With everyone being at home during this pandemic and baking more, a lot of people, including me, have been trying sourdough for first time. While I’m not a stranger to bread baking, I had never attempted sourdough before 2 months ago. I now bake 2 loaves week and am getting pretty confident with this kind of bread. I love the taste, the chew and crust, and it costs pennies to make!
When you look at the internet for recipes, there are many differing versions. Most are high hydration doughs which require a bit more confidence to work with. I happened to have a recipe in my Cook’s Illustrated cookbook called 24-hour sourdough that I tried for my first loaves. It also does not require a dutch oven as many recipes do. I have now tried both this recipe and a high hydration dough recipe and like them both equally. The only difference is the high hydration dough has a slightly chewier texture and more holes.
For a beginner, I think this is the recipe to try! I put pictures of some of the steps below, but forgot to take a picture of the bread scoring. You can either slice in a single line or make decorative patterns. It is important to score the bread because it will rise in the oven. If you don’t score it, it will likely have a “blow out” in an awkward spot.
I keep my starter in the fridge for most of the week so that I don’t have to feed it every day. Two days before I am going to make the bread, I take it out and feed it in the morning, then again the next morning and finally once more before going to bed the night before I make the bread. This ensures the starter is nice and active. I then feed my starter once more after I have removed what I need for the bread the morning of baking and put it back in the fridge.
Beginner Sourdough Bread
Flavourful, crusty sourdough bread, for the novice sourdough baker.
For the Sponge
- For the Dough
For the Sponge
- Stir starter and water together in a large bowl until fully combined.
- Stir in flour until combined.
- Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 2-3 hours. For the Dough
- Add water to the sponge and mix with wooden spoon to combine with.
- Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time and stir to combine until all flour is incorporated. You will need to mix with your hands for the last bit.
- Once all flour has been added, knead to form a ball, about 1 minute.
- Cover bowl tightly and let dough rest for 20 minutes.
- Use fingers to poke pockets in dough then sprinkle salt over dough.
- Knead for 8-10 minutes until salt is incorporated and dough is soft, smooth and moist (no longer sticky).
- Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl and cover bowl with plastic.
- Let dough rise until doubled in size about 3-5 hours. The ideal rising temperature for dough is between 70-78F. If the room is warmer than that, try to rise in a cooler, no cooler than 65F.
- Line rimmed baking sheet with 2 squares of parchment paper (one per loaf).
- Gently stretch dough as far as possible without tearing (to redistribute yeast), then fold it into thirds like a business letter.
- Divide dough in half crosswise, then loosely shape each piece into a ball, cover loosely with plastic, and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Cup hands stiffly around 1 piece of dough (keeping the other piece covered) and drag in short half-circular motions towards the edge of the counter, forming a smooth, taught surface. Pinch bottom seam closed and set loaf seam side down on one of the parchment sheets.
- Repeat with second set of dough.
- Spray loaves lightly with vegetable oil spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Remove loaves from fridge and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 3-4 hours. (Dough should barely spring back when poked with knuckle.)
- One hour before baking, adjust oven rack to lower middle position, place baking stones or cast iron pans on rack (one per loaf is best so they don’t join together), and heat oven to 500 F.
- Just before baking, dust top of loaves generously with flour then, using serrated knife, slash the surface of the loaves with lines 1/2 – 3/4 inch deep.
- Working quickly, spray loaves with water and slide loaves on parchment onto baking stones. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 450F.
- Bake, spraying loaves twice more during first 5 minutes of baking, until crust is a deep golden brown and loaves register 205-210F internally, about 30 minutes.
- Transfer loaves to wire rack, discard parchment and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Do not cut into the loaves before 2 hours of cooling or the texture will be gummy!
If not using all of the loaf the same day, the loaf can be sliced and frozen for storage.
Your starter should be nice and active (bubbly) before you use it for bread.
The sponge mixture just mixed.
The sponge mixture after 3 hours at room temperature.
Add water to the sponge and stir to incorporate.
Add flour 1 half cup at a time until incorporated.
Finish with a short 1-minute knead to get all flour incorporated and form into a ball.
With your fingers, poke indentations in the dough.
Sprinkle salt over the surface of the dough.
To knead the dough, stretch the dough away from you without tearing.
Then use a bench scraper to pick up the far end of the dough and fold it back on itself.
Give the dough a 1/4 turn and repeat until the texture of the dough changes and becomes soft and smooth. Form into a ball.
After the dough has risen, stretch the dough into a large rectangle without tearing.
Then fold dough into thirds like a business letter and divide in half.
After forming into loose balls and resting, form the dough into tighter ball by cupping the bottom sides of the dough in your hands and pulling the dough in circular motions toward you until the surface is taught and smooth.
Put each loaf on a square of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap before putting in the fridge.
Finished loaves. I forgot to take pictures of the scoring but you can see the patterns I did in this picture.
Here it is sliced. It’s delicious!