The Metamorphosis



1.  A transformation, as by magic or sorcery. 

2.  A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function. 

Sometimes, my laziness know no bounds. I have been baking so much bread, cornbread, waffles and cakes over the past few weeks, that I ran out of white flour, brown rice flour and whole wheat pastry flour. I was beginning to run dangerously low on cornmeal, rye flour and stone ground whole wheat flour too. Herbert has been fed a steady diet of organic unbleached white flour since his inception. I wanted to keep feeding him his normal diet but the best price on my favorite brand of white flour is at a store on the other end of town. I really didn’t really want to make an extra trip there unless I had to. That’s why I started feeding Herbert stone ground whole wheat flour. By the end of the week, he was mostly whole wheat Herbert. A new and entirely different creature, indeed. 

Mostly whole wheat Herbert is brown with flecks of grains. When you open his jar, a miasmal cloud wafts up from his surface. When I stir flour and water into Herbert to nourish him, it is not the same. He doesn’t form a sticky glutinous mass, the flour stirs right in. If I don’t feed mostly whole wheat Herbert on time, a thick layer of hooch forms on the surface. Should I have been afraid? No, on the contrary I was excited to bake bread. From my research on sourdough, I have heard that feeding the starter whole grains can increase the sour flavors in the starter. I was excited to find out. 

I had plenty of stone ground whole wheat flour in the pantry. I had a bag of flax seeds just begging to have something done with them. I decided to let the sourdough recipe I have been working with for the past few weeks evolve one more time into a whole wheat flax seed bread. With a bunch of techniques now under my belt and a desire to play in the kitchen, I decided I would knead the bread by hand for close to twenty minutes to really get the gluten going. I would allow the dough a first rise on the counter and then pop it in the fridge for fifteen hours to really bring out the flavors. I would pull the dough out of the fridge, and let it come up to temperature in my banneton (which took the remainder of the next very cold day) and then bake a wonderful loaf of bread. 

My plan was a success. I ended up with a dense whole grain bread with a distinct sour tang and a good complex flavor. I’ll be making this bread again. The only thing I may change would be to bake the bread in a loaf pan next time. The bread just begs to become a sandwich and I think I would love to have more even slices throughout the entire loaf next time. 

Mostly whole wheat Herbert? I may let him be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is nice to have the whole wheat starter for special loaves but a good white flour starter can make the fluffiest cakes and pastries. Me? Still lazy. 

This fable is going to YeastSpotting a place for bakers, their breads and their stories. 


Whole wheat flax sourdough 

1 cup water 

1 ½ cups active liquid sourdough starter, fed whole wheat for past four feedings 

3 ½ cups stone ground whole wheat flour 

1 tbsp honey 

1 tsp salt 

2/3 cup whole flax seeds 

Place Flax seeds in a blender.  Use the chop button to pulverize the seeds.  I ended up with some ground flax seed meal, some partially chopped seeds and a lot of whole seeds.  I wanted these textures for the bread and you do to… 

In a large bowl, Mix together all dough ingredients including the flax seeds, mixing with a rubber spatula until all of the ingredients are combined and form a solid mass of dough. Turn the dough out onto a wooden board and knead for up to twenty minutes until you can stretch the dough and see through it without breaking it (window pane test). Wash and dry the bowl. Oil the bowl and place the dough in it, covered with a clean dish towel. Allow the bread to rise until doubled, three hours or more in a cool kitchen. 

Turn the dough out onto the wooden board. Flatten it out into a rectangle and then fold it from the short sides inward like you are folding a letter. Flatten it again and fold it again. Form the dough into a tight ball place the dough back into the bowl. Refrigerate up to twenty four hours. 

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to sit on the counter to warm. Flatten the dough and then form it into a ball. Place it in a banneton covered with a clean damp dishtowel. Allow to sit until doubled (the dough will still be cold and this could take several hours in a cool house). 

Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Dust a peel with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the peel. . Slash the loaf and then place it in the oven. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until browned and the bread makes a hollow sound when you tap it on the bottom. Place the bread on a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.


  1. ronnie said,

    December 9, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    This looks fantastic!

  2. Natashya said,

    December 11, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    You are such a great mom to Herbert! I must confess, I am a terrible mother and quite often kill off my children out of benign neglect or willful termination.
    Shameful, I know.
    So great that you are baking up a storm! Looks tasty!

    • Mimi said,

      December 11, 2009 at 3:27 pm

      You are too funny! 😀

  3. Jeanne said,

    December 11, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I’ve got a 100% whole wheat starter that is just begging to be made into this bread! I’ve never baked with flax before, but it sounds so good!

  4. Andreas said,

    December 12, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Herbert has metamorphosed in a tasty-looking loaf. 🙂

  5. Joanne said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:45 am

    I love that you named your starter. That is excellent. Maybe i need to name my twenty-thousand ton bag of flour. I mean, it is kind of like a boyfriend to me. Delicious bread!

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