Whole Wheat Sesame Sourdough

Tartine’s method is what I’ve been playing around with lately, in spite of the other baking books I’ve also been accumulating. At some point, I’ll move on to those too.

The country loaf as created by Tartine has 75% hydration, a 90/10 ratio of white to whole wheat flour, and has a mild taste with little to no sour tang. Which is nice, but I also happen to like a sour, wheatier loaf. I made some bread with a 50/50 wheat to white ratio and a strong tasting starter. I also added sesame seeds to the dough and the outside of the loaf before baking.

I immediately noticed that the dough in this batch was drier and more stiff than Tartine’s usual country loaf dough. This is due to the higher proportion of wheat flour, which soaks up more water. This isn’t a bad thing, and if you find yourself having trouble working with high hydration doughs this could be easier for you.

The result was a lovely loaf (actually, two) with a tan, bubbly interior flecked with seeds, and a sesame seed crust on top. It’s chewy, hearty, and has a sour taste. I’ve been loving it toasted with apple butter – apple and sesame is my favorite flavor combination right now.

It’s a good fall/winter bread if you happen to live in a climate that has seasons. Note that this is NOT a quick recipe, nor will most of the sourdough recipes be on this blog. Expect this to be an overnight and all-day process. If you want bread ready for dinner, start the night before. If you want to bake the bread in the morning, start two nights before and let your final rise go overnight in the refrigerator.

You will need a dutch oven or combo cooker for this recipe. This will help trap the steam as the bread bakes and form that crisp crust. I use this cast iron combo cooker for my bread baking.

I’m not going to type out the whole of Tartine’s method here, but I do recommend picking up the book and giving it a read. He goes into great detail about what’s going on in every step of the bread making process.

Whole Wheat Sesame Sourdough
Adapted from Tartine
Makes 2 loaves

For the Levain:
200g flour
200g water
Tablespoon of starter

Combine these in a bowl and discard your remaining starter. Cover and leave overnight. Levain is ready for the next step when it passes the float test.

For the Dough:
200g Levain (the rest becomes your starter)
700 g water
500g whole wheat flour
500g white flour
1/2 c sesame seeds

Combine the levain and water in a large (preferably clear glass) mixing bowl. Stir until the levain is dispersed. Add the flours and combine until no dry flour remains. Let this dough sit, covered, for 30 minutes. This waiting step is called an autolyse, and helps make the dough easily workable in later steps.

After the autolyse:
50g water
20g salt

Mix these two in a separate bowl. Don’t worry if the salt doesn’t dissolve completely. Add to your dough and fold to combine. You’ll notice the dough start to come apart and then come back together as the salt is incorporated.

Let the dough rise and ferment for 2-3 hours. This is a bulk ferment. During this phase you will not knead the dough so much as intermittently stretch & fold. Take the edge of the dough furthest from you, pull up and fold over towards you. Rotate the bowl and repeat until you’ve folded around all the edges. Do this once every 30 minutes or so. Be gentle when handling the dough, especially toward the end of the bulk ferment, and avoid digging your fingertips in the dough.

The dough is ready for the next phase when it holds its shape better and releases from the sides of the bowl. If you’re using a clear container, you’ll see bubble formation on the sides of the dough. It will also have increased about 25% in volume. At the same time your dough will have gone from feeling dense to softer.

Turn out the dough to a floured work surface and divide into two even pieces. Shape each piece into a round loaf and let sit, covered with a towel, on the work surface for 30 minutes. Uncover and give each round a final shaping by taking each edge and folding over like an envelope, similar to your stretch & folds during the bulk ferments.

Prepare either two proofing baskets or smaller mixing bowls lined with kitchen towels by dusting them with rice flour. This keeps your dough from sticking to the bowls and saves so much trouble when it comes to putting them in the oven. Transfer each round (gently!) into the bowls, cover, and let sit for 3-4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

When you’re ready to bake, put your dutch oven or combo cooker in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F. Once preheated, take out the pot (leave lid inside) and turn out one of the loaves into it. This next step should be done quickly. Spray water over the surface of the dough and sprinkle sesame seeds over the top to cover. Using a lame or sharp knife, make a few cuts or score a pattern into the top of the loaf. A simple X over the top works fine, but feel free to experiment. Return the pot to the oven, place the cover on, and close the oven door.

Immediately drop the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid (but keep it in the oven) and bake the loaf for another 25 minutes. Remove the finished loaf from the pot immediately (careful not to burn yourself), return the pot to the oven, and set the temperature back to 500 degrees. Repeat this process with the second loaf.

Let loaves cool and resist the urge to gnaw on the entire loaf. Or, don’t. Loaves will keep for a few days. If you don’t have help eating both loaves, you can give away a loaf and make friends or turn the leftover bread into croutons or something else. I will have a recipe for sesame croutons using this bread in the near future.

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