My dad gave me some sourdough starter this summer with which he’d been baking. His bread making skills have become pretty fantastic since he came and took a class with me through our local community college a year ago or so. I was looking for a recipe to make with this sourdough starter and saw this recipe from the Flour cookbook. The cookbook calls for a bread sponge that she would have you make. I decided to substitute the sourdough starter for the bread sponge. The bread was incredibly dense, but it was good. It was especially delicous as toast. I understand why the owner of Flour stated that she started each day with a slice of this toast.
Marvelous Multigrain Bread
1 1/2 c water, at body temperature
3/4 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c buckwheat flour
3 c all-purpose flour
12 oz Bread Sponge
1/3 c honey
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/3 c millet
1/3 c sunflower seeds
1/3 c flax seeds
Big handful of medium-coarse yellow cornmeal for the baking sheet
Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (or a large bowl and wooden spoon), mix together the water, whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour, and 3 c of all purpose flour on low speed for about 1 minute, or until the flour is mixed and you have a shaggy, stiff dough. (To prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl, turn the mixer on and off several times until the flour is mixed into the liquid, and then keep it on low speed). Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let sit for about 10 minutes. (This is called an autolyse, and it allows the water to hydrate the flour, which makes for better mixing down the road).
On medium-low speed, add the sponge, honey, and salt and mix for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is incorporated into the dough. The dough should be somewhat sticky, but still smooth and feel like an earlobe (strange as that may sound) when you grasp a bit between your fingers. If it is stiffer than this, mix in a few tablespoons water; if it is looser than this, gradually mix in a few tablespoons all-purpose flour. You may need to stop the mixer a few times to pull off any dough that has gathered around the hook or on the sides of the bowl. Add the millet, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds and mix 1 to 3 minutes, or until the seeds are evenly distributed throughout the dough. (If you are using a wooden spoon to mix the dough, you must dump out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 to 6 minutes, or until smooth, then return the dough to the bowl.)
Lightly cover the dough, still in the bowl, with an oiled piece of plastic wrap or a lint-free kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a draft-free, warm place (78 to 82 degrees is ideal; an area near the oven with only the pilot light on is good) for 3 to 4 hours. The dough will rise up a little bit (but not a lot) and it will feel a little loose and relaxed.
Flour your hands and your work surface and turn the dough out of the bowl. Divide the dough in half with a knife or a bench scraper. Shape each half into a ball by tucking the edges of the dough underneath and then continuing to tuck the edges underneath until the dough naturally gathers into a ball with a taut surface. (At this point, you can cover the shaped loaves and store them in the refrigerator overnight. Remove them the next day and proceed as directed.)
Sprinkle the cornmeal on a baking sheet to keep the loaves from sticking, and place the loaves on the sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart. Cover them loosely but completely with plastic wrap and let them sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until they have loosened up and seem relaxed. They won’t pouf up too much, but they will seem much softer.
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. (It is important that the oven comes to temperature before you place the bread inside. The correct temperature ensures that your loaves will get enough oomph to rise and grow.)
Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with the 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Slash the loaves with a knife, and place the baking sheet in the oven. Place a rimmed baking sheet or shallow pan with about 2 cups water on the oven rack below the bread. The steam from the water will create a nice moist atmosphere for your bread to grow. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and make a hollow sound when you thump them on the bottom.
Let the loaves cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer the loaves to the rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Once the loaves have cooled completely, they can be stored in a paper bag.