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

467 thoughts on “Whole Grain Sourdough

  1. Hi Caitlin,

    Sure you can do it that way. This recipe is one of the more drawn out ones I know of and I think the main intension of this is to allow time for maximum flavor development. At any point along the way, if the bread looks like it’s ready to pop in the oven, you can always go for it. You might find that the bread is still very good but without taking forever to make it.

  2. Caitlin

    Hi there,

    I was wondering if instead of proofing the dough in the fridge for another day I could proof it on the counter to spead up the process. If so will I still need to proof it (after it has proofed on the counter rather than the fridge) in the proofing basket? Thanks so much!

  3. Hi Jonathan,

    Are you trying to get a more open crumb with a whole grain (or somewhat whole grain) recipe or just a more open crumb period by any means necessary?

  4. Rick

    Hi Jonathan,

    I’m also in CO and have no trouble getting a good crumb. Where in CO are you? Nice to see another ‘neighbor’ here.

    Rick in CO

  5. Jonathan

    Love the website, I’ve recently discovered it.

    I wonder if anyone can help me with something: getting a more “open
    crumb”. I’ve been making bread that I like for several years, by a whole variety of recipes — in fact, mostly these days I just mix things until it has
    a consistency I like, let it rise until it looks good, and bake. By the way, I think the thing which has had the most enormous impact on my baking is baking on a pizza stone over which I have inverted a large ceramic bowl — kind of a poor-man’s La Cloche. Oddly enough, I read about this in a book by an English author, even thought the English are not famous for their bread (Elizabeth David, “English Bread and Yeast Cookery”). In fact, I have a theory that the whole excitement in the last year or so about the NYT no-knead bread has much, much more to do with baking inside a closed container in the over than it does to do with the no-kneading part. Well, that plus a bit the idea of having a quite wet dough, which I think most American home bakers were shy of until now.

    Anyway, following a suggestion on this site, I tried about four loaves last week — even following the directions and measuring ingredients and all that stuff I don’t usually do! — with a bit more water each time, since there was some comment that the wetter the dough the more open the crumb. Total disaster — I didn’t even finish two of the loaves, they were so bad: they sagged so badly they never really rose *upward*, instead they just spread out wider and wider, and the crusts were way too toasted even at the minimum baking times suggested with the recipes. And yet the crumb was the usual dense, uniform thing. I’m dying to get those big holes, help!

    [I might perhaps mention that I live in Colorado, so the air is very thin and dry. This might have an impact.]

    Anyway, I made up another loaf just today with a drier dough and it at least rose (and rose *up*), and was flavorful… but same old uniform, dense crumb. What to do, what to do….

    Thanks in any case, for possible suggestions, and for this wonderful site.

    Jonathan

  6. Dee

    Archer –

    Yes – no need for water. Of course the amount of flour you add depends on the wetness of your starter and the dryness of your flour. Sometimes I have only added about 2 cups of flour, sometimes 3 1/2. But yes, the starter is the only fluid needed. Add the flour one cup at a time, starting with any darker flour, then add whatever you need to make a basic flexible dough.

    Hope this helps.

    Dee

  7. Archer

    Dee: Where is the water in your recipe? Can 2 c. starter add enough moisture?

  8. Dee

    Dennis –

    I have been baking a very basic loaf bread using the following proportions:
    2 c. starter (ready to go)
    3 c. flour (usually 1 c of either whole wheat or rye but I’ve also tried oatmeal and spelt – but always the 1c proportion. All AP flour works too.)
    2 T olive oil or butter
    2 tsp salt
    4 tsp sugar (or honey – better with the whole wheat version)

    Mix and knead either by hand or with a mixer. Rise in greased bowl (which will take from 3-6 hours depending on your starter and the ambient temperature.)
    Deflate and shape into loaf. Place in greased loaf pan (or just free form on a baking sheet) and let rise until double (about 2 hours.)

    Place in COLD oven and set the temperature to 350º. Bread will take about 30 minutes to cook – maybe 35.

