Whole Grain Sourdough

Baking A More Traditional Sourdough Bread

No knead bread baking is here to stay, but try this and tell me if you think it’s just better bread. The longer, slower proofing times really help bring out maximum flavor in the grains.

Ever since reading an article in the January 1995 issue of Smithsonian magazine touting Poilâne bread of Paris as “the world’s most-celebrated loaves”, I’ve wanted to experience for myself what all the fascination is about.

This is a bread that historian Steven Kaplan, in his book “Good Bread is Back”, describes as simple, delicious and famous: “Fleshy, tender, with a taste that lingers in the mouth, bursting with odors of spices and hazelnut.” A Poilâne style miche (round loaf) also graces the cover of Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”. Reinhart spent time honing his craft in Paris and seems to have some inside knowledge on how it’s made.

Finally, for my birthday party in March (I called it my “bread-day party”), I joined the likes of Robert De Niro, Lauren Bacal, Steven Spielberg and the tens of thousands of mere mortals who are regular Poilâne customers and ordered one for myself and my guests to enjoy. I figured $48 for a loaf of bread was a bargain compared with a trip to Paris. Besides, these are monstrous loaves, weighing in at over four pounds. ( I can rationalize what I want with the best of ‘em. )

The bread was certainly excellent, although amongst my friends it received mixed reviews. Even though the late Lionel Poilâne felt the bread reached its peak of flavor three days after baking, I think it would have been better the same day. In any case, this got me started on trying to duplicate the recipe. A few attempts at Reinhart’s version resulted in a fine whole wheat bread, but I wasn’t able to come close to duplicating the Poilâne experience. I even sifted out some of the bran as suggested and used Normandy gray sea salt. “What?” you say, “Normandy sea salt isn’t the magic ingredient that will transform my ordinary bread into something world class?”

Now, I realize it’s pure hubris on my part to even think about duplicating Poilâne bread at home or anywhere else for that matter. I should at least have a wood fire brick oven to bake in. But I did ultimately meet a fellow amateur baker who spent 20 years in Paris and felt he had come extremely close to nailing the recipe. I agree.

I’ve posted his recipe, instructions and accompanying video here. Whether or not it approaches the supreme heights of Poilâne bread itself, I thought the results were fantastic. Certainly the best (mostly) whole grain bread I’ve baked and on par with some of the best whole grain bread I’ve had anywhere. I can hardly wait to get that wood fired oven built!

Start the recipe in the evening…

Evening of Day 1: Mix together:

  • 200 grams (7 oz. or 7/8 cup) water
  • 120g (4 oz. or 1/2 cup) sourdough starter
  • 236 grams (8 1/3 oz or 2 cups) whole wheat flour

Ferment (let sit out at room temperature covered loosely with plastic) at 69F for 12 hours.

Morning of Day 2: Add to Day 1 ingredients:

  • 274 grams (9 2/3 oz. or ~1 1/4 cup) water
  • 85 grams (3 oz. or 7/8 cup) rye flour
  • 250 grams (8 3/4 oz or 2 cups) white bread flour
  • 170 grams (6 oz. or a tad over 1 3/4 cups) spelt flour
  • 13 grams (scant tbs.) salt

Knead, place in plastic covered bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Morning of Day 3: Form a boule (round loaf) and ferment (let sit out on counter) 5 hours at 69F.

Bake at 485F for 40-45 minutes.

Notes: The recipe was created using grams for measurement. For those without a kitchen scale I have translated to ounces and cups. Some of the measurements don’t translate all that nicely, but what I have here is close enough.

Thanks to Franz Conrads for calculating the dough hydration levels in baker’s percentages terms for this recipe.

Don’t sweat the 69° proofing temperatures too much. If you come close, great, but I go with whatever my house temperature is at the time. If it’s summer and your house is very warm, do try and find the coolest spot you can. Temperature does impact results but unless you are running a bakery, you may enjoy the varying outcomes.

The original recipe calls for 20 grams of salt. Too much in my unqualified opinion. 13 works just fine. Feel free to experiment.

Regarding baking time and temperature, all ovens vary somewhat and you might have to make some adjustments here. After the first couple of times with this recipe, I found the bread baked just right in my La Cloche at 485 F for the first 30 minutes, then 10 more minutes at 450 with the lid off.

If you treasure “big holes” in the crumb, experiment with increasing the hydration. You’ll get a flatter loaf, but more open crumb.

Jan. 4, 2010 Update: Breadtopia reader, Wil, contributed this great recipe variation with herbs.

Apr. 26, 2011 Update: See Joe Doniach’s variation of this recipe with photos that tell a story by themselves.

Here are some photos of the actual Poilâne loaf from my bread-day party…

ActualPoilane

ActualPoilane

ActualPoilane

ActualPoilane

Here’s a particularly gorgeous example of this bread by Jacquie of Aptos, California.

Jacquie's whole grain sourdough

{ 498 comments… read them below or add one }

Gigi September 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I can’t help but wonder… my sponge (the first step of the process that you do the night before) is much dryer that shown in this video. Is 2 cups really the correct measurement for flour here? Is it possible that you need more than 7oz of water? It’s just not working with these measurements. Any help is appreciated.

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Ralph July 24, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Try 20 minutes with the cover on 450 and 20 minutes with the cover off. It works for me.

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Kathy July 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Tks Ralph. I’ll do that.

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Kathy July 24, 2012 at 11:25 am

Joe, How do you keep from getting your bread too dark on the bottom of the loaf? I just made a round loaf in my Dutch Oven – 450 for 30 min., then 15 at 450. Top looked great but burnt on the bottom. Tks.
Kathy in CA

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Kathy July 24, 2012 at 11:21 am

Eric, Just tasted my first sourdough round loaf baked in my Dutch Oven. It didn’t rise as much as I had hoped, or possibly when I transferred the dough from my bowl on to the parchment paper to go into my oven, I lost some of the rise?? It still tastes good and really crunchy, which I like. A few questions:
1) The bottom got really dark – borderline burn. Any suggestions for the next bake?
2) I forgot to let the dough sit for the 15 min., before putting in bowl for the second rise. Would that have anything to do with not getting a good rise?
3) I’d like the sourdough taste to be a bit stronger? Should I proof for 10-12 hrs, then refrigerate for ?? (how many hrs.), then proof again for 2 hrs, then bake? Or, do you think it’s my starter?

