ABOUT THIS RECIPE:
What follows is a recipe that uses traditional ingredients and methods. This recipe will yield 3 small loaves or 2 large loaves. If you are still learning to bake bread and maintain a sourdough starter, I recommend that you use half of this recipe and practice by making a single loaf each day until you have achieved the results you desire. A healthy sourdough starter is sufficient to raise your bread. You will notice that the rising times are different than what is found in recipes using commercial yeast.
You will need:
• 2 cups kefir
• 2 cups starter
• ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• ¼ cup Honey
• 2 ½ tsp sea salt
• 6 cups whole wheat flour
Place the first 5 ingredients into a large glass, plastic or wooden bowl and mix well. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, blending completely between each addition. Use a plastic dough scraper to scrape bits of flour off of the side of the container and incorporate into the dough.
Once mixed, let the dough rest for 5 minutes or so. This is especially important with fresh ground flour as it takes longer to absorb the liquids. Fresh ground flour can utilize more liquid than retailed flour. Giving it time to rest allows the liquid to be incorporated into the dough. This dough can be a bit damp and may require more flour if you aren’t grinding your own wheat berries.
Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes on a cutting board, pulling the dough and then folding it over with your hands to develop the gluten. When the dough is well-developed, it should be light and not heavy or hard.
Once kneaded, place the dough back into the plastic bowl and cover tightly with a lid. Allow to sit overnight (8 to 10 hours). In the morning, punch down the dough and lift it out of the bowl, scraping any bits off of the side with your dough scraper. Lightly knead the dough and cut into 3 equal portions.
Lightly oil your loaf pans with olive oil.
To shape my dough into loaves, I flatten the dough into a rectangular shape and roll it along the longest side (like a jelly roll). With the seam side down, curl the ends under. Place this into your oiled bread pan and brush the top with olive oil. I make 3 small loaves with this recipe.
Put the pans into a covered, draft-free space for 4 to 6 hours. I use my oven (not turned on!). Try to position your pans so that they do not crowd each other. When you bake your loaves, you’ll want the heated air to be able to circulate fully around each pan.
When the dough has risen an inch or so over the top of your pan, simply turn on your oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown. When the bread sounds hollow as you thump the bottom of the pan (wear oven mitts!) it is done. If your bread does not bake in this amount of time, do not increase the temperature; just allow it to bake a little longer. Increasing the temperature could cause the outside of the loaf to finish baking before the inside of the loaf has had enough time to finish cooking.
NOTE ABOUT KNEADING:
Use a work surface that is even with the level of your hip joints. This level will be more comfortable when kneading bread. If your bowl or cutting board tends to slide, place a damp dish towel between it and the table or countertop for traction. If your dough is difficult to work and requires a lot of muscle, you’ve added too much flour and need to increase the liquid content. When developed, your dough should be light and not readily stick to the surface of your cutting board.
A WORD ABOUT GLUTEN DEVELOPMENT:
With your hands, it is nearly impossible to overwork the dough. If you use a machine, too much kneading will stretch the gluten too far and cause it to break. Gluten in the flour is like bubble gum. If it is not kneaded (chewed) enough, there will not be enough stretch to it to hold the structure as the yeast activity expands the dough. If it is overworked, the gluten will become fragile and break as the bread rises. Either of these extremes could leave you with crumbly bread that will not hold its shape when sliced.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you are new to sourdough bread making, you may be interested in reading more about the process here:
SOURDOUGH BREADMAKING GUIDELINES