Success! I’ve been enjoying my forays into sourdough bread making and was looking for a good, whole wheat, soft, sandwich style bread recipe. Last weekend when we were at the store we forgot to pick up a loaf of bread for the week, so I decided that was a sign for me to try to make it instead . . . . and boy am I glad I did!
I delved into one of my favorite baking cookbooks and found a great honey whole wheat bread recipe that looked like it was just what we were looking for. With a cross reference to their sourdough section, I adapted it to use sourdough starter and began a sponge the night before to get it going. And it worked great! The crumb is soft, it has a sweetness to it from the honey that is offset by the sourness from the starter, and we’ve enjoyed it plain with butter and honey, grilled up as a salmon melt and simply served (to my little guy) with some melted cheese on top. We will be making this one regularly!
adapted from Essentials of Baking
makes 2 loaves
1 cup whole wheat sourdough starter (don’t worry if you only have white starter, it’ll work as well!)
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup mild honey
2 large eggs
6 cups (divided) whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons sea salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
The Night before you are going to bake bread, using a large bowl make a sponge by mixing the starter with the milk and 2 cups of flour. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight.
The next morning, stir the sponge before beginning. Then, add in the honey and eggs, stirring until incorporated. Add the flour, salt and butter and stir with your hand or a wooden spoon until a rough mass forms. Using a pastry scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, dusting the work surface with only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, 5-7 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and transfer into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk. Sourdough generally takes longer to rise than commercial yeast, so expect anywhere from two to four hours, depending on the strength of the starter and the heat in your kitchen. Mine took about two and a half hours.
Butter two 9×5-inch loaf pans.
Once the dough has doubled in bulk, punch down the dough and using the pastry scraper, scrape out onto a clean work surface. Cut dough in half with a sharp knife or bench scraper. For each half, evenly flatten the dough with the heel of of your hand. Roll the bottom third up onto itself and seal it by pushing it gently with the heel of your hand. Continue rolling and sealing the dough until you have an oval log. Place the log, seam side down, in the prepared loaf pans. Press on them lightly to flatten them evenly into the pans.
Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let the loaves rise in a warm, draft-free spot until the double in size, up to two hours.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Slash loaves, then immediately bake loaves until they are honey brown and sound hollow when tapped on the top, 35-40 minutes, turning the loaves once for even browning. Be careful not to overbake this bread or it will be dry. Carefully remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks before slicing.
If you’d like a more “sourdough” style crust on top, when preheating the oven, place a cast iron skillet on a rack below your baking rack and put a kettle of water on to boil. Right before your put your loaves in the oven, slash the tops and then brush with ice water. Put loaves in oven and then immediately pour boiling water in the cast iron skillet below them before quickly shutting the door. Do not open the door until about 25 minutes in, at which time remove the skillet (so the bottom gets browned evenly) and turn the loaves. Allow to bake an additional ten to fifteen minutes until done.
You could also dust the tops of the loaves with a little bit of whole-wheat flour (as the original recipe indicates) or with a grain, like oatmeal, or seed, like sesame, of your choice.
When baking, I made one loaf and then rolled the remainder of the dough (prior to the second rise) into small golf-ball sized balls and froze them for future baking. The day I was going to make my rolls, I simply took the dough out in the morning allowing them to defrost slowly on my counter, then placed them on a greased baking sheet and allowed them to rise before baking. Baking took about twenty minutes at a preheated 375 degree oven.
This bread recipe makes a soft, sandwich-style loaf and is great for toasting. The sourdough tang nicely offsets the sweetness of the honey and has already become a favorite in our home! Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and/or in a ziploc bag and store in the fridge – will last about one week.