Sunday, 14 April 2013

Sourdough Multigrain Bread with Ancient Grains & Overnight Soaker

The bread of the month for the Artisan Bread Bakers’ Facebook group is a Multigrain Bread. The original recipe, from Pastry Affair, makes a simple multigrain bread using the straight dough method. With the straight dough method, the bread is made without any preferment.

I changed things up a bit by incorporating an overnight soaker to soften the grains and a sourdough starter to ferment the dough. I used white Spelt flour instead of bread flour, Einkorn flour instead of regular whole wheat flour and my EK (Einkorn) sourdough starter. I also added a little bit of honey to sweeten the pot.

Due to the inclusion of the sourdough and ancient grains, what I ended up with was a completely different multigrain bread; full of nutrients and fiber and easier on the digestive tract.



I used my Einkorn starter for this recipe.  I had just fed all of my starters, but I used the Spelt and apple starters to make sourdough crackers.  The only starter I hadn’t used yet was the Einkorn starter so in the pot it went. A Spelt starter would also work well in this bread or you could use a starter made from white bread flour if you want to make it with regular wheat rather than ancient grains.


Sourdough Multigrain Bread with Ancient Grains & Overnight Soaker

Inspired by this Multigrain Bread from Pastry Affair

Makes: 1 Loaf




Multigrain Soaker:

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds
  • 10 ounces tepid water

Final Dough:

  • 1 cup sourdough starter (I used this Einkorn Levain)
  • 2 cups white Spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup whole grain Einkorn flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • ~2 ounces lukewarm water (you might need more or less water, depending on whether you use a liquid or stiff starter)
  • Additional oats (and/or seeds) for garnish

* Due to the inclusion of the multigrain soaker, I added a little bit of yeast to help give some lift to the dough. 


1) Make the Multigrain Soaker

The night before you plan to make this bread, place the oats, sunflower seeds and flax seeds in a small bowl and cover them with the water.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it sit overnight.



2) Mix the Dough

The next day, whisk together the Spelt and Einkorn flours, salt and yeast in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer, add the multigrain soaker and sourdough starter.



Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon, Danish dough whisk or mix on low speed on the mixer.  Add the water and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, or if it is too sticky, sprinkle a little more flour until it becomes a workable dough.



3) Knead the Dough

Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it gently. It’s easy to over knead Spelt so I only kneaded it for a short time, then I put it in a lightly greased bowl. 



4) Bulk Fermentation

Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let the dough proof in a warm spot (about 70 degrees F.) for 3-4 hours. Fold the dough a couple of times during the first hour to help develop the gluten. 



5) Shape the Loaf

At the end of the bulk fermentation, gently punch down the dough and let it rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.  Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  Shape the dough into a rough rectangle.



Fold the top third down and the bottom third up and gently press the edges together.



Place the loaf seam-side down in a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Using a spray bottle, spritz the top of the loaf with water and sprinkle with oats (and more seeds if you like). 



6) Final Proof

Cover the loaf with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it proof for another 30-40 minutes, or until it doubles in volume.



7) Bake the Loaf

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake the loaf for 40-50 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when thumped.


8) Cool and slice the loaf

Remove the loaf from the oven and immediately remove it from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.



This bread makes a good sandwich bread.  I enjoyed it toasted with cheese and with peanut butter and jelly.


Happy baking!


Monday, 8 April 2013

Reflections on Baking Grain-Free Crackers

I’ve been bitten by the cracker bug. Once I started experimenting with different types of crackers, the floodgates were opened, and now I can’t seem to stop making crackers. It’s a whole new world in baking. There are so many possibilities. I’ve made crackers several times a week for the past few weeks. As can be expected, I’ve had some successes as well as some failures.

The other day, I was looking for a recipe to bake for an April Fools’ luncheon. We were supposed to bring a mock food or something that looked like something else. I had a hard time getting out of my bread box and thinking creatively for this one, but then it occurred to me that something grain-free would work. So I started looking for gluten-free or grain-free baking recipes. I finally found some grain-free crackers that looked edible.



I chose these particular crackers because of the beautiful photos on  

If you want to bake these crackers,

Look for the recipe and instructions here.  Since baking with grain-free flours is still rather new to me, I didn’t adapt the recipe at all. I used Kelly’s recipe and method for making these crackers. She has several different versions to choose from and lovely photos to boot.


Problems are opportunities

They say that no problem is a problem, but an opportunity to learn and to improve. So what I decided to do with this post is to reflect on some of the issues I had with making these crackers and provide some helpful tips to make them better, at least from my perspective.

When I baked the crackers and tasted them, my first thought was that this was a failure. I didn’t think I liked them, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was I didn’t like. I would taste a couple and think, “Oh! these are pretty good,” but then I would eat another one and think, “what is this?” The flavor seemed okay, but they just didn’t wow me. I figured it was because they were gluten-free and I just prefer grains. 

