Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sunflower Seed Bread with Pâte Fermentée

Sunflower Seed Bread is a traditional German bread, called Sonnenblumenbrot (Sonne = sun; blummen = flower and brot = bread). The seeds provide an aromatic flavor and a toasty crunch.

This is one of the breads the Mellow Bakers made in October. I didn’t have time to bake it last month so I saved it for November. It took me three days to make it from start to finish. It’s not really a 3-day process, but I wanted to bake it in the evening, so I adapted the process to fit my schedule.



Hamelman’s formula utilizes a preferment that is made ahead of time and rests on the counter for 14 to 16 hours. I wanted the flexibility of making this bread in the evening after work so I made the Pâte Fermentée the night before and let it ferment in the refrigerator until I was ready to use it. The preferment I used is similar to the one we made in the BBA Challenge and can be used after resting on the counter for a couple of hours or refrigerated for up to three days. It is made with a blend of all-purpose and bread flour rather than all bread flour.


Sunflower Seed Bread with Pâte Fermentée

Makes: 3 Medium or 2 Large Loaves

Adapted from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart



  • 6.4 oz (1 3/8 cup) rye flakes
  • 8 oz (1 cup) water

Pâte Fermentée:

  • 3.2 oz (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3.4 oz (3/4 cup) bread flour
  • 4.2 oz (1/2 cup) water
  • .1 oz (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 1/8 tsp. instant dry yeast


  • 12.8 oz (2 7/8 cups)  all-purpose flour
  • 12.8 oz (2 7/8 cups) bread flour
  • 13.4 oz (1 5/8 cups) water
  • .6 oz (1 T) salt
  • .17 oz, instant dry yeast (1 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Diastatic Malt Power
  • 6.4 oz ( 1 3/8 cups) toasted sunflower seeds 
  • Soaker, all of the above (14.4 oz)
  • Pâte Fermentée, all of the above (10.7 oz)



1st Day: Making the Pâte Fermentée

Sprinkle the yeast over the water, add the flours and salt and stir until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball. Adjust the flour or water as necessary to ensure the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. 

Transfer the dough to a counter sprinkled with flour. Knead the dough until it is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. About 4 to 6 minutes by hand or 4 minutes using the stand mixer.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and roll it around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature for an hour or until it swells to 1 1/2 times its original size. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas it, then return it to the bowl and recover with plastic wrap.


Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days, or you can freeze it in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months. I kept mine in the refrigerator until the next evening when I was ready to continue the process.


Making the Soaker

Make the soaker at least 4 hours before mixing the final dough so the grains have time to soak up the liquid and soften. Pour cold water over the rye flakes and stir to thoroughly incorporate.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. I used rye flakes for the soaker so I used a cold soaker. I placed the soaker in the refrigerator overnight along with the Pâte Fermentée.


You can also toast the sunflower seeds. I didn’t toast mine because they were already roasted, but toasting raw sunflower seeds will make them more fragrant.


2nd Day: Mixing the Dough

Remove the Pâte Fermentée from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough.

Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for an hour to take off the chill.



Add all of the ingredients, including the soaker and the sunflower seeds, but not the Pâte Fermentée, in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer.  Using a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for 3 minutes in order to incorporate the ingredients.  Add the Pâte Fermentée in chunks.



Adjust the hydration of the dough as necessary by adding additional flour or water. Turn the mixer to second speed and mix for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.  The dough will be somewhat loose, but should have noticeable dough strength and gluten development.  The desired dough temperature is 75 degrees F.



Bulk Fermentation

Let the dough ferment for 2 hours and fold the dough after 1 hour of bulk fermentation.


Dividing and Shaping the Dough

Divide the dough into 1.5 pound pieces.  Shape each piece into a round.  Cover the balls with plastic and let them rest seams-side up on a lightly-floured counter.



Once the dough has relaxed sufficiently (about 10 to 20 minutes), shape it into tight round loaves. Dip the top side of each loaf into a dampened cloth, then into a sheet pan of raw sunflower seeds. I sprayed the loaves with a little bit of water and dipped the top side onto the counter covered with sesame seeds.



Place the loaves into floured bannetons or onto a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal or a baker’s couche, top side up, and cover with plastic.



Final Fermentation

The loaves need to proof approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  At this point, it was late so I covered the loaves with plastic and a dish towel and placed them in the refrigerator to bulk ferment overnight.



3rd Day: Baking the Loaves

The next afternoon, I took the loaves out of the refrigerator and let them warm up for a couple of hours before baking.



The sunflower seeds could make the scoring a little bit difficult. So just use a few quick strokes with a straight razor blade or some snips with scissors.  I used a lame to score these loaves and it worked just fine.



Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with a baking stone on the middle rack and a steam pan underneath.  Place the loaves on the hot baking stone using a baker’s peel or the back of a baking sheet. Fill the steam pan with hot water and close the door of the oven.  (I also sprayed the walls of the oven with a spray bottle filled with water about 3 times during the first few minutes.) Then, I reduced the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.  Let the loaves bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Bake for a total of about 40 minutes until the loaves are golden brown.




Let the loaves cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving. This bread tastes great toasted with cheese and served with homemade tomato soup.



This bread has been YeastSpotted. Please visit Wild Yeast to view all of the lovely breads in the roundup. Thanks to Frankie (Tartine Bread Experiment) for hosting this week’s roundup. 


Mellow Bakers was started by Paul at Yumarama. We’re baking breads from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman.


Happy Baking!


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