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Sunflower seed sourdough bread

January 16, 2014


Just one in an infinite

Take the idea of a bread flavored with sunflower seeds.  When I started to teach myself how to make bread about 6 years ago,  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Sunflower seed bread back then was only  a faraway idea I would eventually get to.  Now when I decide to tackle it,  I’m almost overwhelmed with the choices to make.   What flour or combination of flours  should I use to compliment the flavor.  Should I use other ingredients like additional grains or oil to enhance the flavor?   What pre-ferment technique do I use?   How will the bread be used.  How much time do I want to take from beginning to end?  I also try to keep it all in the framework of the concept of my blog.  I’d describe my bread recipes as experiments in progress.  I usually make at least two different versions of a bread to compare and contrast to choose which I think is better.  Many times they are equally good,  just different.   Sometimes I don’t like the results at all and let the idea go for awhile to try again later.   Whatever choices I ultimately make,  the end result is just one from an infinite number of possibilities that can be imagined and created by all the bread makers of the world.  Each individual uses different ingredients,  bakes in a unique environment,  and imbues a personal “touch” and motive.

The birth of a recipe

The featured ingredient for this bread is the sunflower seed.  The sunflower is native to all of the Americas.  According to the “New World Encyclopedia” the earliest known domestication occurred around 2300 B.C.E. in what is now Tennessee while evidence in Mexico dates domestication  to around 2100 B.C.E.  I associate it very much with the southwest.  It is considered a sacred plant to many native Americans.   For this bread I also wanted to make use of a combination of white whole wheat and regular whole wheat flour as I had did in my last bread.   I decided to make it a sourdough because I enjoy the taste of naturally leavened bread,   the experience of the process will help improve my baking,   and I could afford the time this weekend.  In the end I chose to make it simple with no other flavors than the whole wheat flours and the sunflower seeds.  At least I have a basic recipe to expand on later.  That’s what I mean when I mentioned that my recipes are experiments in progress.  However, it doesn’t mean this prototype or basic recipe isn’t worth making again.  It is packed with flavor,  texture,  and a slight tang.



The Levain:

1 tablespoon sourdough starter (refreshed about 8 hours before)

200 grams water at 78 degrees F.

50 grams bread flour

50 grams whole wheat flour


The dough:

The levain

650  grams water (80 degree F.)

500 grams bread flour

250 grams whole wheat flour

250 grams white whole wheat flour

20 grams salt plus 100 grams water

1 1/4 cup unsalted hulled raw sunflower seeds


To make the levain:

The night before you make the bread disperse the sourdough starter in the water.  Add the flours and mix until it is all moistened.  Cover with plastic and leave out overnight.  Depending on the temperature in your kitchen,  count on about 12 to 14 hours for the levain to properly ferment.   Mix at the appropriate time for you.  I usually do so around 8 or 9 pm.  That way it will be ready between 6 and 8  the next morning.  One way to check is to take a small spoonful of the levain and put it in a small bowl of water.  If it floats, it is ready to use.  Otherwise, let it go longer.

Roast the sunflowers on a baking sheet in a 325 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Rotate the sheet pan to insure even roasting.  Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Let them cool. You can roast them the day before or on the day  you plan to make the dough.


To make the dough:

When the levain is ready put it in a large mixing bowl.  Add the 650 grams of water and disperse the levain.  Add the flours and mix with your hands until it is all moistened. Cover with plastic and let it sit for 30 to 40 minutes.   Dissolve the salt in the 100 grams of water and add to the dough.  Squeeze it in as best you can.  Now put the dough in your stand mixer and mix for about 3 to 4 minutes.  You can also do the kneading by hand.  Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic.  After 30 minutes “turn” the dough by pulling the bottom portion up and over the top.  I’ll do this manipulation twice.  You may need to wet your hand so that the dough doesn’t stick to you. Turning aids in the development of the dough.  After 30 minutes,  take the dough out of the container,  and manually knead in the sunflower seeds.  A marble pastry board works well.  You may need to lightly flour your work surface whether using marble or other type of board.  It depends on how wet your dough is.  Return the dough to your bowl or container and cover with plastic.  Give 2 more turns at 30 minute intervals then let the dough continue to ferment for about 3 hours.  The dough will have increased in volume by about 20 to 25%. It will lose some of its stickiness and feel softer. It  will have developed a more airy feel.  I always use a clear container that allows me to see the air bubbles that develop during the fermentation.

