Tuesday, October 23

Recipe: Fresh Tomato & Basil Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Whole wheat sourdough bread made with fresh tomatoes and basil - FarmgirlFare.com

Are you a beginning bread baker? You might find my Ten Tips on How To Bake Better Artisan Breads at Home helpful.

One of the side effects of having a food blog is that I get lots of e-mail. Food e-mail. Bread e-mail. For a bread baking foodie, there's nothing better than finding a note like this in your in box:

It occurred to me that you might be interested in trying this bread. We tried making tomato basil whole wheat sourdough last week with tomatoes (as water) and roughly chopped basil leaves.

I'd be happy to send you the percentages if you are interested. It just seemed like something that was right up your alley. It was really quite delicious. Simply sliced with some smoked cheddar cheese it made a delectable sandwich.

Yes, it was definitely right up my alley, and it really was quite delicious. Even though they've been baked, you still get that fresh tomato flavor. Many thanks to fellow breadies Joel and his wife (in the wonderful state of West Virginia!) for generously sharing their recipe.

Fresh Tomato & Basil Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Makes 2 loaves, approximately 20 ounces each

What immediately piqued my interest about this bread was that it uses chopped fresh tomatoes in place of water. Such a brilliant idea. My only concern was what color it would turn out. I used to make savory feta cheese & sun-dried tomato scones when I had my little bakery cafe in Northern California, and while quite tasty, they were an odd sort of pinkish orange.

Using whole wheat flour, which bakes up darker than white flour, easily solves this problem. Joel's version calls for 100% whole wheat flour, but I used 50% whole wheat flour and 50% bread flour.

The tomatoes don't need to be peeled, which is always good news in my book. If you don't have any sourdough starter handy, I'm thinking that you could try replacing all or some of the water with fresh tomatoes in pretty much any bread recipe.

Creating a sourdough starter takes several days but isn't difficult to do. There are many different types, and recipes for them abound. I made my French levain starter several years ago using the instructions in Daniel Leader's Bread Alone, one of my favorite bread books.

I also love Local Breads, is Daniel's latest bread book, and am looking forward to making some of the European starters in it hopefully soon.

Joel's starter is 50% flour, 50% water, refreshed about 6 to 8 hours before using it. I simply refreshed my 50%/50% levain starter like I do when I bake pain au levain by adding flour to the entire batch and then letting it sit on the counter overnight. I think whatever sourdough starter you have should work in this recipe.

A digital kitchen scale makes baking and cooking so much easier. I love my 11-pound Oxo Good Grips scale (which was voted #1 by America's Test Kitchen for good reason) and often use it several times a day. The pull-out display is awesome, and it's also great for weighing postage.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients, as they really do make a difference.

300 g refreshed sourdough starter (10-1/2 oz,1-1/8 cups)
300 g coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes, preferably juicy organic heirlooms (about 2 medium, 10-1/8 oz)
30 g coarsely chopped fresh basil (2 large handfuls, 1 oz)
225 g whole wheat flour (7-7/8 oz, 1-3/4 cups)
225 g bread flour (7-7/8 oz, 1-3/4 cups)
113 g warm water (4 ounces, 1/2 cup; may not need)
1 Tablespoon salt (15ml)

Combine the sourdough starter, tomatoes, and basil in a large bowl. Stir in the whole wheat flour and most of the bread flour. Mix until roughly combined, then let rest for 20 minutes. This is the autolyse.

At this point, you can add up to 4 ounces (1/2 cup) warm water if your dough seems like it's going to be too stiff (it will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are). Or you can add more chopped tomatoes; I didn't have any more or that's what I would have done. How slack (wet) you want the dough is up to you.

With the extra 4 ounces of water, mine ended up so slack it was sticky and hard to work with, and the loaves really spread out while proofing despite using a couche. The bread still came out great, but I'll make a slightly stiffer dough next time.

Kneaded and ready to ferment (rise for the first time)

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead in the salt. Continue kneading for 10 to 15 minutes until the tomatoes are incorporated and the dough is soft and smooth, adding more bread flour as needed.

Place the dough in a straight-sided food grade plastic container with a snap-on lid and let it rise (ferment) until it has doubled in size, about 2 to 4 hours. You should be able to push a floured finger deep into the dough and leave an indentation that doesn't spring back.

Cover a baking peel (also called a pizza peel) with unbleached parchment paper (this is wonderful stuff) and sprinkle it with flour.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flattening gently with your hands to break up any large air bubbles. With a bench/pastry scraper (these are so handy; I use mine all the time) or large knife, cut the dough into two equal pieces and shape them into rounds or logs about 12 inches long.

An hour before baking, place a baking stone (the secret to crusty breads and amazing pizzas) on the middle rack and heat the oven to 500 degrees.

Nestled in their couche and ready to proof

Place the loaves smooth side up on the parchment paper, about 2 inches apart. Make a couche by lifting the parchment paper between the loaves, making pleats and drawing the loaves together. Tightly roll up two kitchen towels and slip them under the parchment paper on the sides of the two outer loaves to support and cradle them.

