Introduction: All Natural Indigo Sourdough

About: I am an 18-year-old student in 12th grade, I enjoy baking, running, programming, 3-D design, photography, and nature!

For the past few months I have had so much time to do whatever I want, and in that time I have gotten very addicted to baking sourdough. Sourdough is a super cool way to bake bread because it only uses three main ingredients: flour, water, and salt. You also need a sourdough starter, which is technically a fourth ingredient, however, it's made from flour and water so it comes from two of the same three ingredients. It's amazing how you can take these three things and with a little time to catch some natural yeast, you can make amazing bread, arguably better than bread made with chemically grow yeast. But what's even cooler than just normal sourdough, is indigo sourdough. With just one additional ingredient, you can create sourdough bread that is naturally indigo colored, which is exactly what I'm going to show you how to do.


For this recipe you will need:

- 540g Bread Flour - I highly recommend King Arthur

- 11g iodine-free salt

~ 20g butterfly pea flowers

- 40g sourdough starter

- water

- Rice flour for dusting

You will also need the following tools:

- Scale

- 16 oz jar

- Mixing Bowl

- Bench Scraper

- Banneton or a Bowl w/ clean kitchen towel

- Razor Blade

- Dutch Oven

- Parchment Paper

Step 1: Create Butterfly Pea Tea

First, you must make tea using the butterfly pea flowers early the morning one day before you wish to serve your bread. To do this boil about 500g of water. While the water heats up, remove the light green stems from the flowers until you have about 12g of flower petals, discard the stems. Now place all 12g of flowers into a heat-safe container, add about 450g of boiling water. Allow the mixture to steep until it is about room temperature, this should take about 45 minutes. Once the tea has steeped and is at about room temp, use a fine mesh strainer to remove all of the flowers, you should be left with about 410g of dark blue liquid. Pour the liquid into a container of a zeroed scale, if you have more than 410g, that's not a problem, however, if you have less, add water until you are at 410g.

Step 2: Mix Levain

Next, you will build the levain, this should be done pretty earlier in the morning the day before you want your bread to be done. To do this, place a clean jar(16oz or bigger) on a scale and add 40 grams of an established sourdough starter. Next, add 40 grams of the room temp butterfly tea from the last step. Finally, add 40 grams of bread flour and mix thoroughly. Add a rubber band to the jar to mark where the starter is right now and place a lid on top but don't seal it. Place your starter in a warm area(~80°F) and allow it to rise for 3-4 hours until it is at least doubled and the surface is bubbly. If you don't have a spot that is around 80°F, you can always put the starter in the oven with just the light on, it may take longer but it will warm it a little bit. Make sure to follow the next step before the rising time it up.

Step 3: Autolyse

About 3 hours into the starter's rising period, you will mix your dough to give the flour time to hydrate from the water. In a large mixing bowl, add 500g of strong bread flour, then add 370g of the butterfly pea tea. Mix the dough with your hand or a dough whisk until there are no dry spots. If you use your hand, I find it easiest if your hand is in the shape of a duck's beak, with all your fingertips touching. Once the dough is mixed, cover and let sit until the starter has doubled and is bubbly. The dough only needs to sit for 30 minutes but it can sit for a few hours if your starter is being sluggish.

Step 4: Add Levain and Salt

Once the starter has at least doubled and is very bubbly, pour 100g of it onto the dough as well as 11g of salt. Use a wet hand to mix the dough by grabbing portions of dough, and folding them over top of the starter and salt. Continue to grasp outer portions of dough and fold them over until the start seems well incorporated.

Step 5: Kneading the Dough

Now you will knead the dough to add strength to the gluten. Kneading in sourdough is a little different than other types of bread because the dough is super wet. The easiest way to do it is to keep the dough in the bowl and with a wet hand, grab a portion of the dough, pull it up as high as it can extend, and then fold it down to the middle. Continue grabbing, stretching, and folding the dough for about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you could use the slap and fold method instead if you have used that method before. Either way, the goal is for the gluten to be strong enough that you can stretch it to the point that you can see light through it, aka the glass pane test. If you can stretch the dough enough to see light, then you can move forward. If the dough breaks while stretching it, then knead the dough for a little longer up to 5 more minutes. If you can't quite get is super thin, that's ok your bread might just end up a little denser. Place the dough in a covered container in a warm place.

