Sourdough Wheatbeer and Red Onion

This is a recipe I have done a few times, plus it guest-starred on Mick’s weekly bake when I spent a couple of days in his microbakery at the end of last year.

If you like German wheat beer, I think there’s a good chance you’ll like this – however I should stress that it doesn’t limit itself to eating only with savoury things, like ham and cheese, in fact it goes remarkably well with marmelade and other preserves, perhaps surprisingly.


The loaf relies on a common approach of development in 2 stages: pre-ferment and then final dough. The ingredients and instructions are split out on this basis.

The evening before baking, prepare the pre-ferment:

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 200ml de-alcoholised wheat beer
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 50g starter at 100% hydration

Place approx 230ml of wheat beer in a saucepan and heat until boiling, then take off the heat and allow to cool.  In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, saute the finely chopped red onion in the butter, until soft and translucent, then also remove from the heat to cool.

Once these ingredients are at room temperature, measure out 200ml of the wheat beer into a mixing bowl, then whisk in your 50g starter: next add the 200g strong white flour and mix in briefly before adding the cooled butter and onions, then combine to fully distribute the elements before covering with cling-film to leave to develop overnight.

Next day, ideally the pre-ferment has had about 12 hours to develop and you should see it has risen – do not be put off that it isn’t fighting to escape its container, as long as it has grown since yesterday then it should be fine.

For the final dough:

  • all the pre-ferment
  • 80g rye flour
  • 215g strong white flour
  • 113g water, from the tap
  • 2 tsp salt

Add the water to the pre-ferment and mix to fully incorporate.  In your main mixing bowl, dry combine the rye, strong white flours with the salt, then add all the pre-ferment and water mixture and mix all the ingredients together by hand.  My recommended approach here is to follow the hand-kneading technique (as described on this site) with initial quick kneads at 10, 15, 20 minutes, followed by another after 1 hr, again after 1 hr, then after a further 1 hr you should shape the dough and leave it to prove for up to 4 hours before baking.

I baked this one (above) on a pre-heated stone, starting the oven on 250C for the first 15 minutes, then reduced the oven to 190C for the remaining 30 minutes, just to avoid it getting too dark.