I've been baking bread lately with an intensity that might verify my home as a full-fledged bakery. I've pulled rolls, sweet buns, pies, loaves, and many a pizza from my oven, and while they're all satisfying in their own way, this sourdough with freshly milled Yecora Rojo felt perhaps the most satisfying of all.
At its core, this is a simple loaf of bread made with a sizeable portion of freshly-milled hard red wheat that's paired with a medium-protein white flour—all at moderate hydration and mixed by hand. It's a no-fuss bread where the resulting taste far exceeds the few inputs, defying the adage “you get out what you put in.” When milling the fresh flour early in the morning to build my levain, the aroma is always the first to key my senses into the process. Milling has a way of drowning out any of the day's activities (both figuratively and literally) and has a way to focus; it's like that surprise you know is coming yet still manages to ground you in the present with astonishment.
And while I consider this bread simple, it does not fail to deliver on the flavor front. All the steps leading up to this loaf—from the fresh flour to the stiff levain to the long fermentation time—were done to maximize fermentation flavor and to highlight the inherent qualities of the freshly milled Yecora Rojo flour. A simple bread to make, but a bread that absolutely delights.
Using freshly milled Yecora Rojo brings a swath of deep, wheaty flavors to this loaf. Yecora Rojo has a rich flavor and pungent aroma that weaves its way through this sourdough bread recipe without being the predominant grain used. It's often described as having a “malty” flavor, and I concur, it tangentially reminds me of a mild light beer. Yecora Rojo is higher protein wheat with excellent baking qualities, and when paired with a medium-protein white flour as the base, the result is a loaf that's tender and open. You can find Yecora Rojo wheat berries online over at Barton Springs Mill.
If you don't have Yecora Rojo, you could swap out that variety for any freshly milled hard red wheat with similar results but with a different flavor profile. Be sure to review my guide to storing flour for the best way to store whole berries, freshly milled flour, and aged flour.
Wheat bran topper
To bring the nutrition up even higher and a great way to add texture to the crust, I like to top this bread with raw wheat bran. You can find small bags of wheat bran online, or you can sift the larger bran pieces out of any extra freshly milled flour. Either way, I roll the dough in the wheat bran right after shaping, just before placing the dough into its proofing basket. Because the dough is topped with the bran, there's no need to dust the proofing baskets with flour to prevent sticking.
As shown on the right, this sourdough with freshly milled Yecora Rojo wheat is made over the course of two days. Cold proofing this dough overnight brings additional flavor and it's also convenient for the home baker to split the process over the course of two days.
Sourdough with freshly milled Yecora Rojo formula
|Total Dough Weight||1,800 grams|
|Levain in final dough||13.68%|
|Yield||2 x 900g loaves|
This recipe makes two loaves. If you'd like to make a single loaf, divide all the ingredients in half.
Desired dough temperature: 74°F (23°C). This dough temperature is significantly cooler than my typical 78°F (25°C); I find when using a moderate percentage of freshly milled flour, the lower temperature helps rein in fermentation to more manageable levels. Check out my guide to dough temperatures for more information.
|626g||Medium-protein bread flour or All-purpose flour (~11% protein, Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft or King Arthur Baking All-Purpose)||65.00%|
|337g||Freshly milled whole wheat (Yecora Rojo hard red wheat)||35.00%|
|722g||Water 1 (levain and autolyse)||75.00%|
|67g||Water 2 (reserve for mixing)||7.00%|
|17g||Fine sea salt||1.80%|
|31g||Ripe sourdough starter||3.20%|
Sourdough with freshly milled Yecora Rojo method
1. Mill flour — 8:30 a.m.
Set your grain mill to the finest setting and mill 337g Yecora Rojo (or any hard red wheat variety). I used my KoMo mill, but a Mockmill grain mill will also work very well. Once you've milled the flour, set it aside until called for when making the levain and in the autolyse.
2. Prepare the levain – 9:00 a.m.
This is a relatively fast levain, ripening in five hours. Mix the following ingredients in a container and leave covered to ripen at a warm temperature, about 76°F (24°C) for 5 hours. Since this is a stiff levain (whereas my starter is liquid), I like to mix everything in a bowl to knead the dough slightly with my hands.
Note: I've built in a small 16g buffer to this levain. This means the levain will be a little larger than needed for this recipe to cover any loss (bits left on the side of the jar, spatula, etc.) when making.
|35g||Medium-protein bread flour or all-purpose flour||50.00%|
|35g||Freshly milled whole wheat flour||50.00%|
|35g||Ripe sourdough starter||50.00%|
2. Autolyse – 1:30 p.m.
This recipe uses a short autolyse to help decrease the required mixing time. Typically I'm not particularly eager to autolyse with freshly milled flour, but in this recipe, it works fine thanks to the small percentage of freshly milled flour and the grain's inherent strength.