    This makes a very nice slicing bread – the crust is soft. You can double the bread for a large family…I add caraway seeds to the rye variation.

    Good luck and enjoy!

  9. Hi Caitlin,

    Going with all spelt is a pretty huge deviation from the recipe so hard for me to guess how it would turn out. I’m pretty sure it would be significantly different. I’d expect it to be a much denser loaf. If you give it a try, please report back with your results.

    Most recipes don’t call for dough to proof in the fridge. I don’t think it’s a matter of “best”, but just a different way of going about baking bread that produces a different result.

  10. Caitlin

    Hi there,

    I just love your site! I am very new to breadmaking. I have made my sourdough starter out of spelt flour and water and now would like to make my first loaf. Can I use all spelt flour for this recipe instead of part wheat, rye, and all purpose? If so, do I use the same amount of flour Also, Ive heard it was best to let the 1st proof of dough be on the counter not in the fridge. What are your thoughts on that? Thanks so much Breadtopia!

  11. Hi Dennis,

    I made that video about 2 years ago and can’t remember which favorite recipe I was referring to. My favorites change all the time. But it must have come from Ed Wood’s Classic Sourdoughs book as a number of his recipes call for 2 cups of starter.

    They’re not really particularly large loaves. They just use lots of starter.

  12. Dennis Lough

    Hi Eric;
    In one of your videos I recall that you mention a favorite sourdough recipe using something like 2 cups of starter. Could you point me to that recipe. I assume it is for a very large loaf of bread. Recently I haven’t found the video either!
    Dennis

  13. Tim

    Marcia,

    Here are my thoughts on the subject. Most of these ideas come from
    Reinhart’s Bread Baking Apprentice.

    According to this sourdough web site
    (http://www.sourdoughhome.com/chipotlebeanbread.html), adjustments are
    made for altitude. Higher altitudes imply lower internal temperature when
    the bread is done. I believe I also heard Alton Brown (food network) say a
    similar thing.

    I’m guessing that the justification for the adjustment has to do with the
    decrease in temperature at which water boils and the temperature of steam
    at higher altitudes. See the table at this link:
    http://chestofbooks.com/food/household/A-Manual-Of-Home-Making/Temperature-Tables.html.

    Theoretically, the bread will not reach a temperature higher than boiling
    water until all the water is gone. Crust; however, will reach higher
    temperature because it dries out (a good thing). The inside of the loaf
    should reach a maximum temperature related to boiling water and steam
    temperature (unless you over-bake it and it dries out) which varies
    slightly with altitude. However, recommended internal bread temperature is
    usually well below any maximum temperature.

    According to Reinhart (Bread Baker’s Apprentice), baking does 4 things: 1)
    gelatinization of starch, 2) caramelization of sugar (primarily in crust),
    3) coagulation and roasting of proteins to form solid structure, and 4)
    drive off ‘excess’ water (whatever that is).

    Gelatinization occurs between 180 – 210 degrees. Therefore, Reinhart sets
    the minimum temperature for bread at 180 degrees. This is even true for
    soft breads (rolls, biscuits, etc).

    Coagulation and roasting of proteins happens at much lower temperatures
    than gelatinization so you don’t need to worry about that reaction
    happening. The effect of roasting on color and texture will also depend on
    time together with temperature.

    caramelization of the sugar is the tricky one (again according to
    Reinhart). It is not supposed to happen before 325 degrees. However, the
    special chemistry of bread lowers that temperature (Maillard reaction).
    How much he doesn’t say and I don’t know.

    The point is that the inside of the bread will not have the sugars
    caramelized; however, the crust should. The crust dries out so it can
    reach a temperature close to the oven temperature. This is an important
    factor in the color and crispness of the crust. Using high temps to start
    (450+), then lowering the temp, adding steam, etc., are all techniques to
    control the texture and color of the crust. This requires experimentation
    so you get what you like.

