sourdough bread

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I think I’m more of a bread baker than a desserts baker. I really love my carbohydrates. Yeast breads, quick breads, flat breads, bread pudding– you name it. It was only half a year ago when I began baking my own bread. I usually eat a sandwich for lunch, so in the past, I’d buy sliced bread in bulk from Costco. After a while, I began to think about all the unknown additives that went into store-bought bread and felt that it was time to take matters into my own hands. I had a huge bag of yeast just sitting in the fridge, so I decided to begin baking my own bread. I’m a bit of a health nut so naturally, I started out with a whole wheat bread recipe. Actually, whole wheat bread is pretty hard to get right for sandwich loaves, mainly because the flour is so much coarser than regular white flour and can turn out quite hard and have an unpleasant texture. After researching and tweaking various recipes, I’ve made many successful batches of loaves. However, for this post, I wanted to branch out and try something different. I’ve always been toying with the idea of making sourdough bread. While it’s much different and slightly more difficult, I felt that this recipe is definitely a winner.

ATT_1427314947200_2015-03-21_13.52.21Just a little background on sourdough bread: It’s not for the novice bread baker since it involves creating and maintaining a starter, which means that it requires several days before the bread can actually be made. I had feared the thought of creating and maintaining a starter for a long period of time. That’s why I researched extensively and looked up recipes for sourdough for hours. I finally decided to make a simple batch that didn’t need to be fed daily and could be used all at once, therefore I didn’t need to feed it. It’s the perfect recipe for someone that just wants to try out sourdough but isn’t so serious that they’re willing to keep and feed a starter constantly. It’s a quick mix starter that actually doesn’t need to sit for very long before it can be used, mainly because it actually has yeast! Note that the sour flavor isn’t overly strong, but the earlier you use the starter after creation, the more you can taste that sour flavor in the bread.

ATT_1427315029614_2015-03-21_14.18.35The starter is pretty simple to make and maintain. Measure and mix all the ingredients together (I recommend dry with dry and add in wet last) in a large mixing bowl. The starter will grow to twice its size, so I would not recommend putting everything in a jar (ilke the one pictures) since it will overflow. Trust me– I speak from experience. After you mix together the starter, leave it out in a relatively dry and cool place and cover it loosely with a towel. The starter needs to breathe so if you cover it too tightly, it’ll hinder the process. Leave it overnight and check on it the next day. It should begin to bubble very slightly and have a bit of a sour odor.

After 2 nights, it should smell stronger and have formed many small bubbles. Once this has happened, go ahead and use the starter. Since this starter isn’t the kind that needs constant feedings, it’s best to use it when the sour odor is still strong or it won’t translate into the bread.

ATT_1427315029326_2015-03-21_14.15.28Mix the flour, salt, starter and water to form a shaggy mix. You might have a little bit of started left over which you could feed (add equal parts water and flour for 3 days before maintaining it weekly) or discard. Make sure you only mix it so that it’s slightly combined but not over worked. Once that’s done, let the dough sit for about 20 minutes. I do this so that the flour has time to settle in with the other wet ingredients, which actually helps soften the bread and bring out the flavors more.

ATT_1427315029129_2015-03-21_14.13.32After the mix has rested, hook up your trusty mixer and knead the dough with the dough hook on the lowest setting for 5-7 minutes until it is smooth and slightly sticky but not overly wet. The best way to test that is if the dough springs back after being poked and your finger does not have residual dough stuck to it. If necessary, you can add all-purpose flour 1 tbsp at a time if the dough is still too sticky or wet. Don’t add too much at once, though, since you don’t want to over-flour the dough and make it too tough and dense.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a mixer, turn the dough onto a well floured surface and knead by hand for 7-10 minutes until the dough is tacky. Similarly, you can add flour if it’s too sticky. I advise you to flour your hands before working with the dough or else it can be hard to knead if the dough sticks to your hands.

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Let the dough rise in a warm place for 90-120 min. I usually preheat my oven for 2 minutes at 350 F, turn it off, and pop the bowl into the oven covered lightly with a towel to rise. If you don’t cover it with a towel, a chewy, tough skin may form, which is not too pleasant to eat.

After the dough has risen significantly (I’d say almost doubled in size), punch the dough down. If your dough springs back after being poked, it needs more time. Once it’s ready, roll the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide it into two equal portion, shape each into a ball, and let them sit on the counter top for 20 min. Don’t worry if they don’t hold their shape very well. If it’s too sticky, you can add a bit of flour and knead for a minute or two before letting it rest.

ATT_1427314995791_2015-03-21_14.09.19Flatten out a ball into a long oval shape using some sort of rolling pin as seen on the left. Roll the dough into a snail-like shape and roll out the dough again, this time in the opposite direction. We repeat this process so that the dough will have enough air so that when it’s baked after the final rise, it has a lovely crumb texture.

