Alright. So you’ve got a sourdough starter, and you’ve been feeding it religiously for a few days. Now, it is time to bake delicious sourdough bread. I got a bit creative this time, adding flaxseed, but this is essentially the recipe I’ve been using for sourdough. Sourdough is a bit different to work with than bread made with baker’s yeast, but it is well worth it. The biggest difference is the amount of time it takes. You have to plan ahead to bake sourdough bread, since it rises more slowly. You also want to give it time for that delicious sourdough flavor to develop. The advantage is that sourdough tastes amazing, you don’t have to keep purchasing yeast, and it keeps much better, letting you bake more bread in advance and reducing waste.
Start preparing for this bread the evening before you bake. You will need:
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups water
Put the starter and the water into a large bowl. Stir to combine.
Now, add the flour. I like mixing in some whole wheat flour, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use all white or all whole wheat for this recipe. Stir the ingredients into a wet dough, called a “sponge”. Cover this and leave it at room temperature for 4 hours, then refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours).
The next morning, remove the sponge from the refrigerator, and add the following ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
0.5 cups flax seed (optional)
You will have to knead these in, the dough will be too dry to stir properly.
Knead for 5-6 minutes (I use a stand mixer with a dough hook), until the dough is smooth. Seeds keep the dough from smoothing out as much, so mine stayed lumpier than I would have liked.
At this point, cover the dough with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 3-4 hours. Punch it down, and divide it into two balls. You can shape these however you want, but I am partial to “boules” (that’s “balls” in French, the language of bakers), so I form them into spheres. Turn two baking sheets upside-down, and line them with parchment paper. Place the formed loaves on the parchment and cover once again with a wet cloth.
Let the loaves rise for an additional 2-3 hours, until they double in volume. Preheat an oven with a baking stone to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a pie pan on the bottom rack under the baking stone. When the second rise, or “proof” is complete and the oven is at temperature, cut slits into the upper surface of the loaf (known as “scoring”) so that the bread doesn’t burst in odd places when “oven spring”, or rising due to the expansion of steam, forces the loaf to expand in the oven. This is a step that I have not quite gotten the hang of, so my loaves still come out oddly shaped every now and again. The picture on my “About Me” page shows what a pretty scoring pattern looks like.
Once you score the dough, you have to get it in the oven fast, before it collapses. Pour a cup of water into the pie pan in the bottom of the oven. This creates steam, slowing the formation of the crust until later in the baking process. This helps the loaf expand a bit more before the crust sets. Then, use the baking sheet like a pizza peel to transfer the loaf onto the baking stone. Bake for 30 minutes, and then transfer onto a cooling rack.
Resist the urge to cut into the bread until it has cooled. This lets the crumb set, and results in better texture.
There you have it! Yummy, healthy sourdough bread, and it only took 21 hours! Actually, it’s not so bad, because you can forget about it once you set the timer.