A good whole grain sourdough has eluded me for a while. I’ve tried multiple recipes, but they turned out too dense or the flavor was off or the mix of grains didn’t seem appropriate. So, I decided to turn to the most scrumptious multigrain sourdough I know and try to figure out how it was made. Hands down, the best multigrain sourdough and, for that matter, the best bread in Vermont and possibly in the Northeast is baked by the Red Hen Company out of Middlesex. Their breads are made with only with organic ingredients and leavened slowly with sourdough starter. While I am enamored with all of their varieties, my favorite of theirs is the Mad River Grain. The crust is thick, but not overly chewy. The crumb is light and open. And the flavor, well, it’s just incredible. It is simultaneously sour, nutty, and wheaty without any of the flavors overpowering the other. They are in perfect harmony.
I checked out the ingredient list for the Mad River Grain and here is what I found:
Unbleached wheat flour, whole wheat flour, sunflower seeds, steel-cut oats, flax seed meal, brown flax seeds, whole blue cornmeal, whole rye chops, whole sesame seeds, golden flax seeds, water, culture, salt.
I was lacking whole blue cornmeal, whole rye chops, and golden flax seeds, but I had everything else. I also had some whole yellow cornmeal and whole rye berries on hand. I substituted the yellow for the blue cornmeal and roughly chopped the rye berries in replacement of the rye chops (though, looking back on it, I’d recommend using a grinder to do this … the chopping wreaked some havoc on my knife). I decided that the grains would have to be soaked before hand to soften them up and allow them to integrate into the dough. I also knew that the bread was leavened only by sourdough starter and that it was sour enough that the final proof was probably retarded in a cool environment. The recipe I developed is below. While it’s not up to the quality of the Red Hen Bakery, I’m pretty content with it.
Also, I am delighted to be part of this week’s YeastSpotting. Make sure to check out the other delicious yeasty treats at the Wild Yeast Blog.
Yield: ~2200 g
360 g white, 100% hydration, mature sourdough starter
25 g sunflower seeds
25 g steel cut oats
25 g flax seed meal
25 g whole brown flax seeds
25 g whole yellow cornmeal (or blue, if you have it!)
25 g rye berries, chopped or ground roughly (or rye chops…)
25 g whole sesame seeds
195 g boiling water
350 g whole-wheat flour
550 g white flour
600 g water, at room temperature
23 g salt
Combine the sunflower seeds, steel cut oats, flax seed meal, flax seeds, cornmeal, rye berries, and sesame seeds. Pour the boiling water over this mixture, cover, and let sit until cool or overnight.
Gently loosen the sourdough starter in the water (600 g). To this add the soaked seed/grain mixture and flours. Knead this mixture until all the flour is hydrated. Let rest or autolyse for 20-30 minutes. Add the salt and continue kneading until a medium level of gluten is developed (or until the dough can pass the windowpane test). Transfer the dough to a well-oiled container.
Allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours with a fold at 1, 2, and 3 hours.
Divide the dough into four equal pieces for ~500 g loaves. Shape each piece into a loose ball and leave for 15 minutes. During this time prepare your bannetons or other proofing containers.
Shape the dough pieces into a boule or batard, place seam-side up into your proofing container, and cover. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour at room temperature. Then, cover tightly in plastic, and place in the refrigerator to proof for 8-12 hours.
Remove from the refrigerator and allow dough to rise until the internal temperature is ~62 F. This will take 3-4 hours.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 F with a baking stone and steam pan. When the loaves are fully proofed, place in the oven with steam and lower the oven temperature to 440 F. Bake for 15 minutes with steam and then for another 20 minutes without steam at 425 F. Turn off the oven, crack the door, and leave loaves in for another 5-10 minutes. Then, remove the loaves from the oven and let cool completely before cutting into.