Awww, sourdough bread! How we all love you!
As I am writing this post, my husband is eyeing the freshly baked and out of the oven hot sourdough bread. It’s been such a long time since he’s had his favorite bread.
I love bread. If it’s possible, I could live on eating bread alone. I started baking breads about 10 years ago but never attempted sourdough. I was very intimidated and thought it would be too much to handle. Baking sourdough bread was time consuming, high maintenance, and has too many steps. I thought it’s a lot easier to just purchase a loaf at the store. Well, that was until I auditioned for a baking show in 2012. I was considered as one of the contestants and had to hone in on my baking skillz! Not to toot my own horn or anything (ok, I am going to toot it loud), but for a home cook and self-taught baker, I think that I’m pretty darn good. Even the best has their weaknesses and mine was sourdough bread. I thought, if I could master sourdough bread, I could master any! I did just that! I researched, tried too many sourdough starters and sourdough bread recipes to count. I will tell you this, sourdough bread is not as hard as I thought it was. Time consuming, yes! Hard, not really.
If you have a starter and bread recipe that you like and it works, stick to it! And if this is your first time attempting sourdough, then I hope I am able to help. After baking over 100 sourdough breads and many failed starters, this is what I came up with and my family absolutely loves it!
Before you start baking, please read this entire post before moving forward.
There are 3 parts to baking good sourdough bread and each requires a minimum amount of time. So plan ahead! You do not want to bake bread at 3:00 am.
First, establish the sourdough starter. Learn how to make sourdough starter here.
Second, make the sponge.
Third, baking bread!
Ok, so this step is optional but a must. The purpose of using the sponge is that it allows a longer fermentation time and enzymatic reactions to happen in the flour before baking. I also found, sponge-based breads do not stale or dry out as fast. Though, we never have that problem in my family. A loaf of bread is usually gone by next morning.
Make the sponge 10-24 hours before you plan to bake. Why the huge gap in time? The sponge is ready to use for baking after 10 hours, but the longer the fermentation time, the better and more pronounce the taste.
In a large bowl: combine the discarded half of the sourdough starter with 1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and 1 cup warm water.
Mix, then cover with plastic wrap. Using the sharp end of a knife, poke some holes or slits in the plastic wrap allowing some gas to escape.
To promote fermentation, the starter will need to be place in a dark place. I prefer the oven with the pilot light on. The light creates enough heat to warm the mixture. In the morning, it should be fermenting, thick, sticky and bubbly. Just the way we like it!
If you decide to skip this step and use only sourdough starter, then you will need fresh starter. The yeast and bacteria will need to be in optimal state of activity in order to leaven breads. You will need to revive it and feed it a couple days before baking.
For the dough
In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, mix together 2 C flour, 1 C sponge, warm water, salt, and sugar. The sugar is optional. I personally like a hint of sweetness to the bread.
Change to the dough hook. Add ¼ C bread flour and knead on medium. Add ¼ C bread flour and knead until the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky to the touch.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Lightly flour the work surface. Take the dough out of the bowl and place it on the floured work surface. Lightly press the dough out and fold it in half. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for the second 15 min.
Repeat and let rest for 30 min. Form the dough back into a ball and place it into an oiled bowl, turning the dough once to coat it in the oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight. While the dough is in the fridge, it will continue to produce acetic acid, which will help create more of the sour taste that we all love.
We Bake Bread!
FINALLY, this day is here and I thank you all for your patience!
Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter till it reaches room temperature. Approximately 2 hours.
Now it’s time to shape the dough! Mix 1 tbs of all-purpose flour with corn meal and scatter it on a baking sheet. Baking stone would be better. Set it aside.
Now that the dough has reached room temperature, remove the plastic wrap, and transfer the dough to the work surface.
Gently deflate the dough and shape the dough to your liking.
For Round Breads: Form the dough into a ball, then place it on the baking sheet.
Lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it proof. Approximately 2-3 hours.
For Long Loaf: Lightly flatten the dough out to a rough rectangular shape. Take hold of the end opposite to you. Roll the dough towards you to form an oblong shaped loaf. Tuck the ends and pinch the seam.
Place the seam side down on the baking sheet.
Lightly cover with damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it proof. Approximately 2-3 hours.
Proofing – the last rise, which takes place after the dough is shaped and before it is baked.
Preheat the oven 400 degrees F. Remove the damp cloth and lightly dust the loaf with flour. This will help with the scoring.
Use an x-acto knife or sharp knife and slash the top of the loaf. Prior to baking, spray the loaf with water. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, spray the loaf with water again and rotate. Bake for another 10 minutes. Repeat one more time.
Transfer the baked loaf of bread to a wire rack and let it cool or dig in while it’s hot!
Who would have thought that left over fermented dough paste would make wonderful scrumptious bread.