Multigrain Starter Bread Recipe

There’s nothing like an edible host(ess) gift, and I have found that bringing a loaf of freshly home-baked bread makes you a very popular guest indeed.

What I like to do then is schedule my weekly bread baking on the day that we’re expected at a friend’s house, and make bâtards, those plump, elongated loaves: I’ll bake three at a time, save two for our own consumption, and bring the third one — the one with the best looks, I am shallow that way — along to dinner with us.

In my next life, if I come back as a super organized and freakishly foresighted person, I’ll keep a stash of pretty tea towels in which to swaddle the loaf, and the whole thing will be my gift. Until then, I will continue to just wrap it in one of my more presentable torchons, and say “oh, great, thanks!” when the host or hostess returns it to me.

In my next life, if I come back as a super organized and freakishly foresighted person, I’ll keep a stash of pretty tea towels in which to swaddle the loaf, and the whole thing can be my gift.

Of course I let them decide whether they want to serve that bread with dinner, but my secret preference is that they save it for their own breakfast the next day. (I also tell them that it freezes well.)

The recipe I’ve most often used for bread gifts lately is this one, which produces appetizing and wonderfully flavorful loaves freckled throughout with a generous helping of grains and seeds.

It is based on a recipe by Steve B., whose blog Bread Cetera is a valuable resource for those of us who wish to expand our bread-baking horizon and develop a better understanding of the craft.

I follow the basic formula Steve offers for the dough*, which has you soak the seeds and grains overnight before using, and then apply the method I use to make sourdough baguettes: I mix the dough on the eve of the bake, let it ferment in the fridge overnight, then simply shape and bake the loaves the next day.

Join the conversation!

Do you ever bring bread as a host(ess) gift? If so, what kind?

* With slight modifications: I don’t add the small amount of commercial yeast, I adjusted the quantities of starter to list only what’s used in the dough, and two-thirded all the amounts. I invite you to read Steve’s post and the ensuing discussion.

Multigrain Sourdough Bread

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Multigrain Starter Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 18 hours

Makes 3 bâtards, about 460 grams (16 ounces) each.

Multigrain Starter Bread Recipe

For step-by-step pictures of a similar process, please refer to my post on sourdough baguettes.


    For the soaker:
  • 90 grams (3.2 ounces) mixed seeds (my mix includes sesame, poppy, sunflower and flax seeds)
  • 50 grams (1.8 ounces) rye berries
  • 40 grams (1.4 ounces) oat groats
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) boiling filtered water
  • For the dough:
  • 250 grams (8.8 ounces) ripe 100%-hydration sourdough starter*
  • 600 grams (21 ounces) mixed flours of your choice (I use partially whole wheat and spelt flours)
  • 2 tablespoons wheat gluten (optional, only if you use flours that are low in gluten, as French flours tend to be)
  • 300 grams (10.5 ounces) filtered water
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) sea salt


