It’s Time To Bake Sourdough Bread

Earlier this week I wrote about our venture into sourdough baking here at HA. I began growing a batch of sourdough starter, using whole wheat flour. For the first few days, the starter didn’t look like much, but I kept on feeding and stirring. By day 5, the starter was alive and bubbling. It had a yeasty, fruity aroma and was starting to develop a sour, tangy taste. It was time to start thinking about making something with it!

whole wheat sourdough starter on day 5 (click on any image to enlarge)

After consulting our library of baking books, I decided to make the Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat from King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking book. This is a basic whole wheat bread, using only the starter, flour (whole wheat and unbleached), honey, salt and water. There are lots of other sourdough recipes I am anxious to make, but for now I wanted a fairly simple and straightforward loaf of bread. This recipe also gave me a chance to use our brotforms.


Since this bread uses only the starter for leavening (no commercial yeast), a little planning ahead was necessary. I made the dough in the morning, and let it rise for about a total of 2-1/2 hours. Then I divided the dough into two pieces, shaped them and put them into the heavily floured brotforms. I covered them and let them rise for another 2-1/2 hours. Then it was time to turn them out onto a piece of parchment paper. A quick slashing of the loaves and they were in the oven and onto the hot pizza stone.

It made for some tasty bread, if I do say so myself. My wife agrees. I gave it a steam treatment which made for a nice crunchy crust. And the bread has a pleasant tangy flavor. The starter should develop even more flavor with time.

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat

The wet, slack dough made for a great open crumb. It made also made for a couple of nice, rustic looking loaves that cost a couple of dollars or so to make. I held back a bit of the starter, fed it with whole wheat flour and water, and now it is bubbling away on the kitchen counter.

bread had a nice open crumb

I plan on putting the starter in the refrigerator until I am ready to use it again. I’ve got my eye on several other recipes I want to try. But for now we have our daily bread, still warm from the oven, and I am happy with how our little sourdough experiment is going so far. I’ll be back with more bread tales as they develop.

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4 Responses to It’s Time To Bake Sourdough Bread

  1. Robin says:

    The bread looks great! I really like those brotforms.

  2. Your crumb, and crust, look great! I’ve never used a Brotform, but keep meaning to get one. One of the things I love about keeping a starter around is you can use the same starter for so many different breads. Next I’m planning to use some starter for the pizza crust recipe in ‘Tartine Bread’. I’m hoping it will yield a strong, slightly chewy crust, that can hold up to even juicy tomatoes. (If our pizza crusts fail the tomato test, we don’t make them again 😉 ) If you find yourself having to feed your starter, but throwing out the extra if you’re not baking bread, you can also use it to make sourdough muffins, and pancakes too. Flour has been getting so expensive, I’m reluctant to throw any away!

    • Dave says:

      We’re looking to use it in muffins and rolls, but I hadn’t thought about pizza. We normally use our pita bread for pizza crust, but I don’t know why we couldn’t use it for all sorts of flatbreads. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Liz says:

    Yum! I really should be baking my own bread shouldn’t I? Its just that theres a fabulous baker a block from my house and and and…basically I’m being lazy. Those loaves look great!

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