Sourdough bread using sourdough starter has been baked for thousands of years. This bread is delicious, healthy and it's easy to digest, even for people with some intolerance to gluten!
In a bowl, mix together 50g of the whole wheat flour and 50g of distilled water until there are no lumps. Note: We do this around 7pm. You will be feeding (adding flour and water) every 12 hours for a while.
Loosely cover the bowl and place it in a warm and breeze-free area of your kitchen.
12 hours later (in the morning), mix in 50g of whole wheat flour and 50g of distilled water until there are no lumps. Pour the mix into a jar. We use a tall 1.5 litre clear glass jar. Cover the jar with a lid, but leave the lid on loose, so it can access bacteria from the air.
12 hours later, mix in another 100g of whole wheat flour and 100g of distilled water until there are no lumps. Cover loosely and set aside.
From this point on, you should start to see bubbles forming. This is good! This means your starter is alive. You will need to keep feeding it every 12 hours for about 7 days before it's ready to be used for baking bread.
Feel free to alternate between quality whole wheat flour and quality all purpose flour for every feeding. It's best to start the first 2 to 3 feedings with whole wheat flour to activate your starter.
Once the starter reaches about 60% of your jar's height, discard (or give some to a friends so they can start their own) about 100g of starter before every feeding. Don't let the starter reach the top. It will need room to rise after each feeding. Discard more if necessary.
Your starter will rise by about 30%, 3 to 4 hours after every feeding. This is when it's most active. This is the perfect time to use it for bread making.
This sourdough bread recipe uses quite a bit of starter. Once you use the starter for bread, feed the starter to rebuild your quantity. This way, you'll be ready for the next time you want to bake.
If you're like us, you probably don't have time to bake everyday. Feeding your starter every 12 hours can become a lot of work and expensive. It's time to slow it down! Simply place your jar in the fridge, loosely covered. Cold slows down your starter's growth. You only have to feed it once per week while it's in the fridge. Once you're ready to feed the starter or you'd like to bake some more bread, take the starter out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature. Mix in another 100g of whole wheat flour and 100g of distilled water until there are no lumps. Once the starter starts to rise, it's ready to be used.
In a large bowl, mix together (with your hand or a flexible scraper) the 800g of flour, water, salt and starter until the dough is combined enough that the water is incorporated into the flour mixture.
Pour the dough onto a clean counter. Start needing by pressing the heel of your hand into the dough in a forward motion. The dough will feel quite wet at this point. Do not add flour! Bring the dough back over using the tips of your fingers of your other hand. Push again with the heel of your hand and keep repeating until the dough starts to hold together. This step should take 2 to 3 minutes.
Once the dough starts holding together, place the dough in a stand mixer bowl with the dough hook and set it to kneading speed (Speed 2 on our KitchenAid. See you manufacturer's instructions).
Knead for about 8-9 minutes. The dough should look smooth and a bit shiny. If you don't have a stand mixer, keep kneading by hand for about 8-9 minutes or until you see the same result.
Pour the olive oil on your hands and rub them together to coat. Pour the dough back onto the clean counter. Pull the dough in from the edges to the centre to form a ball (use the scraper to help pull it off the counter). Place the dough, seam-side down in the bowl. Cover lightly (don't seal the sides) with cling wrap and cover with a towel.
Let the dough rise for 4 hours.
Flour your proofing baskets or other bowls lined with dish towels generously. This will keep the dough from sticking to the basket (or towel) during the next rise.
Lightly dust the clean counter with flour and pour the dough onto the counter. Dust your hands with flour.
Stretch the dough out to remove the large air bubbles.
Start pulling the edges back into the centre to form a ball.
With a dough scraper/cutter, cut the dough into two equal parts. Dust the counter and your hands slightly with flour. Place the first piece of dough in the centre and start pulling edges out and up and into the centre, while rotating the dough. Once again, this should form a ball of dough.
Once the ball is formed, turn it over onto the seam. Place your fingers from one hand inside and over the fingers of your other hand (like you're receiving a gift) and pull the dough towards you dragging your fingers across the counter into the base of the dough. This will pull in the dough exterior tighter. Rotate the dough and repeat all around until you have a nice tight ball and the seams below are sealed.
Repeat the last step for the second ball of dough.
Place the dough balls in your proofing baskets (or other bowls), seam side up. Lightly flour the tops and cover with a dish cloth.
Let the dough rise for another 3.5 to 4 hours.
Place the dutch oven with the lid in the oven and preheat to 450 ºF.
Place a large piece of parchment paper over the first proofing basket and flip it over so that the dough is now sitting on the parchment paper. Lift the dough slightly to let the excess flour fall off the paper sides onto the counter.
Using a very sharp knife, cut slits (one to two cm deep) with a quick movement into the top of the dough. We cut a square, but you can use any shape you like. These cuts are needed. They let out steam while the bread is baking.
Remove the dutch oven from the oven (careful, it's very hot) and remove the lid. Using the edges of the parchment paper, place the dough into the dutch oven and cover.
Place the dutch oven back in the oven (second shelf from the bottom) and bake for 25 minutes.
Open the oven door and remove the lid from the dutch oven. Close the door and bake for another 20 minutes uncovered.
Take the finished bread out of the dutch oven, using the edges of the parchment paper and place the bread on a cooling rack.
Bake the second loaf of bread using the last 6 steps.
You now have two beautiful and delicious loaves of bread! Caution... your neighbours will be knocking on your door shortly! :-)