Got Wheat? Fern’s Sourdough Bread

I had to look back at some of the previous articles on sourdough to see what we had written, and how this particular journey has evolved since that time. One of the last articles for bread is here if you want to do a comparison. Pull up a chair and a cup of coffee, this has turned out to be a rather lengthy article. Hope you enjoy it.

There were two small boxes of ground flax sitting in the cabinet, that I bought for some forgotten reason (You don’t do that, do you?) and wasn’t sure what to do with. The research on cholesterol and blood pressure we did lead me to flax. There are many, many articles about the benefits of flax, this one is an example. After reading the research, those two lonely boxes of flax got put to use after checking to make sure no weevils or other bugs had set up residence. 

By the way, when we moved here we had some weevil issues the first year. Then I found some traps (similar to this one) for the weevil moth, and other critters of that kind, that I hung around the area we had grains and food they prefer. After trapping them for two years, we have never had another problem. Our bulk grain is stored in five or six gallon buckets and transferred to a canister as needed.
Once we began using ground flax in our bread recipe, we stocked up on some from Wal-Mart, picking up a few bags each time we went. Then we researched online and found some bulk flax seed that we could store in some of our empty five gallon buckets that have gamma seal lids. The first time we tried the flax seed in our wheat grinder, we thought we had killed it. The flax is too moist and oily for our WonderMill. Frank was able to work and work and work on it. He ran through some wheat that removed the gummed up flax, and it still works like a charm. We have had this grinder for at least ten years and would highly recommend it.


You see that piece of blue tape on the bucket? That is a date, which will help us determine how long our stock will last at the current use rate. When we’re trying to prepare for the long haul, estimating how long our supplies will last is critical. They may not last as long as we do, but if we have a rough idea, we can plan accordingly. 


Next, we found a grain grinding attachment for the KitchenAid mixer, which is designed to grind oilier seeds like flax. It works well. Which mixer? Well, the KitchenAid is okay, but we now have purchased three of them since moving here. The first red one died after a couple of years so we got the yellow one. After a year the gears started grinding and we thought it was dying as well, so we ordered a second red one. In the meantime, Frank removed the top cowling to see if there was anything he could do for the gears, there wasn’t, but since looking in there and putting it back together a couple of years ago, it still works. The red one is just sitting in the wings waiting it’s turn. I guess we could put it away, but as you can see, we haven’t. Do any of you have stand mixers like the KitchenAid you would recommend? What are your experiences? We also have manual back-up grinders in case the grid goes down. You can read about it here

 And speaking of grinders, see that cord coming out of the bottom? Frank has given up trying to figure out how it wraps up and stores in the bottom of the grinder, he just leaves it for me. He just can’t see how it works anymore than he understands how yarn (he calls it a piece of string) can turn into a sweater, or thread keeps fabric together after it goes through a sewing machine. Now, Frank is a very intelligent man and can fix just about anything I ever bring to him. He can wire, plumb and build a house, learn and install a solar system and a myriad of other things, but he just can’t see how these things work. Our point is, different people have different talents and it’s no sin or crime to not ‘get’ something. Me, physics and the realistic interaction between things – I just don’t get it. Things that are simplicity in itself to Frank are like kryptonite to me. Sometimes this causes friction (another scientific term, right?) and sometimes it causes laughter. There is nothing wrong with not getting something, or understanding things at a different rate, it’s the blessing of being individuals instead of robots.

Okay, so, making sourdough bread. Our starter lives over here in this corner away from the kefir and jars of oatmeal. We discovered years ago that most cultures don’t play well together so they have their own ‘areas’ of the kitchen. Our starter now lives in a half gallon jar with a piece of cheese cloth over it to keep the little gnats out that show up here a few times a year. It also has a sprouting lid on it. Why? Well, we had a catastrophe with our starter a few years ago. I was keeping it in a ceramic pitcher in this corner. It had

cheese cloth over it held in place by a rubber band. One morning when we got up there was a hole in the cloth. Upon removing the cloth we could see a live mouse looking up at us trying to keep his head above the surface. The catastrophe of the situation is that I had not kept my backup starter in the refrigerator fed and it had died. I was left without any starter. I was upset. Then Frank remembered that I had shared some starter with a friend, Grace, down the road, who was happy to restock our supply. Lesson learned. Now the starter lives in a jar that is mouse and bug proof. One of those experiences I would never have thought would happen. You know that old saying, “You just never know.” I think there is a reason it is an old saying. And remember, two is one and one is none.