I really wanted to like these crackers so I decided to give them a fair shake. I went to the store and bought some grain-free crackers to try and determine what I liked or didn’t like about them. I fell in love with the store bought crackers. They tasted so good. I almost ate the whole box in one sitting.

It’s the texture, silly!

The store bought crackers were made with several different types of grain-free flours and the grain-free crackers in this post are made only with almond flour so we’re not exactly comparing crackers-to-crackers, but what I determined from that taste test (for me anyway) was that it’s the texture, the crispiness, that makes the difference. The store-bought crackers were really crispy. I loved that!

At this point, I went back to the grain-free crackers that I had made and tried them again. I had rolled some of them a lot thinner than others and I found that I really liked those because they were crispy and light. It was the ones that I hadn’t rolled thin enough that I didn’t like very much. The texture was just not quite right. I’m also not sure if I like the onion flakes in these crackers, but I think that’s a matter of personal preference. You can always substitute different seasonings.



Roll them really thin

The key to these crackers is to roll them really thin. The thinner, the better and since you roll these out between sheets of parchment paper, it’s actually pretty easy to roll them thin. I just didn’t realize what a difference it would make, but I do now. Next time, I will roll them out thinner for sure.



A good starting point

I think this is a pretty good starting point for a grain-free cracker recipe and with some tweaking for personal preferences, it could work really well especially for those that aren’t able to eat wheat. If you decide to try these crackers, I would welcome your feedback on what you like or don’t like about them and what tweaks you made to enhance them.

Even though I determined that rolling the crackers thinner would improve them and make them worthy of bringing to a luncheon, I decided not to make another batch because almond flour is not cheap. I’ll experiment more with that flour another time. I brought a bowl of fruit to the luncheon instead. The bread lady with no bread made for a good April Fool’s joke for sure, but everyone enjoyed the fruit so it worked out okay in the end.

So my experiment with grain-free crackers continues…

Happy baking!


Monday, 1 April 2013

Celebrate National Sourdough Bread Day

Today is traditionally known as April Fool’s Day, but more importantly (to bread bakers at least), it’s National Sourdough Bread Day. National Sourdough Bread Day is a great way to celebrate breads made with ‘wild yeast’. Although most people associate sourdough with the ‘sour’ breads made in San Francisco, sourdough bread doesn’t have to be sour – unless of course, you want it to be.

A lot of artisan breads are made with sourdough starters rather than using dried yeast. I love experimenting with different types of bread made with sourdough. It is very rewarding to make a bread completely from scratch using ‘wild yeast’ developed in your kitchen and maintained lovingly and stored in the refrigerator. 

I have several of these pets, as I like to call my starters, living in my refrigerator. All of my starters are made with different types of flour, and I use them in different types of bread. Learn how to make each of these starters in my sourdough starters section. My favorite starter is featured in this post.

To help you celebrate this day, I’ve highlighted some fun ways to create, maintain and use your sourdough starter to make different types of sourdough bread. I hope you enjoy.


Creating a sourdough starter

My favorite starter is my apple starter. Although I enjoy using the other starters, this one has special meaning because I used apples that I handpicked from an apple orchard in the North Georgia Mountains. I also went for a hike that day and it was a very memorable experience. I think about those fond memories when I use this starter.  It’s like a memory in a jar.


How to activate a sourdough culture

Once you’ve gone through the trouble and delight of creating your own starter, you’ll want to be sure you continue to feed it properly so that it doesn’t die in the refrigerator. Learn this easy method of activating a sourdough starter even if it has been in the refrigerator awhile and hasn’t been fed recently.



Making Sourdough Breads

This is a fun experiment. If you’re like me and you have trouble discarding your starter when you feed it, just make more bread. I made Classic Sourdough Bread using one recipe, but two different starters. You end up with lot’s of extra bread so your friends will love you.


Pita of the Desert

This sourdough bread is called Khubz Arabi or ‘Arab Bread’, but it’s also known as ‘Pita of the Desert’.  It is a soft, round flatbread that poofs in the oven and makes a great pocket to hold salad for a light lunch or dinner.


Sourdough Bagels on my mind

These Sourdough Bagels are made with a sourdough starter instead of an overnight sponge. They use the simplest of ingredients: starter, bread flour, salt, water, yeast and malt.




Sourdough Fantans with Jam Filling

These Fantans, made with sourdough and filled with delicious jam, were so delightful, they inspired a song. You’ll be singing it too once you taste them.



Sourdough Rye

This Sourdough Rye bread is made with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I really liked the flavor and texture of these breads. It’s a keeper!



Sourdough Spelt Loaf with Flax Seeds

You’ll enjoy the complex flavors in this 100% Sourdough Spelt Loaf with a flax seed soaker.  Spelt is versatile and healthy and makes a great addition to breads.


I hope you’ll try some of these breads. If you want to bake even more breads with wild yeast, visit my Sourdough Breads section. And, if you are interested in doing some fun and different things with your sourdough starter (besides making bread), check out the Sourdough Surprises baking group.


Happy Baking!