    Driving off excess water is supposed to concentrate flavors, as well as
    determine the internal softness of the crumb (moist vs dry). Again, this
    is personal preference. Reinhart thinks most people undercook their bread.
    He recommends cooking for longer times, obviously without burning top or
    bottom, to dry out the crumb. He says he shoots for 205 degrees internal
    temperature, but doesn’t say how long to keep it there. Removing excess
    water and ‘drying’ out the crumb is also the biggest reason for properly
    cooling the bread (again according to Reinhart).

    Having said all of this, I don’t make any altitude adjustments per se. I
    live at ~4000ft and I bake my bread until 200-205 degrees. My guess is
    that the variability in sugar caramelization, baking times, etc.,
    introduce bigger uncertainty the any altitude effects on water and steam
    temperature. It might be that altitude’s affect on boiling and steam
    temperature will lower the maximum temperature of the crumb (before
    dehydration) but shooting for 200-205 degrees is likely to still be
    possible. So I don’t make any altitude adjustments. If your bread is in
    the oven for an excessive amount of time, and the temperature doesn’t get
    above 200 degrees, then I would lower my target temperature. I’m guessing
    that you’d have to be well above 6000 ft for this to happen.

    For me, the hardest part of the time/temperature calculations is getting a
    ‘good’ crust without burning the bottom of the loaf.

    I hope this explanation is clear, albeit probably more than you wanted to
    hear :) Also, if anyone else knows more about this topic, feel free to set
    me straight. As with all bread baking there is a lot of personal
    preferences involved, as well as differences in flour, humidity, oven
    behavior, etc., that gives us the ‘art of bread baking’ that we all enjoy.
    The science just gives us some limits and guidelines for our
    experimentation.

    Tim Jones

  14. Hi Ralph – What I do is lock the lid but with the gasket removed. That allows sufficient air flow but prevents the starter from drying out too fast.

    Hi Marcia – Regarding that particular high altitude adjustment, I can’t recall hearing anything about it. Hopefully, someone else that knows will see your question.

  15. Ralph Draves

    Eric, several weeks ago I bought your sour dough starter and since I have baked six or so of various loaves of bread using the no-knead method. They turned out great. My question concerns storing the starter. I’m keeping it in a mason type jar that came with a sealing gasket. Should I lock the lid in place with the gasket or should I leave the lid ajar and not lock it so the starter can breathe?
    Ralph

  16. Hi there, I’m wondering if the internal temp. of bread when done, at 4100 foot altitude, should be a few degrees less than 200 degrees. What do you think?

  17. Hi Archer,

    Good question. Lowering the temperature some might help. You could also try adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the dough along with the other ingredients. Others have found that brushing the crust with melted butter when it comes out of the oven softens it nicely.

  18. Amy

    I discovered this website a number of months ago and I have tried numerous recipes – they are all delicious. Find the comments very helpful too. I am looking for a pumernickel no knead recipe – has anyone come up with a good recipe?

  19. Archer

    I made the whole grain bread as described in the included video.
    The crust seemed a bit tough and the bottom was difficult to cut. I baked at about 475 for 30 minuets and 450 for an additional 15 minuets. I baked 2 loaves at the same time. The internal temperatures after baking was 204 degrees. Internally they were delicious and moist with the distinctive sour dough taste. We tasted the bread after about 1 1/4 hour with a selection of cheeses and a glass of wine.
    I am a bit perplexed by the tough crust especially on the bottom. Is this a function of kneading or oven temperature?

  20. My first loaf was a little less airy than yours but tasted great. I used my Romertopf casserole and it seemed to work well. Turned out oblong instead of round but that did not spoil the taste! I have 3 photos and if I can work out how to get them to you I will. I will post them to my Facebook profile anyway!

  21. Hi Frances. Seems like that must be the case but I don’t know. Glad your results are excellent!

  22. frances

    i made the Poilane 2 days ago, and followed your instructions to the T. However my crumb is much darker. Is it because my whole meal flour (UK) is different from your ‘whole wheat’. btw the taste is superb aand it makes wonderful toast. I live in rural England and much appreciate your web site.

