This whole wheat breakfast bread recipe has taken several tries to elevate from an ordinary sourdough bread to a loaf worthy of the “Artisan” label, and today’s variation turned out beautifully. The secret? a few grams of spelt flour substituted for some of the bread flour. Spelt is an ancient grain, a relative of Durum wheat. It originated in the Fertile Crescent over 8 thousand years ago, in the Late Neolithic period. Spelt was carried throughout Europe as civilization spread, and was a favorite baker’s ingredient in Medieval Germany. It is more easily digested than regular flour, and some people with wheat intolerances can eat spelt-based bread, even though it’s not gluten-free. Bread dough made entirely from spelt is extremely fragile and likely to collapse and deflate at the most inopportune moments during early baking. But, adding spelt to whole wheat flour lightens the dough and improves oven spring dramatically. Spelt has a delicious nutty taste which does very well in this recipe.
If you try this recipe, I recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh the ingredients.
I use a clay baker to bake this bread. For information on this baking technique, check out my earlier blog article about baking an Artisan Sourdough Rye bread.
150 g active, fed starter
350 g filtered water
250 g whole wheat flour
200 g bread flour
50 g spelt flour
65 g sultana raisins
65 g chopped walnuts
65 g chopped dates
8 g sea salt
I use a 100% hydrated starter, which means the starter consists of equal parts water and flour along with the sourdough yeast culture. My starter is about 9 months old. If you are looking for a good sourdough starter recipe, this one from the San Francisco Exploratorium is excellent.
Mix the starter and water with a wooden spoon, then slowly add the flour, a cup at a time while continuing to stir the mixture with a spoon. Once all the flour has been added, switch to a bread scraper. Mix until you have a shaggy dough. Cover the bowl with plastic and set it aside to autolyse for an hour. This is a wet dough. Don’t be concerned or add more flour.
In the meanwhile chop the dates and walnuts so they’re roughly the same size as the raisins. Place them in a bowl and cover them with water while the dough rests for an hour.
Drain the water from the nuts and fruit. Add to the dough along with the sea salt. Continue to mix and lightly knead with the scraper until the salt is incorporated and the nuts and fruit are distributed throughout the dough.
Stretch and fold the dough four times, turning the bowl a quarter-turn each time. Cover the bowl again. Do this three more times at 30 minute intervals. The entire process will take 2 hours.
If you’ve made your dough early in the day, you can place it in the refrigerator at this point until an hour or so before bedtime. Take it back out and leave it on the counter overnight. Sourdough does better in a spot in your kitchen that isn’t too warm. 70-75 degrees is best. If it’s cooler, the dough will take longer to rise.
The next morning, check your dough. If it’s at least doubled in size, you can start the next step. If not, let it rise another hour or two.
When the dough has risen enough, gently turn it out on a floured board or countertop. Flour your hands. You don’t have to punch this dough down. It will deflate some as you shape it. You can make a large round or boule (oval) loaf, or cut the dough in two and make 2 smaller rounds. I make a large boule because it’s the perfect shape loaf to cook in a clay baker. If you bake on a pizza stone or in a loaf pan, adjust your process for your baking method.
Gently shape the dough into a rectangular shape. Fold the long side furthest away from you to just over the center. Turn the dough so that the unfolded side is furthest from you, and fold it so that it partly covers the first fold. Roll the dough toward you, and seal the seam by pressing it against the board with the side of your hand, working the whole length of the loaf. Fold each short end over the seam.
Let the dough rest for a few minutes and prepare a cloth-lined banneton or loaf pan with a generous sprinkling of flour. Work the flour into the cloth all the way up the sides of your basket or pan, so that the dough doesn’t stick to the cloth. Gently place your loaf in the basket, seam side up. When you turn the dough out onto your pan, stone or clay baker, the seam will be on the bottom.
Let the dough rise for an hour. If you are using a clay baker or pizza stone, start preheating your oven to 450F degrees 30-40 minutes before the dough will be ready to bake. Put the baker or stone into the cold oven and let them come up to temperature. This prevents the clay from cracking. The baker should be preheated with the lid on.
When the bread has risen for an hour, carefully remove the lid of the baker. Use oven mitts or heavy potholders. The lid of the baker is HOT. Sprinkle cornmeal into the bottom of the baker and onto the bread dough. Alternatively, place a piece of bakers parchment paper into the bottom of the clay baker to prevent the bread from sticking. Tilt the dough into the baker. Slash the top of the loaf with a bread lame or sharp serrated knife. Put the lid back on, and close the oven. Let the bread bake this way for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 10 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 and bake for 10 more minutes. The bread should be ready at this point. Check the temperature of the interior of the loaf with an oven thermometer. If the temperature is 200F to 205F, it is ready. Remove the baker from the oven, and put it on a warm surface. I put a dish towel on my stovetop for it. Carefully lift the loaf out of the baker and let it cool on a wire rack for about an hour. Don’t cut the bread until it has cooled. Premature cutting can result in a gummy bread texture.
Here is a not quite in focus photo of the loaf. I need to make a little more effort when I snap bread photos!
During my next few bakings of this recipe, I plan to try out different ratios of spelt, whole wheat, and regular bread flour and see how they affect the resulting loaf.
Enjoy! And let me know how this recipe works for you!