    0. Day Zero: Prepare the soaker.
  1. The night before, prepare the soaker: combine the seeds, rye and oats in a heatproof bowl and add the boiling water. Cover and set aside.
  2. 1. Day One: Prepare the dough.
  3. The next day, place the starter, flour, gluten if using, and filtered water in a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir until the mixture forms a shaggy mass and let rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour (this is the autolyse phase: it allows the flour to absorb the water before the salt has a chance to draw it away).
  4. Add the salt and knead with the dough hook on low speed (or by hand) for 2 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth. Add the soaker (seeds, grains and water), and knead on low speed for 6 minutes, until the seeds are incorporated -- you may need to stop the mixer from time to time and fold the dough over the soaker to help the process -- and the dough forms a smooth ball that no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. (Of course, the kneading can also be done by hand, on the counter, though beware that it's a rather sticky dough.)
  5. 2. Day One to Two: Ferment the dough.
  6. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour. After an hour, fold the dough over itself (as demonstrated in this video) about a dozen times -- this helps give oxygen to the yeasts in the dough, it develops the flavors and builds a well-structured crumb -- and cover with the kitchen towel again.
  7. Let rest for 1 hour and fold again as above.
  8. Apply a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the dough, and a shower cap around the rim of the bowl. Push the shower cap down until it touches the plastic wrap -- you want the cover to be somewhat airtight -- and place the bowl in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. (Note: when I'm all done baking, I let the plastic wrap dry so I can shake off the little flakes of dough, and save the plastic wrap and the shower cap for use with my next loaf.)
  9. 3. Day Two: Shape the loaves.
  10. Remove the bowl from the fridge; the dough should have about doubled in size.
  11. Remove the plastic wrap and replace it with the kitchen towel. Let the dough come back to room temperature, about 1 hour.
  12. Place a square or rectangular baking stone on the middle rack of your oven and preheat it to 300°C (570°F) or whatever the highest temperature setting is on your oven, for 30 minutes. If you don't have a baking stone, preheat the oven to 240°C (460°C) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  13. Have ready a well floured linen kitchen towel that you will reserve for this use (no need to wash it after baking; the more you flour and use it, the less it will stick).
  14. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface (I dust an old silicone baking mat heavily with flour). Divide it into three pieces of equal size: each should weigh about 510 grams (18 ounces).
  15. Shape each piece into a bâtard, as demonstrated under the name "ovals" in this video.
  16. After shaping each, place it on the floured kitchen towel and pull the cloth up on each side to form a ridge that will support its shape. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for the remainder of the preheating.
  17. 4. Day Two: Create steam in the oven.
  18. During the last 5 minutes of preheating, insert a rimmed baking sheet in the lowest rack of the oven, underneath the pizza stone. Bring about 360 ml (1 1/2 cups) water to the boil in the kettle.
  19. Just before you're ready to insert the baguettes in the oven, make sure you wear something with long sleeves and put on an oven mitt. Using a vessel with a pouring spout (such as a measuring jug), pour half of the boiling water into the rimmed baking sheet -- it will sizzle and steam and it will be a bit scary -- then close the oven door right away.
  20. This is to create a nice, steamy environment, to foster the formation of a nice crust. Be careful not to burn yourself as you do this -- that is what the long sleeve and oven mitt are for -- and keep kids and pets out of the kitchen for this step.
  21. 5. Day Two: Slash and bake the loaves.
  22. If you're using a baking stone, place the bâtards on a well-floured pizza peel. Slash each of them 3 times with a baker's blade or a sharp knife, working the blade at a 45° angle. Slide them onto the pizza stone, working quickly to prevent the heat and steam from escaping.
  23. Pour the remaining water into the rimmed baking sheet, and lower the temperature to 240°C (460°F).
  24. If you don't have a baking stone, arrange the bâtards on the prepared cookie sheet. Slash them as directed and insert into the middle rack of the oven. Pour the remaining water into the rimmed baking sheet, but don't change the temperature.
  25. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 210°C (410°F) and bake for another 25 minutes, until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped at the bottom. If the color is good but they sound like they could use a little more baking, turn off the oven and leave them in for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  26. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before eating or wrapping up.


A "100%" starter is fed an equal weight of flour and water at every feeding. To learn more about starters, please refer to my post on natural starter bread.
  • I love to take bread as a hostess gift. Where I used to live my Aunt owned a resterant that was renouned for it’s bread. I would always take it with me and the host/hostess would always gush about how thankful they were… and usually serve it with dinner and consume most of it themselves. :)

  • Ah, I love a good bread post! :d

    Who can say no to home baked bread?

  • I’ve never brought bread I baked as a hostess gift; however, I’ve purchased loaves from places like Panera or Great Harvest.

    P.S. I would also take the best looking loaf as the gift. But of course… :)

  • Yes I love to bake bread to bring as a hostess gift and it also goes to neighbors very frequently. I love the idea of wrapping it in a pretty dish towel!

  • When going to Jewish friends’ homes for a party, I often bring homemade challah (traditional braided egg bread with poppy seeds on top) — well, except not during Passover, of course!

  • I often take baked goods but not bread – I only started baking bread in the last year…I think I might start though, I might get invited more often ;P

  • sharifa

    We just saw you on Andrew Zimmerman’s show on Paris and immediately hit your site and signed up for your newsletter. My husband and I visit Paris as often as possible and love finding new places to shop. We’re really looking forward to reading your book and blog!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Sharifa!

