This sourdough bread is an adaptation from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s wholesome book “The Bread Bible.” We have simplified the recipe slightly, as all the sourdough breads in her book are rather lengthy and complicated. This bread, as well as most of all her sourdough breads calls for a stiff sourdough starter as opposed to a liquid starter. It is quite easy to turn a liquid sourdough starter into a stiff one, by simply adding enough flour to form a dough and then kneading it. At that point you let the dough sit overnight, then add a little more water and some more flour the next day and knead this into the dough in order to “feed it.” Then let your starter double as usual over the next couple of hours.
The complicated part with Rose’s sourdough recipes, is partly, that it doesn’t call for simply the sourdough starter. It gives you specific instructions on how to feed your starter on top of this process numerous times for each specific recipe. And this is where we decided to simplify it. So we converted our liquid starter into a stiff one by adding more flour, then fed it the next day and then baked with it the day after that. It might sound slightly complicated, but it is actually fewer steps than the original recipe calls for.
The bread turned out quite nice with a subtle yet prominent sourdough flavor and a good texture. The addition of seeds makes all the difference as it adds flavor, crunch and a surprise element. We added a small amount of commercial yeast to this bread in order to speed the process up slightly, however that’s not necessary at all. We also decided to retard the dough in the fridge overnight after step 4, due to convenience. It’s difficult to say if that affected the flavor or the texture of the bread much, since a sourdough bread is usually filled with flavor without an additional resting step.
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons polenta
3 tablespoons flaxseed
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons bread flour
2 ½ tablespoons wheat germ
2 ½ liquid cup water, room temperature
4 teaspoons honey
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon stiff sourdough starter
1 tablespoon salt
1. Roast the pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds on a sheet pan in the oven for about 7 minutes on 325 degrees until slightly browned, stirring the seeds halfway through roasting. Let them cool in a bowl and add the polenta and the flaxseeds to the mixture.
2. Combine the whole wheat flour, bread flour, wheat germ, water and honey in a stand up mixer bowl on low speed for about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for about 20 minutes. Tear the starter into smaller pieces and add it to the dough. Knead the dough on low for 2 minutes, add the salt and knead for another minute. If you want to add a little commercial yeast to speed up the rising, then add 1/8 plus 1/16 teaspoon of instant yeast now. Turn the speed up to medium, knead for two minutes, add the seed mixture and knead on low speed for another 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Scrape the dough into an oiled 4 quart bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until it has puffed up slightly for about 1 ½ to 2 hours, ideally in 75 – 80 degrees (if your kitchen is colder than that, you can put your oven on warm for a minute, then shut it off and leave the dough inside the oven for the rising period)
4. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and press it down slightly. Roll it down will a rolling pin, and fold it on top of it a couple of times. Roll out again and repeat a couple of time to make the dough more elastic. Place the dough back in the oiled bowl and let it rise for about another 1 ½ to 2 hours.
5. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and divide it into two equal pieces. Roll each piece into roll, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. Shape each piece again into torpedo-shaped loaf and now set the pieces on a baking sheet, and leave plenty of room between the loaves. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 to 2 ½ hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (it is recommended that you pre-heat the oven an hour before baking). On the lowest shelf in the oven, place a cast-iron pan or a sheet pan. Above, place a baking stone or a sheet pan.
7. Now slash the bread a couple of times, and set the baking sheet on the hot stone. Toss ½ cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and shut the door immediately. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400 degrees and continue baking for another 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 190 degrees. Halfway through baking, lift the bread from the pan and set it directly on the baking stone, also turn it around for even baking. Let cool on a wire rack.