Sourdough Bread


I know, I know. Since the quarantine earlier this year, everyone and their brother has started a starter. A sourdough starter. And I couldn't be more thrilled. I love sourdough bread, and would love the world to adopt it as their very own. So you probably already have a recipe for it. You probably have been pulling fresh loaves out of the oven since March. You're probably eating a piece as you read this. Buuuut, just in case you don't, this post is for you. 

I have had sourdough stater for many years thanks to my dear mother. She showed up one day with it in a jar. She showed me how to care for it, how to feed it, and how to make it bubble up happily. Now she is gluten free, but she still took my starter and stashed it in her freezer for all of my months in Spain. (I started a new starter in Spain, but didn't travel back with it.)

Sourdough bread is easier to digest because the wild yeast predigests it for you during the long fermentation. It is healthier because the lactic acid produced during the fermentation process feeds your gut bacteria. The lactic acid also lowers the phytates in wheat, which basically means your body is able to get more nutrients out of the bread. I eat it for all those reasons, but the real reason is because it is so amazingly delicious.


The tangy flavor and chewy texture make sourdough bread perfect for toast, for dipping into soup, or for slathering butter on top with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a thick slice of cheddar. I don't stop there, though. I cut the bread into thin slices and put them on a charcuterie tray. I save the ends in the freezer and eventually cube them and saute them in tons of olive oil with salt, pepper and Italian herbs for the best croutons. And I slice the bread thin, butter the outsides of each slice, put a lovely cheese in the middle and make an addictive grilled cheese. 

So. Shall we move on to the recipe? Let's. But first, make sure you have an active starter. It's just flour and water. Here are some places you can go to make your own starter:

- Making a starter from scratch

- Caring for a starter

- Sourdough beginners

Now that you have your starter, we can try out the recipe. I like to use half all-purpose and half whole wheat flours. I always use organic flour and filtered water, but that's not a must. You can make great sourdough without it, but sometimes the flavor of your water or how it's treated in your area can affect the taste and/or how active the starter is. 

If you use all-purpose flour the bread will most likely rise higher. If you use all whole wheat it will be more dense. Both are good. It depends on what you plan to use it for. Do you want to dip it in olive oil and herbs? All white flour might be best. Do you want to make a hearty sandwich or toast? All whole wheat is fine. I like to do a mix.

I've tried many sourdough recipes in the past. What I love about this one is it's easy. There is no kneading, no getting out the scale to measure ingredients, and no looking at a long list of ingredients. Not to say that there aren't better recipes out there, but if I'm going to whip up a loaf of bread, I like to do it without have to fuss over it. This recipe delivers. It is dependable and decidedly unfussy. 

Having just said that this recipe is easy, I should say that if this is your first time making sourdough you will want to read the recipe a few times to make sure you have a good understanding of it. I hope to soon make a video of the process because often videos are easier to follow than words. Also make sure that your starter is active. It takes time for that to happen, so don't be discourage if your first loaf of bread with a young starter doesn't turn out very well. Just turn it into toast or dip it into olive oil and enjoy the journey of learning sourdough bread. I swear, when I pull a loaf of fresh sourdough out of the oven, I feel completely joyful and excited. Even if I don't plan to eat that particular loaf. I love the process and result of baking bread, and I hope you can learn to love it too. 

Twenty-Four Hour Sourdough Bread

Makes one loaf. Make sure you have an active starter. Feed your starter a few hours before you plan to make this recipe if possible. 

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups whole wheat flour (I like to use white whole wheat)

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup active starter

1 1/2 cups, or more, water


Method

1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon or stiff silicone spatula. Scrape the sides as best you can, pulling inward and pressing down toward the center. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, stirring as you go, until dough is mostly mixed. Cover bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and let rise for 8-10 hours. I usually mix it up in the morning. You can also mix it up at night.


2. After 8-10 hours, the dough should look a bit bigger, but it won't rise as much as dough made with instant yeast. Take your spatula or wooden spoon and pull in the dough from the edge of the bowl to the center. You will do this four times, turning the bowl as you go in order to gather all sides of the dough in toward the middle. Cover the dough and set a timer for 45 minutes.

3. After 45 minutes, repeat the process, pulling the dough inward on itself four times all around the edges. Cover the bowl and set a timer again for 45 minutes. 


4. After the second 45 minutes rest period, you will now turn the dough out onto the counter. I don't flour the counter. If your dough is particularly wet, you can do a light sprinkle of flour on the counter. Too much flour will make the dough tough. Eventually you will be able to gauge what your dough should be like when you first mix it. This will prevent it from being too wet or dry when you get to the shaping stage. To shape the dough into a round loaf (not a bread loaf) you will gather it into a ball, but don't knead it or flatten it out. Use your hands to lightly grab the sides and tug them downward and  tuck them underneath a bit. Shape the dough, moving it in a circle on the countertop and guiding your hands along the sides in a circular motion. If your hands stick to the dough, wet them and continue shaping. Eventually you will feel tension building up in the dough. The tension helps the loaf keep its shape. 

5. Next, flour a banetton basket or a large bowl lined with a lint-free cloth. I like to use a fine mesh strainer or sieve to evenly distribute the flour. Use just a little more flour than you think you need so the dough doesn't stick. Place your dough top side down so the underneath part is now on top. Flour the dough again, cover with plastic wrap or bee wrap. Place in the fridge to slowly rise and ferment overnight or for at least eight hours.

6. The next morning (or evening, whenever eight hours has passed) take your dough out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter one to two hours. This step is optional. I find if the dough has a chance to rest it bakes up slightly larger.


7. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a covered Dutch oven or a pot with a lid in to heat up. Once the oven is hot, invert the dough onto a piece of parchment paper on the counter. Take the Dutch oven out and carefully remove the lid. Place the dough on the parchment paper into the pot and use a spatula to press the parchment paper against the sides. Use a very sharp knife or lame  to make a half inch slit down the center of the loaf. This allows the bread to rise more in the oven resulting in a larger loaf. It's important to make sure your knife is very sharp for this to work. I have mutilated plenty a loaf with dull knives. If you don't have a sharp knife or lame, just skip this part. The bread will still bake well and taste delicious. 




8. Spray the top of the loaf with water. This step is optional. It helps the crust to bake up crisply, but you can skip this step if you don't have a spray bottle. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and put it back in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. After 25 minutes, remove the lid, spray the loaf again with water, and bake for 20 minutes longer without the lid. The bread is done when it is golden brown or dark brown (depending on how you like it) on top. 

9. Let the bread cool almost completely before you cut into it. If you cut into it too early, it will be gummy. Make sure to wait to get the best texture. 

10. Enjoy however you like! My favorites include grilled cheese, toasted with butter and salt and dipped in olive oil. 




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