  • These look delicious. I used to do a Bread baking course in Dublin on a Wednesday night and dropped all my freshly baked bread, approximately 13 loaves of every variety every week, off to family and friends on the way home, they really loved me for those few short months, the appreciation for a freshly baked loaf is immense and makes a great present! Sod the Christmas puddings, I am going for bread this year!

    • Wow, that was a lot of bread indeed! Were you taking the class or giving it?

  • I’m just getting into the amazing world of sourdough baking. Your website has been so helpful and I will definitely try this recipe. I think a loaf of fresh bread would be a great hostess gift.

    • No I was a student in the class, it was great and so satifying to make all my own bread but I think I didnt eat bread for about a month after it all!

  • I love this type of bread but never actually make it myself. It seems kind of intimidating, all this preparation. I have to get over it and give it a try, soon.

  • Clotilde, those are three delicious-looking loaves with beautifully formed grignes. Bravo!

    My friends and family always expect me to bring over a loaf of homemade bread whenever I’m invited over. I try to match the bread to whatever meal is being served.

    • Thank you Steve, and thanks for the great recipe!

  • That loaf looks so perfectly crusty and I can imagine the wonderful, seeded texture inside…I’d take that as a hostess gift with gusto!
    I’ve never made bread as a hostess gift but it’s a great idea. Everyone loves bread! It’s versatile and when you can make your own you should be proud to spread the love.

  • My husband is the baker in the family. He makes yummy delicious baguettes. We do as you do, make a couple, save one and bring one to the party. He’s never made a multigrain version though. I’ll see if he’ll try this recipe.

  • This is beautiful and the perfect hostess gift! I’ve never given bread as a gift, but seriously think I might have to know. Perfect idea!

  • Yes! I’ve started to bring my own bread (and butter!) along to parties. It’s easy and still quite a luxury. Plus it means my flat smells like freshly baked bread.

    Your recipe is quite appropriately timed. I recently made it a goal to increase expand bread baking skills for 2011 (I always set my goals in the fall–kind of freakish, I know).


    • Ah yes, bringing homemade bread *and* homemade butter must definitely wow your hosts!

  • I think baking good bread is the hardest aspect of cooking to learn. Everything must be very exact, yet there are so many additional variable, like the age of the flour, the temperature, humidity, etc. I still can’t get consistency in the bread I bake.

    • It does take a lot of practice to develop the intuition to work with all those variables. I also just embrace the mystery, and even if the results aren’t always consistent, we’re always happy to eat the loaves. :)

  • There is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread to make people happy. I’m a big fan of the crust, so these crusty loaves would make me a very happy camper!

  • Joan

    Once took a home-baked loaf when visiting my son (a chef)..and when he said “It looks like it’s come from the Bourke Street Bakery!”, I was close to fainting with delight! Oh the smell of bread baking…

    ah, swaddled loaves..Clotilde the loaves look simply scrumptious.

  • They look wonderful. 100% going to try it out this week. Thanks. . .

  • I agree that bread makes a wonderful gift. It’s very simple and unpretentious but shows you have made an effort to create something special for your host. I love the idea of wrapping a loaf in a pretty tea towel!

    My little starter Pantoufle has been turning out some lovely loaves recently. I’ve been using a lot of wholegrain spelt flour as I find its sweetness helps balance out the sour tang. Have you ever had the chance to try Dove’s Farm flours? They make a lovely barleycorn mix.

    • I didn’t know of this brand of flour, but will look it up next time I’m in the UK. Thanks for the recommendation, and tell Pantoufle that Philémon says hi! :)

  • Debbie

    I can’t wait to try this bread recipe! yes, I love taking bread as a hostess gift. My favorites both include rye flour, one is flavored with honey and cumin the other with onion – both yummy!

  • The crust and the color on that bread are just gorgeous. What a fantastic hostess gift idea!

  • I will try this bread. Started baking bread only this year. I am in love with home baked bread. Yours looks really nice.

  • alright that’s it. New Years Resolution number 1: make bread as gorgeous as yours!

