Oh sourdough bread… how you’ve taunted me this month!! Ughhhh.
The December Daring Baker’s challenge was sourdough bread and man, was it tedious. But I’m always up for a challenge in the kitchen so I plowed through it! 7 days after beginning the recipe, I failed…. but I tried again! Because there was no way I was going to let sourdough bread beat me. Surprisingly I defeated the loaf on just my second attempt. I honestly expected the whole experiment to crash and burn all month long. I got lucky though because I ran into an incredible source on how to make perfect sourdough bread without kneading. I can’t emphasize enough how great this post was by Stone Soup. Not only was it well written, but there are even fantastic videos included. Almost foolproof really.
I’m torn about the ease of no knead breads though. And this could just be a personal problem, but… I honestly don’t think that they are any easier to work with than kneaded breads. Firstly you have to plan ahead… usually about 12 hours. And then you have to work with this incredibly wet dough. Something about the extra hydration in the dough allows for the gluten to be able to develop on it’s own with time. I just think the stickiness of the dough is especially frustrating, I would personally prefer to work with a nice tight, kneaded ball of dough. But then again I do hate kneading… see! I am torn. Oh well, despite on how I stand with no knead recipes, this particular one for sourdough is incredible. The dough was wet, but still manageable. And the end result- just PERFECT.
Oh and let’s not get me going on how annoying starters are. My first attempt with a different sourdough recipe left me working with a seed culture, a barm, a starter, etc. The process seemed endless. Each day I had to do something different with the dough. And this went on for at least a week. When I finally baked up the bread it came out dense and chewy. Just terrible. Almost no lift. And a very slight sour taste. It immediately went into the garbage. What a waste of a week’s effort. I was going to chalk up this month’s Baking Challenge to a failure when I thought, “I still have time, I’ll give it one more shot”.
So that’s when I stumbled upon this miracle recipe. The starter was SO simple. And it worked beautifully. I used the starter after just 5 days so I needed to add 1/4 tsp of yeast to my final dough. No problem. The most perfect loaf. A fantastic sour taste. Detectable without being overwhelming. And beautiful large holes, where there was great lift in the dough. And the dutch oven baking technique did a great job at mimicking a baker’s oven and providing a crisp crust.
I’ll walk you through the sourdough making process so that you too can make some great bakery style bread right in your own home:
FIRST! You need to plan ahead because the starter needs at least 3 days to ferment before you can start making the loaf, which takes an additional day…
so plan for at the earliest, baking your bread after about 4 days.
Making the starter isn’t hard… it’s just tedious because you have to bother with it once a day for multiple days.
But you only dedicate, maybe, 5 minutes a day to it. So it’s not too bad when you think of it like that.
To begin the starter you measure out 2 oz flour, 2 oz water, and 2 Tb plain yogurt.
This is the kind of thing where a kitchen scale is pretty necessary. Don’t know how you could get around it.
The yogurt is used to help the development of the necessary bacteria for the loaf to get it’s signature sour taste.
Just cover the starter up and let it sit out on the counter for 24 hours.
The next day add 100g flour and 100g water.
I suggest you use filtered water. It really makes a difference.
Even the slightest bit of excess minerals in water can prevent the starter from forming properly.
The next day remove 200g of the starter and replace it with 100g flour and 100g water.
You want to repeat this process everyday until you are ready to make your loaf.
I began to make my loaf after about 5 days. Before your starter reaches 10 days, you will need to supplement with yeast, as I did : )
The loaf is simple to make, just measure out 8 oz starter, 11 oz bread flour, 10 oz water, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp instant yeast (if necessary).
Mix together, cover and let sit for at least 8 hours, but ideally 12.
It will be super bubbly like the photo above!
Generously sprinkle flour out on a flat surface. Seriously, generously.
Then sprinkle some on top.
If you have a bench scraper pull that out, it’ll realllly help you.
The dough is sticky, so using the flour as necessary, fold the sides into the center to form a round loaf.
