How They Made It: Multigrain Sourdough Bread for Claire’s Experiments
Welcome back to our occasional series, “How They Made It,” where we explore the food and drink of Outlander. This time we’re baking a multigrain sourdough bread like Claire. Slainté!
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Baking the time away
Like many of us, I’m looking at a two week stay-cation (at least) while the world decontaminates itself. Three guesses as to what I’ll be doing. Ok, maybe all you need is one.
Baking is such a big part of my life, and I can pass many an hour or two happily in the kitchen. Luckily my husband is home too, so he can do the cleanup, but I digress.
What I’m trying to say is that I can understand how Claire could have made all those loaves of bread for her mold experiments in Outlander Season 5 episode, “Between Two Fires.” Baking bread is very contemplative.
While I have the luxury of having a stand mixer doing the actual kneading for me, kneading and shaping dough, and then watching it come out of the oven all golden brown, can provide so much satisfaction.
The difference between Claire and me is that I would then tear off a piece, slather it with butter, and stuff it in my mouth. I’d definitely not let it sit on the counter to mold! But Claire is on a mission to find penicillin, while I’m on a mission to stay occupied.
Baking an 18th century-type sourdough bread
When we last talked about bread, we made homemade sourdough bread using the captured yeast living in my sourdough starter. So when I decided to emulate Claire, baking sourdough bread seemed a good place to start.
Looking at the pile of bread in the title card opening of the episode, it’s clear that Claire made round loaves of what was likely to be a whole-grain type loaf. So I went on a hunt for a whole grain sourdough bread recipe.
What I found was King Arthur Flour’s Multigrain Sourdough Boule, featuring ripe sourdough starter and a blend of different grains to add texture and crunch to the loaf. As Claire would later say, “Eureka!”
Making more sourdough starter than usual
Two aspects of this particular recipe for sourdough bread give me pause. The first is that the recipe calls for two cups of ripe sourdough starter.
Normally when I feed my starter (either to get it active for baking or just maintaining it for that week), I remove one cup of starter (aka sourdough starter discard) and feed the remaining starter a mixture of equal parts flour and water to the crock for next time.
When I make homemade sourdough bread, I use one cup of fed sourdough starter and refeed the starter. If I was to use two cups at once, I wouldn’t have that much remaining starter to keep the yeast colony going.
So what I needed to do was feed the starter to get it active (aka fed or ripe) without removing a cup of starter discard. I didn’t know if the crock would overflow or what (spoiler alert: it didn’t).
Side note: I’ve talked frequently about what to do with the unfed sourdough starter discard, and have compiled many recipes to try. Have a look!
Collecting the ingredients
The second issue is that I don’t have multigrains sitting around the house. Luckily King Arthur Flour had me covered on that…I ordered their Harvest Grains Blend with eight types of grains and seeds in the mix. I was good to go.
The rest of the ingredients are straightforward. Here’s the complete list:
- Water: Necessary to bind the flour into a dough
- Harvest Grains Blend: Those multigrains I mentioned above. You can use whatever mix of whole grains you’d like, or leave them out and increase the amount of all-purpose flour you use
- Sourdough starter: In this instance, to add flavor and rise to the loaf
- Flour: A combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. It’s the carbs that the yeast feeds on, and gives the bread its gluten-rich structure
- Salt: Gives the dough flavor and keeps the bread from tasting flat
- Yeast: Gives an extra oomph to the sourdough yeast, otherwise with all those whole grains and whole wheat, the bread could get very dense
- Vegetable oil: Adds a little richness to the dough
- Sesame seeds: For a crunchy topping
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…it’s best to use a kitchen scale to measure out your ingredients. That way you will get consistent results.
How to make a multigrain sourdough bread
The steps for making Multigrain Sourdough Bread aren’t that different from any other type of bread, save for the fact that you need to soak the grain blend in boiling water to soften it and then let it cool before proceeding with the kneading and the first rise.
