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Making sourdough bread at home

Whole wheat and white spelt master loaf, scored with a single arc off center before being baked. (Photo by Amy Phelps)

When everyone was in lockdown, breadmaking became a thing again. And Elaine Boddy, founder of the blog foodbod Sourdough, is ready to give homebakers a master class on all things whole grain in her new book, “Whole Grain Sourdough at Home.”

But in a world where many see carbs as the enemy, why bread?

“For me personally, I don’t see carbs as ‘bad’,” said Boddy. “I think it all depends on the choice of carbs that you consume, and for myself, I always choose the best possible versions of carbohydrates that I can and therefore sourdough fits perfectly into that.

“Sourdough bread is the healthiest form of bread that you can eat so if you are choosing to limit your intake of carbs, sourdough is your best choice. It is the most digestible form of bread due to the long proofing time, it’s also the most satiating bread you can eat and therefore, in theory, you shouldn’t need to eat as much as you would other forms of bread, or shop bought bread, to feel full. Plus, by making your own sourdough, you know exactly what’s gone into your bread, and by making whole grain sourdough, you get even more goodness from every slice.”

Food blogging proved to be a gateway to the world of breadmaking for Boddy.

“I’ve had a food blog for many years and I started it when I started teaching myself to cook and bake, and therefore shared my experiences online,” she said. “As part of that, I had tried making various flatbreads and loaves using commercial dried yeast, then someone within our blog community started making sourdough and inspired us all to have a go.

“The rest is history really! I tried various processes and recipes and learned the whys and wherefores of sourdough along the way until I fell into my own way of doing things. I needed to be able to make consistent loaves for my family and that’s how my master recipe process was developed.”

Boddy is here to make the art of breadmaking less scary to home bakers.

“I think the first hurdle to get over is the idea that it’s complicated or some form of voodoo,” she said. “It’s very easy to overthink sourdough. After that, read everything through and just follow the steps.

“One of the keys to successful sourdough is to appreciate the impact that room temperature can have on your dough; your starter and dough are living things and respond to heat and cold just like we do, which is why I cover this so much in my book and make it as clear and straightforward as possible.”

There is one important message Boddy wants to get through to her readers.

“That is it truly simpler than people think! It can easily fit in with life, the dough does not need to dictate to you, you can dictate it. And it’s so worth it.”

Boddy doesn’t want readers to get hung up on perfection. “In the world of sourdough, people can very easily get hung up on thinking they need to produce a ‘perfect’ loaf that looks a certain way, and I think that’s the biggest mistake people make. Every baked creation is magic, it’s healthy homemade bread and if it tastes good, it IS good! That’s the biggest lesson I try to teach is that every homemade creation is a lesson, and is something to celebrate.”

Readers can try out Boddy’s recipe for 50 Percent Whole Wheat Master, which follows below.

“Whole Grain Sourdough at Home” is published by Page Street Publishing. It is $21.99.

Contact Amy Phelps at aphelps@newsandsentinel.com.

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Reprinted with permission from Whole Grain Sourdough at Home by Elaine Boddy, Page Street Publishing Co. 2020. Photo credit: James Kennedy

The 50% Whole Wheat Master

Making sourdough with whole wheat flour not only brings the goodness from the whole grain, but also enhances the flavor of the loaf.

You may even notice that the sour flavor is increased. And when you mix whole wheat flour with white bread flour, it produces a wonderfully strong dough and a lovely tasty loaf. The dough will be satisfyingly firm to work with, and to score when the time comes.

For a variation on this recipe, try using white spelt flour (see Notes). White spelt flour is milled spelt with the bran and wheat germ sifted out; it is soft and fine and a perfect partner for heavier flours, such as whole wheat, to lift and lighten the loaf. The depth of flavor this dough produces in the baked loaf is almost indescribable, it is so good.

Prep: Feed all of your starter with 50 grams (1/2 cup) of flour and 50 grams (1/4 cup) of water. Once it is active and bubbly and ready to use, begin your dough. Prep a round banneton or bowl with rice flour (see page 14) and set aside a large baking pan with a lid, plus parchment paper.

Makes 1 standard loaf

75 g (3/8 cup) active starter

350 g (scant 11/2 cups) water

250 g (2 cups) strong white bread flour

250 g (2 cups) whole wheat flour

7 g (1 tsp) salt, or to taste

Step 1: In the early evening, in a large mixing bowl, roughly mix together all the ingredients, leaving the dough shaggy, and cover the bowl with a clean shower cap or your choice of cover. Let the dough sit on the counter for 2 hours.

Step 2: After the 2 hours, perform the first set of pulls and folds on the dough.

It may start off being quite sticky, but it will become less so the more you work with it, and it will eventually come together into a ball, which is the perfect time to stop. Cover the bowl again and leave it on the counter.

Step 3: Over the next few hours, perform 3 more sets of pulls and folds on the dough, covering the bowl of dough after each set, doing the final set before going to bed. The dough will become beautifully stretchy as you work with it and will come together into a soft ball each time.

Step 4: Leave the covered bowl on the counter overnight, typically 8 to 10 hours, at 64 to 68∂F (18 to 20∂C).

Step 5: In the morning, the dough should have doubled, possibly even slightly more than doubled, with a smooth slightly bubbly surface.

Have your prepared banneton ready and more rice flour at hand. Gently perform a final set of pulls and folds to pull the dough into a ball, then carefully place the dough smooth side down in the banneton.

Sprinkle extra rice flour across the top of the dough and down the sides to ensure it is not sticking. Cover the bowl with the same shower cap and place it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Step 6: After 3 to 10 hours in the fridge, when you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425∂F (220∂C) convection or 450∂F (230∂C) conventional. For how to bake from a cold start, see page 30.

Remove the cover from the banneton, then place the parchment paper over the top of the banneton and the pan upside down over the top of them both. With one hand under the banneton and one on the pan, turn it all over together to turn the dough out of the banneton and into the pan.

Using a bread lame or razor blade, score the dough. Place the lid on the pan and bake for 50 minutes. After 50 minutes, if you would like more color on your loaf, place the pan back in the hot oven, minus the lid, for 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 7: Once baked, carefully remove the loaf from the pan, saving the parchment paper for next time, and allow the baked loaf to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

Notes:

The loaf in the photo is my whole wheat and white spelt master loaf, scored with a single arc off center before being baked.

For the whole wheat and white spelt master, feed all of your starter according to the main recipe, then use the following ingredients:

50 g (1/4 cup) active starter

350 g (scant 11/2 cups) water

250 g (21/4 cups) white spelt flour

250 g (2 cups) whole wheat flour

7 g (1 tsp) salt, or to taste

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