Learn how you can make a delicious whole grain sourdough bread from scratch with very basic ingredients: flour, water, starter, and salt!
Good whole grain sourdough bread is such a staple food.
Of course, this German girl loves her bread and so does our entire family!
So what better way to enjoy bread than making your own whole grain sourdough bread from scratch!
Growing up, I not only remember eating this bread that has been baked in my family for generations. I also have distinct memories of how my mom made it. The recipe has not even changed since she learned it from my grandmother. Except that I started experimenting with different grains.
Note: your first bread may not come out exactly the way you want it to be – don’t be discouraged! Please keep trying, you will get a better feel for it and you will succeed!
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What you need for your German sourdough bread
Good bread really only needs 3 ingredients: flour, water, and salt.
However, I will add “starter” to this list, as my starter (recipe here) has buttermilk and caraway seeds in it.
Now, when I say flour I mean you can use any flour really. A good starting point would be using whole grain flour that you bought. Unfortunately, a lot of nutrients are lost when flour is stored. Also the natural oils in the germ can begin to oxidize.
For that purpose, I love grinding my flours the day that I bake. There are many grain mills to be had. I certainly recommend an electric one and I particularly love this one that attaches to my Kitchen Aid stand mixer (I have had mine for many years but this is very similar). I love not having a single-use appliance in my kitchen.
At this point, it may be worth mentioning that I prefer using a non-reactive bowl for mixing and rising my sourdough bread. You could use a glas bowl, a wooden bowl, or an enamel bowl (such as this one).
Assuming that you’re grinding your own grains, you can certainly only use wheat. If you have some other grains or feel a bit more adventurous, you could use any of the following: rye (is excellent in sourdough breads), spelt (more nutritious than wheat), einkorn, kamut, millet, amaranth, etc. Just see what you have or what you can find.
For years now, I have been adding flax seeds to my bread. It makes the bread look a lot darker and adds more depth to its flavor. However, this is completely optional!
Salt is an important ingredient in bread baking. Bread without salt tastes bland! Trust me! More importantly though, salt controls the level of sourness of your bread.
I personally like to add some caraway seeds in there. I just put it in the grain mill with my other grains and that way you can’t taste it. Feel free to put it directly in your dough if you like the distinct taste of caraway. You can also add a few pinches of cardamom to your bread.
Milling the whole grains (if using)
If you haven’t done this before, I absolutely recommend that you mill your own grains! Not only does your bread taste better, contain more vital nutrients but is also whole!
By that I mean, that many so-called whole-grain flours have been milled, sifted, and then only the bran put back in. They leave out the germ which is full of vitamins but also fat. Since those fats can go rancid really quick, many grains mills leave those out! What a shame!!
I use about 5 cups of grains total for my 9 1/2 by 5 1/2 inch loaf pan. If you’re using a different size or make two loaves at one time, you’ll have to adjust your quantities.
In most grain mills you can adjust how fine or coarse your grains will be ground. I have been using a setting that gives me a coarser flour. As a result, my bread has more texture. You might want to experiment until you find the setting that you like,
Now you simply grind all your grains.
When done, you add salt and your entire sourdough starter to the flour. Gradually, add filtered water to your bowl. You can start with about 2 cups and then slowly add more as you keep stirring. Don’t be tempted to add too much water! I have certainly made that mistake having to add more flour then.
Just as a point of reference, for the 5 cups of grains (2 cups of wheat berries, 2 cups of rye berries and 1 cup of flax seed) I use a bit less than 4 cups of water. Mix everything until you have a very heavy dough.
Cover your bowl with plastic or a beeswax wrap and let it sit in a warm spot. That could be close by a heater or in the sun. Let your dough rise for some hours. Unfortunately, I can’t give you an exact time here since it depends on so many factors. The temperature, the humidity on that day, other wild yeasts in the air – and maybe your own mood – all affect your sourdough.
You might want to check after 3 hours but you could go as long as 5 hours.
Pro tip here: If you’re new to sourdough bread making and/or you have just made your first sourdough starter, add about 1 tsp of instant yeast to your sourdough. That way, you’ll be sure that it will rise and it will still be a sourdough bread.
Your next sourdough starter
Before you transfer your dough to your loaf pan, remember about 1/4 cup off for your next starter. Put that in a glass container, add a lot of flour, and keep it in the refrigerator for your next bread. Read more about my super simple sourdough method here.
After you have put your dough into a loaf pan (greased and/or lined with parchment paper), cover it again and let it rise for another 3-5 hours. Once you notice the top rounded you are ready to bake.
Baking the bread
You’ll bake your bread at 350˚F for 90 mins. You can preheat your oven or put it into a cold oven (and just add 5 mins to the total baking time).
Checking the bread for doneness
The best method to check if your bread is done is to tap the bottom of the loaf pan. If it sounds hollow, your bread is done. Otherwise, return back to the hot oven for another 10 mins and recheck.
It’s best to wait for about 15 mins before attempting to take the bread out of the oven. Yes, I have “broken” a few breads with my impatience.
I also recommend waiting a few hours (or overnight) to cut the first slice. That way the bread will be so much easier to cut.
Enjoy with some butter (best homemade), jam, cheese or your favorite toppings!
Ideally, you want to store your bread in a linen cloth bag. If you don’t go through it within a week, I recommend storing it in the fridge in an air-tight container or plastic bag.
Hearty Whole Grain Sourdough Bread
- 5 cups whole grains (such as wheat, rye, spelt, einkorn, millet, flax etc)
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups sourdough starter check here to make your own: https://www.ourgabledhome.com/how-to-make-your-own-sourdough-starter/
- 1-2 TBSP salt
- 1 TBSP caraway seeds (optional)
- 3 1/2 – 4 cups filtered water
- Grind all your grains into a big non-reactive bowl.2. Add sourdough starter, salt, and caraway seeds (if using).3. Gradually add the filtered water until the dough comes together but is rather thick than runny.4. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for anywhere from 3 – 5 hours.5. Take off about 1/4 cup of dough for your sourdough starter and thicken with a lot of flour. Keep in refrigerator.6. Transfer dough into 9.5 x 5.5 inch loaf pan oiled and/or lined with parchment paper.7. Cover and let rise again in a warm spot for several hours until risen.8. Bake at 350˚F for about 90 mins. When done it should sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Let cool for about 15 mins before removing from pan. Let cool several hours before slicing. 9. Enjoy!