  23. Hi Rachel,

    You could certainly try it that way. I bake almost everything in a ceramic baker (La Cloche) because of the improved crust. A Dutch oven should work well too. Whether it’s equally delicious though will take some comparison by you.

  24. Rachel

    I am anxious to try this whole grain sourdough recipe (once my sourdough starter is ready.) I have been using the basic NK bread recipe, and love the texture of the crust. I am curious if I should bake the whole grain sourdough in a dutch oven with a lid for the first 30 minutes like the NK recipe calls for. It’s my understanding it’s this method of baking that creates that wonderful crust. Is the whole grain sourdough crust equally as delicious baked with no lid? Thanks.

  25. baddboyi

    just checking in from nyc……

    hi eric, just made your 3 day multigrain bread……came out really nice, sorry no pics. as i mentioned in an earlier post, i’m using that “fool proof” starter (made with buttermilk & chobani yogurt & bread flour), more & more. while i’m maintaing 3 starters currently, yours, fool proof, and rye fool proof, i’m leaning more & more toward the regular fool proof, fed regularly on a diet of reg milk & bread flour, with a tsp of chobani yogurt every week or so. my, this starter is SOUR” and seems to promote a higher rise. Anyway, peace……..

    p.s i use the chobnani yogurt because they make it with several different bacteria strains(5).

  26. Dave the Novice

    John Varner,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about the videos on this site. They are excellent. Very informative and concise. And the comments from other bakers really do help.

    I think you may have misunderstood my comment about time and expense. That applied only to this recipe, not to any of the no-knead breads. When I wrote that, this whole wheat sourdough bread was the closest thing I had ever had to a baking failure, and I just didn’t see the point, since all my no-knead attempts had produced much better bread.

    Now, however, I have had time to learn much more about sourdough, and about artisan baking techniques. In applying those lessons to converting my favorite 100% wholewheat bread machine recipe, I have managed to produce worse and worse loaves, to the point where my last attempt produced that brick people always talk about.

    This “whole grain” sourdough is looking a lot better.

  27. John Varner

    Thank you for offering this website. I was delighted to stumble upon it, especially as I have just done my second no-knead bread and am reading about Poilane in “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.” As someone who has done video for television and corporate purposes, I appreciate the professionalism of your instructional videos. They are concise and focused, which – to me – respects the time of the viewer and encourages return visits to the site. The comments from your other viewers or visitors are also very helpful. I certainly understand those who question whether the bread resulting from the no-knead method is worth the time and expense, but in the end, I enjoy the time I invest in breadmaking. It is a nice distraction or refuge from the daily responsibilities we all face, and I find the end product very satisfying. I also think the desire to duplicate Poilane is a lofty goal that we can enjoy pursuing, even if humility tells us that it is unlikely we will ever duplicate such extraordinary bread. Thank you again for building a community of bread bakers through your thoughtfully done website.

  28. Hi Dee,

    I think the dough is stiff enough to hold its shape reasonably well on the counter. Splitting the dough would make it that much easier.

    I’d definitely love to hear how it turned out for you. Please email any pics and I’ll put them with your post.

  29. Dee

    Hi Eric –

    Thanks for the site! I have been successfully baking SD breads for some months. I am in the final rise for this bread now. My question is do you have to do this in a proofing basket or bowl? Or could I perhaps split the dough into two and form tight boules which can rise on the counter. I ask because I have adapted a recipe I clipped from the NYT several years ago for a whole grain boule – just subbed 1/4 c starter for each 1/4 tsp yeast. It’s a fabulous recipe – a real favorite in our household (and beyond) – the original recipe made one boule, but I like to make two smaller ones. They hold their shape very well just sitting on the counter. Have you tried this with your WGSD recipe? I have found that the scariest part is turning out the dough into the oven…

    I never muck with a recipe the first time I try it, so it is rising in a towel lined bowl, but I look forward to hearing from you. I can e-mail pix of the whole grain breads to you.

