Sourdough Wheat Bread

This is a recipe I adapted from the "Seriously Wheaty Sandwich Bread" in Cooks' Illustrated a few months back. My favorite part of the recipe was where the author referred to most home made wheat loaves as "white bread in drag." It's TOTALLY TRUE! In my college days of bread experimentation, it was hard for me to make a loaf that was more than 50% whole wheat flour. However, this recipe works! I couldn't get my dough to rise appropriately in a loaf pan, so I stuck with free form loaves. Maybe some day I'll figure out sourdough and loaf pans, but that day has not yet arrived. I never measure salt, but I believe the original recipe calls for something like 1/4 teaspoon. While this version has steps, I've also dumped everything together, kneaded it into a dough, shaped my loaves, and allowed those to rise for several hours before baking. Sourdough is very forgiving in terms of only doing one rise. Another nice thing about sourdough is that the bread keeps longer. I usually keep my loaves uncovered in the oven for several days. The oven protects it from buggies and doggies.

Sourdough Wheat Bread

2 cups milk
3 cups whole wheat flour
~1 cup sourdough starter, fed at a ratio of 1 cup flour to 1 cup water (this is about half of my starter)
1 cup white flour
6 Tbs butter, melted
2 Tbs olive oil
milk and sugar for glaze

1. Knead wheat flour and milk together to form a dough ball. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Knead the white flour into the sourdough starter to create a yeasty dough ball. Cover and allow the yeast to be fruitful and multiply, also overnight.

3. Mix the two dough balls together. Add butter, olive oil, and salt. Knead to your heart's content. Shape into loaves. Once mixed, this is a very loose dough and can be a little tough to shape until you get used to it. I pat the dough into a large rectangle, and roll the edge nearest me towards the opposite edge. While rolling, I try to pull the dough back a little bit to stretch and tighten it. I then pinch the seams together, pinch each end, and roll the ends over the lengthwise seam. Place the loaves on the baking sheet seam side down. Allow to rise for several hours.

4. Place a baking tin full of water in the bottom of the oven, and preheat to 400 F. I tried pouring boiling water into my pyrex baking dish once the oven was preheated, and my pyrex shattered like a movie prop. While 212 F and 400 F both feel hot to me, it IS a substantial temperature difference for pyrex. It was quite entertaining, but not something I would like to repeat. I feel safest placing a tin of water in the oven while the oven is still cool.

5. While the oven is preheating, slash the loaves, and then glaze them with the mixture of sugar and honey. I use a pastry brush, but in my college days, I would sprinkle some on the loaves and rub it all over with my hands. Once the oven has reached 400 F, pop in the loaves, sprinkle some water in the bottom of the oven to create more steam, and shut the door. Immediately lower the temperature to 350 F.

6. Bake for about 50 minutes. The loaves are done when they make a hollow sound when tapped. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool down.

When I'm not being lazy and take the full time to make this bread, I make the dough balls in the evening, shape the loaves the next morning, and bake after I come home from school. This sequence works pretty well, and only requires minimal planning. Then I get freshly baked bread with my dinner, and on a school night no less.


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