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Shane Ruoss bread making method

Yield: 2 bread loaves

Recipe by: Shane Ruoss

This is a brief description of the naturally leavened, 100% whole wheat bread we make using Bluebird Grain flours. The combination of the whole grain flour and the natural leavening yields a wonderfully flavorful bread that is a healthful way to add whole grains to your diet.

Having used a variety of different techniques for making naturally leavened (sourdough) whole wheat bread, the following is by far the easiest that I’ve tried, yielding the most consistent results. I’ve been making our bread with this method for about a year and love the results.

What I like about this technique is the dough stays in same bowl it is mixed in until the loaves are shaped. Instead of kneading, the dough is folded over on itself 6 or 8 times as it rises throughout the day. It yields a bread with a well-developed crust, a moist crumb and a complex flavor from the combination of the whole grain flour and sourdough starter. Making bread this way does span one day, but the total time spent isn’t much and with no kneading, it doesn’t make a big mess out of your kitchen.

I roughly follow the technique described and illustrated in the wonderful book Tartine Bread) by Chad Robertson, Chronicle Books 2010. Since it’s such a great book, I’ll keep this description brief and encourage anyone interested to read “Tartine Bread” for a thorough and inspiring discussion of how to make naturally leavened breads.

I make bread using the baker’s percentage method of measurements. Measurements are all by weight instead of volume and are expressed as a percentage of the weight of the flour. This allows one to easily adjust the size of the recipe as desired.

Flour 100%: I use a 50/50 mix of Bluebird Grain Farms Hard Red Wheat flour and Bluebird Grain Farms Hard White Wheat flour

Water 85%: Use lukewarm water, about 75 degrees

Salt 2%

Starter 20%: Room temperature and active.

That’s it. Simple!

Typically I’ll make bread about once a week on a day when I’ll be working around the house. The day before I plan on baking bread, I take the starter out of the refrigerator. After it warms up to room temperature, I feed it with a little water and the same flour mix as is used in the bread. This reactivates the starter. I’ll feed it a second time in the evening so by morning it will be active and full of bubbles.

The following morning I weigh the ingredients and mix together the water and starter, followed by the flour. Cover and set aside for an hour or two so the flour can absorb the water. Then sprinkle the salt on top of the dough while folding the dough over on itself in the mixing bowl.

The dough is then left to work at room temperature for about 8 hours. The time depends on the season and how warm the room is. About once an hour I fold the dough over on itself a couple of times. This helps develop the structure of the dough.

When the dough feels like it is ready, I shape the loaves and let them rise covered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours at room temperature.

I pre-heat the oven to 450º and bake on a pizza stone for ~34 minutes for a 20oz. loaf. The first half of the baking time (~17 minutes) – the bread is under a ceramic cloche – and uncovered for the last 17 minutes.

Devour with olive oil, a bowl of soup, or honey.