  30. Dave the Novice

    Well, my bread is finished, and I guess you have to say it worked OK. But, I have to say, it certainly wasn’t worth all the work (3 days, 20 minutes of kneading, and I don’t think that was enough) or the expense. The little bit of spelt flour in this recipe alone cost as much as an entire loaf of no-knead. As for flavor, yes, it is good, but not as good as my own bread machine 100% sourdough experiment turned out.

    The final rise worked, but, mostly, it just spread out more on the board. I didn’t get any noticeable oven spring, and the crumb is less holey than I’d like.

    Eric, I’ll send a picture, if you tell me how.

    I don’t think I’ll be trying this recipe again. Not, at least, until I have a lot more experience with much less complicated breads.

  31. John Summers

    Hi Dave,

    Strange how different things can be. One person has a starter that is great white and yet for someone else it doesn’t work so great. My pancake recipe comes from here. Look in the sourdough section and look for Rick’s Sourdough pancakes. If you need me to, I should be able to find it for you. Good luck with the backing. I just got another baking book from the library that has SD chocolate Croissants. It is very work intensive but could be well worth the effort.

    John

  32. Dave the Novice

    John,

    Thanks for the suggestion. Ironically, I had converted my starter to WW a couple of weeks ago, since I was mostly making WW bread, but have been feeding it with AP since, so it’s mostly white now. Unlike your experience, though, my WW starter did not seem as active as the white version.

    I think maybe after this experience, I’m going to maintain two starters: one white, and one whole wheat. One of the things I’m experimenting with is a sourdough version of my own 100% whole wheat bread machine bread. The one I’ve tried so far tasted great, but was a little heavier than the commercial yeast version.

    What is your recipe for pancakes? We haven’t tried that with sourdough yet, but it souunds like the ideal use for starter discards.

  33. Dave the Novice (Guinea pig)

    If I minded being a Guinea pig, I wouldn’t be enjoying this so much.

    After 24 hours in the fridge, the dough has risen some, but not like yours in the video. I’m going to at least let it come to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.

    I think that even punched down, it will be too large for my Lodge cast iron Dutch oven, which holds about 4 quarts, so I may have to make an oval loaf and use my 7 qt Le Creuset Dutch oven. this loaf is more than twice the size of the NYT no-knead loaf.

    I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  34. John Summers

    This comment is for Dave the Novice. The first couple of times I did the WW, I too also had mixed results. Then one day I decided to create a Whole Wheat Sourdough starter and refreshed it about 3 times. I use the toss offs for pancakes. Then I made the WW sourdough and WOW! What a difference. I got good rise out of it and I got great oven spring. My WW starter is also way more active than my regular starter. To make a WW Starter, just use some toss off from your current starter and refresh it with KA Traditional WW. It takes about two to three refreshes to get it completely converted and growing strong. You will love the results. If you are going to make a certain kind of bread using SD, then the SD starter ought to be made from the primary grain of the bread you are making. This isn’t a hard and fast rule but from what I have seen, it really helps.

  35. Gosh, I don’t know. With so many variables it’s just hard for me to tell or even make a stab at a suggestion. Of course I am curious how this turns out though! I love watching other people be Guinea pigs that we can all learn from. (That last sentence was meant in good humor, I hope you know.)

  36. Dave the Novice

    Eric,

    I’m trying your whole grain sourdough recipe for the first time, and the interim results have me a bit nervous. My initial mix was a lot dryer than yours. I don’t have a scale (Christmas list, for sure), so I am using your volume measurements. I think my WW may be more dense than yours.

    After overnight fermentation, I still had an only slightly risen dough, not the batter consistency in your video. I forgot that you held back some bread flour from the final mix, so I dumped the whole 2 cups in. The resulting dough was too dry to knead, so I added more water, before turning it all out onto a floured board to knead. My dough ball was a lot larger than yours, and very difficult to knead. After almost 20 minutes, I was getting good spring back from the dough, but the surface still broke each time I pushed down on it. I assume that means I still didn’t have enough gluten development, but I decided enough was enough, and stopped kneading. I remember now why I never bothered to bake bread before I found the no-knead method!

