Sourdough whole wheat bread with baking soda

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Senior Cook
Feb 9, 2009
I love how crispy sourdough waffles are as I tried making them. They have lots of air pockets here and there, so I searched online recipes of sourdough bread with baking soda. I would like to make sourdough bread with lots of air pockets like cibata bread. I found one and tried it yesterday:

Sourdough UN-sour Whole Wheat Bread
2 cups of very warm water
2 tsp. salt
2 TBS. coconut oil
2 TBS. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups or more of whole-wheat flour
2 cups sourdough starter
2 tsp. baking soda
1. In a mixer, place all ingredients with baking soda on top and reserve 2 cups of flour.
2. Begin mixing, slowly adding flour until the dough pulls away from the sides.
3. Cover the mixer with a towel and mix for 7 minutes.
4. Knead dough 15-20 times
5. Place dough in bowl and let rise 3 hours in a warm oven.
6. Knead dough again 15-20 times and shape into loaves.
7. Place dough in bread pans and let rise 1 1/2 hours in warm oven.
8. Remove bread from oven, preheat to 350, and bake bread for 40 minutes.

First off, my bread wasn't done in 40 minutes, because the recipe is calling for 50% water to flour ratio. Usually for bread recipes it's about 35-38%. Thus, I added 15 more minutes. The crust was very chewy hard, but not the flaky hard type of crust that some French or Italian breads have. I'd like to learn the science of what ratios of ingredients and interplay with the them yield what kind of textures and so on. My questions:

1. I have found that more water content yields more chewiness. Is it just me feeling this way, or it is indeed what more water would do. My earlier thought was that more water would make bread tenderer, yet it was not true when I tried baking bread with more water with my past experiences.

3. The texture of the bread I made by using THIS recipe looks and tastes similar to English muffins. Is this texture so because of more water in it, less oil, and with baking soda to have the gases here and there? Is cibata bread using similar recipe ratios with baking soda? Regular bread always has this stringy texture that stretches, while English muffins and cibata bread have big air pockets here and there. Yet English muffins’ texture are almost like half bread and half cake, which is different from cibata bread. The latter still has the stringy texture yet with big air pockets. Is it because baking soda? The dough of this recipe was very stringy and stretchy before being baked. When it’s done baking, its texture is less stretchy. Although sourdough waffles recipes call for baking soda and yield crispiness, baking bread which requires much longer time than making waffles get bread crust hard in a chewy way???

4. Of course, this recipe is towards healthier side with less oil or sweetener. Is it contributing the chewiness as well? I know that more butter or whole milk content yields softer textured bread.

Please shed your light with me. I am much to learn, and I would like to know the theory behind.



Executive Chef
Nov 1, 2011
Twin Cities Mn
I can not help with interior bread texture. I do understand your comparison and questions and what you want to achieve, I think.

For crispier crusts, Bake free form loaves, not in bread pans.

Set a pan of water on a lower rack underneath the bread baking rack. Some baguette recipes suggest this.

Spray or brush water on the top crusts before putting in the oven. Start at a higher temp and lower the temp to the degrees in your recipe calls for after 10-15 minutes. Ala Mexican bolillos.


Sous Chef
Apr 24, 2011
chueh -

the post has a number of different questions and issues but here's some thoughts:

>> recipe is calling for 50% water to flour ratio.

there is a concept called baker percentages; it is used by weight (av. ounces/grams), not volumes (cups)

the other "bread baking concept" is dough percentage "hydration" - which is the percent of water by weight to the amount of flour by weight.

four cups of flour to two cups of water is not a 50% hydration, as bread specifics go.
using some nominal values, and ignoring the soughdough starter for the moment,
four cups of flour is about 540 grams, 2 cups of water is about 474 grams, the dough hydration is then:
474/520 = 91%+

that is a very high hydration level, a "loose / slack / wet" dough - various terms used.
baked on a stone, it will spread out into a low flat loaf.

if you're going to get seriously into breads, I highly recommend you invest in a home kitchen scale and work by weight. very much more consistent and controllable. be aware, every brand and type of flour will have it's own density - i.e. weight per cup - and you'll need to take notes as you experience how they bake.

fats - oil, butter, lard, to a point eggs - make a dough softer / more "tender" / less chewy
milk - milk ranges from no fat to full fat - in addition milk has enzymes that affect how dough rises. and scalded milk works different than 'out of the bottle'
sugars - grab and hold moisture. lots of sugar can make for a damp to wet product.

the crust is made up of "you guessed it . . ." - the dough

thin crispy crackling crusts have very little fats - the best example is French style. flour, water, salt, yeast.

thin crispy crackling crust also require high / fast baking temps and high humidity baking chambers.
if you don't have an oven with steam injection . . . "covered" baking pots come into play. gets bake first covered, then uncovered.

and, that's not the end of the story.
high hydration doughs do tend to have bigger holes. _if_ the kneading / punch down / forming shaping steps don't "deflate" the dough.
the amount of kneading - and to a degree the type - is a major factor. most folks will have trouble "over kneading" a dough by hand. this is not true if you are using a machine.

there's a lot of expertise at - as another source.
be aware the 4 to 2 cups of flour = 50% type thing is going to cause confusion in places like that - because "4 cups to 2 cups" is basically not a defined usage.


Senior Cook
Feb 9, 2009
GotGarlic, Whiskdoodle, and deSaute....thank you all for the replies. All very informative and helpful, special thanks to deSaute for enlightening me.
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