Basic Sourdough Bread
- Ready in: Cook: 25-30 M
- Complexity: medium
Recipes for sourdough starters and various bread that are sure to please your family and friends!
Step by Step Directions
The day before baking, first thing in the morning, feed (expand) the sourdough starter. (It will be ready to use or to rest refrigerated overnight after about 14 hours.) Allow the starter to sit at room temperature (70° to 80&Deg;F) for 1 hour before feeding it.
The Storage Starter
First, feed (refresh) and store some of the sourdough seed starter for future batches of bread (you will be increasing it by 2 1/2 times, from 50 grams to 125 grams):
Begin by tearing off a scant 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) of the starter. It will be soft and stretchy. Place it in a small bowl.
Add 1/3 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) of the flour and 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (1 scant ounce/25 grams) of the water. With a wooden spoon and then your hand, mix and knead together until all the flour is absorbed. The starter should be the consistency of a stiff biscuit dough. If after about 2 minutes of kneading there are still loose particles of flour, add water by the droplet. (Don't worry, too much water won't hurt it—but during fermentation and resting, the dough becomes softer, and it is easier to work with the starter when it is firm and not sticky, so you don't lose any on your fingers or the bowl.)
Place this starter in a lightly oiled 1-cup storage container with a lid. Lightly oil the surface of the starter. Allow the starter to start to ferment at warm room temperature (75°to 80°F) before storing it in the refrigerator. If you are planning to bake more bread soon, you want the starter to ferment longer at room temperature so it will be more active sooner. If you are not planning to bake more bread for several days, you want to slow down the fermentation by refrigerating it sooner so that the yeast doesn't consume all the added flour.
If baking bread the next day or the day after feeding the starter, refrigerate the starter after 2 hours at room temperature.
If baking bread 3 days after feeding the starter, refrigerate the starter after 1 hour at room temperature.
If baking bread 1 week after feeding the starter, refrigerate the starter after 30 minutes at room temperature.
The Starter for the Bread
Give the starter the first feeding and allow it to ferment and rise (you will be increasing the starter by 4 times, from 25 grams to 100 grams). Tear off a scant 2 tablespoons (1 scant ounce/25 grams) of the sourdough starter (discard any remaining starter) and place it in a small bowl.
Add 1/3 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) of the flour and 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (1 scant ounce/25 grams) of the water. With a wooden spoon and then your hand, mix and knead together until all the flour is absorbed. If after about 2 minutes of kneading there are still loose particles of flour, add water by the droplet. The starter should be a rough dough that is very stiff but holds together, with no loose flour particles. It will measure a rounded 1/3 cup and weigh 3.5 ounces/100 grams.
Transfer the starter to an oiled 1-cup glass measure. Oil the top and press it down into the cup. It should measure about 1/3 cup in the glass measure. Cover the measuring cup tightly with greased plastic wrap and let rise (ideally at 75°to 80°F) until it has doubled, to 2/3 cup, 6 to 8 hours.
Give the starter the second feeding and allow the yeast to ferment and rise (you will be increasing it by 4 times, from 50 grams to 200 grams). Tear off a scant 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) of the starter and discard the remainder. Tear the starter into a few pieces and place in a medium bowl. Add the remaining 2/3 cup (3.5 ounces/100 grams) flour and 3 1/2 tablespoons (1.75 ounces/50 grams) water. With a wooden spoon and then your hand, mix and knead together until all the flour is absorbed. If after about 2 minutes of kneading there are still loose particles of flour, add water by the droplet. The starter should be a rough dough that is very stiff but holds together, with no loose flour particles. You will have a full 3/4 cup (7 ounces/200 grams).
Transfer the starter to an oiled 2-cup glass measure. Oil the top and press it down into the cup. It should measure about 3/4 cup in the glass measure. Cover the measuring cup tightly with greased plastic wrap and let rise (ideally at 75°to 80°F) until it has doubled, to 1 1/2 cups, about 6 hours. Refrigerate the starter if you are not ready to mix the dough—up to 20 hours.
Mix the dough.
If you have refrigerated the starter, remove it to room temperature 1 hour before mixing the dough.
In the mixer bowl, place the flour. With the dough hook, on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid), gradually add the water until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. Continue kneading on low speed for 3 minutes, enough to develop the gluten structure a little. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
With oiled fingers, tear off 2/3 cup (5.25 ounces/150 grams) of the starter; discard the rest. Tear it into 4 pieces, roughly the same size. On low speed, knead it into the dough, about 2 minutes. Add the salt and continue kneading for 1 minute. Raise the speed to medium (#4 KitchenAid) and knead for 3 minutes. The dough will be barely tacky (sticky), smooth, and very elastic. If it is still very sticky, knead in a little flour. If it is not at all sticky, spray it with a little water and knead it. (The dough will measure about 2 cups and weigh about 17.7 ounces/502 grams.)
If it has been refrigerated, remove the starter to room temperature 1 hour before mixing the dough.
With oiled fingers, tear off 2/3 cup (5.25 ounces/150 grams) of the starter; discard the rest. Tear it into 4 pieces, roughly the same size, and place it in a mixing bowl.
With a wooden spoon, stir in the water, stirring for a few seconds to soften the starter, then add all but 2 tablespoons of the flour and the salt. Continuing with the wooden spoon or using your hand, mix until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it onto a lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, enough to develop the gluten structure a little, adding as little of the reserved 2 tablespoons flour as possible to keep it from sticking. (To prevent sticking, it helps to use your fingertips, not the palms of your hands.) Use a bench scraper to scrape up the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point, it will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. (This rest will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.)
Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic. It should be barely tacky (sticky) to the touch. If the dough is still very sticky, add some or all of the remaining reserved flour or a little extra. (The dough will measure about 2 cups and weigh about 17.7 ounces/502 grams.)
Let the dough rise. Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 4-cup glass measuring cup or 1-quart food storage container, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press down the dough so you can get an accurate measure, and lightly spray or oil the top. It will come to 2 cups. Cover the measuring cup with plastic wrap; or cover the container with a lid and, with a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75°to 80°F) for 1 hour. It will only have risen a little.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Gently push it down to deflate it, and stretch it into a rectangle (the exact size is not important). Give it 2 business letter turns. It will be soft and stretchy but a little firmer after each turn. Return the dough to the greased container and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap and allow it to rise for another hour.
Stretch the dough again, give it 2 business letter turns, and return it to the container. Grease the top, cover, and allow it to rise until doubled, to 4 cups (1 quart), 4 to 5 hours.
Shape the dough and let it rise. Without deflating it, turn the dough out onto a floured counter and round it into a ball (see page 65). Set it in a floured banneton or a colander lined with a floured towel, seam side up. Pinch together the seam if it starts to pull apart. In the banneton, the dough will be about 2 inches from the top.
Spray the dough with oil or sprinkle lightly with flour and cover it with a large container or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise ideally at (75deg;to 80°F.) until almost doubled, 3 to 4 hours. When it is pressed gently with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in. In the banneton, the center of the dough will be 3/4 to 1 inch from the top.
Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 475°F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place an oven stone or baking sheet on it, and a cast-iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven, before preheating.
Slash and bake the dough. Very gently invert the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. (If you are using a colander and the risen bread is more than 1 inch below the top, you will need to support the bread when inverting it so that it doesn't fall and deflate. Cut a cardboard circle small enough to fit into the colander and touch the surface of the bread. Place a piece of parchment on top of the bread, place the cardboard on top, and invert it onto the cardboard. Then slide the bread, still on the parchment, onto the baking sheet.) For a more evenly rounded bread, it's fine to leave the dough unslashed. If you like the rustic appearance of a slashed top crust, with sharp scissors, sharp knife, or a single-edged razor blade, slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross in the dough. Because the skin of the dough is very dry, it will be difficult to slash; use a gentle hand so as not to deflate the dough.
Quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet. Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately shut the door. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the oven to 450°F and continue baking for 10 minutes. With a heavy pancake turner, lift the bread from the pan and set it directly on the stone, turning it around as you do so for even baking. Continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is deeply burnished and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 212°F). For a very crisp crust, prop the open door slightly ajar for the last 5 minutes of baking.
Cool the bread. Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.
Quicker Sourdough Bread (with added commercial yeast) If your schedule requires speeding up the process (by about 25 percent), or if you feel more secure with the added reliability of commercial yeast, you can add up to 0.06 percent of the total weight of the flour in this recipe (including the flour contained in the starter). The total weight is 300 grams; 0.06 percent of 300 grams is about 0.2 gram or about 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast. This should be added after the autolyze (the 20-minute rest before the final mixing). At this low a percentage, it will not affect the acidity or flavor of the sourdough, but if it were added at the beginning, the commercial yeast would likely be killed by the acidity of the sourdough starter.
Basic Sourdough Bread with Extra Flavor and Keeping Quality If desired, you can replace 2 tablespoons (0.7 ounce/20 grams) of the bread flour with an equal measure or weight of whole wheat, Kamut, or rye flour. (This is 6.5 percent of the total amount of flour in the recipe.)
French Country Boule Reduce the bread flour in the dough to 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4.5 ounces/130 grams) and add 1/3 cup (1.5 ounces/40 grams) medium rye flour and 3 tablespoons (1 ounce/30 grams) whole wheat flour. Also, add 1 tablespoon of water.
ALTERING THE PERCENTAGE OF STARTER
In a very cold room, when yeast will take a long time to ferment, or a very warm one when yeast will take a shorter time to ferment, you may want to adjust the amount of sourdough starter used in the dough.
To reduce the amount of stiff sourdough starter from 30 percent to 20 percent: Reduce the starter to a rounded 1/3 cup (3.5 ounces/100 grams). To the rest of the dough, add 1 full tablespoon (about 1 ounce/16.6 grams) water and 3 1/2 tablespoons (1 full ounce/33.3 grams) flour.
To increase the amount of stiff sourdough starter from 30 percent to 40 percent: Increase the starter to a full 3/4 cup (7 ounces/200 grams). From the rest of the dough, subtract 1 full tablespoon (about 1 ounce/16.6 grams) water and 3 1/2 tablespoons (1 full ounce/33.3 grams) flour.
POINTERS FOR SUCCESS
If you need more starter to make 2 loaves at once, for example—in Step 2, rather than discarding half, use the full 100 grams and increase it to 400 grams.
THE DOUGH PERCENTAGE
Dough Starter: 30%
Stiff Sourdough Starter: minimum 13 hours, maximum 34 hours
Minimum Rising Time: about 9 hours
Oven Temperature: 475°F, then 450°F
Baking Time: 25 to 30 minutes