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How to Make Organic Red Fife Sourdough Bread

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Ken enjoys cooking and baking with exotic sourdough cultures.

Artisan Red Fife Sourdough just out of the oven! My daughter introduced me to Red Fife Sourdough and was the lucky recipient of this loaf.

Artisan Red Fife Sourdough just out of the oven! My daughter introduced me to Red Fife Sourdough and was the lucky recipient of this loaf.

Sourdough Made With Ancient Grains

Red Fife is a heritage wheat variety (Triticum aestivum) that Ontario farmer Dave Fife and his family started growing in 1842. Its name is derived from the original red colour of the wheat kernel and David's family name. (That's pretty much how grains were named back then.)

Red Fife is one of Canada's oldest varieties of wheat; legend has it originating in Ukraine or Turkey. According to Wikipedia, it originated in Turkey and then made its way to Ukraine, where it was grown by Mennonites. My Red Fife came from an organic family farm in Southeastern Alberta, where it has been grown for the last 100 years.

My love affair with this ancient grain began a year ago when my daughter brought me a chunk of Red Fife sourdough from a local artisan bakery. The sourdough, in a word, was AWESOME. It was love at first bite.

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

17 hours 30 min

45 min

18 hours 15 min

Happiness

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Red Fife fine flour
  • 1/2 cup Red Fife cracked wheat
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 1/4–1 1/2 cups water, start with 1 1/4 cups
  • 1–2 teaspoons Kosher salt, to taste, I recommend 1 1/2 tsp
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups active sourdough starter

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the salt in the water and set it aside. (Do not use iodized table salt, as it may impede the sourdough culture.)
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. I prefer using my KitchenAid bowl for this, but any bowl will do. (You will also need a second bowl for proofing the dough - more on this later.) Add the water after the salt has dissolved and mix thoroughly, then add the active sourdough culture.
  3. If the mixture is too dry, add small amounts of water until the dough can form a cohesive ball. If the dough is too wet, and is difficult to handle, add small amounts of flour until you can form that ball.
  4. Prepare a second bowl that's about 4 times larger than your ball of dough by coating it lightly with olive oil. Place the dough in this bowl and roll it over so the top has a light coating of oil, then cover the dough with plastic wrap. This will keep the crust of the dough from drying out during the proofing process.
  5. Let the dough proof ("rise") for 17 or 18 hours, then remove the plastic wrap and throw it away. Place the Lodge Dutch Oven in your oven and pre-heat to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Dump the dough out onto a floured cutting board - I use my Epicurean Kitchen Series 15-Inch-by-11-Inch for this - it's the perfect size.
  7. Gently flour and fold the dough a few times until you can form a round loaf - do not knead the dough. When the oven reaches 475 degrees, remove the Dutch Oven (carefully - it's HOT) and place it on a stove burner or other safe place and remove the lid. Carefully place the sourdough in the Dutch Oven, replace the lid, and return it to the oven. The Dutch Oven will retain moisture from the dough and steam it, producing a lovely, thick, chewy crust.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the lid, and bake another 15 minutes to brown the crust.
  9. Remove the bread and place it on a grill to cool. Resist the temptation of cut the loaf - let it cool for at least 30 minutes.
  10. Enjoy.
Organic Red Fife wheat berries.

Organic Red Fife wheat berries.

Food-grade containers I use for storing grains.

Food-grade containers I use for storing grains.

How to Store Grains

I keep my grains in food-grade containers purchased from local shops. The type of container designed for making wine is just right for storing 50-pound bags of grain, in this case, Emmer, from Ehnes Farms.

(I use a variety of containers for various purposes.)

Hinged top storage containers.

Hinged top storage containers.

Flour and Grain Storage Containers

Here are two of the containers I use to store open flours and grains. I prefer the one on the left for its hinged lid, and use the type on the right for my generic modern flours.

I found these at a local plastics shop, but they should be widely available.