Lightly dust the tops of the loaves with flour and cover them with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel (my preference). This nifty parchment couche trick comes from Local Breads. Alternatively, you can use a traditional, well-floured canvas couche as I did above.

Let them proof until almost doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours. If you press a floured fingertip into the dough it should spring back slowly.

Quickly score the tops of the loaves with a blade or sharp knife (I use a large serrated knife) and slide them, still on the parchment, onto the baking stone. Bake until the loaves are dark golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped, about 25 to 30 minutes. Try to let them cool for at least 40 minutes before tearing into them.

Store in a resealable plastic bag at room temperature or freeze.

Baking notes: I only had enough garden tomatoes left to make this recipe once, but I'll be experimenting with it more next summer. I'm thinking the tomato flavor could be enhanced even more with the addition of a few slow roasted tomatoes, a speciality of my food blogging pals Kalyn and Alanna. Maybe next year I'll finally talk myself into turning the oven on for hours and hours during the mid-summer heat to make some. They both keep assuring me it's worth it.

Still have more flour left? You'll find links to more scumptious bread recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

© FarmgirlFare.com
, where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and there's always at least one sourdough starter in the fridge.


  1. Susan - this looks absolutely scrumptious! Yum!

  2. Ha -- I saw your recipe and thought, Oh my, I must make this with slow-roasted tomatoes. Great minds think alike! :-)

  3. In my mind sitting here with my cup of decaf tea, I can feel the crunch of the crust. I am a bread nut! I will try any kind of bread. I think I will have to try amd make this one for sure!

  4. This is SUCH a good idea ... I've still got a few garden tomatoes, so I might try it before they've all been eaten up - but, then again, you're not the only one with time management issues ;)

    I wonder how it would do with tinned tomatoes? the good quality ones are a great winter standby for cooking ... but you'd know better as you've actually tried the base recipe

    I'm going to make a sourdough starter right now - yes, really ;) ... I've been meaning to for weeks


  5. Jamie Oliver made a roasted tomato bread in his British school children program and it is quite amazing. I'm sure this one is even better with the whole wheat flour

  6. wow, this sounds so good... now ill have to get up the nerve to try making sourdough starter...

  7. This looks so good! I will make it tonight. I was looking through all your bread posts the other day now that I have a good starter that I made about a month ago its sourdough everything for us. I did sourdough corn bread, sourdough honey wheat, injera, this one looks great and i have some little basils that are not going to make it so I better use them up.

    Thanks for your sweet comment on my blog, its so nice to hear from you! Yipee. WHen we get our little urban farm, I will be bugging you all the time!!


  8. This looks so good. I'm wondering if I could use sun-dried tomatoes in this recipe?

  9. Had a bit of a chuckle over the blogging excuse..it's a classic.

    I'm fascinated by sourdough recipes...but I'm a tad kitchen challenged : )

  10. Hi Maya,
    It is scrumptious!

    Hi Alanna,
    Great minds definitely think alike. And I definitely need to slow roast some tomatoes next summer. That or finally come visit you and steal some of yours!

    Hi Vickie,
    I'm so glad you saw this post. I was working on it when your comment on a previous post about still having tomatoes in your garden popped up. I thought, Hey! She can make this bread! : )

    Hi Joanna,
    So good to know others have time management issues (love that phrase).

    Several times I've wondered about using tinned/canned tomatoes in this recipe. It's not so much the quality or taste I was worried about--as you can buy some really nice organic canned tomatoes these days--but the consistency of the tomatoes. I suppose you could buy whole canned tomatoes and drain off all the liquid, but I'm still thinking they might turn the dough red or orange or pink. Now you have me wondering again, though.

    I guess the only thing to do is try it. It sure would be nice to have some tomato bread in the middle of winter, though about the basil. . . I'd also been thinking of mixing in pesto, but again, that would change the color of the dough.

    Somebody told me she'd successfully preserved fresh basil with her FoodSaver which really intrigued me. I still have some basil from the garden--I think I need to try that, too!

    Best of luck with your sourdough starter! Once you have it up and going, I'm betting you won't be able to remember life without it. And don't forget to toss some into your pizza dough!

    Hi Anon,
    Sounds like some very lucky school children! : )

    Hi Sarah,
    Making sourdough starter isn't hard at all. Really. No, really. It takes a few days to get it going, but then it's just a matter of letting it live in your fridge and either using it once a week or so (I've neglected mine up to two weeks, though I don't recommend it) or refreshing it which only takes a few minutes. You can do this. And you'll be so thrilled once you have it!

    If you're still apprehensive, wait until the new year and join us over at A Year In Bread because we'll be doing a whole Sourdough Starter Primer. I know Beth has been busy making up all sorts of experimental starters--whole wheat, partly whole wheat, rye, etc. It's going to be lots of fun. Hope to see you there!

    Hi Riana,
    Sourdough cornbread? I've never thought of that. Sounds wonderful. Speaking of bugging, now I'll have to bug you for the recipe. : )

    Hi EMWK,
    Do you mean using sun-dried tomatoes in place of the fresh tomatoes? I think that would work, though you'll end up with a somewhat different bread.

