Soaked Yeasted Bread

Makes three 9-inch by 5-inch loaves or one 9-inch by 5-inch loaf, two 8-inch pizza crusts and 8 rolls or hamburger buns

  • 3 cups sponge
  • 1 cup water or 3-4 eggs plus enough water to make 1 cup
  • 2 teaspoons baker’s yeast
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 1 1/3 tablespoons sea salt
  • 6 cups plus 4-6 tablespoons whole wheat flour, preferably freshly ground

Mix 2 teaspoons yeast into ¼ cup warm water and let soften for 15 minutes. Remove ¼ cup sponge to keep for future starter. (Feed the starter with ½ cup flour and ½ cup water and put in covered container in the cupboard. The starter will keep for one week, until the next bread making, without anything being added, but it should be stirred occasionally.)

Place 6 cups flour in a big bowl. Add 1 1/3 tablespoon sea salt and stir in. To the bowl containing the sponge, add the honey, egg-water mixture and yeast-water. Beat and stir into the flour. Add a small amount of additional water or several tablespoons additional flour until the dough feels right—it should be somewhat flabby. Knead in the bowl for 10 minutes, using water on your hands to keep from sticking. Toward the end of the kneading, smear ½ cup soft butter in your kneading bowl and work this in. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 3 hours. Deflate, round and let rise another 3 hours.

Grease your pans—loaf pans, pizza rounds and a pie pan for the rolls—and divide, round, relax and shape the dough. You may use unbleached white flour to help with the forming. (If you are making hamburger buns, make balls of the dough, flatten and place on a greased cookie sheet.) Proof in warm place 45 minutes to 1 hour, covered with a damp cloth. Don’t overproof. Preheat oven halfway through the proofing. Bake at 415 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 315 degrees for 15-20 more minutes.

To make cinnamon rolls, make a rectangle of dough, flattened to about ½ inch thick. Smear with soft butter and sprinkle with Rapadura or maple sugar, raisins, walnuts and lemon zest. Roll up from the side and cut into individual rolls by tightening a string around the roll at 1-inch intervals.

If you want a VERY light loaf, follow the above recipe, except use part unbleached white flour, add the butter (melted) to the liquid ingredients, and use white flour to keep the dough from sticking during kneading.

Tortillas: Mix 2 cups sponge, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon honey and ½ cup melted butter or lard. Add about 3 cups fresh whole wheat flour. The dough should be soft but not too sticky to work with. Let proof 7 hours. Deflate and form into about 15 balls. Roll to about 1/8 inch thickness, using unbleached white flour to prevent sticking. Cook tortillas about 1-2 minutes per side on a dry, medium-hot cast iron skillet.

Note: For meanings of terms such as “proof,” “feels right,” “round,” “deflate,” etc., and for many other tips on baking with whole wheat, such as why to smear butter in rather than melt it, please refer to the excellent book, Laurel’s Bread Book by Laurel Robertson