Ehnes Organic Farm Red Fife Wheat

My quest for Red Fife began at Ehnes Farm. The proprietor, Bernie Ehnes, was really knowledgeable when it came to heritage wheat, and he should be—his family has been farming here since they homesteaded the land back in 1911.

Bernie ships his ancient grains all over North America, and I'm certain he'd be delighted to ship it to you, too. You'll find contact information on his website (and a link to it at the bottom of this page).

This is my racked Red Fife that I milled at home.

This is my racked Red Fife that I milled at home.

How to Mill Your Own Flour

Now that you know where to acquire this wonderful grain, you'll be presented with two choices:

  • mill your own, or
  • have someone mill it for you.

Because I wanted to have the flexibility to produce any type of flour I wanted on-demand, I decided to do it myself. The photo above shows the coarseness of my cracked wheat. I use a half cup of cracked Red Fife for my artisan sourdough because I love the texture it adds to the bread.

Messerschmidt Family Grain Mill works well for when you want your flour fresh.

Messerschmidt Family Grain Mill works well for when you want your flour fresh.

Messerschmidt Family Grain Mill Attachment

After a bit of searching, I discovered this superb Family Grain Mill from Pleasant Hill Grain (link at the bottom of this page). KitchenAid also offers a grain mill, but the Messerschmidt came highly recommended, so that's the one I bought. Here you see the model designed for use on KitchenAid machines—I have a KitchenAid 600, and the mill was a perfect match. (There is also a free-standing model for those who prefer a separate mill.)

Milling your own flour—from coarse cracked wheat to fine flour.

Milling your own flour—from coarse cracked wheat to fine flour.

How to Mill Flour From Cracked Wheat

This flour was milled using the Family Grain Mill's finest setting. I use it in my sourdough recipe as well as the cracked wheat. The difference between the two grinds is apparent.

The cracked wheat's also great as a breakfast cereal, or soaked in water for 24 hours and served as a vegetable.

Organic Red Fife Sourdough

Organic Red Fife Sourdough

There are endless variations of this recipe and process. Purists may prefer using 3 cups of Red Fife and skipping the Cracked Wheat and Chia. I do this all the time, but find the dough easier to work with if I add a bit of white flour.

This recipe yields about 1.8 pounds of awesome sourdough.

The Lodge Dutch Oven

I consider several things essential when it comes to my baking. One is my enameled cast iron pizza pan, another is my 12" pizza stone, and another this marvelous Dutch Oven. This is the perfect vehicle for creating artisan sourdoughs.

The oven is mentioned in the recipe, although you can certainly bake sourdough without it. The Lodge consistently produces a thick, chewy sourdough crust without which it just isn't sourdough.

Update: I now use a Sassafras Stoneware Baker for my sourdoughs, but still love the Lodge!

Proofing the dough.

Proofing the dough.

Proofing the Dough

This above photo shows the dough after being moved to the oiled bowl and covered in plastic wrap. You can clearly see the cracked wheat and Chia.

After a sixteen-hour rise.

After a sixteen-hour rise.

After proofing for about 17 hours (at room temperature), the dough nearly fills the bowl. It can now be removed, punched down and shaped.

Red Fife Sourdough, ready for the oven.

Red Fife Sourdough, ready for the oven.

The dough has been punched down and shaped, and is now ready for baking in the Dutch Oven. The Chia seeds and Cracked Wheat catch your eye right away.

Resources

  • Pleasant Hill Grain
    This is where I found my Messerschmidt Family Grain Mill.
  • Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery
    Home of the Lahey no-knead bread baking method...
  • True Grains
    This is another great source for ancient grains, located on Vancouver Island and in Summerland in the Interior of British Columbia.
  • Sourdoughs International
    Ed & Jean Wood's incredible sourdough site - this is where I obtain my exotic cultures.
  • Wikipedia
    "The seed might have originated in Turkey, then moved across the Black Sea to the Ukraine.."
This was my very first loaf of Red Fife—it was awesome.

This was my very first loaf of Red Fife—it was awesome.

Another type of sourdough.