    Here's what I would do:
    If you're using dry sun-dried tomatoes, reconstitute them first in very hot water and save the water. You're going to need to add water to your dough because you won't be getting moisture from the fresh tomatoes; using the tomato soaking water will give you extra flavor. Just be sure to let it cool down first, as you'll kill the yeast if the water is too hot.

    Mix up your dough with the dried tomatoes, adding as much tomato water (and more water if necessary) to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.

    If you're using oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, just add enough plain warm water to make your dough. The oil on the tomatoes will be a nice addition, and you might even add a little extra to the dough.

    Hope this helps!

    Hi BlueBlue,
    It's always nice to be responsible for a chuckle somewhere out there in the universe. As for being kitchen challenged--bread baking really isn't difficult. And it's so rewarding. And delicious! You can do it, I know you can. : )

  11. The very thought of this bread makes my mouth water! Our tomatoes are done for the season, so I'll have to wait until next summer to try this one, but I'll probably try it with roasted tomatoes, too.

  12. I too have slow-roasted tomatoes in my freezer, and I was thinking, as you did, that they would make a great flavor boost in this bread. I love the look of the dough with the chunks of tomato and basil, and I can't wait to try baking a loaf!

  13. Farmgirl,

    Looks like a "must try" recipe! I have some starter in my fridge waiting for moments like these...

  14. Thank you for a wonderful WHB entry, Susan! It's such a neat idea to use tomatoes to provide some of the liquid when making bread. Definitely worth trying.
    And I'm so glad you delurked - I've read your blog for a long time, and been a secret admirer of your blog. I had no idea you're reading mine:)

  15. Yes, I am suitably impressed. Not to mention once again hanging my head in shame over my broken promises to make bread. (Not due to lack of time management skills either, if anything, my time is *over-managed*. You must make some slow roasted tomatoes. And I need to stop being lazy and make some bread!

  16. I am a bread baking gal too, and your wonderful post has sparked a whole heap of ideas for me. Thanks for the wonderful post.

  17. i have to say first, i love your blog! i have made the pizza dough many times now, and i am aspiring to make this bread. i have started my first starter and we'll see how it goes, maybe soon in the future i will be able to make this bread!

    i blogged on my blog about your site and about Bread Alone. i knew i had heard that title a million times, and that's because we used to go to the store frequently.

    anyway, thanks so much for all the inspiration. :) kim

  18. OMG that bread looks delicious!

  19. Hey Farmgirl,

    Absolutely love your blog; I'd like to be you in a few years ;)

    I tried your tips for better bread (at least five or six of them) and my loaves continue to come out very heavy, dense, and tough. I'm at my wit's end, but still stubborn enough to give it another go. Can you give me any suggestions? Thanks!


  20. Hi,
    I love your blogs and have been pilfering from them for ages without saying so. My bread baking has been re-invigorated with your 10 tips .... although I am due for a re-read of these.
    Just thought i'd say, that you can be never too late or too early for tomato and basil recipes. They are sooooooo blinkin delicious. And anyway, us mere mortals way down here in new zealand are just slap bang in the middle of tomato basil fresh fruit and veges (and zucchini for miles) season so no better time than now to inspire me with this sourdough (although i must admit i'm not much good at looking after pets).

  21. Hi Susan! I'm new to your blog, and I've tried out this bread - it's great, thx 4 the recipe. I made it without any extra water, only the tomatoes. If you're interested, I've posted it on my food blog (which is in Polish, but photos are pretty much universal :):

  22. Hi there,

    that bread looks so good.... I can smell it. When I make my (Sourdough)breads I don't get the air bubbles that you get.... Any tips?


  23. im a bit confused on what the cup amounts are. is it 1 AND 1/8 cups of starter, and 1 AND 3/4 cups whole wheat?

    300 g refreshed sourdough starter (10-1/2 oz,1-1/8 cups)
    300 g coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes, preferably juicy organic heirlooms (about 2 medium, 10-1/8 oz)
    30 g coarsely chopped fresh basil (2 large handfuls, 1 oz)
    225 g whole wheat flour (7-7/8 oz, 1-3/4 cups)
    225 g bread flour (7-7/8 oz, 1-3/4 cups)
    113 g warm water (4 ounces, 1/2 cup; may not need)
    1 Tablespoon salt (15ml)

  24. Hi Demigiggles,Yep, 1-1/8 cups is 1 AND 1/8 cups. Happy baking!

  25. Sooooooo good! I put tomatoes, garlic, Feta cheese and dried oregano. Thanks!!!

  26. This is one recipe I will have to try. There is nothing like freshly baked bread...adding the tomatoes and basil just put it over the edge. Thanks for sharing!


  27. I just made your a Tomato & Basil Whole Wheat Sourdough bread, it's turned out wonderful, we did not make it to 40 minutes before we broke into it, more like 10 minutes. I also added 56g jalapeƱos could not taste them will double it next time. Thank you for the recipe.


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

Hi! Thanks for visiting Farmgirl Fare and taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

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