No oil. No yeast. No honey. No extra gluten, vitamin C, or extra white flour. Just bread. Simple bread with whole wheat, water, salt…and starter.
I’m very, very happy with my new kitchen passion: whole wheat, sourdough bread. The flavor is amazing. The health benefits are incredible. And the process is slow. Slow, to me, is an improvement. Let the world be in a rush around me. I…am going to live slowly, and purposefully. I am going to bake bread…like my Greek grandmother did.
Baking whole wheat sourdough takes planning. You can’t just wake up, realize you’re out of bread, and *ta da!* bake several loaves before lunchtime. The starter I’m using is a fast acting starter…which means that I start around suppertime and slice the cooled bread the next afternoon. Some starters take five times longer! I like slow, but…we also gotta eat sometime 😉
I got my starter from Sourdoughs International. I picked the Russian one because it was the fastest acting starter. There seems to be a lot of negative reviews regarding this company; I just ignored them (and the cookbook), and followed the instructions I got from this *wonderful* little book. This book explains everything SO well with delightful little drawings all throughout the book. I figured that if I killed the starter, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it did take me almost a week to attempt rehydrating and waking it up! And in case you’re wondering, yes, you can make gluten-free sourdough. You can also catch your own starter, but I was persuaded by my own romantic notions of finding a European-ish starter (I did look for a Greek one!)…and I wanted a quick starter as well.
Here’s how I make my bread. I take out my jar of starter around suppertime, dump the contents into a bowl, and then measure into it 6.7 oz of fresh ground whole wheat flour, and 6.7 oz of water (using weight instead of volume is new to me, but I love how easy it is!). Then I stir it up gently. Don’t you just love it? Flour plus water. No mas.
I lightly cover the bowl with a pan lid and let it sit on the counter.
Then I “feed” my starter again, with the same amounts, before bed.
Then I “feed” it again first thing in the morning. Do you see how this process takes some planning and thought?
After a couple of hours, my starter has grown enough for the amount of bread I want, and it’s bubbly. It’s ALIVE! See how there are little bubbles? The book I told you about gives the (easy) formula of how to figure out how much starter to make for how much bread you want; this is just the amount that works for me right now.
I take out 8 oz to put back into my jar, mixing in 3.5 oz ww flour and 3.5 oz water, and let the jar sit on the counter for a couple of hours before putting it back into the fridge (for next time). No jar in the fridge=no more starter. So far, I haven’t forgotten! But the best way to insure continuous starter supply is to share starter with friends! This sourdough starter is going viral around here, much like our kombucha frenzy years ago (no one around here will ever hurt for a kombucha starter!).
With what’s left in my starter bowl, I begin to make bread. In another bowl, I measure and put in 2.5 lbs of starter, 16.2 oz ww flour, 7.15 oz water, and .65 oz sea salt. Then I just hand knead it all in the bowl, taking a short minute break to let the dough rest. The kneading is easy; I just fold over the dough and keep turning the bowl for a few minutes. I do NOT miss using my noisy mixer to knead! If I have leftover starter in my starter bowl, another one of my friends is very, very happy.
It’s so delightfully easy…and quiet…and slow. Slow is good.
Then I lightly cover the dough and let it rise to doubled. It takes an hour and a half or so.
I gently deflate it and knead a few turns. Then I let it rise again. NO punching! Just a gentle de-gassing of the dough.
Now it’s ready to shape into loaves or rolls. I put parchment paper on the back of a cookie sheet and shape my dough onto it. Again, it takes time to rise.
When it’s ready to bake, I quickly and narrowly slash my dough with a serrated knife and then slide my parchment paper with the rolls/loaves onto a preheated baking stone in a 500 degree oven (yes, you read that right: 500 degrees! Lower to 450 for smaller rolls). I put in about a cup of water into a small cast iron pan next to it so that the steam will create a crazy-good crust.
It takes about 30 minutes to bake one large loaf, and about 15-20 minutes to bake rolls. I remove the parchment paper about halfway through the baking.
When it’s done, the bread needs to cool for about two hours. If you slice into it too soon, the middle may be gummy, so patience is a virtue here.
And then….oh my….slice it up and toast it if you want to. And butter. Lots of good pasture salted butter.
Slow life is good.
For an UPDATE on my sourdough baking and a plan on how to juggle multiple sourdough starters, go here.