Add the following to a mixing bowl and mix until incorporated. Let the mixture rest, covered, for 30-minutes.
|595g||Medium-protein bread flour or all-purpose flour|
|306g||Freshly milled whole what flour|
3. Mix – 2:00 p.m.
At this point, your stiff levain should look very ripe, showing bubbles at the sides, an expanded top, and a sour aroma. While this is a small levain, the large portion of freshly milled flour and high inoculation (the amount of ripe sourdough starter added) should ensure it ready after 5-hours (as you can see below).
Gather the following ingredients for mixing. The remaining water (water 2) in the recipe should only be added through mixing if your dough feels like it can handle the addition. Use a splash to work in the levain and salt, adding the rest if the dough feels cohesive.
|17g||Fine sea salt|
|123g||Ripe levain (from step 1, you might have some excess)|
Sprinkle the salt over the dough and break up the stiff levain to scatter over the dough. Then, moisten with a splash of the reserved mixing water and, with wet hands, pinch, fold, and mix the dough until everything is homogenous. Scrape the dough out to a clean counter and slap and fold (knead) for approximately 5-minutes until smooth and starting to show signs the dough will hold itself together on the counter.
Transfer the dough to a container for bulk fermentation and cover.
4. Bulk fermentation – 2:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
At a warm room temperature, around 74-76°F (23-24°C), bulk should take about 3 1/2 hours. If your kitchen is cooler, place your bulk container in a small home dough proofer, or extend the bulk fermentation time to give the dough more time to ferment. This dough needs three sets of stretches and folds during bulk fermentation.
See my guide to stretching and folding dough during bulk fermentation for detail on this technique.
5. Divide and preshape – 5:45 p.m.
This dough won't look excessively fermented after 3 1/2 hours in bulk fermentation, partly due to the low levain percentage in this formula and partly because of the low final dough temperature. This is what we want: it still has a long way to ferment until the fridge and even longer overnight (albeit at a cold temperature). You should see some signs of fermentation, though, including some rise, bubbles on the top and sides, and a smoothing of the dough (as you can see in the image below).
Fill a bowl with some water and place it on your work surface. Scrape out your dough from the bulk container onto your dry counter. Divide the mass in half using a bench knife. Using a wet hand and the knife in the other, gently preshape each half of the dough into a loose round.
Let the preshaped dough rest, uncovered, for 35 minutes until it's relaxed outward.
6. Shape – 6:20 p.m.
First, optionally spread a thin layer of raw wheat bran on a a clean kitchen towel, plate, or baking sheet, and place it on your work surface. After you shape your dough, you'll roll the smooth side of the dough on this thin layer of wheat bran to coat the exterior.
I like to shape this dough with freshly milled Yecora Rojo as a batard, but a boule would also work well. Shape each by first flouring the top of the rested rounds and your work surface, flip the dough over to the floured space, and then shape them into your desired shape. Quickly and gently transfer the smooth side of your dough down onto the wheat bran and roll it side to side so the bran sticks.
Then, place it seam side up in a proofing basket lined with canvas or a clean kitchen towel. I used smaller 10″ oval cane bannetons for this dough to help provide structure and keep the loaf tighter through the overnight proof.
7. Proof – 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. (overnight)
Cover the baskets with a large, reusable plastic bag and seal it shut. Place the baskets into your refrigerator to proof overnight.
8. Bake – 9:00 a.m. (next day)
Preheat your oven with a baking stone or Baking Steel inside to 450°F (230°C). I baked these loaves in my Challenger bread pan, but you could also follow my guide to steaming an oven for baking bread.
Score each piece of dough and slide it into the oven—bake for 20 minutes with steam. Then, remove the steaming pans from inside the oven (or remove the lid to your baking pan) and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the crust is deeply colored and the interior temperature registers around 204°F (95°C).
Once fully baked, be sure to cool your loaves on a cooling rack for 1-2 hours before slicing. See my post on the best way to store bread to keep it fresh for a week or longer.
It didn't take much effort for me to want to continue test-baking this bread. The flavor and texture are so spectacular, and the simplicity of it all was so refreshing. Sometimes removing complexity yields the best results, and it's not often we find the outcome exceeds the sum of the inputs, but when it happens, it's all that much more satisfying. And what better way to start a week than to have fresh, wholesome bread made with a simple mix of flour, an effortless hand mix, and long-fermented for additional flavor and nutrition?
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