My original idea was to do a sourdough cracked-wheat bread, I had the recipe printed out, and my starter going. Woke up on Saturday bright and early, in great spirits to attack the preparation. Surprise number 1: recipe called for a whole-wheat starter. Mine wasn’t. Surprise number 2: recipe suggested an overnight fermentation in the fridge before baking, but I absolutely had to start and finish the bread on the same day.   Not sure how many times in my life I’ve made the mistake of NOT reading a recipe carefully enough before baking day, and/or before shopping for ingredients  (sigh). Plan B had to be set in place, and quickly.  I found a recipe for cracked-wheat bread with a very interesting technique: spreading a dry mixture of flour, sugar and yeast over a fermenting “sponge”, forming a sort of a protective blanket over it.  All of a sudden my Saturday was bright again, and the best was that the bread turned out fantastic!

(adapted from The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

To make the sponge:
1/2 cup bread flour (78 g)
1/2 cup  whole wheat flour (72 g)
3/4 tsp instant yeast (2.4 g)
1/2 tbsp sugar (6.2 g)
1 tbsp nonfat dry milk (8 g)
1 tbsp agave nectar (20 g)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp  water at around 80F (266 g)

Flour mixture for topping the sponge:
2 cups bread flour (312 g)
1/2 tbsp sugar (6.2 g)
1/4 tsp instant yeast (0.8 g)

For the final dough:
1/2 cup cracked-wheat
1/2 cup  boiling water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 + 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter

In a medium bowl combine the sponge ingredients and whisk until very smooth, about 2 minutes, trying to incorporate as much air as possible as you stir.

 In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour mixture ingredients. Sprinkle on top of the sponge to cover it completely. DO NOT MIX TOGETHER. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1-4 hours at room temperature. The longer you allow it to ferment, the better. I fermented mine for 2 hours.

Place the cracked-wheat in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in the water until all the water is absorbed, about 1 hour.

With your stand mixer, add the bulghur  and the oil  to the bowl and then add the dough and starter. Mix with the dough hook on low speed for a couple of minutes, until no dry bits remain, but do not overmix.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the salt and knead the dough on medium speed for 12  minutes. The dough should be very elastic  but still slightly moist.

Scrape the dough into a  greased container. Lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours (mine took 90 minutes).  Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and press down very gently to form a rectangle, don’t try to get all the air out of it. Give it a business letter fold, turn it 90 degrees and do another business letter type fold. Smooth the edges and return the folded dough to the bowl.  Cover, and rise until doubled, 1 to 1.5 hours (mine took only 45 minutes).

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it as a loaf.  Place into oiled loaf pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until the center is about 1 inch higher than the rim of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for 30 minutes before baking. Place oven rack at the lowest shelf and place baking stone on top. Place a sheet pan on the floor of the oven and  have some ice cubes handy.

Once the dough has risen, brush the top with the melted butter, then cut a 1/2″ deep slash down the middle of the dough. Quickly set the load pan on the baking stone. Take a 1/2 cup of ice cubes and quickly throw them onto the sheet pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until golden brown and the internal temperature is 200 F.  Remove pan from oven, remove bread from pan and set on wire rack. Brush with remaining melted butter. Let it cool completely (yeah, right… 😉 before eating.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Cracked-wheat (an ingredient similar, but not exactly the same as bulghur, for a nice explanation click here), gives this bread a perfect texture, and just the right amount of ‘grain-feel’.  You can substitute bulghur if you have trouble finding cracked wheat.

It is a very easy dough to handle, as most of the kneading is done with a mixer. It would be possible to knead by hand, but it would take a lot longer and you must develop the gluten fully to get the right texture – go for the Kitchen Aid, is my advice.   It is fun to make, the photos below show the sipping of the fermenting sponge after 1.5 hours, the addition of cracked-wheat, and the amazing first rise, probably due to the temperature in our home these days.

If you make this bread during warm weather, as soon as you shape the dough  start heating your oven, because mine took only 35 minutes to fully rise. You don’t want to risk overproofing, so that the bread will still rise during baking. Catch it around this stage, brush it with butter, slash the top and place it in the oven.