ATT_1427314995738_2015-03-21_14.08.04After you’ve done this step, you can roll the dough out one final time. Fold the top third of the oval done and the bottom third up. Turn it around and place it in a loaf pan so that the folds are facing the bottom. (Butter or flour the pan if non-stick) Do the same for the other ball. Then, let the dough rise for another hour on the counter. I actually opted to do an overnight rise this time. A slow rise can give your loaf more time for the flavors to really develop. Take a look below at how beautiful the dough looks after its overnight rise! Just lightly cover your pans in the fridge with a towel or foil and leave them in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Remember to remove them from the fridge and let them come to room temperature when you’re ready to start baking.

ATT_1427314995689_2015-03-21_14.06.33Once the loaves have risen, preheat the oven. If you want a nice crispy crust on your bread, you can spray the tops with water. Alternatively, you can use milk for a slightly sweet crust. Note that these will not give your loaves any shine. For a shiny, soft crust, beat an egg and brush it in top. I opted for the butter wash, which is done AFTER the loaves have baked. When you put the loaves in, let them bake for 10 min before reducing the temperature. This will allow your crust to brown nicely.

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After it has finished baking, remove the loaves from the oven. You can either check if they’re done with a thermometer or by tapping the bottom of the pans. If you hear a deep hollow noise, then the loaves have finished baking. Then, take 2 tbsp of cold butter and place 1 tbsp on top of each of the loaves. While the butter melts, you can brush it over the tops to get a nice, buttery crust. After giving it 5 minutes in the pan to cool, transfer the bread onto a cooling tray and let them cool completely.

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ATT_1427314969817_2015-03-21_13.55.17Now, I usually make bread in bulk and slice them up to put them into the freezer so that I can make my sandwiches easily the night before. After the loaves have cooled use a serrated bread knife to make slow, small, sawing motions directly downwards to slice the bread. Let the slices cool if the bread’s insides are slightly moist. If you freeze them while still moist, they’ll stick together and be very difficult to take apart unless completely thawed.

If you plan on eating the bread within the next few days, leave the loaves in-tact and slice off portions when you’re ready to eat. If you slice them all at once, they will be more likely to go bad. Store them in an air-proof bag or container for a longer life. They usually can last 3-4 days out on the counter.

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step recipe on sourdough bread! Let me know about your own sourdough experience.

Copyright april 2015. Credit me when reposting my recipe, please.

SOURDOUGH BREAD

Soft and light sourdough bread is the perfect addition to any day!
>>> Yields 2 9 x 5 loaves

Time:
-Hands-on Prep: 30 min
-Rise time: 4.5-5 hours (if not doing an overnight rise); 
3.5-4 hrs + an overnight rise
-Bake: 35-40 min.

Starter:
– 2 c all-purpose flour
– 2 c room-temperature water
– 1 tbsp active dry yeast
– 1 tbsp white sugar

Dough:
– 1 1/4 c lukewarm water
– 2 c sourdough starter
– 4 – 5 c flour (can sub in up to 2 c with whole-wheat flour)
– 1 tbsp salt

Instructions:

1) For the starter: Add the ingredients into a bowl. Stir until combined.
2) Leave uncovered or lightly covered in stable temp environment.
3) Wait 2-3 days until bubbly and has a alcoholic/fermented smell (pungent).
4) Store in fridge until ready to use.

1) For the bread: Combine starter with warm water (microwave for 10 sec). Add 4 c flour and salt.
2) Mix until shaggy dough forms. Allow it to sit for ~20 min.
3) Knead for 5-7 min in stand mixer until slightly sticky but springs back after being poked. If necessary, you can add a little bit of flour (1 tbsp at a time–up to 1 cup) until it has a springy texture. Alternatively, knead with your hands for 7-10 minutes on a well-floured surface.
4) Let dough rise covered loosely in warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs.
5) Divide the dough into 2 balls and let rest for 20 min.
6) Shape balls into a loaf (roll out and then fold into thirds and let rise in pan for 1 – 1 1/2 hr [Or put in fridge and let it rise slowly overnight from 12-24 hrs. Cover the loaves loosely before refrigerating. Let it come to room temp before baking].
7)  Preheat oven to 450 F. (Spritz top of dough with water for extra crispy crust)
8)  Bake the loaves for 10 min, then reduce the heat to 400 F and bake for another 25 – 30 min.
9)  Brush melted butter onto tops of loaves for a softer, more fragrant crust.
10) Let loaves cool completely before slicing. Store in the freezer or at room temp for 2-3 days.

Notes:
– You can opt for an egg wash, water spray, milk spray, or butter wash for your loaves. See the above post for a detailed description
– I recommend trying the recipe with all-purpose flour before beginning to sub in wheat so you know how the dough feels the first time
– Sourdough can be fed daily after being used with the remaining 1/4 cup by adding equal parts flour and water (1 tbsp each) for 4-5 days. Afterwards, store it in the fridge and feed it once a week.

Happy eats!

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