perform a stretch and fold and then leave this dough to prove slowly overnight in the fridge (in a covered bowl). Then just let it sit on the kitchen counter for 1-2 hours in the morning so that the dough comes to room temperature – and follow the rest of the instructions as normal.