The bread. Warning. I don’t measure much, so everything will be estimated amounts. I will list everything here then show you the process.

3 cups starter
1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 – 1 cup filtered water
Approx. 2 tbsp. sea salt – no iodine
1/4 – 1/2 cup honey
2 cups ground flax
5 – 6 cups fresh ground wheat


We start with the 3 cups of starter, then to that add the oil and water. The amount of water I add depends on how much liquid is in the starter. Sometimes the starter is thicker and sometimes it’s thinner, just depends on how much water I put in when it is fed. 
Here is how the salt and honey are measured. Very precisely……..
We have gradually increased the amount of ground flax in the recipe. I started off with about half a cup, waited to see how it tasted, then gradually added more. Now it’s about 20% of the recipe, not quite, but almost. 

Once these ingredients are in the mixer, we start it up and start adding the wheat flour. I usually start with five cups and add the remaining amount as needed until the dough clings together in a sticky ball. Sometimes I need more than others, it just depends on how fluid the starter has, and how much water and oil I put in, since I don’t measure precisely.

After enough flour has been added, I set the timer to around seven minutes (it depends on how long it took to get it to the right consistency) and let the machine do the kneading for me. 


 We mix the dough in the morning while fixing breakfast, put it in a glass bowl and set it on top of the frig for the day.

One time when we made bread, Frank noticed this glass lid, that goes with the stock pot, fit perfectly on the bread bowl. Up until that point I had been using plastic wrap. Interesting.

 In the evening after doing the chores, it’s time to bake bread. I start with pouring some (about this much) olive oil on a large cookie sheet and putting it in the oven to warm as it preheats to 450*. We use virgin olive oil, not extra virgin. We just don’t care much for the extra virgin taste.

As the buns or rolls are made, I coat one side with the oil, then turn them over. I’ve tried a number of different ways to do this including using lard, which works fine, we just prefer the taste of olive oil – while it is still available.


We have tried loaves as well as buns, but we prefer these for the crusty nature of a bun. They also travel very well when we have to be out and about. We take four buns, a couple of boiled eggs, a piece of our cheddar and a quartered apple. Lunch on the go. Besides that, it has been over a year since we have eaten out anywhere. We just don’t like any food but ours and if we eat anything ‘off the home menu’ we feel sick. Part of that may be age, but it’s also an indicator of what we’re used to, what our bodies are accustomed to dealing with. Another thing to consider if a collapse occurs. Store what you eat and eat what you store, otherwise your body may not cooperate when you start feeding it ‘foreign’ objects.


Most other rolls or buns I have baked with past recipes bake for about 20-25 minutes. These take 45-50 minutes. The bread comes out fairly heavy and dense, plus, we like the crust on the crunchy side. If you try this you will need to adjust the time to your personal preference. Upon removal from the oven, I coat the tops of the buns with olive oil.

On bread nights, we usually have a lighter supper because regardless of the meal, we always have bread for ‘desert’. One for me, two for Frank. It’s tradition. Buttered, of course.

We just finished pouring the last wheat from a six gallon, 45 pound bucket into the canister when we made bread a couple of days ago. This bucket of wheat will last us approximately 12 weeks, which means we consume about 3.5 pounds of wheat per week. More than we thought, but it gives us a baseline to use in estimating how much wheat we want to store. It’s interesting collecting data on yourself.

How do you make bread? We always enjoy hearing other versions of our recipes, it makes good ‘food for thought’.

Well, I’m sure your coffee cup is empty by now, mine is long gone. And I think Frank is wanting another piece of bread. We have one every afternoon for a snack with a cup of coffee. Another tradition we have started.

Until next time – Fern

24 thoughts on “Got Wheat? Fern’s Sourdough Bread

  1. For several years, KitchenAid mixers used plastic gears to save money. I think it was after a corporate buyout. This sort of thing happens. A company makes a good durable product, sells it at a premium price and customers are happy. The brand name has value. Some bean counter decides to override the engineer to save a buck and they trade on the previous good name as they ruin it. KitchenAid took an online beating for abusing their customers in this way and mostly learned their lesson. They've gone back to an all metal gear train, at least in their higher powered models, so recent used KitchnAid mixers probably aren't a value. An old one with metal gears or the new ones after they switched back to metal gears will offer a better value. You should be able to search online for customer lists of which serial numbers have the dreaded plastic gears. They all use the same accessories, so I bought the biggest baddest KitchenAid mixer I could get. The six quart bowl was handy when making several loaves of bread. Some of the accessories are very useful for canning. I wouldn't mess with any of the tilting head KitchenAid mixers. They are designed for making the occasional box cake mix and will not hold up to grinding flour and kneading bread. Even the largest KitchenAid mixer isn't a commercial mixer so they're not made for continuous duty. The motor should cutoff if overheated but that's still not good for it. The gear lash decreases with elevated temperature so it's not good to overheat the gears, either. I grind a couple of cups of hard wheat berries and let it rest, for a 50% duty cycle or less.I've been trying to eat less carbohydrate as I age, but I do love bread, and particularly fresh homemade bread. Your sourdough rolls looked delicious.

