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What Is Whole Grain Sourdough?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2017
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Whole grain sourdough is a type of baked bread that uses unprocessed grains and is made from a bread starter. Any type of whole grain or combinations of grains may be used in the dough, depending on the personal preferences of the one baking it. This bread can be topped during baking with dried whole oats, whole sunflower seeds, or poppy seeds to add texture and flavor.

Bread starters utilize wild yeast, instead of commercial baker's yeast, to encourage the bread to rise. The fermentation process that promotes the growth of bacteria and production of wild yeast can be accomplished by combining equal amounts of water and flour such as wholemeal, rye, or whole grain wheat.

Wild yeast requires a greater length of time to ferment when paired with sugar than traditional yeast. The starter should be left alone for several days while the bacteria grows, then refreshed by discarding half of the mixture and infusing what remains with a fresh mixture of flour and water. Soon after this infusion, the bacteria has typically reached its peak production and the yeast is ready to use.

This soured flour lends its name to this type of bread. Bread made from this base possesses a unique, slightly sweet flavor and maintains a moist texture. Adding whole grains, instead of white or all purpose flour, to the soured flour can create further depth and variety in the overall flavor of the whole grain sourdough.

A whole grain is any type of grain that has not been processed. These grains contain the germ, bran, and endosperm that are characteristic of all grains, unlike processed grains which may only contain the germ or endosperm. They are not bleached and do not contain additional ingredients. Whole grains typically contain higher amounts of fiber, vitamins, and nutrients than processed grains. They can include whole grain wheat, whole oats, bulgur, and rye, and all are suitable for use in whole grain sourdough.

Bakers who wish to infuse more of the flavor of the soured flour into their recipes can use an increased amount of the starter. The dough for the whole grain sourdough should require two separate rising periods, once after mixing, and again after forming the loaves. The finished bulk often produces two full loaves, and is excellent for use in sandwiches, as toast, and dried and cubed over salads.

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