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Maria Fagerstrom June 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Good day:
I have successfully baked my very first whole grain sourdough bread and it worked out just great! I had company that evening and everyone loved the bread. I was so excited I forgot to take a picture. I will next time. Thanks for sharing such great detailed instructions on the web site and via the video. But I have a question about the size of this bread! It is huge. Is it possible to just halve the recipe? I also ordered the proofing basket – and it looks too little to accommodate this large recipe. Thanks! ~~Maria

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Breadtopia June 26, 2012 at 3:22 am

Hi Maria,

Glad it worked out so well for you. Sure, you can halve the recipe. Besides halving the ingredients, you might need to take a few minutes off the baking time.

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Maria Fagerstrom June 26, 2012 at 8:42 am

thanks – no to do the math succesfully. :)

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Claudia June 26, 2012 at 6:40 am

Hi Maria,
just wanted to let you know that the proofing basket is large enough for this recipe. I actually increase it by 50% and am still able to use this basket.
Have fun.
Claudia

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Maria Fagerstrom June 26, 2012 at 8:47 am

Wow – I suppose the size of the bread after baking was larger of course. Well – I shall try the recipe using the proofing basket – I shall wow my 4th July guests with the pretty pattern of the basket. Thanks, Claudia.
~~Maria

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Rebecca May 3, 2012 at 10:26 am

I am a novice at breadmaking but, so far so good, my first attempt is at the ‘fridge’ stage…it’s been 20h and has definitely risen quite a bit. Perhaps even doubled. I still don’t know…
1) …when it is ready to take out of the fridge and shape? For all I know, it could get to 24h and I’ll mistakenly take it out when it still has a good bit of puffing up to do.
2) I don’t have a clay baker, or a pizza stone. I have: a baking tray, various ceramic dishes. What’s my best option for an even, crusty loaf?

Thanks for any help from anyone, in return I’ll post a photo, no matter how things turn out…!

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Dee G May 3, 2012 at 10:33 am

Here is how I started the baking – go to a home improvement store and buy some unglazed ceramic tiles (the kind you use for flooring) or fireplace tiles. These should be really cheap. Then buy a 10″ terracotta plant pot – the kind that is wider than tall – I think it should be about 8-9″ tall. Preheat both in oven for at least 30 minutes (be sure they go in from the start or they will tend to crack.) Put bread on tiles and cover with pot. This creates the same effect as a cloche (mostly – there is a hole in the pot, but not a significant loss of steam. A pizza stone will do fine instead of tiles, but cost you more. Good luck!

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Rebecca June 4, 2012 at 4:19 am

Thanks Dee – I’m curious to see how this turns out… will pick some up next time I visit the garden centre! I’ve been using one ceramic dish on top of another ceramic dish of very different shape which looks odd but worked surprisingly well, though I’m sure it could be better…

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Breadtopia May 11, 2012 at 4:36 am

Hi Rebecca,

None of this is ever super precise so no 2 people are going to see the exact same results with timing or other aspects of the recipe. Once your dough has risen quite a bit (as in your case) and certainly when it’s close to doubling, it’s ready for the next step. But you don’t have to worry about the exact timing, there’s a many hour window when you could take the dough out of the fridge and be fine.

When you’re getting started with bread baking, you often just have to take your best guess and see what happens. You’ll learn the most from the ones that don’t turn out so great. The worst thing that can happen is never that bad. Use whatever you have around and when you have a few spare bucks, get a cheap baking stone. If you can eventually acquire a Dutch oven or ceramic baking vessel of some kind, all the better.

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Rebecca June 4, 2012 at 4:32 am

Well I’ve now done this recipe a few times, and become a bit more relaxed about timings! You’re right, it doesn’t always turn out exactly the same…it’s always delicious though, springy and sour – and great toasted as a base for eggs…as promised here is a photo which I think is of my 2nd batch – I ate half before I got the camera out. Thanks for all your help and for sharing your knowledge, I am so glad I discovered Breadtopia and sourdough.

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Linda April 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Since the weather here should be cool enough this weekend, I plan to try this bread with a few adjustments again this weekend. First I am using part whole wheat and part white starter.
It is currently sitting on counter and I have a flour mixture ready to add in the am. The mixture includes the white four (used bread flour), whole wheat, spelt, rye and some of each oat and wheat bran (each about 1/4 cup or so and used a little less of the rye and whole wheat). I also bought some flax seed as well as wheat berries. The wheat berries are soaking in water right now…I just don’t know if it will work if I put them in
Wish me luck that this turns out good, should at least be healthy

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Linda April 14, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I did some reading on wheat berries, I soaked them over night then drained water off, ran them through my grinder and added them to the mixture this morning. I did hand kneading and could feel the bread texture.
As for the flax seed….I just put them away.
When I form the loaf in the morning I plan to form a small “taster loaf” I plan to freeze the larger one.

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Olga April 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Hi!
I am Olga. I don’t speak English very well.
I made this recipe how Breadtopia showed on video.
I have whole wheat sourdough starter . Before baking I add pine-apple juice to my sourdough starter. Very important folding dough 10-12 minutes. I bought stuff on Breadtopia and repeated all Breadtopia showed on video. The dough rose for 24 hours like on video. I was exited . Very important (I think) cover bread in the oven with lid. Thank you very much for this recipe.

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Claudia April 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Wow, what can I say?! First attempt at 100% sourdough bread (no added yeast). Dough didn’t rise much during the 5 hours before baking but my house was much cooler than 69F. I guess I should have let it proof a little longer but it was already getting late.
Anyway, this was my best bread yet. The crust was nice the interior was nice and best of all the taste was great.
I grew up in Germany and the bread and the rolls are what I miss most about the food. This bread is as close as I can hope to get. Thank you so much for this website. Claudia

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Claudia April 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Wow, what can I say?! First attempt at 100% sourdough bread (no added yeast). Dough didn’t rise much during the 5 hours before baking but my house was much cooler than 69F. I guess I should have let it proof a little longer but it was already getting late.

