I have been building bread for almost 50 years now. So I thought I knew quite a bit about bread baking. That is until we spent a weekend recently with our good friends Jim and Margo at our mutual good friends amazing Quillayute River Resort in Forks, Washington. Mr. C and I had been to visit Chip and Linda’s resort several times before, but we had never experienced one of Chip’s loaves of bread before this recent weekend. Talk about a humbling experience! Now that man knows how to bake bread! Plus he knows all the right words for each step along the path to the perfect loaf. Was I intimidated? You bet your levain I was intimidated. But I got over it when I decided to relax and learn from the master. (BTW – levain is a substance used to produce fermentation in bread dough.) Who knew? (See below for the names of several bread loaf shapes we see routinely in good bakeries and high end grocery stores. Bread lesson number 1.)
Anyway, in my opinion Chip has the knowledge, recipes and the right paraphernalia needed to be considered a true artisan baker. And by golly, I learned some wonderful techniques and terms from him that I am going to share with you, along, of course, with a great recipe for a Sourdough Multigrain Bread. But first, I am going to give you this wonderful recipe for my sourdough rye bread. (I’m still working on putting Chip’s recipe into layman’s terms so that those of us who have yet to achieve artisan status can actually build a loaf!) But back to my recipe.
I have been making this rye bread now for about 10 years and it has never let me down. It’s easy, delicious, and doesn’t have too overpowering a rye flavor; making it a perfect accompaniment to almost any kind of food.
So get out your yeast and bread flour and build your family and friends a treat. Just don’t forget to have plenty of room temperature unsalted butter on hand. Only someone with the discipline of an Olympic athlete can resist butter on their homemade bread. Just saying’!
- 1 c. sourdough starter (recipe given below)
- 1½ c. rye flour
- 1¼ c. warm water, divided
- 2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 c. whole wheat flour
- 1¾ c. unbleached all-purpose bread flour, or more as needed
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 T. sugar
Combine starter, rye flour, and one cup of the water in the bowl of your stand mixer; stir to blend. (If you prefer an extra-sour flavor, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 6-24 hours. I usually let mine sit for about 8 hours or until the mixture becomes bubbly, sour, and kind of boozy smelling.)
When ready to continue, combine the yeast and remaining ¼ cup warm water in small bowl; let stand about 5 minutes until foamy. Stir into the sourdough mixture; add the whole-wheat flour, 1½ cups of the bread flour, salt, and sugar. Using your dough hook, mix until dough comes together. Knead 5-6 minutes until dough is smooth and springy. Add more bread flour, a tablespoon or two at a time during the kneading process as necessary to reduce excess stickiness. But don’t add too much flour. You want a fairly soft dough.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1-1½ hours or until doubled. Punch down and knead a few times to release air; shape into 1 round loaf (boule) and place on a piece of parchment paper. Dust with flour and gently lower parchment paper and loaf into a bowl or basket. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise about 30 minutes or until almost doubled.
Meanwhile place the lid and the bottom of a clay baker* (cloche) in your oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees. When the dough is ready, remove the clay baker and lid from the oven and carefully place the parchment paper and loaf on the bottom portion of the cloche. Cut a large shallow X on the top of the loaf using a serrated knife. Then carefully cover the bread with the hot lid.
Place in the pre-heated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, remove the lid, reduce heat to 400 degrees and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. (You can take the breads temperature by carefully sticking an instant read thermometer into the bottom of the loaf. It should read between 200 and 205 degrees when the bread is fully baked.)
When the bread comes out of the oven, transfer it to a cooling rack for at least 2 hours before cutting. Actually, if you can wait, don’t eat the bread until the next day. (Asking a lot, I know!) It takes time for the texture and flavor to develop. (And no, I don’t know why!)
*A wonderful alternative to a clay baker is a heavy covered casserole like a size 28 Le Creuset Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven. Follow the same instructions when using cast iron as given in the preceding paragraph when using a cloche, including pre-heating the cast iron pan.
If you have neither a cloche or a cast iron pan, place the dough, after you have shaped it into a round, on a corn meal sprinkled baking stone or baking sheet and follow remaining instructions as written. Bake at 425 degrees for 9 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until the loaf is brown and sounds hollow when tapped with your fingers.
Please note: If you want to use this bread for sandwiches, and BTW, it does make a mean Rueben sandwich, divide dough in half and place in two greased loaf pans, follow the rest of the instructions as written, and bake at 425 degrees for 9 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 25-35 minutes or until the loaves are brown and sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.
Basic Sourdough Starter Recipe:
- 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 T. sugar
- 1 T. active dry yeast
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 2 C. warm water
Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 2 to 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.
To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.
If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.
Bread Shape Names:
Large round loaf – Boule
Small round loaf – Boulette
Long rounded loaf – Baguette
Baguette shaped loaf, but a little shorter – Baton
Smaller version of a baguette; the length may be the same, but the diameter and weight of the bread is about half that of a baguette – Ficelle
Fat, log-shaped loaf with tapered ends (think torpedo shaped) – Bâtard or Vienna