First I ordered a whole wheat sourdough starter culture from Cultures for Health. Following the directions I got my starter bubbly and active. Then I was finally ready to try the recipe from TNG last week...and it was so-so. I noticed the dough did not rise as much as it should have, during both the first and second rises. It was also too dry, and when I baked it the bottom burned. I think TNG's recipe works in her area, but for the dry air of AZ the recipe needs adjustments.
Finally, I got out some more starter and gave it another try. I used less flour so the dough would be more moist. I covered my overnight rising dough much more thoroughly. I baked the dough at a lower temperature. I got a squirt bottle of filtered water to occasionally spray the loaves throughout the baking time. Voila!
I tripled this recipe, and when preparing my starter I fed it twice a day for two days to get it nice and sour.
Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
1 cup of sourdough starter
1/2 cup of filtered water
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 Tablespoons-1/4 cup of honey, depending on how sweet you want it (I used 2 T.)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3-4 1/2 cups whole grain flour (I used 3 cups of freshly ground hard red winter wheat)
- In a large plastic bowl (NOT metal) combine starter, water, honey and olive oil. Mix well with a whisk.
- Start stirring in the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes too stiff. Turn out onto a floured board with floured hands and knead in any remaining flour if you have any left. To knead, fold the top half of the dough onto the bottom half and then push the mound of dough together and up towards the top of your surface with the heels of one or both of your hands. Then turn the whole piece of dough 1/4 of a turn and repeat.
- Knead for about 10 minutes. The feel of the dough should change as time goes on. Your dough should feel less sticky and more firm by the time you are done. When you pinch the dough it should spring back a little bit.
- You are ready for The First Rise. Lightly oil a bowl, place dough inside and cover very well. Find a warm place to let rise. Depending on how warm and moist your house is this can take anywhere from 3-24 hours. Generally it takes 12 hours. The dough should double in size by the time it is ready. I covered my oiled bowl with a towel and a dinner plate pressing it down, then placed it in my dehydrator on 85 degrees overnight. This seems to be the best timing.
- Once your dough has doubled you are ready to shape it into a loaf. Press into a rectangle, then fold the long sides over to the middle to make a long skinny rectangle. Starting at the top, roll the dough down, sealing the edge as you go until your dough is formed into an oblong loaf. Pictures here are very helpful (look at "Step Three: The Shaping and Second Rising"). Place into well greased bread pans, or onto parchment for a free-formed loaf.
- You are now ready for The Second Rise. I put my loaves onto parchment, covered well with towels and into the dehydrator on 85 degrees. I put a ceramic bowl with boiling water in next to it to keep the air moist. You can recreate the moist air in your oven as well, by covering your loaves, setting a bowl with boiling water in with them and shutting the oven door. Either method should allow your loaves to rise more quickly, around 2-3 hours.
- I baked my loaves on parchment-lined cookie sheets at 350 for 35-50 minutes. (The original recipe calls for 375 degrees for 45-55 minutes, but that burned the bottom of my loaves the first time I made this bread. It could be because they were not in bread pans, that the air is dryer in AZ, that my dough was too dry, or some combination of those factors.) You will know your bread is done when you tap on the bottom and it sounds hollow.
- Cool on cooling racks and enjoy with grass-fed butter. And maybe some raw honey. Or some jam. Or maybe as a vehicle for your fried or scrambled eggs in the morning. Mmmmm.