I got a bee in my bonnet to try making sourdough bread, so I looked around at recipes and found this one at Scientific Psychic. We just baked the bread last night, and for a first try, I think it turned out pretty well. We’re going to try out a different recipe this weekend, so we’ll let you know how it comes out.
First of all for sourdough bread, you have to get a starter going. This recipe doesn’t use packaged yeast, so you have to generate your own. That’s what the starter is. It takes a few days to get the starter going, but once it does, you can keep it going and just dip out of it when you need it for baking.
Use a glass, ceramic or plastic container for the starter, nothing metal. Also, use wooden utensils for mixing – if you use a metal utensil that happens to be reactive, you can kill your yeast off. We did use metal measuring cups/spoons, and it still seemed to work ok.
The pineapple juice in the recipe is to add a small amount of acidity to keep out things like mold and other bacteria you don’t want growing in your starter. Many recipes just mix flour and water, so if you want to try that, just look up some recipes for starters and see how they do it. Whenever you add water, make sure to not use tap water, as it is often chlorinated and will kill your yeast.
Day 1: Mix 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 2: Add 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 3: Add 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 4: Measure out 1/4 cup of starter after stirring it well. Discard the rest. Add 1/4 cup bread flower and 1/4 cup spring water and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
After the 4th day, your starter should be looking bubbly and smelling yeasty, and should grow in size a bit. Once you have a good bubbly, yeasty starter, you can keep adding 1/4 cup flower and water, mixing well and letting it sit overnight at room temp until you have enough starter to use for whatever recipe you are making.
- 1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
- 2 1/2 cups (11 oz.) white bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cups spring water
- 1/4 cup starter
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Dissolve the starter in the water. It is important to use non-chlorinated water because chlorine will kill the gas-generating yeast and bacteria in the starter. Pour the water on the flour mixture while stirring. Shape the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with a towel. If your starter is very fluid, you may need to add 1/4 cup additional flour to obtain a dough that has a moist and firm consistency. The porosity of the bread depends on the amount of water in the dough. Wet doughs produce breads with big holes.
Leave the covered bowl at room temperature for approximately 18 hours (we left ours about 22 and it was fine). During this time the dough will approximately double in size.
Sprinkle some flour on a large cutting board. Empty the dough from the bowl unto the board and spread the dough gently so that it can be folded in thirds and then folded once more to form a ball. Cover with your towel and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
Use a towel to line the large bowl. Sprinkle wheat bran or oat bran on the towel to keep the dough from adhering to the towel, and transfer the dough to the lined bowl. You may also use a wicker proofing basket or banneton, if available. Cover the bowl or proofing basket with another towel. Proofing is the final rise before baking. During this stage, the dough is allowed to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The towel allows some moisture to evaporate from the surface of the dough and will create a thin skin that eventually produces a crunchy crust. The best results are obtained when the dough is proofed in a warm place.
The crispy crust of sourdough bread is obtained by baking the loaf in a hot oven with plenty of moisture during the initial baking period. This can be accomplished by baking the moist dough in an enclosed space, such as a clay baking cloche, a cast iron Dutch oven, or by spraying some water on the dough when it is placed in the the hot oven and by keeping a shallow pan with water in the lower shelf of the oven to generate steam while the bread is baking. Controling the moisture of the whole oven is more difficult than using a covered brick oven or cast iron Dutch oven. Since the dough is very moist, the shape of the Dutch oven determines the shape of the loaf. If the Dutch oven is too large and the dough does not fill it halfway, the loaf will bake flat.
note – We didn’t have a dutch oven with a lid handle that would stand a 475 degree oven, so I just baked it on a baking sheet, and it did bake a bit flat, but not too bad. We moistened the outside of the dough before baking, and the crust came out pretty well.
Thirty minutes before you plan to bake the bread, place the covered empty cast iron Dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 475°F. When ready to bake the bread, work quickly. Open the Dutch oven, sprinkle some bran in the bottom of the heated Dutch oven to keep the bread from burning and sticking. Transfer the dough to the Dutch oven. Make some decorative 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep slashes with a razor blade, if desired. Put the lid on the Dutch oven. Bake the covered dough for 30 minutes at 450°F. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven, and bake for another 15 minutes at to 400°F (204°C) until the crust is golden brown. Be careful not to get burned by the steam as you open the Dutch oven. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool for at least one hour.
note – since we baked ours on the baking sheet, we just preheated the oven, put the bread dough on the baking sheet and put it in after the oven was preheated. we baked it for about 35 minutes at about 425, and that was just about right. The time may vary depending on your particular oven.