Step 6: Bulk Fermentation

This is the main rise period of the dough, at this point you should start a stopwatch immediately to record how long your dough has been rising. During this period, you will complete four sets of stretches and folds. 30 minutes after you started the timer, perform the first stretch and fold. To do this, wet your hand and grasp on edge of the dough, like before, pull the dough up as high as it can go. Then fold it across to the other side. Pretend the dough is a square, you want to do 4 stretches, one on each side. Cover and repeat the 4 stretches at the 60-minute(1h) mark, 90-minute(1.5h) mark and one at 120-minute(2h) mark. After your final stretch at 2 hours, allow your dough to rise untouched until your stopwatch gets to 3 hours. If your kitchen is colder(~70F) let the stopwatch go to 4 hours before moving on. When the dough is ready, it should have large bubbles on top and have risen a little in the bowl.

Step 7: Pre-Shaping

Once the dough is done rising, it's time to pre-shape it into a ball or boule to proof overnight. Start by flouring the top of the dough, then turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Stretch the dough with floured hands into a rectangle shape. To shape the dough, fold the bottom 1/3 of the rectangle up. Next, grab one side and fold it in, then fold in the other side. Finally, fold the top down all the way to the bottom. Use a floured bench scraper to turn the dough over so the seam is underneath it. Cover the dough with an overturned bowl for 15 minutes. In that time, prepare a proofing basket. If you have a banneton, lightly flour it, if you do not, then grab a bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Dust the towel with rice flour, if you don't have rice flour, then heavily coat the bowl with wheat flour.

Step 8: Final Shaping

Once the 15 minutes is up, remove the bowl covering from over the dough. Next, flour the surface of the dough and use a bench scraper to turn it over on a lightly floured surface. Stretch the dough out a little into a round rectangle with your hands, keep flour on them to prevent sticking. Then shape similarly to before, this time stretching each side a little as you go. First, fold the bottom up, then the two sides, and finally the top down. This time you will want to stitch the dough together. To do this, pull the top two corners in and stick them down, then grab down from the corners about an inch and pull the dough in, keep stitching in the dough from the sides until you reach the bottom corners. For a more in-depth video on shaping and stitching, I recommend watching this video. Once the dough has been stitched, roll from the bottom up to create a nice tight round.

Step 9: Cold Proof

Once the loaf has been shaped, immediately dust the surface with rice flour, so that none of the dough feels sticky. Next, carefully use the bench scraper to invert the loaf into the prepared bowl or banneton so the top is at the bottom of the bowl. Put the entire bowl into a sealed plastic bag, then place it into a fridge to proof overnight and up to two days.

Step 10: Bake

At least 45 minutes before you wish to bake, and about 3 hours before you wish to serve the bread, preheat your oven to 500°F with the dutch oven inside. After the oven has preheated for 45 minutes, remove your dough from the fridge. Carefully invert the dough onto a piece of parchment. Make sure there is plenty of parchment paper on either side to grasp onto. Use a razor blade or the sharpest kitchen knife you have to make a slash into the loaf, I recommend this slash be about 3/4 inch deep and be at a slight angle. You can also add more rice flour to the top of the loaf to get a whiter crust. Now carefully transfer the loaf into the dutch oven, using the parchment as handles, this may be easier to do if you remove the dutch oven and set it on the stovetop. Place the dutch oven in the center of the oven with the lid on, then turn the oven down to 450°F. Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and turn the oven to 425°F. Bake the loaf for another 20-30 minutes until the loaf is browned to your liking; how dark you want the loaf to be is a personal decision, but do not remove the load until it is at least light brown all around. Allow bread to cool on a wire rack.

Step 11: Enjoy

Allow your bread to cool fully before eating, this should take about an hour. I know it's tempting to cut the loaf as soon as you remove it, however, the loaf is still cooking on the inside using the heat it has absorbed. Once it is fully cooled you can slice and serve as you wish. This type of bread is great once toasted with butter and jam or a cream cheese spread, but I'll leave how you enjoy it completely up to you!

One other cool thing to mention is that if you want the loaf to look more violet than indigo, simply add a tablespoon of lemon juice when mixing the dough.

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