Monday, March 4, 2013

Sourdough Bread

There's nothing quite like a good loaf of bread fresh from the oven!  This is a great bread to have with soup, to make sandwiches with, or to have as toast!  It's bread like this that makes me knock on wood that I'll never have to start eating gluten free. 

To make sourdough anything you need sourdough starter.  Sourdough starter is essentially a very wet dough that lives in a container in your refrigerator (or on your counter if you are a bakery and make lots of bread daily).  Just like a pet, it needs to be fed and taken care of.  I got my current sourdough starter from my mom a couple of months ago and have been feeding it/using it about every two weeks (I have it marked on my google calendar for every two weeks so I don't forget!).   If you want to learn more, this is a great explanation of how sourdough works!  If you want your own sourdough starter, I'm happy to share if I live nearby  or you can buy a great one from King Arthur Flour.

When making this sourdough bread, you need to use "fed" sourdough starter (note that there are recipes that call for unfed starter, like this pizza dough).  *In the recipe below, I explain what to do from the unfed starter stage since that's where I always have to start when making this bread*.  It also takes a few long rises to develop the sourdough flavor that you expect.  The time from taking my starter out of the fridge to eating bread is about 32 hours.  Yes, a long time!  However, there's only about 15 minutes of actually work time for you.  The rest of the time the dough is rising and resting.  So, as long as you plan out when you are going to make it, it's really not that bad.  Also, the recipe makes 2 loaves that are each 1 1/2 pounds each, so you get a fair amount for all that wait time!

I've made this bread a few times now and think it is a great basic sourdough bread.  I bought some citric acid  to add to help make it more sour.  I've found that even with that addition, it is not a super tangy sourdough like you can find in San Francisco, but it is very good.  

The only thing I don't like about this bread is that it uses all white flour.  That being said, the only ingredients in this bread are white flour, water, a bit of sugar and salt, and the citric acid.  So, it's nice that there are only a few ingredients.  I'm going to start experimenting with whole wheat sourdough soon.  I will definitely report back once I find a good whole wheat sourdough recipe!

Sourdough Bread

yield: 2 loaves, 1 1/2 pounds each


Fed Sourdough Starter:
  • 3 ounces unfed sourdough starter from the fridge
  • 3 ounces water (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3 ounces flour (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 cup fed sourdough starter (measure to get one cup and discard the rest)
  • 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
  • 4-5+ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon citric acid (optional, for more sourness)


1)  To make the fed sourdough starter: Take the unfed sourdough starter out of the fridge in the morning, the day before you want to eat the bread.  Remove about 3 ounces and put in a small glass or plastic bowl.  Add 3 ounces water and 3 ounces flour.  Stir well until combined.  Loosely cover and let sit at room temperature for about 5 hours.  At this point I feed the remaining unfed sourdough starter in its container as well, let it sit for 2-3 hours, and then put it back in the fridge.

2)  Measure the sourdough starter to make sure you have one cup.  You will probably have a bit over one cup, so discard any excess.  Combine fed sourdough starter with water and 2 cups of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix with the paddle attachment on high speed for about one minute.  Put in a large glass or plastic bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 4 hours at room temperature.  Move the bowl to the fridge and refrigerate overnight, 12-15 hours.  

3)  Return the dough to the stand mixer and add the remaining ingredients.  Start with 2 additional cups of flour.  Use the dough hook to knead to form a smooth dough, adding additional flour one tablespoon at a time as needed (the amount of flour needed will depend on the humidity).  Let rise for 4-5 hours.  

4) Divide the dough in two equal portions (about 1 1/2 pounds each).  Shape into ovals and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Let rise for 2-4 hours (the loaves will likely expand out  more than up).  

5) Preheat the oven to 425F.  Brush the loaves with lukewarm water.  With a very sharp knife, make three deep horizontal slashes in each loaf (try not to deflate the loaves!).

6) Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown and the internal temperature is at least 200F.  Let cool on a wire rack.  

7) Try to resist cutting into the bread until it is cooled, or at least mostly cooled!  Slice and freeze any extra bread and defrost/toast as needed.

(recipe from King Arthur Flour... for more pictures of all the steps, check out their blog!)  

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