Nothing beats warm sourdough bread, fresh from the oven, with a slab of cheddar. So, imagine my delight to see Chris’ recipe here that combines the best of both worlds, warm bread and cheese. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Making sourdough bread is a slow-food process. While the instructions may seem complicated, it doesn’t really take a lot of effort. But it does take time: Time for the bread to rise, time for the flavors to develop, time for the structure to ripen.
Sourdough bread is made in three stages. First you make a starter, or feed a starter that you already have. Second, you make a pre-ferment using part of the sourdough starter. Finally, you’ll make the loaf of sourdough bread.
How to Make Sourdough Bread
Step One: Sourdough starter
You’ll need sourdough starter to make this bread. If you don’t have sourdough starter already, go here to start by making a sourdough starter. This process takes about a week, but once you’ve made a sourdough starter you can keep it going perpetually, simply by feeding it flour and water once a week. If you have a starter already, make the pre-ferment in the evening the day before you want to have hot sourdough bread. The next morning you’ll make the sourdough bread dough, let it rise and you’ll have hot bread for dinner. Once you taste it, though, it will be worth the wait.
If you have an older sourdough starter, that hasn’t been used for a while, test its potency by feeding it two tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of warm water. If the sourdough is active, your dough will froth and bubble within 12 hours. To double check to see if it is safe to use, consult this post. If it bubbles you can proceed to the pre-ferment recipe. If it seems inactive, begin with fresh flour and fresh water in a clean jar and catch a new starter using this recipe.
Step 2: Pre-ferment dough
Yield: enough pre-ferment for 3 loaves of sourdough bread
- ¼ cup sourdough starter
- 2 Tbs whole wheat flour
- 2 Tbs water
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp Himalayan salt
- Remove the sourdough starter from the jar and put it into a mixing bowl. Do not wash the jar. Replace the starter in the jar with two tablespoons of whole wheat flour and two tablespoons of water. Stir well. Place the lid on loosely and set aside, to preserve your sourdough starter.
- Put half-cup of warm water in a bowl. Add remaining flour, salt, and sourdough starter. Mix on low speed for two minutes until well combined into shaggy, moist dough.
- Cover the bowl with a tight fitting lid and let stand at room temperature overnight. In the morning proceed with the “Cheesy Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread” recipe below. Note that you can triple this recipe or use the remaining pre-ferment for other sourdough bread recipes.
Step 3: Cheesy Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Yield: 1 loaf
- 1 ¼ cups warm water
- 3 ½ cups whole wheat flour, divided
- ½ cup pre-ferment dough
- 1 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1/8th tsp active dry yeast
- 1 Tbs virgin olive oil
- ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
- Combine water, three cups whole wheat flour, pre-ferment dough, salt, yeast, and olive oil in a bowl. Mix on low with a dough hook, until well combined.
- Increase the speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and makes a slapping sound. The sides of the bowl will be clean. This will take about four minutes. The dough will be moist. You can add additional flour if the dough seems too moist, but less flour is better than too much flour.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid. I use the lid that came with my Kitchen Aid mixer.
- Allow the dough to rise for four to six hours. Punch down. Knead in the grated cheese and a scant amount of flour so that dough can be handled without messing up your fingers.
- Form the dough into an oval loaf. Place the dough on a greased baking sheet. Slice the top to allow for rise. Cover with a cloth and allow it to rise about 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a shallow pan of water into the oven during the preheating time to create steam in the oven. (Tip: If you have a pizza stone place it on the top rack of the oven before you preheat the oven. Then preheat the oven. This helps the chewy, sourdough crust to develop to perfection. If you don’t have a pizza stone, just omit this step.)
- Place the risen loaf in the oven. If you are using a pizza stone, it will be on a rack above the loaf of bread, when you place the bread in the oven. Splash a quarter-cup of water onto the floor of the oven to build up steam. Quickly close the oven door.
- Bake the loaf for 40 minutes until the loaf is well browned. It will rise in the center where the loaf was sliced.
- When the loaf is done the crust will be brown and the bottom of the loaf will sound hollow when tapped.
The perfect sourdough loaf rises high in the center with a ragged, crisp edge. Allow the bread to cool completely before you slice it. This allows the texture and flavor to develop fully. After the bread is removed from the oven the baking isn’t finished until the bread is cooled. As tempting as it is to slice into a hot steamy loaf, your patience will be rewarded with more complex flavor and a better texture.
The real reward is when you slice that first slice. The loaf will have large bubbles and the scent will be aromatic and complex, without the alcohol flavors of yeast bread. If your first loaf isn’t perfect, keep practicing. Sourdough bread baking is more of an art than a science.
It’s beautiful to serve a perfect loaf of sourdough bread and know that you made it.
Chris is a teacher, author, gardener, and herbalist with 30+ years’ of growing herbs and formulating herbal remedies, skin care products, soaps, and candles. She teaches workshops and writes extensively about gardening, crafts, scratch cooking, fermentation, medicinal herbs, and traditional skills on her blog at JoybileeFarm.com. Chris is the author of the The Beginner’s Book of Essential Oils, Learning to Use Your First 10 Essential Oils with Confidence and Homegrown Healing, from Seed to Apothecary. Her newest book is “The Beeswax Workshop, How to Make Your Own Natural Candles, Cosmetics, Cleaners, Soaps, Healing Balms and More” with Ulysses Press (2017). Chris is a contributing writer to The Biblical Herbal Magazine, The Fermentools Blog, and the Attainable Sustainable blog. Her books are available on Amazon. Chris lives with her husband Robin in the mountains of British Columbia on a 140 acre ranch where they raise lamb. They have 3 adult children and 3 grand daughters.