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Izzat April 3, 2012 at 6:11 am

Hi Claudia,
How’s it going?
Just wanna ask, how did your dough come out of the fridge after 24-hour-retardation? Did it triple in volume like what Eric showed in his video? To be honest mine did not, not for the first time & not for the second time.
Now i hope things will be better.
Cheers,
Izzat

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Linda April 3, 2012 at 6:41 am

Claudia and Izzat..on round 2, I would say my loaf doubled maybe, but not tripled. It is less dense than round 1, but even a little less dense would be good. I posted a pic with my last update.
Good luck to you both!

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Claudia April 3, 2012 at 8:20 am

Hi Izzat & Linda,

here is the rest of my comment that didn’t post for some reason.
“Anyway, this was my best bread yet. The crust was nice the interior was nice and best of all the taste was great.
I grew up in Germany and the bread and rolls are what I miss most about the food. This bread is as close as I can hope to get. Thank you so much for this website. Claudia”

I think that my dough just about doubled but my house was cooler than the suggested 69F. I am so very happy with the results though. I’m still new very much a novice in bread baking (especially sourdough). I love the “sturdiness” of this bread. I’m looking forward to making this again. Much better than any other bread I’ve baked before. Claudia

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Linda March 31, 2012 at 11:22 am

Trying this loaf again with a few modifications. I actually started Fri night as instructions say. Instead of my mixer I used hand kneading as to “feel” the dough. I also used the flour as it felt it needed it. So did not use quite as much white flour. I live in the desert so adjustments need to be made to recipe’s frequently due to lack of moisture in the air.
Will keep you posted on progress…next step: remove from refrig Sunday AM

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Linda April 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Attempt 2,,,Much better than 1st loaf. Flavor great, less dense. Now to get oval proofing basket as my round bowl does not work well with my oval clay baker.
I hand kneaded and adjusted flour more by feel.

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Izzat April 3, 2012 at 6:09 am

Hi Linda,
Well done. I can say that your dough took it’s time in proofing. But as for the crumb it’s not as wide open and light as Eric shows in his demo. But i bet that the flavor was surely tasteful and wholesome. I wonder if you got the sourness in it similar to what you get in San Francisco Sourdough bread?!!
Anyhow, it is a nice work.
I just finished mixing and kneading my loaf. For me i didn’t make any adjustments whatsoever…except that i will leave the dough relax a bit at room temperature before tucking it in the fridge for it’s long 24-hour retardation.
Hopefully this time i will get a satisfactory results.
Wish me luck ^_^
Izzat

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Linda April 3, 2012 at 6:46 am

Izzat, sourness is GREAT. The starter is actually from Eric’s dry starter and they say it is a San Fransisco base. I wonder if I let some of the counter time be done in the oven with just bulb on if that would help. Also, I am proofing right now in a round towel lined bowl and baking in an oval shaped clay roaster, so the loaf deforms a bit going from 1 shape to the other. Wonder if I really need to invest in an oval proofing dish? The ones I have seen though seem to have slightly larger dimensions than the baker does.

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Claudia April 3, 2012 at 8:35 am

Hi Linda,
I was thinking the same thing about the oven with the light on. I’m only worried that the temp may go to high and maybe leaving the oven door open a bit might just do the trick. I think I’ll try that on my next attempt unless my house is a little warmer.
Linda, I think your bread looks great. Seems to work even with a round proofing basket.
Good Luck, Claudia

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Linda April 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Claudia, Thought about the oven this time, but it was a warm day here plus I was not going to be home if the bread looked ready before we got home.
At this point I may not be able to try baking bread till fall unless it gets cool here again. The plan for this weekend is to make a non sour dough Polish Easter bread at a friends request.

Izzat April 4, 2012 at 6:01 am

Hi Linda,
Well from my experience with oval shaped loaves versus boules i can say (at least to my taste) that oval loaves or batard shaped are usually baked from evenly than boules, also on the other hand they tend to have more open crumb than boules, that’s why i like batard more than the latter. But do you really need an oval shaped baking dish? I don’t know about that!! You can try baking it with out oval shaped baking dish like i usually do. Well i like to see the effect of fire on the loaf. My dough has been resting now for approx. 3 hours at 69 degrees preshaped as boule, but will undergo a final shaping as batard just one hour before baking. Wish me luck :D

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Linda April 4, 2012 at 6:36 am

I never knew the shapes had all these names. Learn more everyday. I like the traditional more longer shaped breads for ease in use. My baker is oval, but the bowl it has been raising in is round, so when I put my round loaf in my oval baker it kind of mis-shapes. I am afraid to touch my loaf until I am ready to bake for fear of it loosing the leavening. I try to do final shaping (boule) before the last rise.
Keep me posted how it comes out, Good luck!

Linda April 3, 2012 at 6:50 am

Wishing you LUCK!

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Izzat March 28, 2012 at 5:46 am

Hi everyone,
Today i took the dough out of the fridge to find that it had holes on the surface. I must have followed instructions to the word without missing anything, so i don’t know what went wrong! Does anybody have any idea what caused my dough to have holes in it?It’s been resting at room temperature for almost 30 mins. now, do you think it would come out well or the dough is destroyed?
Thanks,
Izzat

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Linda March 28, 2012 at 6:40 am

Izzat, By holes do you mean rips like the dough stretched? It could be just from the little bit of raising it did in the refrigerator. Bake it anyway, still should taste good.
My last loaf the seams all opened up when I bakes it, so it does not slice nice, but tastes good.

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Izzat March 28, 2012 at 6:45 am

No not rips, but holes. I know some people would refer this to over-fermentation, but anyway the shaped boule is resting now in it’s 5-hour-proofing and it is going into the oven today holes or no holes..and i’m pretty sure that it will taste good.
I’ll keep you posted if you care to know!

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Linda March 28, 2012 at 6:48 am

Please do, This is early on for me in baking this type of bread. I want to learn all I can.

