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This is my standard sourdough recipe that I bake almost every week. It is a no-knead recipe, so the taste to effort ratio is very high. Although the process takes about 16 hours, there is very little for you, the baker, to do. The yeast will do all the heavy lifting. In fact, most of the action will happen while you are fast asleep. The total active time to bake this bread is only about 20 minutes.
As this is a sourdough recipe, it requires a sourdough starter. If you do not have one, one can be purchased online, begged from a neighbor, or captured from the air around you. I won't go into details on capturing your own yeast, but you can find plenty of instructions online.
Step 1: Step 1: Mix the Ingredients
- 16 oz Bread flour
- 300 grams filtered water
- 1/4 cup sourdough starter
- 1 tsp salt
Rather than doing a bunch of kneading, this recipe uses time to develop the glutton in the dough. Since we will be letting the dough rise for 12 hours, I like to start the dough the night before the day I will bake.
A quick note on sourdough starters:
I use equal parts water and flour when feeding my starter, which is stored in a mason jar with a piece of foil as a lid. To feed the starter I will dump out most of the jar, reserving about a tablespoon's worth. I then add 1/3 cup filtered water and 1/3 cup flour and stir with a spoon. It can then go into the fridge happily for a week. If I am baking, I will leave my starter at room temperature and feed it about twice a day. When pulling the starter out of cold storage, I like to feed it two or 3 times at room temperature to get the yeast really active before baking.
Mixing the dough(active time: 10 minutes)
- Dump the flour and salt in a large bowl or plastic container and mix together
- Fill a cup with 300g of room temperature filtered water
- Add 1/4 cup of starter. A healthy starter will float on the surface of the water. Stir in the starter with a spoon and and then dump the lot over the flour.
- Mix using a bread whisk or by hand until all ingredients are incorporated to an even consistency.
- Cover and let ferment for about 12 hours.
Step 2: Step 2: Forming the Loaf
After about 12 hours, the dough should have at least doubled in size and if you are using a clear container, you should lots of co2 bubbles. Now we can form the final loaf. But first...
A quick note on fermentation:
There are basically 6 factors that will affect how long the fermentation and glutton development takes for your dough
- kneading and folding
In this recipe we are substituting time for kneading. . Because we are not kneading, we are compensating with extra time. Increasing the amount of salt in your dough will slow fermentation. A warmer temperature will speed up fermentation. More water(higher hydration) will speed up fermentation. The point of all this is that you have several factors you can play with. Without changing the work-ability of the dough and the taste of the bread, the easiest factor to play with it temperature. For example, if you know you are not going to be able to tough your dough for 18 hours, you may want to leave it in a cooler place so it will ferment slower. It's good to be aware of all these factors so when you make changes to a recipe, you will understand how it will affect fermentation times. The last factor which I didn't include in the list, is the amount of food available to the the yeast, which can vary by the type of flour(or also if you add sugar to feed the yeast)
Forming the loaf(active time: 5 minutes)
- Dump the dough onto a floured surface. I like to use a bread scraper to get it out of the container
- Gently push the dough into a flat rectangle
- Fold the dough lengthwise in thirds like an envelope(see picture)
- Fold the dough once vertically
- Put dough seam-side down. with one hand working the dough ball and one hand working bowl scaper at an angle, form into a tight loaf by pushing the scraper and dough ball together, rotating dough after each push. This will create a tight outer skin.
- Lift dough ball into floured banneton. I like to use rice flour, as it seems to be the most non-stick (protip: you can make rice flour by throwing some rice into a blender)
- Cover banneton and set aside for final proofing, about 2-3 hours
Step 3: Step 3: Proofing and Baking
After about 2 or 3 hours the dough should have risen a bit and be rather puffy. If you poke a finger into the dough at this point it will leave an indentation rather than springing back.
Baking the loaf(active time: 5 minutes)
- The oven and cooking vessel should be preheated to 500 degrees. You can use a le creuset, dutch oven, or a clay cloche. Mainly, you need something with a lid and a bit of thermal mass to hold heat. The dutch oven will essentially act like a steamer, keeping the moisture from the dough from escaping and creating a wonderful crust.
- The dough can be dumped directly into the dutch oven, but this is a tricky maneuver and a better way is to flip the dough over onto a piece of parchment paper and then gently lift the paper and lower into the dutch oven.
- I like to score an X into the top of the loaf which allows for controlled expansion or "oven spring".
- Place the lid back on and put your loaf into the oven. Reduce heat to 450 and back for 25 minutes with lid on.
- After 25 minutes, remove lid and continue to bake for another 25 minutes or so until the internal temp is around 208F. If you knock on the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow(don't do this when hot obviously)
- Set out to cool for at least one hour before eating(the hardest part)
Step 4: Step 4: Final Thoughts
I hope you enjoy making and, more importantly, eating this bread. I posted a video above so you can hear the fresh loaf crackle after it came out of the oven.
I find that sourdoughs like a fairly high hydration level. As you move to a higher hydration, you get an airy, bubbly crumb. As the hydration get really high, the dough is harder to work with and has trouble standing up so you end up with a flatter loaf. I think this recipe strikes a nice balance.
Final sidenote: temp control
I live in cool coastal northern California and for a while struggled with consistent fermentation. Finally, I built a temp controlled fermentation box out of an old cooler, a light bulb, and a temp controller and probe. Essentially, I set the temp I want and when it drops below that, the 60 watt light bulb turns on to warm things up. This has greatly improved the consistency of results with my bread baking. Also, if I know I need my ferment to go faster or slower, I will adjust the temp down or up a bit.