There are so many sourdough bread recipes floating around the internet. How many do you need? I believe that one is enough, as long as it makes really good bread. Good bread is tasty on its own, but also versatile enough to lend itself to various add-ins and toppings. It puts the bakers’ skills to good use, but still is not difficult to make and uses great ingredients that are readily available. Good bread keeps you present in the process (no braindead automation!) and it brings you joy every step of the way. After four years of tinkering I am ready to say that I have found my perfect bread and I am ready to share it with you.
What makes this bread special
This bread was born to fill the need for compromise. You see, I love flavorful bread – rye and wholegrain are my favorite. That inebriating smell of a brown crust is magic to me and the dance of flavors – sweet and sour with a hint of nuttiness – is all I want. My husband’s tastes are completely different. To him the wholegrain loaf is dense, heavy and bitter. He much prefers the fluffy white loaves with shattery crust and an ethereal crumb that melts as you bite into it. I tried to find a halfway point, but a 50/50 loaf did not satisfy either of us. I kept tinkering with ratios and percentages, which will show in this post, but it was technique that finally made the most significant difference. The result is a loaf that is deeply flavorful, but also light and elegant. I really hope you like it!
If you prefer video recipes you can find a full, detailed video tutorial here.
Tools you will need
In my post here I wrote at length about all the various tools that I accumulated over the years. It is only natural that some of them will appear here, although I will make sure to offer alternatives. The tools that you will absolutely need are kitchen scales, two mixing bowls, a dough knife, a medium-fine sieve and proofing baskets. The additional tools that really help are a grain mill and a bread proofer. Now let’s begin!
Ingredients (for 2 loaves)
For the starter:
- 35 g mature starter at 100% hydration (I use a rye starter)
- 160 g bread flour
- 160 g water
For the dough:
- all of the starter
- 200 g wheat berries (or wholegrain flour if you don’t have a mill)
- 600 g bread flour
- 200 g boiling water
- 500 g + 10 g water at room temperature
- 17 g salt
In the morning:
First of all combine the ingredients for the starter and set the mixture to proof for 7 hours at 81F/27C. I use a proofer for this purpose, but you can keep the starter on the middle rack of a cold oven with the light turned on.
At the same time, mill your berries. I love these ones from Barton Springs Mill as the flavor and aroma are absolutely divine! If you do not have a mill like this you can just get whole-wheat flour from the store, such as the one from King Arthur Flour. Whichever path you go, you should end up with 200g of coarse whole-wheat flour. The freshly-milled one will taste better, but hey! we work with what we’ve got.
Sift the flour that you have and separate the bran. Place the bran in a small bowl, add the boiling water and cover for the next 8 hours. This step makes all the difference so make sure not to skip it!
In the afternoon:
When the starter had been proofing fo 5 hours, mix the dough for the autolyse stage. Combine the sifted flour, the bread flour and 500 g of water; cover and let it sit for two hours. An autolyse of this length will create silky, elastic dough that will be strong enough to lift the bran.
After two hours add the starter and mix thoroughly. I highly recommend the Rubaud method for this. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes either in the proofer at 81F/27C, or in the oven with a light on.
After 30 minutes add the salt, drizzle 10 g of water on top to dissolve and repeat the Rubaud mix. Let the dough rest for another 30 minutes.
An hour after you added the starter the bread is ready for the soaked bran. The video below shows you how to incorporate it.
Why all the sifting and soaking? Can I not just mix the wholegrain flour? You can, but that will be a different loaf.
You might have noticed that white-flour dough is stretchy and silky to the touch, while wholegrain dough is gritty and tears more easily. My method attempts to marry the white texture to the wholegrain aroma. The bran is added after the gluten is strengthened through autolyse, mixing and the addition of salt. Added this way the coarser particles do not sabotage texture. They are gently coated by the already strong dough. Other advantages of soaking bran are that it does not absorb moisture from your dough and also the hot water really unlocks an avalanche of flavor. The bread almost tastes as if there is sugar in it!
After you have incorporated the bran, place the dough in a clean bowl and let it proof for another 30 minutes. Do a coil fold as in the video below and then repeat three more times at 30-minute intervals.
After the fourth coil-fold let the dough proof for another 30 minuted before dividing and shaping. The video below shows how I perform this step.
Place the dough into proofing baskets and put it in the fridge for 10-12 hours.
There are different ways to bake the bread and I am working on an entry about it to show all the different effects, but for the purpose of this post I will show you the results of two different methods. This one was baked in the challenger pan with basic scoring. I baked it for 20 minutes at 440F/260C covered and then for 30 minutes at 420F/215C uncovered.
This second one was elaborately scored and baked on a baking steel with a pan of water underneath for the first 20 minutes. The times and temperatures are the same as above.
Here is the crumb of the second loaf:
I hope you enjoyed this recipe and will give it a try! I am sure you will fall in love with thee combination of texture and flavor.