Natural starter whole wheat bread | The world of food and cooking

natural-starter-whole-wheat-bread-1-3515900We are proud to present you our first 100 percent whole wheat sourdough bread. Yes, we finally reached another milestone in the home bread making – we started working with mother dough or otherwise called starter.

Having read about artisan breads, seeing them just about everywhere, and wanting to embark on this new trend (which actually is going back to basics) we kept baking our yeast breads, like the quick and crusty one here. But this was until recently.

One late evening at the beginning of the winter a friend of ours passed thru home to say hello, bringing a loaf of really flavourful warm crusty bread.  After learning it made with a starter instead of yeast and seeing the result, needless to say, we were absolutely hooked. We so much felt in love with this bread that the next day we got the starter from the same generous friend of ours, and that’s how the story began.

It took us a few tries to get it right, even though we have some experience baking home breads. It came out different than all the breads we had baked until then, but tasty, very tasty! It was a bit soggy, it wouldn’t hold shape, but we didn’t surrender and again and again.

starter-bread-1-6416544The beauty of these breads is their complex and unique flavour, as the yeasts and bacteria in them are the ones naturally present in the air and the grains. Your body absorbs the nutrients from the sourdough bread much easier. They keep very well but above all preparing a sourdough loaf like this in your own kitchen makes you feel really close to nature, relying on the essence of food – just few simple ingredients, your hands and some time.

To be honest, we still haven’t fully understood the core science of the whole process and the recipe below is a result of our experience until now. This is not the only way to make sourdough bread but it is what has worked for us so far. The truth is that to master this type of bread baking is an endless journey, and we still have a lot to learn. The good news is, there is a good number of sources out there, if you are motivated to go serious about it, and here is an excellent one, perfect for beginners .

The starter we use is known as 100% starter, which means there are equal amounts of flour and water in it (in weight). The consistency of our starter is similar to pancake batter – thicker than a crepe batter, but thinner than most cake batters. This practically means you need to feed it regularly with the same ratio of flour to water to maintain the consistency.

After a week of wandering and taking care of it as if it was another child in the family, we now keep our starter in the fridge. This because we only bake twice a week, and it also allows us to feed it once in two or three days, instead of every day. Also it is believed it produces more sour-tasting loaves, which we prefer. But even if you decide to keep your starter at room temperature and feed it every day, it only takes 1 minute a day, so it’s not so complicated or time consuming, as we though in the beginning.

And one last thing – the actual baking. When we were preparing for this adventure, we read many bakers’ advises about using baking stones, cast iron pots with lids and various others, I’m sure, useful things. But if you don’t have those, don’t worry too much, you can still have a nicely shaped and perfectly baked loaf. We use a simple silicon loaf form, and it works. So don’t stop yourself from trying just because you’re not well equipped.

natural-starter-whole-wheat-bread-2-6585567Ingredients:

300g whole wheat flour 150ml water 120ml starter 1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

some extra flour for dusting some cold pressed sunflower oil

a handful sunflower seeds

Method:

Combine the starter, water and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on lowest speed for a few seconds, just until combined and let rest for 30 minutes. You can also use just a wooden spoon and knead the dough by hand later.

Add in the salt and sugar and mix until well combined. Transfer on a well floured surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. Alternatively knead at moderate speed for 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and shiny and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Place the dough in a big clean bowl, slightly oiled – we use cold pressed sunflower oil but any neutral-flavoured oil, such as olive oil, will do. Cover the bowl with oiled plastic foil and leave it to rise for at least 8 hours. We usually prepare the dough in the evening and leave it to rise over night on the kitchen counter. This way it is ready to proceed in the morning.

The next morning you need only to transfer the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for about a minute or so. Add the sunflower seeds and try to incorporate them by kneading the dough. Sprinkle some flour, if needed and when the dough is smooth again, place it into the form you’ll use for bake. Sprinkle with some sunflower seeds on top. We use silicon loaf pan. Leave covered to rise for second time, for about 3 hours.

Bake into preheated to 190oC (375oF) on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove from the pan and lower the oven to 150oC (300oF). Return into the oven, placing the loaf on the rack for 15-20 more minutes. Cool on a rack and do not cut until the bread has cooled to room temperature.

Note that different flours have different absorbencies, so you may have to play with the quantities of flour and water until you determine how wet you want the dough to be.

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