Before beginning Start with a Starter.
This bread is so satiating, filling and tasty it is brilliant for everyday breakfasts and quick lunches. Although three loaves may sound a lot, unlike commercial bread, this home-made sourdough loaf does not go stale quickly, which means baking every other day rather than every day, depending on need.
The fermented grain, (in the form of the sourdough starter) combined with the eight to ten hour proving time, results in an easy to digest loaf with boosted nutrient content thanks to an over-night transformation effected by a number of beneficial enzymes and micro-organisms. For the benefits of a sourdough loaf see fermented grain.
4 cups of rye starter.
4 cups of filtered water.
2 table-spoons of Celtic sea salt.
4 cups of whole-grain rye flour.
8 cups of strong white wheat flour.
Place the 4 cups of water and 2 tbs of celtic sea salt into a deep bowl and stir until all the salt has dissolved. Add the 4 cups of rye sourdough starter and stir.
Add any seeds or other additional ingredients of your choice (see below) and stir in. For this batch I chose 1 cup of flax seeds, 1 cup of sunflower seeds and 1 tbs of cumin seeds.
Add 4 cups of rye to the mixture and stir in using a wooden spoon.
Add 8 cups white wheat flour.
By now the dough is too heavy to stir with a wooden spoon so stir the wheat flour by hand and then tip out onto the surface. Begin to knead the dough by hand until it forms a uniform mixture. (Anywhere from five to ten minutes).
Divide the mixture into three and shape according to preference. Cut a line through the dough to help it rise and to stop if from cracking when it bakes.
Leave to prove for 8-12 hours.
After at least 8 hours your loaves should have risen through the action of the wild yeasts in the sourdough starter which have been feeding off the carbohydrates during the proving period. The LABs in the dough and the enzymatic activity will have rendered the bran in the rye more nutritious and easier to digest. The enzyme amylase will have broken much of the complex sugars into smaller units and the enzyme protease will have deconstructed the proteins present in the wheat flour making this an easier to digest loaf.
Turn the oven to 160 degrees centigrade, place a tin of water into the oven to create moisture in the oven, and bake for 60 minutes.
Slice and enjoy!
For a sweeter, basic sourdough loaf (excellent with cheeses) add raisins, sultanas and/or dried figs with a cup full of hazelnuts. Honey and walnut also make a natural flavour combination.
For a more savoury flavour add olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Alternatively fry up some onions in butter until crisp and add to the bread with some grated cheese.
For something more simple just add a cup of either pumpkin, poppy, flax, sun-flower or onion seeds. Alternatively add one TBS of either caraway, cumin/or fennel seeds. The latter have a stronger flavour and require a lesser quantity.
Adjust flour to preference
It is also possible to adjust the flours to your preference. Use more white wheat flour if you want a higher rise or more rye if you prefer a darker, denser loaf. If you don’t like rye try whole wheat flour, whole einkorn or whole spelt. Rye contains next to no gluten which is why for this recipe it is best to use no more than four to six cups of rye flour. For a delicious rye-bread recipe see my recipe for a traditional seeded rye bread.
Handy tips and trouble-shooting:
Keep some flour and water at the ready to add if the dough is either too wet or to heavy.
To form the bread it is possible to mould it into round and place on a greased baking tray. Without any support, however, the dough will flatten and end up looking like a spongy pancake. A good quality bread tin or a cane basket, often referred to as a banetton, prevent this from happening. The latter gives the typical “artisanal” look many associate with traditional baking. The former gives a shape that is easier to cut into square slices for packed school lunches.
Do not be tempted to pre-heat the oven unless you like your crust extra hard and sharp. Many recipes call for pre-heating the oven at a high temperatures and then lowering the temperature after 20 minutes. High heat baking is suitable for recipes that use a very wet dough in order to create a quick crusty “lid” to encourage the rapid rise of the bread. Wet dough is favoured by some but it leads to big air-holes – in other words a loaf with more air than substance – and a sharp, dark crust.