In my previous B(re)aking Bread post I gave you my all time favorite Classic White Bread recipe from Gold Medal Flour. You can find that blog and recipe here: https://lizstevensart.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/breaking-bread/
I neglected to say that because I am usually only baking for two people, I most often halve that recipe and bake a single loaf, as a second would go stale before we could finish the first (home baked=no preservatives). I could freeze loaf #2 but I abhor frozen bread. Freezing dries out the loaf and totally changes the texture. Call me a bread snob, but I refuse to put all that effort into making homemade bread, just to throw it in the freezer and wreck it! So for one loaf, just divide the ingredient quantities in half. Easy peasy.
Onward to Sourdough land!!
Okay, okay… since I don’t live in San Francisco, I can’t technically call it ‘San Francisco Sourdough’, so I am calling it ‘San Francisco Style Sourdough’ instead. You sourdough purists will know whereof I speak. The distinctive taste is what’s important for me, not (gasp!) where it was made. I suppose it should be called ‘(Insert Your Locality Here) Sourdough Bread’ lol.
I got this recipe from Chef John Mitzewich on About.com. His must-watch video explains step by step everything you need to do; from making your own sourdough starter, to baking the sourdough loaf. Watch the video here: http://video.about.com/breadbaking/Sourdough-Bread.htm. This is pretty much exactly what I do, except I didn’t make my own starter, I got it from a neighbor (thanks, Lisa Nelson)!
Now about that starter…?
Starter is really nothing more than equal parts flour and warm water which is then allowed to absorb ‘wild’ yeast out of the air and to ferment. So, basically you take a cup of flour (or combination of flours – see recipes below) add a cup of warm (100° – 110°F) filtered or distilled water & mix it in a bowl or, in my case, a quart jar. Then you loosely cover it and put it in a warm place. Every day you discard half, add another cup of flour and a cup of warm water, give it a stir and cover it again. Keep repeating for a week or more until the mixture starts to bubble and smells ‘yeasty’ or ‘beery’ as Chef John puts it. That’s your starter! From this humble mixture, great bread is born.
Chef John’s Sourdough Starter Recipe
1/2 C rye flour**
1/2 C unbleached wheat flour
1 C warm water
1. Mix together in a bowl or jar and allow to stand in a warm place, loosely covered, for 24 hours.
2. After the first day, discard half the mixture and then feed with the same ingredients daily until mixture starts to bubble and smells like yeast or beer (can take a week or more).
3. Continue to feed mixture as long as active starter is desired.
**I had trouble finding rye flour. You can order it online from KAF or look for the Bob’s Red Mill section in the baking aisle of your grocery store. That’s where I finally found it in a one pound package.
Or, you can use this recipe:
Easy Sourdough Starter Recipe
1 C unbleached bread flour
1 C warm water
Same steps as Chef John’s recipe – see above
Now, if you never intend to bake more than that one loaf, you can use your starter up and call it a day. But if you want to make more sourdough bread, you have to reserve a cup of starter and then keep ‘feeding’ that.
There are a few schools of thought on feeding procedures. You can discard (or use) half daily and feed the rest, keeping it in a warm place, OR you can use my lazy baker method! What I do is keep my starter in the fridge and feed it once a week with half a cup of warm water and a cup of flour. Give that a good stir, let it sit out for an hour or two, then pop it back into the fridge. Your starter will keep indefinitely either way as long as it’s fed regularly. The bonus is, the longer you keep your starter, the better it will taste!!
Now, I know that making starter might seem intimidating to some, but it’s actually quite easy. Think of it like a science experiment. Who knew all that wild yeast was just hanging around in the air? I didn’t! Alternatively, you can buy a starter mix – King Arthur Flour online or look in your grocery baking aisle or specialty aisle. You can also get it from another baker. Some starters purportedly have been around since the Pilgrims landed! Whatever is best & easiest for you, let’s get on with the breadmaking already!
So now you’ve got your faboo starter. What next? I’ll let Chef John take it from here…
Make the Sourdough Sponge
Now to make the sponge, which is the next step. Pour the starter into a bowl and add 1 cup of bread flour and 1 cup of water. We’re going to cover that and leave it overnight and that’s what’s called a sponge which is just a fermented batter. That’s what we’re going to use to make the dough.
Prepare the Sourdough Bread Dough
Give the sponge a stir and add 2 cups to a bowl. Then add:
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1 cup bread flour
Stir that up and that will make a wet, sticky dough. Add another cup of flour and that will make a dough firm enough to pour on to the cutting board. Then we’re going to work in approximately a 3rd cup of flour. Go by feel. Add a little at a time and keep kneading until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Should take about 10-15 minutes
Test the Sourdough Dough
You know you are done if you can stretch a piece of dough and see light through it. This is called the “window pane” test. Once the dough is ready put a teaspoon of oil in a bowl and oil the bowl and dough so it doesn’t dry out.
Allow the Dough to Rise
Cover with a wet towel and let rise to double in size, about 18 hours. Sourdough rises much slower than regular yeast dough. When its ready pat it down on the board which will deflate it. Make it into a square shape and roll it into a loaf.
Put it onto a cornmeal coated pan, 2 tbsp of cornmeal, and place it seam-side down. Then, take an oiled piece of plastic wrap, and place it loosely over the dough. Let that double in size, which will take between 8 and 12 hours, so it takes a while.
Bake the Sourdough Bread
When that’s ready make some slices in the top of the bread, about 1/2″ deep, which are for looks and to help the bread rise in the oven. Put a pan of water in the bottom of a cold oven, and put in the dough. Turn on the oven to 425°F, and bake for 40-45 minutes.
A couple times during the cooking, if you want a nice crispy crust, spray it with plain water, and that really makes that beautiful blistered crust. When it’s done it will have a hollow sound when tapped. And, listen to that slice… unreal.
This recipe can be found here: http://video.about.com/breadbaking/Sourdough-Bread.htm where you will also find the video instructions and the recipe for the sourdough starter.
Well that’s it! The only changes I made to this is in the rising times. Since I’m above 5000′, my rise times are about half of these.
I hope you enjoy making your own sourdough bread! I know I have!!
Next post: Foolproof Pie Crust