Whole-wheat Sourdough

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I was recently turned on to a yeast-less, whole-wheat sourdough loaf. We go through a lot of bread and I am always looking for ways to make life easier. This recipe begins by beginning and nursing a starter for one week. After the week, your starter is ready to use for baking or to settle into hibernation.

Before beginning my starter, I tried her loaf. It was seriously picture worthy, maybe even magazine worthy, but I didn’t have my camera. After trying a bit, everyone at dinner agreed something was missing from this recipe.

So the next week, I began my starter and my research on how to make a good sourdough loaf. This is what I learned.

  • sourdough is difficult to make
  • the starter, or ‘mother’, can be passed along for extended periods of time
  • sourdough results vary greatly based on location, so much so that the same recipe can yield different results within different neighborhoods of the same city
  • according to James Beard (my personal favorite bread expert) in Beard on Bread, “sourdough bread is much overrated and difficult to perfect”

Perhaps James Beard does know best, but I love a good challenge and had ended this sourdough experiment with some yummy results!

What you’ll need for the starter:

White flour, no whole-wheat yet (there are too many oils for this stage)


The starter process:

Begin with your starter. The starter will need to be stored in a covered container and at room temperature. I used a Pyrex mixing bowl with a plastic lid. The starter also needs to be fed daily. Be sure to start this project a week you will be home. I found it easiest to plan a time to feed my starter. For example, I fed my ‘mother’ each day when I returned from work.

To begin the starter, mix 1 cup white flour and ¾ cup water. Mix together, cover, and set aside until tomorrow.

To maintain the starter, discard (or compost) half of your starter. Add ½ cup white flour and 65 ml water. Mix everything together, cover, set aside until the next day. Repeat this everyday for a week. After several days, your starter will begin to bubble and produce a sour odor. This is normal. Do not use whole-wheat flour throughout this process. The oil content of whole-wheat flour can cause the mix to mold.

After a week, your starter can be placed in the refrigerator to hibernate, or used in a loaf of bread. Hibernating bread can remain in the refrigerator for several months. To wake it up, remove it from your refrigerator and feed it for several days.

What you’ll need for a loaf:

100 grams starter

500 grams flour (I used 250 whole-wheat, and 250 white)

375 grams water at 80 degrees Fahrenheit

10 grams fine sea salt

10 grams cane sugar

The loaf process:

In a large bowl, mix water with flour until well blended. Add flour and incorporate completely using a wooden spoon or your hands. Cover and allow to rest 30 minutes.

Add the sea salt and sugar using the wooden spoon or your hands. Cover. Allow to rest 4 hours. Each hour, pour out onto the counter and kneed lightly (only a few rotations).

After 4 hours, form the dough into one large ball. Flour a large sheet of cheese cloth and place in a colander sitting over a bowl with a cover. Set the large dough ball into the center of the well-floured cheese cloth, smooth side up. Cover. Refrigerate 48 hours.

To bake, preheat your oven and cast iron baking dish to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven preheats, turn your dough out of the cloth-lined colander. Make several large slashes onto the top of the loaf to prevent unpleasant cracking. I cut a square into the top of my loaf. Once the oven is preheated, carefully remove your pot and place your dough ball in the center, slashed side up. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove the lid after the initial 20 minutes and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

Once finished, allow to cool completely before serving. Sourdough bread has better flavor once it has been allowed to cool completely.

Results: I know these steps make this bread look like a crazy process. But it is so easy once you’ve read through the recipe a time or two. My bread resulted in amazing flavor. Now it the time when I must admit that I’ve never really had much Sourdough in my life. I feel like my loaf was too dense; however, given my background maybe it was alright. The loaf wasn’t a brick, but it also wasn’t the light fluffy loaf I normally make.

Now that I have an abundance of Sourdough in the house, I am curious, what are your favorite things to make with Sourdough bread?

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