Rustic Whole-Wheat Pillows and Three Hens

I will never again be able to use the phrase “just us chickens” figuratively, because now I actually have chickens. Three to be precise: an Americauna named Betty White, a Lohmann Brown named Lucille, and a Plymouth Rock, my favorite, Quest Love. We rescued these ladies from Farmer Wayne who kept them alive in the back of his barn in a dark closet of squalor. Today they checked into their new coop in our backyard, a split-level with a patio, two straw-padded nesting boxes, and a roost in the loft. Each of them have already pushed out one egg a piece. Quest Love was the first to let ‘er rip—and it was a green egg! Betty White has proven herself to be a chicken escape artist, and rather light of foot, or, light of claw, and Lucille—she’s just a charmer, a most ravishing redhead. In preparation for the deluge of eggs threatening to tumble from the loins of our new fowl trio, I decided to make a couple of batches of sourdough English muffins in a hurry.


Rustic Whole-Wheat Pillows

Adapted from The Italian Baker

Alternatively, these might make nice pillows for a backyard chicken’s nesting box…

1/2 cup cracked hard wheat berries (100g)

½ cup wheat bran

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (100g)

1 cup sourdough starter

1 cup warm water

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (300 g)

1 tablespoon salt (15 g)

unbleached all-purpose flour, for kneading

Soak the wheat berries in cold water for 1 to 3 days.

Drain the wheat berries and process the berries and bran and flour in a food processor or blender just until coarsely chopped (not too fine, or the berries won’t be crunchy).

Stir the sourdough into the water.

Stir in the berry mixture.

Mix the whole wheat flour and salt and stir in, 2 cup at a time, into the sourdough mixture.

Stir until the dough is stiff and sticky.

Knead on a floured surface until firm, elastic, but still slightly tacky, 8 to 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (2 hrs). Punch the dough down and knead briefly on a lightly floured surface.

Shape into a long rectangle by flattening it with your forearm.

Cut into eight 5-inch squares.


Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise until well puffed and almost doubled (1 3/4 hr to 2 hrs) Preheat oven to 450°F.

Bake 10 min then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for 15 more minutes.

Cool completely on racks.


Many egg recipes forthcoming–frittatas galore. I have not been this excited to wake up in the morning since Christmas 1990. Hoping the ladies keep up production on their new chichi diet of Layena Crumbles and oyster shells. As their branch manager, I have decided to keep a public tally of their output to incite a spirit of competition, and perhaps, per my mother’s suggestion, will hang a framed photograph of a dashing rooster on the wall next to the nesting box to get them ovulating. I think Foghorn Leghorn might do– perhaps Sam Eagle muppet for Betty White since she has a fetish for blue feathers.

This post is featured at my favorite Sourdough online community, Sourdough Surprises. Be sure to use these buns to make my new favorite lunch, Green Eggs and Ham Sandwich.

20 thoughts on “Rustic Whole-Wheat Pillows and Three Hens

  1. Your excellent buns are being completely overshadowed by your chickens and fresh eggs. I would definitely have had a fried egg sandwich with those eggs and buns!

    1. Indeed I do– Green Eggs and Ham sandwiches, since Betty White the Americauna hen lays eggs only in green.

    1. I have had more eggs and ham sandwiches since we got these three. What a lovely, productive trio, adding rustic ambiance and fertilizer everywhere they go.

    1. I have since thought of about 12 more names that would be better– but I guess I’ll have to save “Fats Domino” and “Oprah” for my next batch of hens.

    1. I can’t tell you how happy these ladies make me. I love to feed them my old bread too 🙂 The circle of life…

  2. I am confused by the recipe you posted . There is no yeast only sourdough but the detalis say to add yeast to water. Also the rising times seem to reflect the use of yeast not sourdough. Thank you for clarifying! c

    1. Caroline, sorry for the confusion. When I adapt recipes for sourdough, I often don’t change the terminology of “yeast” to “sourdough” because I assume people understand that I mean the yeast is the starter. Regarding the rising times, highly variable. Depending on the day, the humidity, how recently I’ve used my starter, how busy I am in the kitchen with other things, etc, the amount of rising time necessary will vary. That is why I say allow to rise until “doubled,” however long that may be, and I include an estimate that gives people a ballpark idea of how long to expect. In my experience, the times listed in this recipe are pretty accurate. Are you noticing that your sourdough needs more time than this? Hope this helps, R

  3. Rach, I adore this gorgeous description of your marvelous chickens and their elegant condo! Split level, loft – sound like high-priced real estate to me, something in the Pearl District of your home city, perhaps 😉 What a beautiful photo of excited you too! I love imagining you like a kid on Christmas 1990 morning each day, going out to see what awaits in the coop. Thank you and your chickens so much for sharing some of their bounty with me. They are very talented egg producers, and that chichi diet you’re feeding them is a good one in terms of the resulting flavor and quality of the eggs, in my humble opinion 🙂 The bread sounds excellent too, I’m saving this recipe!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the bounty! More where that came from! Our neighbors have been contributing to their coop side gourmet— it appears they are partial to overripe melons.

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