It used to be difficult to find good, whole grain bread here in Umbria, but over the past nine years that we have been here, things have changed. I can now buy a wide variety of whole grain breads from just about anywhere, including small, local grocery stores. Since I have access to great, healthy bread now, I find I am making it at home a lot less. I do enjoy making my own bread, however, and sourdough bread is not a variety you often find here in Italy.
I bought a sourdough starter from King Arthur flour over six years ago that I still use today. I dry it out when I travel from Italy to North America, and then again when I return to Italy six months later. I feed the starter twice a day for a few days until it is bubbly and sour smelling. Once it has been refreshed, I know it is ready to use again. You can create your sourdough starter from scratch at home, but it is a bit of an involved process that I will not get into here. If you want to give it a try, check out King Arthur’s Sourdough Starter Recipe. It takes about a week to get a healthy, bubbly starter, and if you have the time, it is a fun process. I have created my sourdough starter from scratch a couple of times in the past.
For this bread, I used a combination of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour as I was worried that an all wheat dough might be too dense. My bread turned out great, wasn’t at all heavy, so next time I will use only whole wheat flour. The trick to getting a nice crust on your bread is to either use a wet dough, or this method that I used in this recipe which involves baking the bread in a cast iron or terra cotta covered casserole. This process creates a great chewy crust, and a soft crumb, which is just the kind of bread we love.
Deborah Mele 2016
- 5 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
- 2 Cups All-purpose Flour
- 1 Cup Bubbly Sourdough Starter (See Notes Above)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Plus More For Oiling Bowl
- 3 Teaspoons Fine Sea Salt
- 2 1/2 Cups (Approximate - See Notes Above) Warm Water
- Dump the flour, starter, olive oil, and salt into a large bowl or basin of stand mixer.
- Slowly add the water, stirring to mix until the mixture comes together. Use only as much water as needed to create a shaggy dough.
- Either use the dough hook of your stand mixer, or turn the dough out onto lightly floured counter and knead until smooth. (About 4 minutes by machine, 8 minutes by hand.
- Oil a large mixing bowl and dump the dough into it.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot in your kitchen until the dough has doubled in size, about 6 to 7 hours.
- Place two oven-proof casserole dishes in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. (cast iron or terra-cotta work great)
- Dump the dough onto a counter and divide in two.
- Shape each half into ball and cover with kitchen towels and let rest for 30 to 45 minutes or until soft and puffy.
- Using a little flour, shape the dough into balls with your hands and place each into the preheated casserole dishes.
- Use a sharp knife to slash two or three cuts into the top of the loaves to allow for expansion while baking.
- Cover the casserole dishes and bake covered for 25 minutes.
- Remove the lid and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the bread registers an internal temperature of 190 degrees F with a thermometer.
- Cool on wire racks before slicing.