It has been my stated intention to try every recipe at least twice, but after doing this loaf the first time I was full prepared to renig on that promise. This recipe does makes a large, spectacular loaf with the dough weighing in at over three and a half pounds. But my first result was a heavy, chewy, extremely sour loaf that cooked unevenly. Admittedly, most of these are flaws that I should have been able to address and overcome. But I felt the sourness was characteristic of the bread, i.e., something that I'd gotten right, that was intended by the recipe, and that I really didn't like.
Having made the decision to stop at one try, I began writing up my results. One reoccurring annoyance with Hamelman is that he calls for unusual ingredients but doesn't provide adquate guidance in obtaining these ingredients. The descriptions can be sketchy and there is no list of sources in the book. In particular, this recipe calls for high-extraction whole-wheat flour.
I looked back over Hamelman to see what I could say about high-extraction flour and realized that I really didn't have a handle on this. After turning to my library and to the Internet, I began to realize that this was part of my problem. Hamelman states that if high-extraction whole-wheat flour isn't available, use a blend of 85 to 90% whole-wheat flour and bread flour for the remainder. For the first loaf, I used a ratio of 12 grams white flour to 88 grams of whole-wheat flour, i.e., 88% whole-wheat and 12% bread flour. Once I had a better understanding, I was able to calculate the actual extraction-rate for my loaf. Assuming bread flour is 75% extraction, that actually works out to be 96% extraction. This is virtually a whole-wheat loaf. This brings me to another of my personal preferences. I've quite enjoyed the transitional whole-wheat breads I've made, but I'm not that big on 100% whole-wheat.
Hamelman doesn't say what extraction he uses or recommends but does mention that he uses a high-extraction flour with a 0.92% ash content. Pyler gives a table of ash content vs. extraction and from this I extrapolated an extraction-rate of 84% for Hamelman's flour.
With this in mind, I went back and recalculated my flour ratios. Assuming 75% extraction for my bread flour, I worked out conversion factors for an 85% high-extraction flour: 46.4% whole-wheat and 53.6% bread flour. I also decided to increase the initial mixing time to three minutes and use three folds with a goal of shortening the fermentation time to reduce the acidity. Overall, I cut the final fermentation by around 45 minute to an hour.
The results were a total reversal. I produced a wonderful loaf that I love. Not at all dense, it was only mildly acidic. The loaf wasn't perfect, but it was greatly improved and is now one of my favorites. It is definitely worth going back to and trying to perfect.