Another type of sourdough.

Having grown up in Sourdough Central (the San Francisco Bay area), I fell in love with tangy sourdoughs long before most of you were born. Later in life, this led me to start baking my own, and I've now been at it for more than twenty years.

It would be nice to know how many sourdough fans there are "out there," which is why I added this brief poll.

I'd Love to Hear From Anyone Who Bakes This Bread—Sharing Experiences Is Half the Fun

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on November 10, 2017:

If I can assist you in any way, please let me know.

Doris Lepine on November 10, 2017:

Just received my red fife wheat berries, and sourdough starter. Made white sourdough bread for years so now I want to try red fife wheat....with my new starter from breadtopia.

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on May 01, 2017:

I have used olive oil in the past, to put off dryness, but no longer do. I love the chewy texture (and spent more than a few bucks on Dutch Ovens and stoneware bakers just to enhance it).

Alison Eyers on April 30, 2017:

Hi. Lovely article, lots of interesting pictures. I used to make sourdough myself but have never milled my own flour. I know for purists this is a no no; but have you ever tried adding a very small amount of fat to your dough? Just a small knob, about 1/2 oz. It softens the texture and is less 'chewy' but still delicious. Try it and see what you think.

Keep baking! X

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on April 05, 2015:

Yes, but the loaf will be heavier...I have found that filtered Spelt (bran removed) also works well (and tastes great)

Inga moy on March 02, 2015:

Could I substitute emmer instead of the white flour? I want to stay away from any flour other than heritage.

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on April 01, 2014:

@ecogranny: I use Ed Woods' San Francisco sourdough culture, which I've kept for more than ten years. Ed sells exotic cultures from all over the world at his Sourdoughs International site. I have captured local cultures in the past - it's a great way to start baking with sourdough.

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on April 01, 2014:

I do indeed, and I have to try your recipe. Do you cultivate your own sourdough starter from wild yeast? Or do you use a commercial starter?

Thanks for the recipe, as well as for the information about the wheat. I love that the wheat you use has been in the Fife family for so many generations. I will pin this and also post it to my Facebook page titled "Cooking with whole grains & whole foods."

Justin from Slovenija on December 25, 2013:

Looks yummy! I make my bread for many years n ow and I could never switch back to supermarket products!

KathyZ1 on October 16, 2013:

Congs on your LOTD. Great lens.

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on October 09, 2013:

@Jhale Moreno: Glad you found the page useful. You don't need anything fancy to make sourdough - and it's worth the effort.

Jhale Moreno on October 09, 2013:

I have never gotten to try real sourdough yet, but I am very thankful for your article which provides information about mills and wheat resources that I may have missed without you. Thank you!

anonymous on September 03, 2013:

Congratulations on your LOTD, totally awesome lens, great pictures, and bread looks so yummy!

FrancesWrites on September 02, 2013:

That is absolutely mouth-watering. I like the way you have used the text with big picture module throughout. Congratulations on LotD, it's well-deserved.

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on September 01, 2013:

@soaringsis: It *is* heavenly, I assure you :-)

soaringsis on September 01, 2013:

Congratulations on your LotD award. The bread looks heavenly.Thanks for sharing.

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on August 31, 2013:

@MrAusAdventure: Hunger is the first step to fine sourdough :-)

Bill from Gold Coast, Australia on August 31, 2013:

Congrats on LOTD, you have made me hungry now staring at that freshly baked loaf!

philipcaddick on August 31, 2013:

Very interesting, great read, and is challenging.

ikdj lm on August 30, 2013:

Sour dough is a really easy way to make bread and healthier than using yeast.

Charlie43 LM on August 30, 2013:

One of my interests on retirement is artisan baking and heirloom recipes, fruits and vegetables. Thanks for this information and congrasts on LOTD.

sierradawn lm on August 29, 2013:

Very appetizing lens! Congratulations on winning LOTD

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on August 29, 2013:

@Northerntrials: Sourdough culture contains a symbiotic pairing of wild yeast and lactobacteria. I do not use commercial yeast, and do not believe it would be possible to produce this bread while doing so. How I proof the dough depends entirely on the result desired. My usual practice is to proof the dough at room temperature for 2-3 hours, and then retard for 15 to 20 hours in a 41 degree fridge. With Red Fife, there is no need to retard the dough - it produces very sour bread without retardation.