  • It has never occurred to me to take freshly-baked bread as a hostess gift, but it’s a fabulous idea! So few people bake their own bread anymore, that it would be very special. Thanks for the idea, and the recipe sounds delicious!

  • We live next door to an amazing bakery (Du Pain et Des Idees). I often bring bread made by them when I visit friends!

    • I know people who would sell their kids to live close to that bakery. :)

  • Recently i took bread as a hostess gift but it turns out that this is the knocker of them all. Can’t wait to try it out-2 days is worth the taste!

  • I don’t know what you’re talking about!?! All three loaves look mouthwatering. Can you really think that any of them appear less than perfect?

  • Amy

    Great post! I’m looking to make some changes in my own eating habits and learning to cook, so I appreciate your insight a lot! Thank you. I recently stumbled upon this blog like I did yours and I thought your readers may appreciate it:

    I’ve started to look for their stuff more regularly and I think I’m going to add your blog to my list as well. Thanks for the post!

  • Clotilde, Mmmmmmm, comme d’hab! Quick question, I’m sure you’ll know la réponse to this: what is the différence between farine de grand épeautre and farine de petit epéautre? is the grand epeautre still healthy or is it the same as white flour in bread? In the US, spelt is grouped into one category but here in Paris it’s grand or petit epeautre so I’m confused!
    Merci beaucoup and bravo for all of your success, I’ve been following you since I arrived in Paris six years ago! à bientôt, Rebecca (une américaine à Paris qui n’aime pas le chocolat mais qui adore Chocolate&Zucchini!)

    • Thanks for the kind words, Rebecca! Grand épeautre is spelt, while petit épeautre is einkorn wheat — they’re just not the same grain. The latter is more interesting from a nutritional perspective (see this post), but the former works better in breads: petit épeautre breads tend to be a little dense, which I don’t mind every once in a while, but grand épeautre gives a more airy crumb. Hope that helps!

  • Elise

    Alright… your bread posts keep tempting me… I have dehydrated sourdough starter that I think I’m going to have to get going, because I’ve got to learn to make bread like that! :) Thanks so much for the inspiration! Bread baking seems so much more difficult than cooking, to me, but I know I just need to get started and get some experience under my belt.

  • What beautiful loaves! Multi-grain sourdoughs are my favorite – have you tried Hamelman’s 3-grain or 5-grain loaves? You can find the recipes pretty easily on I think.

    I’m lucky in that my bread loaves are particularly well received, as we live in Beijing, where good bakeries and good bread are rare indeed! For me, the real difficulty is to strive to bake as many loaves as possible in my toaster oven that only goes up to 250 C!

  • Love these bread look nice! gloria

  • I sometimes will bring a quick bread like my Best Ever Banana Nut Bread or my Cranberry Orange Dream Bread when I go to visit folks. Yes, you always are appreciated when you show up with something homemade.

    That said I used to have next door neighbors who are Jewish. Every now and then on Friday afternoon I’d bring them a Challah that was warm from my oven for them to enjoy with their Sabbath meal.

  • ooooh this bread looks delicioso!

    I can’t wait to make some and I’ll blog about it on my site. Thank you so much!

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  • I tend to take a fresh loaf of bread to say Thank You to someone, so I guess it’s the same sort of thing. People are always grateful because they generally don’t bake their own bread. I use half white/half brown flour and caraway seeds and bake a fairly standard tin loaf. Yummy. Mind you there’s lots of clever people here baking all sorts of interesting sounding bread – yourself included.

  • I usually take a sourdough boule, one of the “Vermont sourdough” from Hamelman’s Bread, that is one of my default breads.

    Sometimes, if it’s a cocktail type party, people request my focaccia.

    I like the idea of baking three small loaves, and picking the best looking one to take to friends… will keep that in mind

    Nice loaves, Clotilde…

  • Great idea and fabulous photos! Where I live in Florida creating starters is difficult. The subtropics doesn’t seem to agree with them. Sourdough is one of my favorite breads and I believe I have to go back to SF to get it. I’ll keep reading your wonderful blog and trying to get it right.

