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Historic Baking: Sourdough Bread

Historic Baking: Sourdough Bread

Posted in: Tips, Tricks & Interesting Bits History

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Making Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread, Recipe c.1900-1910
with Karli, MAG Marketing Coordinator

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There is nothing more comforting to me than freshly baked bread; it’s deeply tied to my memory banks of my grandmother making fresh bread and buns when I was a child.

Just thinking about freshly made bread, I can smell the buns baking, and then I imagine grabbing a butter knife and spreading butter on a warm hand torn bun - the butter melting instantly on the steaming fresh-from-the-oven, carb-filled, chewy, fluffy, yeasty piece of joy that is freshly baked bread. It felt liked I was wrapped in the heat from the oven, the warmth of the freshly baked buns, and the love of my grandmother making something by hand for me.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to level-up my breadmaking skills (using Google) and try sourdough using the starter I was gifted from Eat Catering.

I became a sourdough bread making machine this spring, mainly because I don’t have the heart to discard the discard. I found myself perpetually keeping it well fed (without tossing the discard), therefore my starter seemed to multiply into numerous jars like gremlins in turn resulting in loads and loads of loafs being created. Dont' worry, my friends were glad to take the sourdough loafs off my hands.

That brings me to this recipe for this post. I have been loaned the cookbook A Century of Canadian Home Cooking: 1900 Through the ‘90s, by Carol Ferguson and Margaret Fraser. In the 1900-1910 decade section there was a Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread recipe that I decided to try. I haven’t made whole wheat bread up to this point, so it was something new. I found the recipe overall to be quite forgiving and easy. It doesn’t involve multiple steps of folding or stretching like I typically do with sourdough. And the recipe makes 2 loaves which is a nice bonus!

With my trusty starter in hand I gathered all of the necessary ingredients. The first step is simple: mix together the starter, water, and all-purpose flour, then plop it into a bowl, cover it and let it stand somewhere warm for 12 hours. Knowing it had a long rise time ahead I started this step at around 8pm in order to continue the process the next morning. Easy peasy!

P.S. Meet my bread mixing side-kick, Korr (keenly observing what I’m doing with that bowl of dough).

The next morning at around 9am I mixed up the batter from the night before with the remaining ingredients. I added 1 cup of flour at a time as the recipe states, and ended up stopping at 4.5 cups of the whole wheat flour. I definitely recommended adding in the flour as suggested “until too stiff to stir” as the recipe states as you may find you don’t need the 5 cups of whole wheat flour, or you may need more.

Now for the hardest (or most enjoyable?!) part of the process – kneading! This dough is a shaggy mess to start with. I kneaded the dough around 15 times or so until the dough was smooth. Then I divided it in half to form two rounds.

I only had one 9x5” loaf pan (the recipe calls for 2 loaf pans), so I decided at this point to deviate slightly from the instructions and use a Dutch oven for my second loaf.

I used olive oil to grease the loaf pan then put one portion of dough in there and covered it. The second loaf I plopped into a banneton basket that’s been dusted with rice flour, and then covered it.

My kitchen was quite cool on this lovely September Day so I actually had to turn on the oven for a bit to generate some heat for the dough to rise. I placed the containers at the back of my stove where the heat escapes. Otherwise, it would’ve easily taken 6 hours to rise rather than the 2-3 hours as the recipes states. In the end mine took 3 hours to rise to a suitable height.

After this rise I took the dough from the banneton and flipped it onto some parchment paper, then scored the top with an attempt at a leaf pattern. I wanted to see how different the 2 loaves would turn out based on the different pans and techniques.

At this stage of the process I pre-heated my Dutch oven (for the banneton loaf). Once the oven was ready I plopped the scored dough ball with the parchment into the dutch oven and put the lid on, then put both the Dutch oven and 9x5 loaf pan inside.

40 minutes later, I checked on the bread and could see the one in the glass loaf plan had risen and baked up nicely. I tapped the loaf to check if there was a hollow sound (as per recipe) and decided to bake it another 10 minutes. At this point I also took off the lid from the Dutch oven in order allow the loaf to brown. At the 50 minutes mark (total) the 9x5 loaf was ready but the loaf in the Dutch oven needed more time. Ultimately I ended up baking the Dutch oven loaf for an extra 10 more minutes. Both loaves cooled completely on a rack before we cut into them.

As you can see they definitely took on different shapes and depth, but both turned our perfect! The final bread was definitely more of a strong whole wheat flavour than sourdough; a very earthy flavor. The texture was quite fluffy and the crust was more on the medium side versus a hard crust, so it was easy to cut into. I kept the 9x5 loaf for my family and shared the “artisanal” loaf with my co-workers (along with a spread of cheeses and jams to their delight). The compliments are still rolling in!

All in all, this is a recipe I will make again in the future especially when I’m not in the mood to stretch and fold every hour for 3-4 rounds. I highly recommend you giving it a try and telling us how it turned out!

 

WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH BREAD: THE RECIPE

Do you have any recipes passed down through the generations? Any tips or tricks you want to share about breadmaking?

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