I have actively been baking artisan-style breads for the last ten years or so. It would not be an under estimation to say that first few attempts were less than spectacular. But there isn’t much I like better than a good challenge and making a really good loaf of bread became just that, a challenge.
I have probably a dozen or so books dedicated to baking bread, but the one that spoke to me was a classic, “Baking with Julia” and her method for French Bread was how I finally learned the fundamentals. A couple of other tips I picked up over the years through various sources, including using a baking stone, moisture in the oven, and creating some type of support when allowing the shaped dough to rise.
One of the breads I have never been able to master is sourdough. So back in September when Nicole from Pinch My Salt began a series on how to “start” a sourdough starter from scratch, I was on board. It was a fun process and in the end I was able to successfully cultivate my own starter, which is now a mature six months old.
I love the flexibility that having an active starter provides and have made several long-rise sourdough loaves, however, they really aren’t my husband’s favorite, so I have been playing around with a couple of recipes/methods to come up with something that makes both of us happy. This current bread is a hybrid of sourdough and an instant yeast bread with the only other ingredients being flour, water & salt.
The result is a bread that can be made from start to finish in under five hours as long as you have an active, fed sourdough starter. The only special equipment you will need is a pizza stone or oven tiles and a spray bottle. The bread has just a hint of sourdough, a nice chewy crust, air pockets that aren’t so big as to prevent it from being suitable for sandwiches.
Not-So-Sour Sourdough Bread
- 16 oz (approx. 1 cup) “fed” sourdough starter
- 12 oz. (approx. 1 ½ cup) warm water
- 24 oz. (approx. 4 ½ cups) bread flour
- 1 tsp. instant yeast (preferably SAF)
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
In bowl of large stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the fed sourdough starter, warm (room temperature) water and yeast and let sit for about 10 minutes. Add flour and salt and mix on lowest speed, just until flour is incorporated. Turn off mixer and cover with towel and let rest another 10 minutes. This will allow the flour time to absorb the liquid.
Turn mixer on medium speed and mix for approximately 10 minutes until dough is supple and elastic. Be patient – it is tempting to cut this step short, but it will dramatically affect your finished result. You should be able to stretch a small piece of dough until you can nearly see through it. If it breaks, keep mixing until you achieve this consistency.
Remove hook from dough and cover with a piece of plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Let rise in a warm place until doubled. This will take between one to three hours depending on your conditions. A good place to do this is inside of an oven turned OFF with just the light on for heat. Check it after an hour by pressing a finger into the dough. It should provide some resistance but not spring back immediately. If you finger indentation disappears immediately, let rise and continue checking every half hour until you get to this point.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over a few times to release the trapped air, cover with a clean dish towel and let rest for about 10 minutes. While dough is resting, line a baking sheet with a clean linen or cotton dish towel and lightly flour.
You can either make one large loaf as I did or make two smaller loafs. These shaping directions are for one large loaf. Press dough out into a large rectangle and then fold it over into thirds using the heel of your hand to seal each turn. Press the ends together to seal. Repeat 2 -3 times. If dough becomes too resistant to shaping, cover and let rest to allow gluten to relax. Finally, cupping your hands over the rectangular log, gently roll back and forth, applying light pressure to “stretch” log out to desired size. Make sure that all seams are pressed together and ends should be slightly narrower than middle.
Transfer to prepared baking sheet and fold towel loosely up on sides and prop with something to give the loaf support as it rises. (See example). Cover loosely with another clean towel. Allow to rise for about an hour.
At this time, place stone into oven and preheat to 450°. If you don’t have a stone, you can cook on a heavy baking sheet. Fill a spray bottle with water and set within easy reach of the oven.
Gently transfer the fully risen loaf to a lightly floured peel or unrimmed baking sheet.
You will need to slash the loaf allow it to expand properly in the oven. The best way to do this is with an old fashioned razor blade. They are super sharp and thin. Whatever you use, just make sure it is very sharp. Make 3 – 4 diagonal slashes at about a 45° angle and immediately transfer to oven. Generously spray the inside of the oven with the spray bottle and close door. Repeat 2 -3 times in the next 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 375° and continue cooking for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. The bread must cool completely prior to slicing and eating if you want to avoid a stomach ache!