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Izzat March 28, 2012 at 6:54 am

I sure will let you know of the outcome as i finish baking…well and tasting as well ^_^
Myself i’m still learning too.
Cheers Linda :D

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Izzat March 28, 2012 at 11:43 am

Hey Linda, how’s it going?
Here’s how my bread turned out.
In short a failure of mega size.
First the dough totally lost shape. When i put it in the dutch oven, it ran through my fingers and slammed the bottom of the pot like a wet cloth. Now the loaf after baking looks like it weighs a thousand tons. With apparent very dense texture due to very muffled shallow sound as i knock on it’s bottom.
Well it was a try, am sure it’s not the recipe’s fault, but it’s something wrong that i did and i can’t figure out what it is. Sorry for the time and energy lost on this screwed up bake :(

Izzat March 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Update:
Well as i said in my previous update, shape wise there’s nothing i can talk about, as well as for oven spring.
But and surprisingly i just cut for my self a slice to see what’s inside. I was surprised to see that the crumb is not as dense as i was expecting. In fact it was fluffy and nice. The most important thing now is, flavor.
I can say that despite of all my foul up’s in this bake, but the flavor is absolutely very delicious. A pronounced hint of sourness is there just like SF SD bread. I really liked the taste, not the shape nor the oven spring.
So next i will make sure to do it right.
Now i have to enjoy my baked loaf with some Mozzarella cheese topped with some sun-dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil, and with some dry wile thyme sprinkled on top of that. Try it it’s soooo tasty. :D

Linda March 28, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Izzat, Glad to hear the bread at least tasted good! I guess that part counts the most. My loaf had good taste too, and maybe I will try your idea as dinner :).
Plan to try this again with some better timing this weekend. Soon it will get much to hot here to even dream of baking, so I have just a couple more weeks to work on it…then probably not till Oct..

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Linda March 28, 2012 at 9:45 pm

WOW, tried an idea, based on what you wrote and called it dinner…Sprinkled some EVOO on bread with a roasted red pepper, Mozzerella cheese and some dry but home grown Oregano. In Microwave (broiler would have been good, but did not want to turn oven on)…VERY TASTY!!

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Linda March 25, 2012 at 10:19 am

I realized I started my bread at the wrong time. Can I lengthen the refrigerator sitting time by 12-18 hours, then continue to leave on counter and then bake? Also I found spelt flour, but not rye so I used more whole wheat. My dough appears firmer than in the video. I did knead with a mixer.
I am hoping to allow bread to stay in refrigerator until tomorrow, then take it out, will it work?

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Linda March 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Update on my last comment. I made the bread last night. It autolypsed for extra time (probably about 16 hours). I put it on counter in a bowl with a floured towel in it for about 4 hours. I used my Clay baker to bake it (Putting the bottom in the oven while it preheated to temps as in video) the top I let soak in water. I baked the bread as per Eric’s directions, but neede about 10 extra min.
The bread turned out a little dense, but with good flavor. I think for next time (hope this wkend), I will start Friday night, since I live in the desert will use more water and maybe instead of using my kitchen-aid mixer I will knead by hand. My dough seemed a little dry and hard when it was ready to go into refrig, and maybe “feeling” it as I knead it will give me better ideas.
Any comments?

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Izzat March 28, 2012 at 5:51 am

Hi Linda,
For my bread i followed each and every instruction that Eric gave, even timing wise, but my dough came out of the fridge with holes on the surface indicating like over-fermentation. I understand that due to your mixed schedule you had to delay baking your dough, which probably made you compelled to leave it in the fridge for longer than 24 hours, i wonder if you had the same thing?!! i.e: holes on the surface of the dough.
Thanks,
Izzat

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sheri March 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Hi
Do you use a whole wheat starter for this, like desem, or is a white flour one good too?I am new to sourdough, and trying to decide what kind of starter to start with.
Thnaks

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sheri March 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Hi
I was wondering what kind of starter do you use? Whole wheat, or white flour starter? or does it matter? I am trying to decide what kind of starter to order from cultures for health. They have about 15 or so. I am not new to bread baking, but new to sourdough.
Thanks, Sheri

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Brautigan March 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I’m curious why, with all the whole grains in this recipe, it doesn’t call for any vital wheat gluten?

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Breadtopia March 12, 2012 at 5:39 am

I don’t think it needs it but of course you can certainly add some it if you want.

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Casey March 3, 2012 at 8:02 am

First, my thanks for producing so many informative videos and sharing your knowledge. Your site has been a great resource for my sourdough education.

Now, onto the reason for my post: your recipe for wholemeal sourdough is the very reason I got into sourdough baking in the first place. The results were truly stunning. Thank you so much for not keeping this to yourself!

Finally, I substituted plain & rye flours for the spelt as it wasn’t available near me. Can I ask, what taste/texture/quality does spelt flour contribute to the final product?

Many thanks again.

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Breadtopia March 3, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hi Casey. Thanks for the nice comments. Spelt is nutritionally superior to common wheat in many ways. It also provides a mild nutty flavor that is perhaps not so noticeable when mixed with other grains.

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Mary Mintz February 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Okay I made this recipe also and my results were a flatter loaf also but I did do a few things differently…..first I used a spelt fed starter…..then I autolysed……did not add the salt with all the flour(2nd day) and waited 2 hours and then added salt before kneading and then refrigerated….all flour very fresh but the rye was a bit old……I did not get the same rise in the 24 hour period as shown on the video so I was wondering if the spelt starter or the older rye could be to blame…..I will say my loaf was very dark in color more than others and I did weigh my ingredients the crumb was excellent and flavorful…..not quite like poilane which I have also eaten.

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Kathleen February 18, 2012 at 11:35 am

I’m just getting ready for my first loaf…whoopie! The starter is nice and bubbly/healthy. My question is, do I use the starter directly from the refrigerator, or do I bring it to room temperature first before mixing the dough? Wish me luck, my mouth is already watering at the though of warm yummy bread!

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Breadtopia February 18, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hi Kathleen,

Either way is fine.

Hope it all goes well!

