Sourdough Recipe #1 The Not Very Whole Wheat Loaf

Whole wheat fetishists will have to wait for our whole wheat sourdough loaf recipe (we’re working on it–whole wheat is trickier to work with than bad-ass white flour). In the meantime here’s the Homegrown Evolution Not Very Whole Wheat Loaf based on a recipe by Nancy Silverton. You can use either our whole wheat starter or our white starter. And though the instructions are long, this is an easy recipe assuming that you have been good about feeding your starter every day and keeping it in a warm place.

Though far less complicated than manufacturing meth amphetamines (not that we know anything about that), making sourdough also benefits from accuracy in measurements, so the use of a scale will give you better results. We’ve tried to give equivalents in cups, but differences in humidity could bite you in the ass and the scale will make things easier.

Ingredients:

8 oz sourdough starter (a little over 3/4 cups)
13 oz unbleached white bread flour (about 2 3/4 cups)
3 oz whole wheat flour (3/4 cups)
2 tablespoon wheat bran
1/2 tablespoon barley malt syrup (optional–makes a darker crust and boosts the rise)
8 oz cool water (about 1 cup)
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1. Mix the starter, flours, wheat bran, barley malt syrup and water. Throw it all in a mixer fitted with a dough hook if you’ve got one, or knead by hand like hell for 4 minutes.

2. Let the dough rest under a cloth for 20 minutes

3. Mix in the salt and knead for another for another 6 minutes.

4. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap (we use a glass bowl with a lid). Let it ferment in a warm place–in our case the top of a stove which has a pilot light for 3 to 4 hours.
5. Shape the dough into a boule (a pretentious way of saying a flattened ball) and place in a floured proofing basket. We have a wooden proofing basket, sometimes known as a “banneton”, which gives the finished loaf a medieval look, but you can also use a bowl draped with a cloth towel. Just make sure to flour the towel.

6. Put it in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.

7. Take the boule out of the refrigerator and put it in a warm place to ferment for another 3 to 4 hours.

8. Preheat the oven to 500º. Take the boule out of the proofing basket. We slam it upside down onto a scrap of floured cardboard. Slash the loaf on the top.

9. Using the cardboard, slide the loaf into the oven. We have a cheap cooking stone. Turn the oven down to 450º. Spray some water into the oven using a spray bottle. This simulates the fancy steam injection systems that commercial bakeries have. Steam will give your loaf an old-world style hard crust and will be a strike against all those Wonder Bread counter-revolutionaries out there.

10. For the next five minutes open the door of the oven 2 or 3 more times and spray some water in. We’ve also just tossed water in with a glass if we don’t have a sprayer on hand.

11. After five minutes continue to bake for another 20 minutes, but don’t open the oven door.

12. After 20 minutes open the oven and rotate the loaf. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes for a total of 40 to 45 minutes until the crust turns a dark brown.

13. Remove the loaf from the oven, but resist the urge to break into it. It’s still cooking and you could get a stomach ache from the still active wild yeasts. Let it cool down before slicing.

There’s not much labor involved with making this bread especially if you’ve got a mixer, but it does require some scheduling. You’ll note that the time in the refrigerator gives you some flexibility if you’re not a complete homebody.

If you try this recipe, leave a comment and let us know how it went!

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16 Comments

  1. I finally made my first loaf. I was quite worried about the whole timing thing and I must admit, I left the dough in the fridge for about 40 hours.

    When I finally took it out of the fridge to continue its fermenting, it was quite large.

    The dough continued its fermenting in a floured glass bowl and when I removed it ready for baking, it slightly collapsed, because the dough stuck to the glass.

    I somehow managed to put it on the baking stone (I use the same one I use for pizza,) I made a couple of criss-cross cuts on the top and followed the baking instructions.

    When I took it out of the oven, it looked delicious! My husband and I had to resist the urge to cut it, but after a couple hours there was no more waiting.

    We cut the loaf into half and steam was still coming out. The outside was nice and crusty and the inside was a slightly bit damp.

