Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Super Simple 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Ok, so now that you know what NOT to put in your sourdough bread, here's what you SHOULD put in it!

I have three criteria for my bread recipes: 1) is it healthy? 2) is it easy? (If I'm going to be making this every day, it's got to be easy!) and 3) will the kids eat it? (It's no good making super-healthy bread if I'm just going to be feeding it to the chickens!) This recipe fits all three (although there was a bit of a "training" period to get the kids used to the sourdough tang. Some nice homemade butter and elderberry jelly helped with this!)

Update: I now have a digital kitchen scale (yay!) so I can weigh my ingredients (you're supposed to feed your sourdough with equal weights of water and flour). So my one cup of flour ends up being about 140 grams, which means I should be using 140 grams of water as well, which turns out to be closer to 2/3 cup. I was wondering why my starter kept getting more and more dry!
Using this amount of water, my starter is more of a pancake batter consistency, and my bread rises much better and has less of a sour taste (meaning my kids like it much more). Score!

Update #2: I've since started adding 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp honey to this recipe, which the kids really like much better (it tastes sweet instead of sour) My husband even asked, "Is this a new kind of bread? It doesn't taste like your sourdough!" It also helps to reduce the salt to 1/2 tsp; it rises better. I'll post the adapted recipe here.

Super Simple 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

2 cups sourdough culture (this would be a culture you feed 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water at each feeding)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (freshly ground is best)
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt (sea salt is best)

Mix all together and knead for 10 minutes (I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer). Don't forget to save at least 1/4 cup of starter and feed it!

Place in a greased loaf pan and let rise until doubled (this will take a while - anywhere from 4-12 hours, depending on your culture and your room temperature. You can also put this in the refrigerator (covered) to slow it down (if you'd like to go to bed and finish in the morning!), but make sure it's at room temperature and fully risen before you bake it).

When fully proofed (risen), bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes (it will be lightly brown; if you stick a meat thermometer into it, it should read at least 200 degrees)

If you don't have a starter culture, the easiest and cheapest way to get one is to "catch" your own: Here's my adaptation of Sally Fallon's recipe from Nourishing Traditions:

Starter (takes one week):
Mix two cups freshly ground flour (rye works best, but wheat is fine too) and two cups water in a glass bowl. Mixture will be very soupy. Cover with a double layer cheesecloth attached with a rubber band and let sit in a warm place.

The next day, and every day for the rest of the week, pour starter into a clean bowl and mix in 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. Cover and let stand. After a few days the starter will begin to bubble and develop a wine-like smell.
After 7 days the starter should be ready to use (although it will get stronger as it ages, producing lighter breads). Once the starter is ready, it can be stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to feed it again, at which point you'll want to let it sit out again.

(to use this starter in my bread recipe, you'll have to convert it to a 2:1 leaven (2 cups flour, one cup water) instead of a 1:1 (one cup flour, one cup water). To do this, simply take out 1/4 cup of starter and feed it 1 cup flour and a half a cup of water. If you feed it roughly every four hours or so, you should have the two cups of starter required for my bread recipe by the end of the day.

Now, what to do with all of that extra starter? How about making some sourdough waffles?)

For more information on sourdoughs and starters, try the book Wild Bread by Lisa Rayner or the blog Sourdough Home.
Ooh! I couldn't find this when I first posted, but I stumbled upon it again - this is a wonderful video about sourdough starters from gnowfglins. My kids even enjoyed watching it with me (can you say homeschool science for the day?)


  1. Can't wait to try it! In fact, my first ever attempt at a starter just became ready today, so I've got the dough in the Kitchenaid right now. :)

  2. Yay! Let me know how it turns out!

  3. Hi, saw you post on Real Food Wed. and I'm wondering what the density of this bread is like? It's is something light enough for a sandwich? I used to make the Nourishing Tradition version of a sourdough starter, but have found much greater success using different proportion of water to flour.

  4. Yes! We use this for sandwiches. It's not light and fluffy like store-bought (maybe I should let it rise longer? I'm too impatient!) but it's easy to slice thinly so it's not too heavy for sandwiches.

  5. Tastes great! But it is quite dense. I guess I only let it rise about 9 hrs, but it's more of the height of a quick bread. Any other tips for lightness?

  6. You said this was a new starter, right? I've read that starters get stronger (and thus faster and make lighter loaves) as you use them more and more, so maybe this will help.
    My starter is about a year old, and it usually takes around 4 hours (in my 65-degree house) to rise. The loaf rises above the pan (not flat like a quick bread). I would say keep trying, and maybe your starter will get stronger and rise better.
    Also make sure you're kneading it enough. If the gluten isn't fully developed, it can't rise as high. If you're kneading it for ten minutes in the kitchen aid with the dough hook, that should be plenty.

  7. Great tips, thanks! I will keep trying. In the meantime, I'll be thinking of creative ways to eat a loaf of super dense bread. (It's pretty great toasted, but I'm guessing I won't have much help eating this loaf around here. ;)

  8. Ooh - that sounds like an idea for a post! ;)

  9. Great post....what kind of wheat grinder do you have? What do you feed your sourdough starter with? I have found that using potato water to feed it every time, or at least every other time adds nutrition and makes it a better starter...IF I remember to save my potato water when I drain them!

  10. Hi Janet! I have a Nutrimill. I feed my starter freshly ground whole wheat (1 cup) and filtered water (1/2 cup).

    My only concern with potato water would be on p.366 of Nourishing Traditions, which reads, "It may sound like heresy, but we do not recommend saving vegetable cooking water . . . pesticides and nitrites from commercially grown produce along with many of the harmful compounds listed above" [oxalic acid in spinach, goitrogens in broccoli, hemagglutinins in potatoes] can end up in the cooking water.

    I'm not sure if organically-grown potatoes specifically would fall under this category.

    But, if the hemagglutinins are neutrilized by cooking, this would be an excellent idea.

    More research! ;)