    Anyway, based on the very small rise I got overnight at 72 degrees, I don’t think I will see any rising at all in the fridge for 24 hours. Do you think I should let it spend some time at room temperature before shaping it for the final rise, or should I just give it a longer final rise?

    That is, assuming you see this before I decide to bake tomorrow.

  37. I received the following email and accompanying photos from Isaac (see a few posts above). Isaac took some steps to mellow the strong flavor of the bread with great success and also ended up with a more open crumb than usually seen in this bread. Great job, Isaac!

    Just wanted to share some more recent experiments with the whole grain sourdough recipe.

    Our results were being a bit mixed. The 24 hour refrigeration period was not always producing a fully risen dough, and being able to tell when it was ready after it came out of the fridge became a little dicey. Some breads were a bit over proofed and did not get much oven spring at all.

    Another concern was that our brooklyn starter was so potent, the flavor of the bread so full and strong, that though the bread it produces is complex and delicious, its not super versatile. It goes well with strong cheeses and strong foods, but it is not so easy on milder flavored spreads or foods. This made it a bit hard for the kinds of breakfasts we have.

    For these reasons I wanted to cut back in flavor a little bit!!! So after much online research I decided to to the following things:

    1) We use a 100% rye starter, so I eliminated the rye flour from the second day’s flour mix. I distributed the weigh of the removed rye flour: 5 grams to the spelt for a total of 175 grams and 80 grams to the white bread flour for a total of 330 grams. The idea being a bit more white bread flour would kick up the gluten a little bit while softening the flavor a bit with the rye removal. Another reason for leaning on the white substitution was that I mill my whole grain own flour, which is fresher but it’s a bit more coarse than commercial flour. I thought finer white flour–plus its higher gluten content–would help the crumb a bit.

    2) No 24 hrs refrigeration. After creating the initial 12 hour sourdough ferment on freshly-milled local hard wheat we mix the day two ingredients with warm water on a warm bowl and keep it unrefrigerated.

    3) Added 2 foldings to the day 2. Every 2 hours I wold take out the dough, stretch it out, fold and put back on the bowl. This insures a more even temperature on the ball of dough and adds air to the mixture.

    These changes produced a fully risen dough in 5 hours. I then shaped it and placed on the basket to proof again. Checking every 30 minutes after it started to get to the target volume for dough push-back. The first time it showed considerable slowing on the dough’s springiness, I started preheating the oven, which takes about 30 minutes. This yielded a total second proof time of 3:1/2 hours. The final bread is definitely mellower, though not less complex. Still a flavorful and delicious bread that is now a bit more versatile. Other plusses were much more oven spring and more open crumb as you may be able to appreciate from the pictures. I think these last 2 might be more related to the higher gluten and the foldings.

    isaac boule
    isaac boule

  38. Hi Manfred,

    I’d be surprised if using rye starter noticeably impacted the flavor in this recipe since you’re only starting off with 1/2 cup. By the time you get to the end of the recipe, with all the flour that gets added, it seems like the little bit of extra rye flavor would be lost.

  39. Manfred

    Eric,

    Thanks for the site! Your videos were super helpful.

    I baked the bread in my large Le Creuset Dutch oven and it came out beautifully. Though, I am wondering if the cast iron of the Le Creuset held a little too much heat – the dough sizzled a little bit when I put in the hot dutch oven. I was afraid the bottom of the bread would burn, but it did not.

    I read that German bakers use only a Rye Sourdough starter. Do you think that would switching from WW to rye for the starter would impact the flavor?

    Thanks again!

    Manfred

  40. Hi Isaac. Thanks for that, but you’ll need to email the pic to me and I’ll add it to your post.

  41. Isaac Rivera

    Hey Eric,

    I just wanted to thank you for all your great information on this website. Many years ago I ventured into bread making at home. The internet was on diapers then, but a information like this would have saved me months of frustration. I only discovered breadtopia about a month ago. I now have a super healthy 3 week old rye starter in my fridge which I got going with grape yeasts from my backyard in Brooklyn. I have baked 2 boules from it, the second one being this recipe (whole grain sourdough) and just out of the oven a couple of hours ago. I looks, smells and tastes better than any bread I have paid for in this city (pic below). Thanks again,

    Isaac & Mar, Brooklyn, NY.