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Kristin Ferguson February 15, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Hi, Everybody,
I just wanted to share this picture of the completed community oven (we finished it in October or so.) It is a big oven–much bigger than the one I built for myself–since it has to accommodate the loaves of a group! It works just as well as my own smaller oven, though takes a bit longer to heat up, as you would expect. Isn’t she a beaut?

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Breadtopia February 15, 2012 at 10:06 pm

It is very beautiful indeed. I’d love to know more about how it’s built. Is it your own design?

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Kristin Ferguson February 19, 2012 at 11:40 am

No, it isn’t entirely my own design, it is based on the instructions in “Build Your Own Earth Oven” by Kiko Denzer. I highly recommend this little book, available on Amazon. It gives detailed instructions for how to build the hearth, dome, insulation and heat sink. I think I posted the link to my album below somewhere, but here it is again: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1705811643512.2088731.1184650787&l=e413a19cc2&type=1
If you go through the pictures you can see how it’s built. It was more fun than I can tell you! And it bakes great pizzas and breads.

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Breadtopia February 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I have the book and have participated in a few Kiko oven buildings. I’ve just never personally seen one as finely build as yours. What is the material of your exterior finish?

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Kristin Ferguson February 21, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Well, the oven in my back yard is a brick base and a plastered dome. The one in the community garden (the blue dome) is a cinderblock base and a plastered dome. The plaster on the dome in both cases was Quikwall Surface Bonding Cement with added acrylic fortifier (there’s a picture of this product info at the end of my album.) We added color to the dome in the community garden. There’s a series of photos of the building of the community oven on the Los Angeles Bread Bakers Web page, if you are interested in seeing the process. My oven is small, and I didn’t lay a foundation–my husband helped level the ground and laid down nine 16″ square stepping stones, which served as the slab on which I built the oven.

The Kiko Denzer book is great for getting the hearth, sub-hearth, dome and insulation right, but I couldn’t find info on how to build an attractive base for the oven in his book, so I winged it. I had never laid a brick before in my life, so it was way out of my comfort zone, but it turned out to be relatively easy.

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kgmom February 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

I usually use steam when baking my white sourdough rolls. Should I be using steam to bake this bread? I’m baking on a stone, without a cover. Thanks for any help!

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Breadtopia February 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Sure, use steam. A covered baker traps the steam from the baking dough. Using steam will work as well.

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Simon February 6, 2012 at 2:35 am

Hi,

Everything has been fine except for the final stage before baking.. I wait the approx 5 hours, the bread has risen, but it seem to lose all it air when I move it to the oven. I try and ‘flip’ it from the proving basin (I don’t have a basket as recommended) as gentle as I can, yet each time it sinks, and is a very low loaf. Any advice on what to do here? The flavour is great, don’t get me wrong, just want it to have a bit of height.

thanks

Simon.

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Breadtopia February 6, 2012 at 6:39 am

Hi Simon,

If I’m reading this right, you’re letting your dough proof for 5 hours on the second rise? That’s about 3 1/2 hours too long. It’s way over proofing and will definitely do what you’re experiencing. Almost all the yeast is depleted by the time your dough is going in the oven.

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Simon February 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Thanks, will cut back on the proofing time, but it does say on day 3 of the instructions to let it sit on the counter for 5 hrs… Which is what I have been doing. Will cut back on this. I am in Australia in Queensland and this time of the year it is Hot and humid.

Will cut back on the proofing on day 3 and see what I get.

Thanks again for a great site.

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Breadtopia February 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm

To Simon: My apologies. I wasn’t even looking at the recipe when I replied to your question. The dough may take up to 5 hours for that final rise when it’s just come out of the fridge and the room temp is 69F (20C). But if it’s warm and humid, the time can be cut back significantly. I’m guessing 2-3 hours may be sufficient.

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kgmom February 14, 2012 at 11:29 am

Hmmm, both the recipe and video indicate a final rise of about 5 hrs. “ferment (let sit out on counter) 5 hours at 69F.” Is this incorrect?

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Breadtopia February 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm

It’s 5 hours from when the dough is taken out of the fridge. It’s a large loaf and 69F is pretty cool so it takes a long time to come to room temp. If it’s very warm and humid as was the case with Simon above, you’ll have to cut back quite a bit.

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Laura January 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Hey! Thanks for all the great info. I have a starter that is a week old. I have made 3 loaves now and they are all very sour tasting. My culture is made from whole kernel hard wheat that I have personally milled and water. It’s very active, bubbly and doubling. I have not refrigerated it as of yet. It’s also very dense, which I suspect if from the whole wheat. But, what about the strong sour taste? Is there a way to cut this down? My bread recipes have only stater, water, flour and salt. Thanks!

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william January 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Can this recipe be adopted for a 2 lb bread machine?

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Corinna January 2, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I have missed German bread for the last 30 + years since I emigrated from there. Now I found this site and am in 7th heaven! First try at the sourdough starter and also the Whole Grain Sourdough leave me hopeful I will only get better! Thank you Eric for all the information on your site and the wonderful videos. I am far less intimidated by bread baking now. Here is a picture of my “first”. This was actually baked uncovered on a pizza stone @ 450F for 45 minutes.
Cheers!

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Breadtopia January 3, 2012 at 6:46 am

Beautiful bread. Nice going!

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Eliasbeth December 23, 2011 at 7:48 am

The starter for this took 5 days and then took off in a big way. The bread tastes divine – very complex flavour – and is really digestible. I use local, organic, flours from the nearby mill and will definitely incude this bread in my repertoire.

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Jim M November 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

Made this in anticipation of turkey sandwiches. Looks awesome, smells incredible! Now I have to wait …. Thanks for the formula.

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Maria from Pennsylvania November 15, 2011 at 9:56 am

Anyone has made this bread with fresh mill flour? Please let me know what grains and how it turned out. I am not having luck making bread with fresh milled flour and it is getting very frustrating. I have done the basic NK and was heavy as a brick so maybe you can not use NK with fresh grains? I love it when I make it with store bought flour.

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Breadtopia November 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Hi Maria,

Which part of the recipe are you using the fresh milled flour for? Fresh milled flour is whole grain flour, and if you’re substituting the white flour portion of the recipe with whole grain then the bread is going to be quite dense every time.

