100% Wholemeal Wheat Sourdough Bread
Wholemeal wheat sourdough bread is the essence of sourdough breads. It is the most tasty with the highest nutrition. Even if your friends make “brick” jokes, well-made wholemeal sourdough bread is very easy to digest and “eats well”, far more so than a yeasted wholemeal.
1kg wholemeal flour
500g wholemeal leaven
670g warm water
20g sea salt.
In a large bowl, mix the leaven and most of the water. Dissolve the salt in remaining water. Mix the leaven and water well and add all of the flour, mix again, using a wooden spoon and add the salt water. Mix well with the spoon until it all comes together as a stickyish dough.
At this stage, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead it. This is slightly sticky, so persevere, a bakers slip (scraper) is invaluable here. Flour your hands if necessary, but knead and work it until a more smooth dough results. This can take 5 minutes or up to 10. There is no rush or competition for kneading excellence, just keep this dough moving, even rolling to absorb all the water and slowly form it into a ball and work it.
When you are satisfied that its become smoother and a little less sticky, and is “clear”, which means no shaggy lumps or bits in it, place in a bowl, cover with plastic, I usually put the lot in a plastic bag, and set in a warm spot (at least not cold) for 1 hour to rise. This is called “bulk proof”.
After 1 hour, turn it out and work gently by re-kneading briefly.
This makes just over 2 kg of dough which can be 2x1kg tinned loaves, or one massive loaf, or a big loaf and a small one or 2 crusty breads or one large tin and a small crusty, up to you to decided how to divide it. Any left-over makes a nice small focaccia or a pizza base, which is a good option. It is always worth making this size wholemeal at a time as one loaf can be frozen or better still give to a friend.
Roll the shapes into a cylinder which has one smooth surface, fold it perhaps so there is a seam on the bottom and place in a tin with the seam down, smooth surface on top. Place in the plastic bag again and return to its warm spot to rise for 2-21/2 hours. By this time, it should be well risen in the tin. Visual cues are small bubbles breaking the surface or little seams opening on the surface. If it is not risen to your satisfaction, wait up to 30-45 more minutes, this should be enough.
Put it/them into a pre-heated 220o oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200o and bake for 30 minutes more if baking large loaves. Smaller loaves should be baked within 35 minutes. Ovens vary a lot and this can extend the cooking time to 1 hour total. At 45 minutes, turn the loaf out, it should look baked and ready. Tap the bottom and it should sound hollow, not dull. If in doubt, return to the oven in the tin or out if you like crust. Bake for another 10-15 minutes. An hour should be enough. It is better to err on the side of too much baking than not enough. It is so disappointing to cut what appears to be a baked loaf and its gluggy. This especially applies to wholemeals.
Different flours may not produce this result, especially a wholemeal which may have a higher moisture content, or one which is softer. The key here is to withhold some of the water until you are sure it wont be a batter! Water can be added half way through the kneading, this is a very forgiving process. Ensure you are satisfied with the dough…it must not be so sticky it sticks unrepentantly to the surface! And add a little more flour if you think necessary, but err a little on the side of stickiness if in doubt. A wholemeal will often simply absorb some of the stickiness and be surprisingly handleable when it comes to be shaped. Make sure you place the baked hot loaf onto a wire cooling rack and leave it to cool thoroughly before cutting it. It really is best to give it 12 hours to cool and cure.