  • Judy

    I made this bread last weekend, and it was great! The crust was amazing. It is the best bread I’ve ever made. I’d say it’s the best bread I’ve ever eaten, but I don’t want to brag that much. Thanks, Clothilde!

    • Delighted to hear it, Judy, thanks for reporting back!

  • Melissa

    I made this bread tonight and have yet to taste it, but I have a few questions. How wet should the dough be? I made it so that it was still a tad sticky, but wasn’t sure if it should be on the tackier side. And if the bread was too wet, it would contribute to the problem I had – how do you transfer the shaped batards from the towel to the pizza peel without deflating them? The batards were so loose that peeling them off of the towel instantly deflated them. They ended up springing back up in the oven nicely, but still are probably flatter than they should be. Thanks for any suggestions!

    • When I make it, the dough is tacky, but not sticky, and the flour-dusted shaped loaves can be transferred to the peel without (too much) deflating. Some bakers use a small rectangular piece of wood (as pictured in this post if you scroll down) to tip the loaf onto and make the transfer easier.

  • Melissa

    Thanks for the suggestions, Clotilde. I’ll make them drier next time. I had some of the bread this morning and the flavor is superb! It reminds me of the delicious multigrain rolls I get whenever I’m in Germany. Next time I’ll reserve a third of the batter and shape them into small boules.

    One more technical question for you. We keep our starter at 75% hydration. It shouldn’t make any difference in the dough to use this in lieu of the 100% hydration starter, as long as I adjust the water in the final dough, right? My only concern would be that a drier starter may have less leavening power?

    • I’ve actually made these with different starter hydrations (I keep mine at 66% these days) without any problem, as long as I make up for the missing water in the dough, as you noted.

  • marketmaster

    I do lots of bread as hostess gifts. I make what I call “Seminary Street Sourdough Bread” (Seminary Street is where my on_going San Francisco-style sourdough lives) throughout the summer as a fund-raiser for our local farmers’ market. Since it is our house bread, it is often the one I give away. At holiday time, though, I usually take sweet breads of some kind. They are festive and solve the problem of whether or not to serve with dinner without the host/ess feeling stingy.

  • Mmmmhh… je peux t’inviter à manger chez moi ? ;-)

    • Je n’y vois absolument aucun inconvénient ! :)

  • Eh bien, je serai ravie de cuisiner pour toi :-) Ca t’irait, un repas chinois ?
    (en plus, ça tombe bien, je vais être beaucoup plus disponible dès janvier)

  • Cyn

    I think I first heard of no knead bread from you, Clotilde, so I trust you and bread! :-) I’m linking to your recipe for my cancer-fighting friends. This looks like a lovely source of whole grains – thanks!

  • Frank

    As I read it, the recipe doesn’t call for a third rise, just a rest after shaping. Is this so?

  • great site and oh so delicious bread. I have recently discovered bread making with sourdough and am in LOVE! How would I adapt this recipe if I only want to make 1 baguette or 2?


  • Katherine

    Clotilde, I have been making this bread recently, it is flavorful and pretty, however I find the rye berries or oat groats are not softening enough and are occasionally like little rocks in the finished bread. Any suggestions? Should I try boiling them for a while?

    • I imagine rye berries and oat groats are not created equal and some are tougher than others! You could par-cook them ahead of time, or maybe grind them coarsely in a spice grinder?

  • Clinton Davidson

    This has many good ideas. I’d add that boules (round loaves) can be easier for a home baker, both for the shaping and because a dutch oven can give you more ‘oven spring’ than trying to steam the home oven, which is designed to remove moisture, not retain it. See
    I’d also point out that while I love sourdough, it’s possible to get good flavor with a poolish or other form of pre-ferment. Another easy way to add depth of flavor is to add ‘old bread’, i.e. a small portion of (preferably toasted) old bread. Soak overnight, squeeze, and add to the dough after the autolyse.

  • lovely receipe, will check that for sure, thanks a lot Clotilde :)
    get free PUBG cases

  • I think I first heard of no knead bread from you, Clotilde, so I trust you and bread! :-) I’m linking to your recipe for my cancer-fighting friends. This looks like a lovely source of whole grains – thanks!

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