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Maria November 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I was hoping there was some type of grain that I could substitute for the white flour. I have used hard white spring wheat instead of the bread flour and it came up too dense.
I’ve had luck using 100% fresh milled grains with this recipe (see bellow) from the Bread Beckers web site. It is wonderful for sandwich bread and it is very soft and cake like but I come from Spain and I am used to bread with more consistency like the ones you make.
Do you happen to know what the least amount of white flour needed is to get a good loaf of bread using sourdough starter? I am willing to use some but my goal is to use the least possible.
Thanks

Bread
1-1/2 cups hot water
1 cup cold milk
(The resulting temperature will be lukewarm so as not to kill the yeast)
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
3 eggs
4-1/2 tsp. instant yeast
6 to 7 1/4 cups freshly milled flour
1 Tbs. salt

Combine water, milk, oil, honey and eggs in the bowl of the Electrolux Assistent. Add yeast and about 5 cups of the flour. Mix on medium speed until well blended. Add the salt. Continue to mix adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time. Bring the Assistent’s arm into the center and out a few times between each addition of four. When the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl enough flour has been added. Lock the roller about 1/2″ from the side of the bowl (or more if you double or triple the recipe). Turn the speed to high and allow to knead 8-10 minutes, or until the dough, forms a smooth ball . Let rise until double.
After rising, form into loaves.
Place in greased loaf pan. Let rise until at least double in size. Bake loaves at 350o for 25-30 minutes. Recipe makes 3 medium size loaves or about 30 dinner rolls.

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Steve December 11, 2011 at 10:17 am

I exclusively use fresh milled flour for all my recipes including this one and my bread comes out a little denser it still very good. I make sure to use about 2 Tbs of gluten and 2 Tbs dough enhancer just I for good measure. Since I prefer a more sour loaf, I also let the dough sit longer in the fridge (as much as 24 hrs longer). To compensate for the 100% fresh ground whole grain I usually let it rise longer and in a bit warmer spot than on the counter (oven w/ the light on).

I have also experimented turning this bread into a rye bread by substituting the spelt and 1/2 the wheat flour with rye. You can use less rye if you like a lighter bread. I also add about 3 Tbs caraway seed. It’s a very forgiving base recipe!

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Marius November 14, 2011 at 10:09 am

Hi,

As I dont own a clay baker I was wondering if I can bake this free form on a pizza stone? Do I need to modify the temp that I bake it as this calls for 500F?

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Breadtopia November 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Sure you can bake it on a stone, Marius. You might want to lower the temp to 450. Not sure it matters, but the crust might tend to get overdone when uncovered.

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Anna November 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Hello,
Help! When I take the bread from the refrigerator at step#3 for Wholegrain Sourdough, it is hard as a rock, not fluffy and soft like yours. When I leave it out to rise it rises nice but I don’t know whether to punch it down and let it rise again?
Thanks,
Anna

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Margaret Bloxham November 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Hi Anna, first thing is to make sure your starter is ‘strong enough’ to start making bread. So if your starter doubles in size after a few hours of being fed, then it should be ok. This is what I do, I mix the dough in a bowl, hand knead it in the bowl, grease with oil (the bowl & dough) and leave in the bowl in the kitchen (not in the fridge) overnight with a wet teatowel over it. In the morning it has risen to the teatowel, I knead it again for a minute or two, divide it up, shape and put it in my cake tins. I put it in the oven with a metallic bowl/dish at the bottom filled with boiling water, the hot water gives off warmth and moisture which rises the dough beautifully and is ready to be baked by lunchtime. Take out the bowl and throw in about 3 ice cubes on the bottom of the oven, the ice will melt and give off moisture which will help the dough rise further while cooking.

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gretchen November 8, 2011 at 10:29 am

can’t wait to try this! two questions: do you recommend whole-grain spelt or white spelt for this? and if i don’t have a baking basket, can i just put the dough on a sil pat on a cookie sheet?

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Doug B October 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Hello

I own a pretty big chiminea. I understand the were/are used in Mexico as bread ovens. I’m anxious to make your Sourdough whole grain. Would you expect my chiminea to work?

Thanks,

Doug

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Rachel October 2, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I’ve made this recipe twice now and it’s delicious! I love the flavor from the grains, it is divine. I tried 3 times to make starter and finally was successful with your pineapple juice method. Thank you so much for such great recipes and easy to follow videos.
I had mentioned that I was learning to bake with sourdough starter to my husbands grandfather. He said when he was a boy in the Italian community of Mt Shasta (e 30s) they would bake bread once a month in their brick ovens they had built outside. The family and neighbors would sing songs and visit while their bread baked. They would then store it in their cellars and the bread would keep until they baked next. He said the loaves were crusty on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. Just some interesting bread lore I thought I’d share. What a great idea community brick ovens!

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Breadtopia October 3, 2011 at 8:56 pm

That’s a great story, Rachel, thanks for sharing it. Makes me nostalgic for something I can only imagine. I’ve read some references lately to community ovens being built in a few places in the U.S. I hope it’s a trend we’ll see a lot more of. Seems like the perfect antidote to our mostly hectic (and not so communal) lifestyles.

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Lynda September 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm

What can I substitute for the spelt flour in the Whole grain Sourdough No-knead bread recipe? Will bread flour or regular flour work as well? Thanks!

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Breadtopia September 29, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Sure, you can do that Lynda. Should work just fine.

