This has been our most tried, tested, and many times failed bread. Learning to make a true whole wheat sourdough bread is quite a challenge but when you finally get your starter to a good place and are making tasty bread it is very satisfying.
We start with starter. Take equal parts flour and water and mix in a jar. Put a cloth over the top a let sit out, feeding with additional flour (a tbsp or two) and water (same) at least every twelve hours until frothy. When it is frothy it may be a good idea to go ahead and make a loaf, or you could put it in the fridge and make sure to bring it back to room temperature and feed it with a tbsp of flour and water if it does not appear frothy when it warms up.
Take all but a tablespoon or so of the starter and put it into a large bowl. Take the remaining and place it in a new jar with new flour and water. You can decide how much you need based on how “sour” you like the taste and how well your bread rises. I usually add a 1/4 to 1/2 c flour and enough water to make a “batter”. Place in the fridge if you will not be wanting to feed it every 12 hours or be making bread every day.
Take your large bowl with starter and place a cup or so of whole wheat flour and about a cup or a little less of water. Again, enough to make a batter. Let this sit in a warm spot until bubbly and a little frothy, should take 2-8 hours depending on the strength of your starter and the temperature in your kitchen (or where ever you place your bowl). This is called the proofing stage.
When it is nice a bubbly add:
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 c oil (your preference)
- 3 c. whole wheat flour
Mix the salt and oil with the proofed starter first so it mixes really well then begin to add the flour. Mix well and adjust water accordingly. If it is very tough and not all coming together add some water, slowly as you knead. If it is too wet and very sticky add enough flour to be able to knead it and have it still be pliable. The key to well rising dough is the moisture. The more wet (yet still workable) the better it will rise. Knead well for 8-10 minutes. Cover with oil and let sit in the bowl for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until about doubled. Punch down, form into a loaf and place in a loaf pan that has been greased and floured in a warm place covered with a plastic produce bag (we usually set it on top of the stove after having warmed it up).
Let cool completely before slicing. We usually take ours out of the pan after it has cooled slightly and wrap it in a towel and let it sit on the counter over night. Then keep refrigerated. This is not like “store bought” bread that is loaded with preservatives for unnaturally long shelf life.