    Isaacs Bread

  42. Scott T

    I didn’t have the spelt flour either. I wonder if I got it too dry. Also I don’t have a dutch oven so I used a cast iron skillet. My first attempt rose very well and I thought looked great going in to the oven. Coming out is where it wasn’t so pretty. I will try again this weekend.

  43. Hi Scott,

    There are so many variables with bread baking, it’s pretty difficult (for me anyway) to offer any specific advise in this case that might be of value. Are you following the recipes exactly?

  44. Sounds good, Andrea.

    Sometimes it helps to raise the rack you’re baking on if there’s room to do that. What is your baking dough (and Dutch oven) resting on? The thicker the stone, the less likely it is for the bottom to over bake. If you’re not using a baking stone, that would help a lot. If you are, and it’s a thin one, try putting a cookie sheet under it. In other words, if you increase the insulation under the bread it will reduce the chances of burning.

  45. Andrea

    Hello! Thank you for hosting a fabulous site. I’m posting from Talkeetna, Alaska, land of many great sourdough recipes. I just tried this one and it’s fabulous…great complex sour flavor and a nice chewy texture. I altered the recipe in two ways – I used only whole wheat flour (no spelt flour at Tanner’s trading post!) and I baked in an upside-down Lodge cast iron dutch oven.
    This leads me to my question – the crust was perfect everywhere except the bottom, where it’s a little too dark, almost verging on burnt. The interior is perfect. Any suggestions on preventing this? Would changing the position in the oven help?

  46. Scott T

    I just finished my first boule of this bread and although it is good, I’m not too excited about how it turned out. It really doesn’t taste much different (like a mid westerner really knows what SF sourdough should taste like) than other recipes that take far less time to make, and the crust broke up in a drop-biscuit appearance (very rough), and it did spread out like all the others I’ve tried, rather than rise high and round. The pictures on this site appear to have a smoother, dark crust. Since I have good starter, I will try this again. Any suggestions about how to get a nicer looking product? Does the equipment make a big difference?

  47. Oops, I missed your earlier questions, Joanna.

    Yea, I use “proofing time” and “rising time” interchangeably. No doubt they mean something different to others but I tend to be a little loose with the language.

    Yes, that is proofing when you take the dough out of the fridge and let sit 5 hours.

    You can bake the bread in a standard size loaf pan too. This recipe makes a pretty large loaf so you may get close to a couple loaf pan loaves out of it.

    Just baking in a loaf pan vs. cloche may produce a bit softer a loaf, but you could also try substituting a few ounces of milk for water and/or adding a couple Tbs of oil. Both those will soften the bread and crust. Also, just storing the bread in a plastic bag will soften the crust after a while. I’ve heard brushing the crust with melted butter when it comes out of the oven helps with that too.

  48. Hi Joanna. Thanks for emailing the photo. That’s as good a rise and open crumb (big holes) as I’ve seen with this recipe. All the bran in whole grain bread cuts the gluten strands in the dough which, in white flour breads, traps the CO2 and allows for the big holes and easy rise. That’s the trade off.

    Great job!

  49. Joanna

    Here’s the inside of the loaf I just made. I baked it in the oblong cloche, and it’s about 4.5″ tall in the middle (the highest point). I keep reading about good “crumb”…I am not sure what that is. Definately this is less “holey” than white sourdough I get from the store, but is this a good amount of rise and holes for a whole grain sd loaf?

    Joanna's whole grain sourdough

  50. Karin Jensen emailed these photos of her first results baking this whole grain sourdough bread. Fantastic, Karin! Gorgeous bread.

    karin's whole grain sourdough

    karin's whole grain sourdough

    karin's whole grain sourdough

    karin's whole grain sourdough

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

clear formSubmit