Sandwiches with cheese, ham, lettuce, a light touch of mustard were absolute heavenly!

I’m submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…  Nice to be able to join that party after what seemed like too long a break!  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Au Revoir, My Bewitching Kitchen (hard to  believe it’s been one year already!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

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    • Amelia, thanks! I actually made a small boo-boo on this one, by baking it covered for almost 30 minutes, not realizing the bread had incredible oven spring – the top touched the cover and ended up a little flat. THat’s why I kept the instructions in the original way, adding ice cubes to generate steam, and baking the bread uncovered. But, other than that, it worked quite well. So, the”master” thing is a never ending process, it seems! 😉


    • Oh, an antique wheat grinder! How cool is that? I’ve seen some around the net and kept wondering if I need to grind my own flour, but so far I resisted. Enjoy your new toy….


  1. Amazing what you come up with when you have to. 🙂

    Honestly, I’d have just run down (ok…hopped in the car and driven) to the bakery 2 blocks away if I wanted bakery quality sandwich bread cause I’m a lazy so and so.


  2. This looks like a bakery sandwich bread! Beautiful. I’m thinking I’ll hold off on trying this one until I practice some more though. LOL. I’ve been making a sourdough almost every weekend now. It’s starting to become addictive. 😉


    • I knew you would be addicted – it’s just too much fun! Make sure to try English muffins and pancakes (actually I’ve never made pancakes with sourdough starter, but have it in my files) –

      what I like about sourdough is that each loaf ends up slightly different, even if you use the same recipe


    • Thanks so much, Dewi! We still have 1/3 of it left, and it keeps quite well for a homemade bread, I am pleasantly surprised. Must be the cracked-wheat retaining moisture.


  3. A lovely and healthy sounding bread that would go great with all my tomatoes. Wonderful bread and fresh tomatoes sounds good to me. You are an inspiration for turning on the oven in summer.


    • Not easy to turn the oven on at this time of the year, but for a nice loaf of bread I don’t mind too much. Especially this type that bakes at a lower temperature, 350F is not that bad. When I make a sourdough during Summer, I search for recipes that require overnight fermentation in the fridge, so I can turn the oven on early in the morning to bake it. Small details help… 😉


  4. Your bread looked lovely and I get inspirations looking at all the possibilities but it’s hard for a 2 person household to get through a lot of bread on a regular basis.

    My mom and I treat ourselves to a loaf of crusty on the outside, pillowy on the inside challah bread with an assortment of deli meats every couple of weeks. When it’s gone I have to be patient and wait until it’s time for our next one.

    I used to make ciabatta bread but since my bread machine died, don’t feel like doing the kneading of the super sticky dough by hand so, again, it’s a trip to the Italian (5 min away going east) , as opposed to the Jewish/eastern European bakery (3 min away going east). And there’s ANOTHER European bakery (3 min away going west). And then there’s the city market (5 min away going west).

    Really, we’re spoiled for choice as our UK brethren say. 🙂


    • well, I never thought about baking bread while living in France – why would I, with all those choices within walking distance from ANY place in town? 😉
      I wish I had an European bakery where we live, but I doubt it will ever happen!


  5. I just made the mistake of not reading a recipe this very afternoon. Now, I’m chilling cookie dough (as instructed) instead of baking cookies as I thought I would be today. Your Plan B worked out perfectly! The bread look incredible.


    • I am very happy to be in such great company! 😉
      Looking forward to reading about your cookies… it’s a good thing you could postpone the adventure for one day without too much trouble, I had no way out of my boo-boo


  6. 2 questions: You don’t mention a pan size, but with only 3 cups of flour, I’m guessing an 8×4 pan? Also, what’s the purpose of the agave nectar? I never put sugar in regular bread, so was wondering if the agave nectar had a special purpose.


    • Yes, 8 x 4 will work, it is a smallish loaf.

      I suppose you can skip the agave nectar without any problems – I normally don’t add sugar to my bread either, and must say I don’t remember if I could taste in the bread,,;-) Hope this helps!


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