Northerntrials on August 29, 2013:

Some would argue that this is not real sourdough because you use yeast and not sourdough starter, but I agree with you that the long slow rise you put the dough through builds the sourdough taste. Do you let the dough rise on the counter or in the fridge? When I have a sourdough starter going I still do the slow rise in the fridge overnight.

anonymous on August 29, 2013:

Great looking recipe. Congratulations on getting LotD!

Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on August 29, 2013:

Thanks, I love sourdough bread

CrazyHomemaker on August 29, 2013:

Yummy! I LOVE fresh baked bread. Yours looks so delicious. I haven't had the luck of using sourdough. I'm probably a little to antsy to wait 17 hours to proof. Congrats on LOTD!

GrammieOlivia on August 29, 2013:

Wow, this is something for the weekend! Love bread in all it's different varieties. Yum!

DebMartin on August 29, 2013:

Oh I'm drooling! I've never used a dutch oven to make bread. Outstanding!

EzLoanLookUp LM on August 29, 2013:

THat looks fantastic. Thanks for the lens.

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on August 29, 2013:

@jknake lm: That lovely Dutch Oven is perfect for yeast breads (trust me). Check out Jim Lahey's method.

changrcoacher on August 29, 2013:

I'm drooling....seriously...I make my own bread and am experimenting with ancient grains (after reading "Wheat Belly") I've used the Einkorn flour and have the berries to grind myself. Thank you, and congratulations!

tbonestakes on August 29, 2013:

Wonderful lens, we should all appreciate the recipes that are brought to us through antiquity. Thanks!

jknake lm on August 29, 2013:

Oh My Gosh! That looks sssooooo good! I wonder if you could bake other breads in the dutch oven? My husband doesn't care for the sourdough but I like it. I just love crunchy, chewy breads. Thanks for the lens, it's beautiful. I can almost smell the bread from this picture!

Fay Favored from USA on August 29, 2013:

Love it. It's lunch time, so I think I'll have some now. Thanks.

Ken McVay (author) from Nanaimo, British Columbia on August 29, 2013:

@anonymous: I do maintain my own culture, and have done for more than ten years. You will find an awesome selection of sourdough cultures at Ed Wood's site, SOURDO.COM. I use his San Francisco culture.

savateuse on August 29, 2013:

Yes, I love sourdough, and your loaves look very tasty!

katiecolette on August 29, 2013:

Love sourdough, love organics, ought to try your recipe! Sharing this on my "Organics" Pinterest board and congrats on LOTD :)

Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on August 29, 2013:

What a wonderful lens!! Thanks so much for sharing your recipe, photos and links.

Congrats on LOTD.

qikey1 lm on August 29, 2013:

Looks fabulous! I appreciate the info about the dutch oven and grain mill. When time permits I will be referring back to this lens - I do love baking fresh bread!

anonymous on August 29, 2013:

hello, looks yummy! did you grow your own sourdough?

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on August 29, 2013:

Looks and sounds wonderful! I do love sourdough, but sad to say I'm on a diet, but will pinned your recipe as I want to try making this.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on August 29, 2013:

A true work of art. I would consider this sourdough a gift of happiness. Excellent presentation. Congrats on Lens of the Day!

Stanley Green from Czech Republic on August 29, 2013:

We used to bake our own bread from flour we bought in the store. But mill my own flour? ... Great idea!

Yamin Joe on August 29, 2013:

Very informative lens,I reckon that you spent a lot of thinking and preparing to come with a very good lens.

mina009 on August 29, 2013:

Making your own bread always feels and tastes a lot better.

Meganhere on August 28, 2013:

That looks delicious!