On a clean kitchen towel generously sprinkle some more flour.
Place the loaf top side down so that the smooth bottom is now the top.
Cover the loaf and let it sit while the oven pre-heats.
Set the oven to 500 degrees F with a dutch oven (with lid) inside for at least 30 minutes.
When the oven has been pre-heated long enough, get ready to transfer the loaf.
Sprinkle some cornmeal/semolina on the top of the loaf and in the bottom of the dutch oven.
Transfer the loaf into the heated dutch oven, inverting the top to the bottom from the kitchen towel.
My loaf stuck to the towel so the top was all pulled and terrible looking from my ripping it away from the towel.
I was worried it was going to ruin the loaf. It didn’t at ALL!
Cover it with the top and place it in the oven for 30 minutes.
Take the lid off and turn the oven down to 400 degrees F. Bake for another 15 minutes to brown the crust.
And how perfect is that loaf of sourdough?!
Doesn’t it look fantastic for a homemade bread? Look’s like it’s straight from a bakery!
You HAVE to try this loaf. It was SO easy and the results were incredible.
If you visit this site there is also a recipe for making this into a regular no knead loaf. No sour flavor.
The crunchiness of the crust was perfect. I looooove when crust crunches!
It is the prefect contrast to the soft chew of the interior.
Note: If you use a large dutch oven, the loaf will spread and be pretty flat and elongated. So if you want the loaf to be thicker and rounder, use a small dutch oven with the shape you want the loaf to take.
- For the Starter:
- 50g (2oz) flour
- 50g (2oz) water
- 2 Tb natural plain yoghurt
- For the No Knead Sourdough:
- 325g (11oz) bread flour
- 200g (8oz) sourdough starter
- 275g (10oz) water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ tsp yeast (add if starter is less than 10 days old)
- semolina or cornmeal, optional
- For the Starter: Day 1: In a clean bowl or jar, mix together 50g (2oz) flour, 50g (2oz) water and 2 tablespoons organic natural yoghurt. Cover with cling wrap and leave somewhere warm.
- Day 2: Using a clean spoon, add 100g (4oz) flour and 100g (4oz) water. Mix to combine. Recover and leave in a warm place.
- Day 3: Today you can make your first loaf. But you’ll need to use ¼ tsp yeast as well. When you’ve removed 200g starter. Replenish with 100g (4oz) flour and 100g (4oz) water. Mix to combine. Recover and leave in a warm place.
- Day 4 onwards: Remove 200g starter and either use it to make bread or throw it away. Using a clean spoon replace with 100g (4oz) flour and 100g (4oz) water. Mix to combine. Recover and leave in a warm place.
- Somewhere between about day 10 and day 15 Your starter should start to show signs of life. Basically it will start to bubble. When this happens you can stop using the yeast in with your bread. And you can start to keep the starter in the fridge and stop feeding it everyday. Aim to feed it (remove 200g (8oz) and replace with 100g (4oz) each flour and water) twice a week or more often if you’re baking more frequently.
- For No Knead Sourdough: In a large bowl combine flour, starter, water and salt until just mixed together. Cover with cling wrap and leave overnight for at least 8 but preferably 12 hours.
- To form loaf, place a generous amount of flour on your kitchen counter. Scoop dough out onto the flour then sprinkle generously with more flour. Gently fold the edges from the outside in to form a round loaf.
- Place more flour on a clean tea towel. Place loaf with the rough top side down. Sprinkle with semolina, if using, or more flour. Cover.
- Place a large oven proof dish with a lid in the oven. Preheat oven and the pan to the highest setting for at least ½ hour.
- Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Remove lid. Sprinkle a little semolina, if using in the base of the pan. Gently place loaf in the pan inverted so that the rougher surface is now on top. Don’t worry about smoothing it out or having it centered – it will work itself out in the oven.
- Pop the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and turn the oven down to 400 degree F and bake for a further 15 minutes until the loaf has browned.
- Cool on a wire rack uncovered for at least 30 minutes.