  2. Hi, Spinnersaw. No, I don't let them rise again after forming into rolls. I used to, but we like the heavier. When I used to make a standard whole wheat roll, I always let them rise a second time after forming the rolls, so when I started with the sourdough, I did the same thing. Eliminating this step is strictly a personal preference in taste.Let us know how your rolls turn out! Happy baking, Fern

  3. I decided it was time to learn sourdough so I wouldn't be dependent on my yeast supply, Fiona. It's taken a while, just like when I learned yeast breads, but we have settled on a recipe we really like. Sounds like you have a good recipe. Fern

  4. I finally found a basic bread recipe I can actually make that is edible, rises and looks like bread. I think I will postpone my foray into sourdough until I am braver. We love our fresh bread with Fresh butter and local honey. This recipe is on my list though. Thank you.

  5. Ah, what would we do without the internet? As it was, I was searching for info regarding sourdough and bumped into the 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Preservation Society. For a few postage stamps as a donation, they sent me my first starter. Dry, granular. I found instructions, recipes, tips and support on their website: With their instructions, I made more of the dry starter for \”insurance\”. When you find you have a nice active bubbly, just fed and watered starter, pour it out onto a cookie sheet that is lined with a wax paper. Let dry until brittle. (__days…) Break it up, store in a jar…and I keep mine in the freezer, although a cool cupboard may be fine. Restarting: 1 T. dried crumbles soaked in 1 T. warm water–to soften. Then add 1 T. flour, another T. water, and wait! Build it up little by little. The first sign of starter activity may take 4 to 12 hours or so. I did try caraway seeds in the dough once. It gave a flavor like rye bread. Not bad. I hadn't thought of trying other herbs, perhaps it is a way to spice up our lives! Good Luck! bjo-nh

  6. That makes sense, Tewshooz. The yellow one started making a loud noise like the gears were slipping, that's when we ordered the second red one. When Frank took the top off and looked at the gears, there wasn't anything he could fix, they were coated in a thick layer of grease. We were surprised that it worked fine after he put it back together, and that was almost a year ago. Interesting. Thanks for the information. Good to hear from you.Fern

  7. We have known other folks that wanted a Bosch mixer. We will remember the recommendation, Christi. If these two mixers die off, we will definitely look into a Bosch. Okay, you're a frozen starter person, too, like BJO. You guys need to educate me, please. If I had a second backup, besides the quart jar I keep in the refrigerator and another catastrophe occurs, I could use the freezer version.And it looks like I spelled 'desert'/dessert wrong in the article, didn't I. Sorry about that.Good to hear from you, Fern

  8. BJO, I'm glad you commented about your frozen, dried starter. I have read about this before, but have never tried it. How do you freeze your starter? What process do you go through to 'awaken' it?\”I'll just set it here for now syndrome.\” Doesn't everyone suffer from this malady? No? Then we must be a select group, I thought everyone did that. (-:Every time I feed the starter, Frank starts to make that face. And if it sits for a couple of days before I feed it and gets really sour? You can smell it from a considerable distance from the sink. I just tell him that's his future extra sour tasting bread that stinks so bad. Yum! He thinks I'm a little crazy sometimes.Garlic sounds good. I wonder if basil/oregano would be good, too?Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your instructions on frozen starter. There may be more folks on here that have done or do the same.Fern

  9. I got inspired by your post and ordered 20KG/50# hard red wheat. I pick it up Monday. And, even better, this purchase got me to join a local food buying club. Perhaps I'll meet some like-minded people.Do you have data about other pantry foods? The one I'm really curious about is how many 'cans' of veggies and fruit you'll go through in a year. I'm fairly haphazard about canning now but want to keep enough supplies on hand.Cheers, SJ

  10. Kitchen Aids have a sacrificial gear in case you overload the machine. I did this with my first red one…in those days before internet. Anyway, I found a Kitchen Aid authorized repair shop and shipped it to them and they fixed it. No problem since.

