Remember when I said I had been experimenting with sourdough? This recipe is the winner! Soft, tender, and great flavor are some of the characteristics of this bread. I personally don’t like a very tangy sourdough so this recipe is perfect for me because the honey mellows out the sour flavor. I would also add that it is great fresh as well as keeps well for a few days and makes wonderful toast that doesn’t crumble into a million pieces. When I was searching for a great recipe the thing that I kept reading over and over was that the key to sourdough is to NOT add too much flour. Err on the sticky side. I headed those warnings and have one warning of my own to add. Sourdough rises at different rates depending on how active the starter is and how warm your kitchen is. I made the mistake of anticipating a longer rise one time and went to run an errand. My starter was quite active and my kitchen quite warm, and I was left with a loaf that was lopsided and wasn’t so pretty because it rose too much. Lesson learned; never leave sourdough unattended.
Sourdough bread, while not any more difficult to make than regular bread, is a bit more time intensive because it requires you to catch (or buy) and maintain a starter, mix up the starter with flour and the liquid the night before, and generally wait longer for it to rise because of the different yeast. But the benefits of sourdough are many, and it tastes delicious so I consider the little extra time it takes to go from start to finish to be a good investment. What are the benefits of sourdough? The longer time (soaking and rising) it takes helps break down gluten, which makes it easier to digest as well as breaks down phytic acid (which can keep nutrients from being absorbed properly). Check out this site for more information.
Recipe makes 2 large loaves and is slightly adapted from Heartland Renaissance.
1 1/4 c. whole wheat sourdough starter
2 c. filtered water
1/4 c. mild honey (I made my 1/4 c. heaping)
6 c. whole wheat flour (approximately, give or take) (I often sub in 1 c. of multi-grain flour for 1 c. of the whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons sea salt
5 tbsp butter, softened
The night before you are going to bake bread mix together 1 1/4 c. starter, 2 c. water, and 2 c. whole wheat flour in a large bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow to sit on the counter overnight.
The next morning add 1/4 c. honey, 2 eggs, and 5 tbsp butter and mix well (I like to use my hands or you could use a stand mixer). Add in about 2 c. flour and 2 tsp. salt and mix until a ball forms. Add more flour as needed to get it into a rough ball shape. Sprinkle the counter with 1/4 c. flour and turn dough onto it. Knead for 5-8 minutes, only adding more flour when it gets really sticky. After kneading, place dough back in the bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. This takes anywhere from 2-4 hours. I found that mine took closer to 2 hours.
After the dough has doubled in size, punch down and turn out onto the counter. Divide dough in half and form into two loaves. Place formed loaves into buttered bread pans, cover, and let rise until about an inch above the tops of the pans (about 2 hours).
After loaves has risen, preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp serated knife make a thin slash quickly down the top of each loaf (this keeps if from rising too much in the oven).
Place loaves in pre-heated oven and bake 25-30 minutes. Bread is done when it is golden brown on the tops and bottoms and sounds hollow when you tap the top. Remove baked loaves from the pan and allow to fully cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy your delicious loaf fresh with a drizzle of honey or toasted the next day with a bit a homemade peanut butter!