Sourdough bread-making methods, The Sourdough Journals
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Whole wheat sourdough loaf 6: Now we’re talkin’

If I can turn out loaves like this one every time I bake, I will be a happy baker. This loaf rose higher than any of the others. The crust is crunchy, the crumb delicate, moist and fairly even-textured. Taste is mildly sourdough, enhancing, but not overpowering, the nutty whole wheat goodness.

Somehow I managed to lose the photographs of the bread out of the pan, but I can tell you, the slices were lovely, perfectly shaped for sandwiches. Big enough too.

Confession: I’m finding it a bit tedious to map each step of every loaf, but it helps me so much to see what I’m doing right and what I want to tweak each time. If you’re another¬† sourdough wannabe like me, perhaps this chronicle will help you avoid some of the mistakes I make, so here goes with the step-by-step for Loaf Number 6.

Having neglected to build up my starter after the last loaf, I had to refresh it not once but twice to get the 210 grams I need. Lesson learned: Keep at least a cup of starter on hand, ready to go.

This little bit of starter measured out at 88 grams, not half of the 210 I need to make a loaf.

This bit of starter measured out at 88 grams, not half of the 210 I need to make a loaf.

Once I had my starter, I measured out the ingredients as follows.

  • 210 grams active whole wheat wild yeast sourdough starter
  • 180 grams filtered water
  • 30 grams organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 grams organic wildflower honey
  • 8 grams sea salt
  • 320 grams organic whole wheat flour

This is the same recipe I have used for all six loaves, because it is the only one I have found so far that uses 100 percent whole wheat flour and does not need (although it gives the option) extra gluten. Just a reminder, if this is your first visit here, this recipe is by a fellow named Mike at Sourdough Home.

I mixed the ingredients by hand, just enough to combine them, then dropped the dough into my stand mixer bowl and kneaded on 2 for about three minutes, until the dough pulled away from the sides of the bowl and felt a little tacky to the touch.

Following Mike’s instructions as before, I let the dough rest for five minutes, to further hydrate the flour, then returned to knead a few minutes more. After kneading four minutes, I stopped to do the windowpane test. The dough was too sticky and wet, so I added a tablespoon flour, kneaded three more minutes then tried the test again.

Once more, the sticky dough tore when I tried to pull a nice rectangular “windowpane.” Adding a second tablespoon of flour, I kneaded three more minutes, for a total of ten minutes after the rest period. This time the dough stretched into a somewhat translucent film. Chary of over-kneading, as I did with my first loaf, I called it good and shaped the dough into a ball, turned it into a greased bowl and set it, covered, in the oven with the light on to rise.

Four and a quarter hours later, the sponge had doubled. I punched it down, shaped the ball anew, and set it to slow-rise in the refrigerator overnight. This morning, the dough had risen only about a third, so I set it back in the oven to finish rising.

Two hours later, the sponge was ready. I punched it down gently, so as not to break any bubbles, and quickly shaped a loaf, setting it to rise, covered loosely, once more in the oven.

This last rise also took two hours. Happily, the dough had risen well above the lip of the pan–the highest of any loaves so far!

Having found success baking at 375 degrees (Fahrenheit), I preheated to that temperature  and set the timer. Forty minutes later, out of the oven, and out of the pan, the bread thumped nicely when I tapped it with my knuckle. The instant thermometer read nearly 210 degrees.

Loaf in pan, cooling on rack five minutes before turning it out to finish cooling

Loaf in pan, resting on rack five minutes before turning it out to finish cooling

I put the loaf back in the pan to rest five minutes before turning it out on the rack to cool. I’m so sorry that I lost the photographs of the loaf on the cutting board with a few slices. The bread sliced evenly, with a fairly even crumb, but enough larger holes for butter to melt wonderfully down when toasted.

My two-year-old granddaughter couldn’t wait for it to cool enough. “Is it cooled yet?” When we finally cut into the loa, she munched her piece plain, with neither jam nor butter. “Mm-mm, yummy, YayYay,” she said. “Yummy bread.”

As for me, I am so encouraged with these last two loaves that I want to start another sponge right away just to see if I can get an even higher rise from the next one.

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