Sunday, 18 January 2009

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

This whole wheat bread is made with a sourdough starter. Working with starters is fun! First, you make a sponge of whole wheat flour, water and a cup of sourdough starter. The sponge bubbles and foams for 24 hours, then you mix it with the dough to form a loaf of whole wheat bread.

The bread takes a couple of days to make because you need to feed your starter and let it sit several hours. Then you create the sponge with the starter and let the sponge sit overnight before making the bread. It's not complicated, all it takes is a little bit of planning.

Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread
Makes: 2 loaves
Recipe from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

Preparing the starter for use in the recipe:

The starter I used in this recipe was created in 1847 on the Oregon Trail. A few years ago, you could visit for more information and request a dried sourdough start from Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter; however, I think the site has since been taken down.

I received my dry start this past summer and started reviving it in August. It's been developing in my refrigerator ever since. This is actually the first time I've used this starter. I usually have at least three starters going at any one time in my refrigerator. I just have to remember to feed them.

To prepare the starter for use in this recipe, a couple of days ago, I discarded 1 cup of starter and fed the remaining starter with 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup of water. I covered the mixture and let it sit overnight.

I used the amount called for in the recipe and then fed the starter again with 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water and put it back in the refrigerator for use next time (or the next feeding whichever comes first).



  • 1 cup starter of choice
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105° - 115°)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 to 4 cups whole wheat flour (I'm using freshly milled whole wheat flour from hard red spring wheat, but you can use any whole wheat flour.)
  • 1 cup bread or all-purpose flour, approximately
  • extra water for hydrating


Preparation: 8-10 hours or overnight

To make the sponge, the night before mix the starter, water, and flour in a mixer or mixing bowl. Cover with a length of plastic wrap and put in a warm place (80° - 85°) for 8 to 10 hours, or overnight. The sponge will bubble and foam and rise to double it's original volume.

Mixing: 20 minutes

To make the dough, stir down the sponge, and sprinkle yeast over the surface of the mixture. Add the salt. Using a mixer, attach the flat beater, and measure in the whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Mix for 2 minutes at medium speed.
When all of the whole wheat flour has been mixed in, let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes while the flour completely absorbs the moisture.

Attach the mixer dough hook and mix in the white flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to make a soft dough that forms a rough mass.

The ball will be somewhat sticky because of the large volume of whole wheat flour.

I added more water at this point before continuing because the dough mass was not sticky it was too dry and needed to be hydrated.

Kneading: 10 minutes

Add white flour, a tablespoon at a time so that a soft ball forms around the revolving arm. Knead by hand or with the dough hook until the dough is soft and elastic. 10 minutes. If it persists sticking, sprinkle on additional small portions of white flour.

Resting: 15 minutes

Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest on the work surface for 15 minutes.

Shaping: 10 minutes

Push the dough down and knead for 30 seconds to press out the bubbles.

With a sharp knife or bench knife, divide the dough into two pieces. Shape into balls, and let rest for 3 to 4 minutes.

Form each loaf by pressing a ball of dough into a flat oval, roughly the length of the baking pan.

Fold the oval in half, pinch the seam tightly to seal, tuck under the ends, and place in the pan, seam down.

Rising: 2 hours

Place the pans in a warm place, cover with wax paper, and leave until the center of the dough has risen to the level or slightly above the edge of the pan, 2 hours.

My loaves did not rise to the top because I used bigger pans than the recipe called for. I used the 9 x 5 pans rather than the 8 1/2 x 4 pans. The bread bakes more evenly in these pans, that's why I'm using them.

Baking:  Preheat the oven to 425° 20 minutes before baking.

Slit the top of each loaf lengthwise with a stroke of a razor blade or sharp knife.

Brush with water, and bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes. Brush the loaves again with water, reduce the heat to 350°, and continue baking for an additional 35 minutes, or until the loaves are browned and test done when tapped on the bottom with the forefinger.

I spritzed my loaves (and the inside of the oven) with water several times during the first 15 minutes of baking to get the hearth-baked effect.

Midway during the baking period and again near the end of it, shift the pans in the oven so they are exposed equally to its temperature variations.

Place bread on a metal rack to cool.


Here is the baked and cooled loaf of bread. Enjoy!

I'm not a big fan of really sour, sourdough bread. I tried a piece and this may be a little too sour for me.  However, it does taste good warm with butter. My son said it was too sour for him, but he did like when I warmed it and spread it with butter.

1/20/09 update: This bread seems to mellow with age. It's been sitting on my kitchen counter for a couple of days and I just tried a warm slice with butter. It tastes really good. Not too sour... just right. I guess all it needed was a little time.

Happy Baking!


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