Sourdough Bread: The Recipe

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Beautiful “crumb” in my opinion. 🙂

In my last post, I explained how I made my own sourdough starter.  Now here is the promised post on the process I follow when making a loaf of Country White Sourdough Bread. If you want to try it, you will have to adapt the recipe to work with your own climate and ingredients because temperature, humidity, and quality of flour all play an important part.

I think the most important variable is the flour.  I am lucky to be using Canadian flour which has excellent success in bread making, because of its higher gluten content.  I think in the US and the UK, you might want to try buying Bread Flour or Strong Flour. I don’t know a lot about it but I’ve read conversations on Sourdough Bread forums and there seems to be some agreement that Canadian All Purpose flour is best for bread making. My suggestion is that you do some research and find what is recommended for your area.

The following recipe is adapted from Chad Robertson’s recipe for Country Sourdough Loaf in his book, Tartine Bread. You can increase or decrease the recipe if desired.  All measurements are given in grams because weighing ingredients is much more accurate than measuring by volume, especially for flour. That being said, you may still need to adapt a little depending on the warmth and humidity of your kitchen on any given day.

For the Science-y types (you can skip this part if you aren’t interested) This recipe is considered a “wet dough” at 77% hydration. To calculate you divide the total weight of the liquid in the recipe by the total weight of the flour. A wet dough is difficult to work with it takes time to learn how to handle it.  You do not do the normal kneading with a wet dough, instead you Stretch and Fold several times throughout the initial bulk fermentation in order to develop the gluten which allows it to rise by providing resistance when the gas bubble rise.

How to calculate hydration, –  divide the total weight of the liquid in the recipe by the total weight of the flour in the recipe.
i.e. 600g flour and 1000 g water would be 60% hydration.

  • 425g (350 + 50 (in levain) + 25) water
  • 550g (500 + 50 (in levain)  flour
  • 425 /  550 = ~77% hydration

My Current Recipe for a 1 kilogram loaf
(I usually make an oblong loaf but you can also make it into a round boule if you prefer).

The night before – make your Levain (also called Leaven)

  • Make levain, just before you go to bed the night before:
  • 1 T starter (approx) from the fridge (* see notes on starter on previous post)
  • 100g flour (I almost always use white unbleached flour)
  • 100g warm water

Stir starter into water.  Stir in flour. Cover bowl loosely with plastic and leave on counter overnight. (In a pinch, I sometimes do this in the morning, then mix my bread dough in the afternoon.)

Bread Making Day

The earlier you start, the earlier you bake. From start to finish, can take as little as 8 hours of time, with only 30 minutes of combined work. However, these days I like a 24 hour ferment so I start the dough one day, and finish and bake the next day. (ie Mix levain Sunday night, make dough Monday, bake bread Tuesday)

Here’s a VERY rough timeline, but only if things work exactly right.  It’s also very flexible.

  • 2 1/2 -3 hours – for initial mixing and “stretch and Fold” – you need to be free for a few minutes every half hour during this time.
  • 2-24 hours – Bulk ferment for a few hours on the counter, or 24 hours in the fridge.
  • 1/2 – 1 hour – You must be around to shape and rest the dough a few times before you form the loaf.
  • 1 – 1 1/2 hours – 30-60 min to preheat oven, and half hour to bake the bread.

Tools I like to Use

  • Kitchenaid mixer with dough arm
  • digital scale
  • plastic tub for proofing the dough, VERY lightly oiled
  • 1 kg banneton proofing basket (natural cane)
  • fast read thermometer
  • parchment paper
  • rectangular baking stone
  • rubber spatula
  • cutting board
  • sharp knife or razor blade
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I broke this baking stone in two pieces but it still works fine
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Digital scale, 1 kg banneton, fast read thermometer, cutting board (yeah, I should have wiped down the scale before I took that picture. 🙂

Ingredients

  • 350g warm water in a large bowl (I use the warmed bowl of my Kitchen Aid)
  • 100g levain, made night before
  • 500g white flour
  • 25 g additional warm water (I haven’t been adding this lately)
  • 10 g salt