  11. How did the hardtack turn out, CW, or if it hasn't turned out yet, let us know when you try it. I'm sure others are just as interested as Frank and I are at the results you get.Yea, data. This blog has turned out to be a type of data source for us. I've even gone back to articles to see how I did something in the past since I didn't write it down anywhere but here.Look forward to your report, Fern

  12. Hi, SJ. The buns are oiled on both sides before baking. I lay them in the oil after shaping, then turn them over. Thanks for asking for clarification.There is something about the smell of baking bread that brings people to the kitchen isn't there? There is just nothing like bread fresh out of the oven, any kind of bread, any recipe.Thanks for the heads up on the KitchenMaid. I'll have to look that one up. I am surprised the yellow KitchenAid is still working, but I'm glad. That red one can just keep gathering dust, it's okay with me.We were surprised at consuming 3.5 pounds of wheat/week. Now we'll have to look at how much we have and how long it will last at this rate. It's an interesting process.Take care, Fern

  13. Those rolls look so yummy! I got lazy and let my starter go. Now I am using the Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a day method. The bread does sour a bit in the fridge and the results are more consistent for me.

  14. I am going to try ground flax in bread. Thanks for another great article with information I can use. I almost ruined a KitchenAid mixer making bread. I now have a Bosch mixer and love it. It handles bread dough easily. I really like whole wheat bread made from a starter and a levain. I am having a middle aged moment and can't remember the name of the book it is in. My son prefers sourdough so I make that for him. I do keep a back up bit of starter in the freezer just in case something happens to my starter. I change out the freezer starter a couple of times a year. I am with you – bread for dessert suits me just fine!christi

  15. One day not too long ago, I took my starter from the fridge. Upon opening, I took a deep sniff of it (for I really like the smell of a good starter), and instantly recoiled. BLEGH..! It smelled like turpentine, or nail polish remover! Ewwwww! Well, I didn't know what to do with that stuff. I couldn't just take it to the compost pile because of the deep snow. I didn't want that smell in my kitchen. In desperation I pour most of it into the \”pig bucket\”, and set the 1/2 gallon jar with about an inch of gummy gunk on the bottom, over in the corner until I could get to it. (I'll admit here that I do suffer from the \”I'll just set it her for now syndrome\”). In the meantime I grabbed my jar of dried starter from the freezer and began the long 3 to 5 day process of restarting the starter. After about 3 days, my new starter was starting to bubble (Yes!). It was only then that I wandered over to the corner next to the pig bucket, and reluctantly sniffed that messy jar. Whoa! Huh? That smelled/looked/acted better than any starter I have recently used!! Why? I only can suspect it was just getting tired. But I built it up for a couple of days, and used some right away. Best ever! Oh, my tip: sprinkle a little garlic powder in the dough for a savory flavor. OK-have some fun today! bjo-nh

  16. Great posting! I love the added touches of humor and your traditions too. I am in the process of trying out new and different recipes for baking bread. I most definitely will give yours a try soon. Today, I did a little research on making hardtack from flour, water, and sea salt. I am excited to make a batch soon! Also, like the fact that you are keeping \”data\” on yourselves…Take care and keep on preparing, CW

  17. I learned how to make bread when I was 12. It was a skill that has been useful all my life. The funniest was one year during college when I lived in a house with four other girls from church. We all had housekeeping 'chores' to do and also shared cooking 5 nights a week together. And a very meager grocery budget – wonderbread was the best the budget would buy. I took one look at the chore list and the white bread and volunteered to make bread every week. So every Saturday was baking day in the morning. Funny how all my roommates and assorted boyfriends would show up about the time the bread was cooling.So, when you cook the 'buns', only one side is oiled or both? My mind couldn't quite figure that out. I understand you give the cooked bun a coating after baking.I also used to make bread in loaves or buns when I had a full house. For just me, I go to the nonprofit grocery store and buy day old bread for $0.10 -loaf, rolls or english muffins. Shopping there is like going to the thrift store, I never know what will be there. I then freeze whatever I buy and reheat in my toaster.I have a KitchenMaid stand mixer that my Dad gave me in 1995. I've never had a problem with it even with very heavy use as mixer. I've never used any attachments with it though like a slicer or grain mill.Love that you're figuring out your 'usage' of your pantry items. That's something I need to work on.Cheers, SJ in Vancouver

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