Shaping the dough into balls is probably the easiest shape to do. You don’t need anything but a half sheet baking pan lined with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper. If desired you can use a round covered baker or Dutch oven, about 4.2-quart and 10-inches in diameter, that’s been sprayed with non-stick baking spray and sprinkled with sesame seeds or cornmeal.
Can you make this bread in a different shape? Sure! You can make an oblong shape on the baking pan or use a standard loaf pan if you’d prefer.
The last step is to slash the top of the loaves and sprinkle them with whatever topping you’d like. I used sesame seeds, but you can use whatever seed blends you’d like. You can get fancier if you’d like and make a crosshatch pattern on top of the bread with four slashes.
Me? I go for simple.
This recipe produces two good sized rounds of multigrain sourdough bread. If Claire had used a sourdough bread recipe like this one, she could get a pile of bread without too much effort.
The flavor of these multigrain sourdough rounds is wonderful — nutty and tangy, with a bit of heft and crunch in each bite. It’s perfect for eating out of hand with butter or making sandwiches. Toasting it really makes it shine, with all the grains adding even more nutty flavor.
I guess it’s good for Claire that I wasn’t in her kitchen ready to sneak away with some of her loaves. She needed them for medicine. I’ll just make my own multigrain sourdough bread, and continue baking during the work hiatus. And watching Outlander, of course!
How are you passing the time during the shutdown? Doing any baking? Let’s share our favorite recipes and baking tips.
Multigrain Sourdough Bread
- kitchen scale
- Stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment
- half sheet baking pan
- Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper
- 1 cup water, boiling (8 oz, 227g)
- 1 cup Harvest Grains Blend, see Recipe Notes (5 oz, 142g)
- 2 cups sourdough starter, ripe and fed (16 oz, 454g)
- 1¾ cups whole wheat flour, (7 oz, 198g)
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, (7¼ oz, 206g)
- 2½ tsp salt
- 1½ tsp yeast
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, (1 oz, 25g)
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds , or your favorite blend of seeds (optional)
- Use a kitchen scale to measure out your ingredients. That way you will get consistent results.
- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the Harvest Grains Blend and boiling water. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm, about 20 minutes.
- Add the remaining dough ingredients and knead with the dough hook until you've made a soft dough, adding additional water or flour as needed. The dough will be slightly sticky, and can depend on the humidity of the day.
- Cover the dough in the bowl, and let it rise until it's almost doubled, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. I use the oven with just the light turned on, but any warm, draft-free space will do.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and gently fold it over a few times to deflate it. Shape it into one large round or two small rounds.
- Place the rounds on a half sheet baking pan lined with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper, and cover it with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the loaf rise until it's very puffy, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. You can also use a round covered baker or Dutch oven..see the Recipe Notes below for more.
- Towards the end of the rising time, place a large saucepan filled with water on the bottom of the oven…this creates steam and helps to give the loaves a crusty exterior. Remove the rising bread from the oven if you're proofing the loaves in there. Preheat the oven to 425°F, allowing at least 20 minutes of preheating before baking to avoid hot spots.
- Just before baking, brush or spray the rounds with water and sprinkle with seeds (if using). Use a very sharp knife to make an X on the top.
- Bake the bread for 35-45 minutes (see Recipe Notes if using a covered baker).
- Remove the bread from the oven, place on a rack and cool completely. Slice (or tear) and enjoy!
Discovering Outlander after Season 1 first aired, Tammy quickly went down the rabbit-hole on social media and podcasts and found a world of like-minded fans who not only tolerated her obsession, but encouraged the madness! She combined her Outlander-inspired interest for scotch whisky with her continuing passion for baking and storytelling in her blog, Scotch & Scones…Explorations in a glass and in the oven. Joining the staff of Outlander Cast as the resident baker has brought Tammy full circle, from a podcast fan to a contributing writer. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @scotch_scones, and find her on Facebook at @scotchandsconesblog.