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Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread (Desem)

July 12, 2009

Fresh From the Oven

This is a very easy bread to make.  Since no commercial yeast is used, preparation and baking take place over a two-day period, and additions of flour and water are referred to as “builds.” 



Step 1:  Morning of the first day…..First Build ->  Break up whole wheat sourdough starter into a few pieces in a small bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons water and 1/3 cup of flour.  Mix until thoroughly blended.  It is not necessary to knead the first build because this is a fermentation step, not a rising or gluten-building step.  You can knead it if you want, but it isn’t necessary.  Just make sure the flour and water are thoroughly blended.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set it aside till evening.  Do not leave it on a very warm or very cold surface.  Let it ferment 8-12 hours.

Step 2:  Evening of the first day…..Second Build->  Break up the starter into a few pieces.  Add 6 tablespoons of water and one cup of whole wheat flour.  Mix as in Step 1.  When done mixing, pull off a piece of starter about the size of a golf ball.  Place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  This will be your starter for your next loaf.  Leave the larger portion of starter in the bowl, covered with a damp towel until the morning of the second day.

Step 3:  Morning of the second day…..Mixing the bread dough->  You can mix the dough by hand, in a stand mixer with a dough hook, or in a bread machine.  If using a bread machine, use it for kneading only.  The bread will fail if you use the bread machine for proofing, rising, or baking.

     Ingredients list:  The starter you left overnight; 3/4 to 1 cup water, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/4-1/2 cup flax seeds, whole or ground (optional), 1 tablespoon gluten powder (optional), approximately 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 half tablespoon kosher salt

     Equipment list:  Mixing device, medium and large mixing bowls, rubber spatula, measuring cups and spoons, 13″ x 9″ baking pan, cookie sheet, parchment paper, roasting rack (flat, perforated type – this is optional), heating pad

     Place starter, 3/4 cup water, flax seeds, flour, gluten powder, salt and honey in mixing device.  Combine thoroughly and knead 5-8 minutes.  If the dough is too dry, add a little more water from the remaining 1/4 cup till you have a firm, somewhat sticky dough.  Kneading is essential at this step, but it isn’t necessary to knead for a long time.  Scrape the dough into the large mixing bowl and cover with a damp towel.  Leave the dough to rise for about 4 hours.  A little more or less than 4 hours is fine – whatever works into your schedule.

Afternoon of the Second Day…..Proofing and Baking ->  Just before the rising time is up, place the heating pad on a flat, level surface such as a bed or sofa, where it won’t be disturbed.  Set the heating pad to medium.  If it has an automatic shutoff, change the time to at least 2 hours.

     Either place the roasting rack inside the baking pan, or invert the baking pan on the counter.  Cover with parchment paper.  You will not be using any oil.  The parchment paper keeps the dough from sticking to the pan.

     Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it gently until you form a smooth, firm ball with absolutely no cracks or seams.  Take as little or as much time as the dough wants.  If you have a crack or seam that simply won’t close, dab a bit of water on it and pinch and pat it till the surface is perfect.  The reason you want the outside of the dough perfectly smooth is the loaf will expand while rising and you don’t want it breaking open.  If it does, you can’t fix it, although you can bake it anyway – I have.

     Place the dough on the parchment paper on the pan, and invert a medium size mixing bowl over the dough to protect it from drafts.  Place the pan on the heating pad for 1 1/2 hours to proof.

     One hour after proofing has started, half fill the baking pan with water and place it in the lower rack of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F for 30 minutes.  The water will boil during the preheat.  This creates a mock steam oven for the bread.   Make sure you don’t plan to use the baking pan for other purposes, because it is going to rust.  The baking pan of water will be left in the oven throughout the baking process.

     After the oven has preheated 30 minutes, and the bread has proofed for a total of 1 and 1/2 hours, it’s time to bake.  Turn off the heating pad, bring the bread and pan to the counter and slash the loaf with a sharp knife once or twice.  Place the dough in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes.

     After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.  Continue baking (don’t look, you’ll lose your steam) for another 40-50 minutes.  Usually 45 minutes is good.  Check the bread for doneness by removing it from the oven, picking it up with an oven glove or potholder, and rapping it with your knuckles.  You should hear a hollow sound, sort of like a knock on a door.

     Cool finished loaf on a cake rack.



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