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Lale September 22, 2011 at 1:36 am

Hi, so funny reading these 3 and 4 a.m postings. Are we obsessed, or what? I love these videos, though. Thanks for your calm, sane, not too picky approach.
I had the same problem Margaret Bloxham had. I’m new to sourdough making. I followed the recipe and mine didn’t rise much in ‘fridge. So I put in in my oven with the light on for another night (it reaches 80 degrees). It rose some, but it didn’t double…the cold dough kept the oven temp at 75 degrees. And the dough was still a bit cool after a night and rose some, but didn’t double. So I kneaded it again and let it rise again for a few hours at about 85 degrees. I followed directions for the last stage and baked it in my Romertopf, which I think is too big. The bread had a good sour taste, but was denser than I would have wished, and the crust on the bottom was too hard to eat. But we ate the whole loaf and now I’m trying again.
I think my starter was anemic — so I’m giving it two days out of the ‘fridge and feeding it every 12 hours. I also wondered if it had trouble rising because the bowl it was in and the Romertoph (113) was too big. Or — is it possible that the rising problem has to do with lack of yeast spores in the homes of us newbies. Or is it weather related? I live in the northeast (or it’s the moon, or a certain slant of light, the tilt of the earth, or global climate change, or the apocalypse, or, or, or…). But seriously, is my ‘fridge too cold? It was about 38 degrees and I turned it up to 40. Also, clay baker instructions say soak the bottom of the pot and put it in a cold oven, but your recipe doesn’t mention the soaking and says preheat the pot. Can you explain? Sorry for the long message.

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Margaret Bloxham September 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Hi Lale, Its good to hear others have the same experience as I did! Sometimes you can feel like everyone in the world can make sourdough bread/starter and only YOU can’t!

My 3 and 4am postings are actually about 10pm New Zealand time. I’m on the other side of the world!

I’m having a small Sourdough break now that I think I have a healthy starter and will have another go at baking another one in a few days time. Because my dough didn’t rise much I thought the same thing that my dough would be WAY too small for those bread baking ceramic bowl with lid. I actually divided mine up into two and rose & baked them in my normal round cake tins – seemed to work ok.

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Lale September 27, 2011 at 2:52 am

Hi Margaret,
Beautiful New Zealand.
I threw out my old starter, because even though it was alive, it just never rose the right amount. I’m on day 3 of the pineapple starter recipe from this site. It seems to be going along nicely.
Lale

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Kristin Ferguson September 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Hi, Breadtopia Guy,
I’m a pastry chef and bread baker in Los Angeles, and I am about to try this recipe. I have a fabulous twelve-year-old starter that has never failed me; I use it all the time, and put at least a little of it in all my breads, even croissants! I wanted to share with you my own recent experience making my own bread and pizza oven in my backyard. I’m a not-very-big woman, and I have NO masonry experience, so the brick oven from The Bread Builders was too ambitious for me to attempt. I instead used Kiko Denzer’s wonderful book, Build Your Own Earth Oven, and it came out great! I regularly use it to make pizzas, then scrape out the fire and bake sourdough loaves. I documented the process on my Facebook profile. I made the album public and you can link to it here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1705811643512.2088731.1184650787&l=e413a19cc2&type=1

Someone as dedicated as you are should have his own bread oven! My darling oven gets to temperatures well in excess of 1000 degrees (I have an infra red thermometer that only goes up to 1020, so I’m not sure how hot it really gets, but well above that.) And, it didn’t cost much to make! I’m currently helping a group of bread bakers to build a similar oven in a community garden in Los Angeles.

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Breadtopia September 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Beautiful job on your oven, Kristin.

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Margaret Bloxham September 30, 2011 at 1:30 am

Hi Kristin,

Can you share a recipe that uses the Sourdough starter that produces a nice (not sour) taste! The reason I ask is that I have 3 young kids (7 & 5 yr old boys and 1 yr girl) and the older boys are familiar with my very tasty wholegrain whitish bread which is made with active dried yeast. They can taste the sour dough and are not that happy with it. I was hoping to make all my bread with the sourdough starter rather than buying the dried yeast.

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mancina@earthlink.net October 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Hi, Margaret,
I would use Nancy Silverton’s recipe for Country White boule. Her sourdough starter is never refrigerated, but fed two or three times a day. This makes it very active, but not too sour. At least, that is what I have experienced using her method. The starter is very liquid, like pancake batter, and approximately six or eight hours after feeding it is ridiculously bubbly and active, strong enough to lift your dough to double its size in just a few hours. You don’t need to make a new starter, just experiment with some of your own by feeding it often and keeping it pretty wet–I feed mine about equal volumes (not weights) of white bread flour and water. Using this very active starter, your recipe will be:

14 oz starter–very active and bubbly
2 1/4 c water
less than 2 lbs white bread flour–keep the dough quite soft and wet
1 oz salt

I usually autolyse after mixing, AND I like to do a series of “turns” during the first fermentation; I actually ferment the dough on a lightly oiled sheet pan covered with plastic, and I fold the dough like a letter and then across two or three times separated by an hour or so, spraying with water if the dough seems stiff or dry. Then I cut the dough in two, form boules, proof in bread baskets for an hour at room temp, then into the fridge overnight. If you want even less sour flavor, you could proof just a few hours at room temp instead. Bake on pizza stone or in Dutch oven or whatever you use.

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Margaret Bloxham September 20, 2011 at 3:43 am

how do you know whether your starter is ‘strong enough’ to make bread? I am on starter attempt no. 3 (I think). Its got to be around 3 weeks old by now. It doubled in size a few hours after feeding it yesterday so I decided to try to make this whole wheat sourdough recipe. It is currently sitting in my fridge. I marked the side of the bowl to see if any rise is happening but its been almost 10 hrs now and it doesn’t seem to have risen at all. Is this normal or is there something really wrong with my starter?

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Breadtopia September 20, 2011 at 4:08 am

Hi Margaret,

The best way to know is the doubling a few hours after feeding. There’s nothing wrong with your starter. It’s a combination of being in the fridge, which slows things down a lot, and that it’s a whole wheat recipe. The sharp edges of the bran in whole wheat act like tiny blades which cut the gluten strands and adversely effect rising. This is why whole grain breads are typically denser than their white flour counterparts.

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Margaret Bloxham September 20, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Hi, thanks for your quick reply. I notice your dough when it came out of your fridge it had risen quite a bit, my dough has not risen at all, its been 21 hrs since I put it in. ?? what do I do with it if it hasn’t risen?

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Breadtopia September 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Sometimes it can even take longer than that to “pop”. But if you don’t see obvious signs of rising in your fridge by the start of day 3, I’d take it out and hope it starts to rise within a few hours at room temp. If it does, then be ready to bake it. If not, I’m not sure what the problem is since your starter does seem to be fine after all.

