Rustic Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Rustic Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread is the perfect compliment to any soup, stew, or chili you may be enjoying this winter. The whole wheat flour is substantial with a robust flavour and a little sourdough tang. The exterior has a wonderful crust with a soft, fluffy interior.
How do I make Sourdough Starter?
In a medium sized bowl, mix 50g of all purpose flour and 50g of water. Cover with a dish towel and set aside for 24 hours.
The next day, add another 50g each of flour and water. Again, cover with a dish towel and set aside.
On day three, add 100g of flour and 100g of water. Stir to combine and cover with a dish towel.
On day four, remove 80g of the mixture, cover, and set aside for 24 hours. Nothing gets added this time.
On the fifth day, the starter should be ready to use. It will be puffy and bubbly, and should smell like yeasty bread dough. If it isn’t ready yet, feed it again as before with 50g of flour and water. Recheck the next day.
Notes on Sourdough Starter
During the first few days, the starter might smell a little off. Just give it a few days to mature and it will eventually smell like bread dough. This is because the flour and water mixture pulls in wild yeasts in the air which feed on the starter. (I know, it sounds crazy, right?!) This is why you don’t have to add conventional yeast to sourdough bread.
There is also lactic acid bacteria in the starter which prevent any pathogenic bacteria from colonizing. As long as you keep the starter fed with equal amounts of water and flour each day, there shouldn’t be any problems. Missing one feed isn’t a big deal, but if it goes too long without food, that’s when bad microbes start to grow. If you notice any funky colors (pink or orange) or odors (like a fruity smell), be sure to dispose of the starter and try again.
If you don’t use the starter very often, it can be stored in the refrigerator and fed on a weekly basis. You will need to keep it at room temperature for a few days before baking with it though. Personally, I like to keep mine at room temperature and feed it daily because it’s easier to remember and I use it often.
Every few feeds, the bowl will start to get full. Simply discard some of the starter and before the next feeding. Since my starter is mature, sometimes I will do smaller feeds of 25g of water and flour in order to reduce waste if I’m not using it for a while. Now that it’s winter time, I’ve also noticed my starter drying out more between feeds. This is nothing to worry about. Just scrape off the dry part and feed as usual. I find that mine does not get as dry when I store it in the pantry versus on the counter.
What’s the difference between sourdough starter and levain?
This is a super common question and is part of the reason why sourdough recipes can be so confusing at first. Levain is simply the portion of starter that you remove from the bulk bowl to use in the recipe. When you have a bowl of yeasty flour and water on the countertop, that’s sourdough starter. When you remove 125g to put in bread dough, that is levain.
What kind of flour should I use?
I like to use local, organic bread flours from Meadowlark Community Mill. You can read more about my grain share here! In this Rustic Whole Wheat Sourdough, I use a blend of whole wheat bread flour and bolted bread flour. Bolted flour has about 75% of the bran removed, so it is softer than whole wheat, but more nutritious and flavourful than totally refined flour. Bolted flour isn’t all that common, so if you can’t find it, feel free to substitute regular bread flour (or use all whole wheat for a denser loaf).
How to Make Rustic Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Place the levain, water, olive oil, both flours, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. I like to use my sourdough starter about 12 hours after the last feed. For example, I might feed the starter in the evening and mix up the bread dough in the morning.
Use the dough hook attachment to mix all the ingredients on medium-low speed until a dough forms. Cover the ball of dough with a clean, damp dish towel and set aside for about 30 minutes. This will prevent the dough from drying out. Also, try to keep the bowl in the warmest area in your kitchen, especially in the winter, to reduce rise time. Sometimes I set my bowl over a vent on the floor to warm it up in the winter.
After 30 minutes, return the bowl to the stand mixer and mix on medium-low for about 15 more seconds. Again, cover the dough with a damp towel and set aside in a warm place. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size. This could take anywhere from 3-12 hours depending on the time of year/warmth in the kitchen.
Optional: During the rise time, you may stretch and fold the dough. To do this, take the ball of dough stretch it out and fold it over a couple of times. This process can be done once or twice during the rise. This is not required, especially if you are leaving the dough to rise during the workday or overnight.
When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450°F and line a glass baking dish with parchment paper or cornmeal. Ideally, use a baking dish with an oven safe lid. A dutch oven would also work instead of a regular baking dish.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and form it into a circular loaf shape, about three inches thick. Place the loaf in the baking dish and cover with the damp towel for about 30 more minutes. When the bread is ready to bake, it should have become slightly puffy again, but it will not be doubled in size. Score the top of the loaf with a bread lame or sharp knife to allow the loaf room to expand while baking.
Cover the pan with the oven safe lid or aluminum foil. Reduce oven temperature to 400°F and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for about another 30 minutes (more or less depending on the oven). The loaf should be a deep golden brown on top and should sound hollow when tapped. Let the bread cool completely before slicing to help retain moisture in the loaf.
I hope you enjoy this Rustic Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread! Be sure to leave a rating on the recipe card below and let me know what you think in the comments. Happy baking!