Method

  • Weigh 350 grams of water into a mixing bowl. I use my kitchen aid mixer bowl.
  • Stir 100 grams of prepared levain into water. (Put the rest of the levain to your starter jar in the fridge).
  • Stir in 500 grams flour and then scrape down sides of the bowl with rubber spatula. I usually do this step in my mixer with the dough hook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Lightly cover bowl with plastic and leave on counter to rest for 30 minutes. This is called “autolysing” when the flour cells fully hydrate and the cell walls begin to break down. It also develops to gluten bonds without having to knead the dough, and the dough becomes stretchier so it rises higher.
  • Add 10 g salt and 25g additional water to dough, wet your hand, and mix it in. It won’t stick to your hand much if you wet it first. I also do this with the mixer now. I usually let is mix with the dough hook for 3-4 minutes. Sometimes I only add the salt, and not the additional water.
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The photo makes it look like it’s moving fast, but I actually have it on the lowest speed.
  • Place dough in large plastic container and cover loosely. I use a tall plastic container that I oil very lightly then wipe down. I sit the lid on top but don’t close it airtight.
  • Leave container in oven with light on to keep warm for the 4-5 hours for bulk fermentation, and door propped open with wooden spoon so it doesn’t get too hot. I’ve done this by trial and error so obviously it depends on the temperature of your room and your oven light etc. Main goal, find a nice warm spot.
  • Instead of kneading, do the “Stretch and Fold” technique (see photos below) every 30 minutes for first 2 hours, and then just leave it alone for another 2-3 hours. I like to mark the dough level with non-permanent marker to see how much it rises and aim for double.
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Wet your hand, and slide it in under the dough on one side, grabbing it from the bottom
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Lift that side of dough up high to stretch it out
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Pull the stretched dough across the top and fold it over. Turn the tub a 1/4 turn and repeat on each side of the tub. Return tub to warm spot.
  • Dough should rise almost double by the end of 4-5 hours, leave longer if necessary. When I first started making sourdough, it needed longer to rise, but now that my starter is very active, it’s usually ready in 4 hours total (including the stretch and fold part).
5-Not quite doubled
Almost doubled, but not quite
  • If you want to make bread the same day, you are now ready to form a loaf, but I prefer to let my dough ferment 24 hours and ‘retard’ it by putting the tub of dough into the fridge after 3-4 hours of rising and leaving it overnight. This will allow you to delay baking but will also make your bread taste more sour. The next day, about 4-6 hours before you’re ready to bake, take the tub out of fridge, leave it on the counter, and let it reach room temperature (several hours sometimes).  Then let it finish rising for another 1-3 hours or so before forming loaf. That is the process I use now.
  • To form your loaf, turn the dough out onto lightly floured board.
  • Fold in half, floured side out. Shape into a very rough round or oblong. You need to handle this dough very lightly and carefully so as not to deflate it too much. Also, remember it is a very wet dough so too much handling means you need to add too much extra flour which changes the structure of the loaf.
6-Risen dough dumped out
Dough dumped out onto counter after fermentation
  • Cover with towel and let rest about 20 minutes.
  • Lightly flour top of dough and the table, and then flip the dough.
  • Form loaf with 4 folds, one pull on each side. Pinch seams, flip, and tighten top.
  • Rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • If the dough spreads too much and is losing its shape, repeat the flip/fold/form loaf process to tighten it up. Repeat if necessary.
  • Once it’s formed, put into a well floured banneton or basket lined with a floured tea towel. Use lots of flour so it doesn’t stick when you’re turning it out later.
  • Cover with towel and slip into a loose plastic bag, and let rise 2-4 hours. Again, I cover the bag with a towel and keep it in the oven with the light turned on, door propped open.

To bake:

  • Preheat large baking stone in oven at 500° for 60 minutes (sometimes I’m short on time and only preheat for 30-45 min)
  • Dump 1/2-1 cup of water into bottom of oven to create steam, or put tray in bottom of oven and pour water into tray. Be careful not to let water splash on baking stone or it might crack (mine did).
  • Lay piece of parchment out on cutting board. Flip the cutting board and parchment over the top of the banneton and then flip the whole thing over so the banneton is now upside down on the board (See photos below).  Gently lift the banneton off the loaf, shaking a little of necessary. This is when you find out if you floured it enough.
  • Very quickly slash with razor blade or very sharp knife. Watch videos online beforehand to learn how to do this if needed.
  • Open oven, watch out for the steam, and quickly slide parchment and loaf onto the hot stone. Close door quickly. Turn oven temp down to 450°.
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Parchment over risen loaf in banneton
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Cutting board over parchment
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Flip all three items
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Carefully remove banneton. This is when you find out if you’ve floured the banneton well enough. Don’t worry about the excess flour on the loaf.
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Score loaf with a sharp knife or razor, and then slide the parchment and loaf into the oven onto your preheated baking stone.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes, until 200° degrees internal bread temp
  • Remove from oven and cool on rack.
  • Cool on rack before cutting. If you store it in the open, the crust stays thick and crusty – put it in a plastic bag, the crust goes softer. I prefer it crusty so I turn it cut side down onto a cutting board and leave it on the counter for up to 2-3 days.  Otherwise, I slice the entire loaf and store it in the freezer in a zip lock bag and then take out a couple of slices each day.

If using cast iron combo cooker (must be a round loaf, 750g max size – message me if you want adjusted recipe for 750 gram loaf)

  • Preheat combo cooker in oven at 500 for 20 minutes. It’s not necessary to add water to oven as the steam is created within the closed pan.
  • Take fry pan piece out of oven (BE CAREFUL!), or pull shelf out so you can put bread on easily.
  • Put bread dough into fry pan piece – parchment not needed. You could dump dough onto cooker and then slash with razor and skip the parchment/cutting board step.
  • Cover with the frypan and dough with the pot piece of the cooker.
  • Return closed pan to oven and bake for 20 minutes
  • Carefully remove lid from pan and close oven again. Loaf will be light coloured and a little glossy from the steam.
  • Bake another 10-20 minutes until bread is brown and internal temp is 200 degrees.

Books and Websites

  • Tartine Bread – by Chad Robertson

This is my favourite book.  It’s a perfect balance of science, detailed explanations, and recipes all bound up in a beautiful book.  It was expensive – a gift to myself – but I love it.

  • Artisan Breads Every Day – by Peter Reinhart

Quite a few decent recipes in this book.

This is also a lot of info and some good recipes on the following sites.

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My standard 1 kg loaf
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