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Margaret Bloxham September 21, 2011 at 4:33 am

Hi there, well I have some good news!!! I can’t believe it but I have successfully made my first sourdough bread!!! Its been about 3 months in the making!! I took it out of the fridge, no rise at all in the fridge, I put it in my conservatory with a damp towel over it so it wouldn’t dry out, no discernable rise at all, then the sun went down so I put it in my kitchen and I thought maybe the texture had changed a little after a few hours and it seemed to be a bit softer to the touch. It started rising VERY SLOWLY in the last few hours. I didn’t want to leave it overnight as I wasn’t sure if it would deflate by the morning so I left it as late as I could and baked it in two small round cake tins (I divided the batch up into two). I’ve ended up with not very high but definitely risen two round loaves, fairly dense (both seem very heavy for their size), very tangy with a little bit of a bite to the taste but very edible bread. I just can’t believe it! I followed your instructions but my bread seemed to take double the amount of time (10hrs) to rise. I feel as though I’ve achieved something finally! Thanks for your advice and I hope to get stuck into more of your recipes here. Regards, Margaret.

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Todd July 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Thank you so much for this outstanding recipe! I have made many breads, but this one is far better than any others I have tried; the bread is on par, if not better, than my local bakery’s.

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Ty July 28, 2011 at 10:49 am

As soon as my starter is ready, I’m going to make this into a sandwich loaf, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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Yelken January 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm

@Alice. Zeker. Die zet je dan ook in een koude oven. Want daar is die 1 1/4 uur op gesabeerd.

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Breadtopia July 7, 2011 at 8:03 am

Hi Inge,

Boy, I’ll say it turned out nice. Beautiful!! Great photo too.

And thanks for the nice feedback, Will!

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Will Foster July 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Eric,

I am writing to let you know that your video/recipe for the whole grain sourdough bread has literally transformed the baking side of my life. After buying practically every book available on baking bread, all of the recommended equipment and following the guidelines to a tee for the better part of a year, the net result was hardly more than a noticeable twitch in the vicinity of my left eye. Nothing really worked.

Your approach to baking this bread has produced, not only a great looking boule, but delicious and predictable. Let me repeat, PREDICTABLE! It turns out great every time and I look forward to baking each week.

Your starter is a marvel also – doesn’t just sit there with a deadpan look on its face and require around-the-clock pampering. This starter is alive and kicking. Thank you, Eric – thank you, thank you!

Will Foster

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Inge Rush July 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Made this sourdough this weekend. Turned out pretty nice I think …

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anna June 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm

do you think this amount of dough would fit in my romertopf? I bake the 100% spelt loaf just fine in it, but I see this looks like it may make more dough. I don’t own any other clay baker at the present time, so if the romertopf won’t fit it, how would you suggest improvising? My dough is on ‘Day 1′ as I type this. =)

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Breadtopia June 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Hi Anna,

It is more dough but will fit the Romertopf 111 size baker just fine.

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Lukasz May 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm

This is my third bread from this recipe, and it works perfect each time. Thanks for very good and easy guidelines. Everything sound simple on this website, and it actually is. I’ve also tried Sourdough Rye Bread – very good !!

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Joe Doniach April 26, 2011 at 11:26 am

For the sourdough starter, see the recipe at http://www.breadtopia.com/make-your-own-sourdough-starter/. I made it once and have been using this starter ever since.

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Will Foster April 25, 2011 at 11:37 am

Wonder interpretive demonstration – well done! I don’t suppose you would want to share your recipe for the sourdough starter. Thanks.
Will

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Joe Doniach April 9, 2011 at 5:19 pm

This bread is really my favorite at the moment. Here’s a photo of yesterday’s loaf.

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Irina March 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Hi,
I only baked a commercial yeast bread and now want to try my hand at sourdough. I like the recipe and want to try it. I live in Florida and there’s no way to get 69 degrees in the house except maybe waiting for next winter. Can the last rise be done at 74 or higher?

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Sara September 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Hi! I’m an amateur baker, BUT this is my opinion.
Heat affects speed of reproduction and which species are reproducing. The higher the temp (to a certain point obviously), the faster the little organisms will reproduce, meaning, a faster rise. You might also get a sightly different flavor since certain organisms will be growing more rapidly than others just due to their preferred breeding temp. Finally, if you really want to have 69 degrees, you could put the container in a container filled with water and add ice cubes till you achieve the desired temp. From one Floridian to another, good luck!

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Joe Doniach March 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Here’s my version:

Ingredients:
175 grams whole wheat flour
175 grams bread flour
100 grams spelt flour
50 grams rye flour
12 grams salt
50 grams sourdough starter made from 50% whole wheat flour, 50% water
335 grams water

Evening of Day One:
Mix dry ingredients thoroughly in mixing bowl.
Mix sourdough starter in water, add to dry ingredients.
Using dough whisk, knead till consistency is even, about 10 minutes.
Cover and place in fridge for 12-15 hours to allow ingredients to autolyse. This step makes the bread taste more sour.

Day Two:
Remove dough from fridge and allow to rise, covered, at room temperature for 18-20 hours

Day Three:
In the morning, place dough on floured surface and spread out till about the size of a sheet of paper, about one inch thick. Then fold in thirds twice to form a boule. Work the dough into a nice round boule shape, and let rest, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
Spread the dough out again and form another boule or batard and place in proofing basket for 1:45 – 2:00 hours.
Preheat clay baker in oven at 475 F for 30-45 minutes will dough is rising in proofing basket.
Carefully drop dough into heated clay baker and slash the top with a serrated knife.
Bake covered for 30 minutes at 475 F
Remove top of clay baker and bake uncovered at 450 F for 10 – 15 minutes till internal temperature is 205 – 210 F.
Let cool on rack for 30 minutes, then eat!

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Saralin March 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm

To LorriU, who asked about gluten-free sourdough bread:

I’ve heard that the “sour” is actually the by-product of the microbes eating / fermenting the gluten, aka wheat protein. So, I am sensitive to gluten, and I eat only very sour sourdough made with spelt flour, and it works for me!

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