When the dough is ready,  carefully remove it from the container and divide it in to 2 portions for large loaves, or 3 for medium size.  With the help of a pastry cutter,  shape the portions into nice tight rounds.  At this stage you want to begin to develop tension in a smooth outer surface.   Cover with plastic and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.  Depending on how wet the dough is, it will flatten and spread out a bit.  If it has spread out too much,  reshape into rounds and let it rest some more.

For the final shaping, lightly flour the top of one of the rounds,  and flip it over so that the top is now the bottom.  Grab the third of the dough nearest to you and stretch it over the center.  Grab the right side of the dough and stretch it over the middle.  Take the left side of the dough and stretch it over the middle. Finally grab the third farthest from you and pull it over the middle.  Flip the dough so that the bottom is once again the top.  Repeat with the other portions.   Line  baskets or bowls with a clean kitchen towel. These will hold your dough while they proof and eventually increase about 1/4 to 1/3 in volume.  Using appropriate size bowls or baskets will make it easier to remove the proofed dough.  Dust the towels with flour so that the dough will not stick,  then gently place the shaped portions upside down in the towel lined container.   I lightly oil the exposed side of the dough with baking spray then cover with plastic.  I then overlap the remaining part of the towel to cover.  I suppose if you sufficiently flour the towel, the plastic is not necessary.   Proof the dough for 3 to 4 hours.  The longer it is proofed, the tangier it will be.  These particular loaves went for 4 hours.  I could have chosen to let them go overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat your oven to 5oo degrees at least 30 minutes before you bake  Use your baking stone if you have one.   Remove the plastic and towel  from the dough then carefully flip the basket onto parchment paper.   Remove the basket and the towel from the top of the dough. .  Score the loaves as desired.   You can choose to lightly spray the dough with water and sprinkle sunflower seeds.  I gently push the seeds down a little so that they will adhere.  Using a peel,  slide the loaves onto your very hot baking stone and immediately lower the oven to 425 degrees.  If not using a stone, you can place the dough onto a sheet pan.  “Steam” the oven 3 times in the first 10 minutes with a plant mister to simulate the steam injection of professional ovens.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  The bread will be golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees when done.  Put the loaves on a wire rack to cool down completely.




The dough makes very good pizza crust.  I used a mild salsa ranchera,  requeson (similar to riccota),  jalapenos, and fresh oregano.



10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2014 1:41 pm

    Congrats on making such a fantastic bake! =)

  2. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    January 16, 2014 10:24 pm

    Did you change your blog theme? It looks different. Nice, just different. The bread looks great! I’ll take a pizza to go!

    • January 17, 2014 3:05 am

      I haven’t changed the theme though I’ll admit I need to liven it up a bit! As you can tell, I prefer a more minimal style. Maybe the photos give it a different look since I recently started using lighting. Now I can take pictures anytime instead of just during the day when it was sometimes a race against sundown! I never could use the flash setting very well.

      Sorry, I’m out of pizza right now!

  3. January 19, 2014 6:43 pm

    Oh I definitely will favorite your blog. I’m a passionate bread maker, still at beginner level though. I’m ready to learn more …

    • January 20, 2014 10:58 am

      Thank you for visiting! There is always something new to learn about baking bread. I could probably learn from you!

  4. January 22, 2014 6:20 pm

    Oh it looks fantastic and so delicious! I just love to see how you bake your bread!

  5. Jennifer permalink
    June 29, 2018 8:48 am

    IS it possible to make a sourdough starter with ONLY sunflower seed flour?

    • July 1, 2018 12:34 pm

      Hi, Thank you for visiting my blog! I see “Sunflower seed sourdough bread” is something of a misnomer. Interesting idea though about using only sunflower seeds for making a starter. I’ve never tried making one without using wheat flour. One suggestion I have if you haven’t already gone that route is to search “gluten-free sourdough starters”. I’d be interested to hear about the bread if you make some.

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