    But that was o.k.! We sliced a couple slices, spread butter on it, and after the first bite, my husband said “When are you making another one?!”

    It tasted delicious! It looked delicious! I made two more since then. Thank you!!!!

  2. Hmm…so far my bread isn’t doing so well! It barely rose at all, even though it has been about 24 hours since I started. My starter has been developing for a couple of weeks and smells right, but whenever I make bread this has happened. Any thoughts?

  3. Lyssa,

    Three thoughts:

    1. This kind of bread does not rise as dramatically as bread with commercial yeast. Have you tried baking it?

    2. Is your kitchen really cold/drafty? That might also be a problem.

    3. Have you been feeding your starter every day?

    Keep us informed on your progress. Good luck!

  4. Hi! I’ve been experimenting with sourdough for a few months and I can’t seem to get my bread to rise enough (so I’ve been making flatbreads). Do you have suggestions on how long after feeding the starter should I make bread? I’d love to try this recipe!

  5. Arielle,

    Length after feeding doesn’t seem to be much of a factor in my experience. The most important thing is to feed the starter every day. When I hear about problems I often find out that the person either did not feed every day or kept the starter in the refrigerator.

  6. Do you have a spent-wheat bread recipe for DUMMIES version? Cuz I need that version. Start from how to process the spent wheat into something usable for baking please. I should so not be trying this – I’m a terrible baker. I got a C in high school chemistry, and the two are awfully similar. :/

  7. LV

    You can add spent grains to any bread recipe–I use them as a flavoring (not as a substitute for flour). Just don’t add too much spent grain as it will inhibit the bread from rising. I use about 4 ounces. Dark grains work best–the darker the better.

  8. Made a loaf per your recipe, using starter I set up 2 weeks ago. No major deviations from your steps here, only issue was I don’t own a proofing basket. A Google search yielded the suggestion of using a flour-dusted cloth to line some other bowl/basket. So a floured cotton flour-sack towel went into a large colander and ta-da. 20 hours in the fridge, 4 hours back on the counter. The center of the dough rose plenty well during baking, but the slice I took off the edge of the loaf was really dense! Nice crunchy crust and fairly moist bread inside, but wow, my jaw is tired from eating one little slice! Was the outside of the dough supposed to be dry & stiff when it came out of the fridge? I lightly draped the towel over the top of the loaf during the cold fermentation. Certainly want to try this again, perhaps the white loaf recipe next!

  9. Could be two things–oxidation of the dough due to exposure to the air. The dough needs to be kept in some kind of sealed container during rise and time in the fridge. Plastic wrap or a towel should work. Also could be improper mixing/kneading/folding.

  10. Hi, Is the dough supposed to rise in the fridge? It’s been the fridge now for 12 hours and it hasn’t risen at all…Seems to darn cold to do much of anything…

  11. We just tasted our loaf. It turned out a little dense, but the flavor was great. It definitely rose, but it was still pretty dense. I know it won’t rise as much as commercial yeast, but are there any tricks/tips that might improve this? It could be my kneading technique just needs work…

  12. Hey Sam,

    Since I wrote this post I have completely changed the way I make this bread. I wrote a new recipe for Urban Farm Magazine which is, sadly, not online. At some point I will get around to doing a how-to video on the new recipe.

    In the meantime, I still stand behind this recipe which I used for years. There are several things that can effect the rise–low temperatures, length of fermentation, chlorinated water etc. Here’s what I would try–use bottled or distilled water when you mix up the dough and heat that water to 80 degrees F. Then maybe try lengthening the fermentation time.

    Let me know if this works for you when you make your next loaf.

  13. thanks to your video, my starter did well and i have the levain ready to go. i had a question about the malt syrup in this recipe. i don’t have any on hand, but i do have light dried malt extract powder, as is used in beer making. could i substitute that, do you think? thanks!

    • You can skip the malt syrup. And I really need to get around to updating this post. I bake a different recipe these days based on the one in the Tartine cookbook. Let me know how it goes and if you have any more questions.

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