From time to time I like to hit the reset button and go back to the basics. A checkup, if you will, on the soundness of essential techniques and processes and see where fine tuning is needed. This Vermont sourdough with whole wheat from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread is one of those basic bread recipes for me. Not to mention it was a variation of this master recipe from which I learned to bake sourdough bread. It was two winters ago, the place was King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont. (I am a skier and I count winters, instead of years, in Vermont.) I took the Artisan Baking class there without really expecting much, maybe learning a few techniques. I brought home the sourdough starter and began in earnest my bread-making experiments. Since then, life has not been quite the same. No more store- or bakery-bought breads. I’ve made friends with a few fellow bakers who help me ride the steep learning curve. And my baking has taken on a life of it’s own.
I call this a basic recipe because there is only 10% whole-wheat flour in the entire formula. Hydration is 65%, much lower than the 80% in most of the Tartine recipes I’ve been posting recently. This makes the bread much easier to handle. No sticky wet dough to worry about. Shaping it into loaves is a breeze. From here, you can work your way up, increase the amount of whole wheat or raise the hydration level to your heart’s content. Let a thousand flowers bloom from this root recipe!
This bread is my go-to everyday bread which I don’t mind baking and eating. No commercial yeast is added. The levain, built from the sourdough starter, is about 40% of the final dough. Please see the cheat sheet below for details. There is only a faint taste of sourness since bulk fermentation and final proofing are relatively short. If you like to use nuts and dry fruits, they can be incorporated in the dough, when you make the stretch-and-fold turns during the first hour of bulk fermentation. You can wrap it all up in five to six hours. The bread can be easily made in the same day, provided you build the levain the night before. It is excellent basic bread that hits all the right notes on crust, taste and texture. It is the bread that keeps on giving and asks very little in return—a joy to work with and to have in anyone’s toolbox.