Sourdough Bread

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I love bread, I mean, really LOVE it! I wouldn’t mind eating bread at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Unfortunately that isn’t the most varied diet. Luckily sourdough bread has some health benefits. It is good for your gut health and the gluten, some people can’t digest these properly, are digested by your natural yeast mix: the sourdough starter.

Why did I start baking sourdough bread when I have never baked my own bread before? Well, I like a challenge and love the taste of sourdough bread. My starter (apparently people give their starter a name, but I still haven’t found the right one yet) is now a few months old and I think I’ve baked a bread with it 4 or 5 times now. The results are getting better and better and I’m tweaking the recipe every time a bit to better suit my own preferences.

Baking stages

First you need a sourdough starter. I made mine in a period of 7 days. You start with mixing equal parts of flour and water and repeat this every day. For more information about starting your sourdough starter see my other post ‘How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter‘. This is a more detailed description of the process I’ve followed to make my starter.

Activating your starter

First you start with activating your sourdough starter. This is done by feeding equal parts of water and bread flour to your starter. The starter is fully activated when it is doubled in size, this roughly takes between 4 and 8 hours. This is dependent on your room temperature.

Autolysis

After you’ve activated your sourdough starter, you mix the flour, the bread flour and water together in a separate bowl. The flour and water will now undergo a chemical reaction in which the dough gets stretchy. This is called autolysis. The more stretchy your dough (or better said, the more you develop gluten in your dough), the better your dough will get that beautiful oven spring.

Stretch ‘n fold and bulk rise

After the autolysis stage you add salt and your activated starter to your dough and mix these through your dough. From this moment on the bulk rise of your dough is started.

I saw this very useful tip in a YouTube video of The Bread Code: Take a little bit of your dough and put it aside in a glass jar or container. This way you can easily see how your dough is rising and when it is doubled in size (and thus ready for the next stage).

After the bulk rise has started you set your dough in a bowl covered with a cloth or plastic wrap (or as I prefer a pan with a lid on, also a tip from The Bread Code) at a nice warm spot in your home. Then you start stretching and folding your dough every 15 minutes for about 2 or 3 hours, depending on your dough temperature. When your dough has a nice strength you can stop and continue your bulk rise.

So how does this stretch ‘n fold work? You literally take a side of your dough, stretch it as far as you can and just before the dough breaks you fold it on top of itself. Repeat that a few times, take a different side of the dough at every stretch. I always rotate the bowl or pan 90 degrees clockwise after one stretch ‘n fold. This way I always have a different side each stretch. Put the mixture away again and repeat the whole process after 15 minutes. A useful tip to keep your hands (moderately) clean during the stretch ‘n fold is to wet your hands with water prior to stretch ‘n folding. You could also use coconut oil (or the oil of your choice) for wetting your hands.

Recipe variations

First I tried the recipe from Lisa from the blog Farmhouse on Boone (I will link all the recipe variations below this post) it was a recipe with honey, coconut oil and no stretch and fold part. In this recipe you mix the ingredients together and knead the dough for 15 minutes until its stretchy. You then let the dough rest in a greased bowl up to 24 hours. After the resting period you divide the dough and put it in a greased loaf pan. Then it has to rise and when its doubled in size you bake it for 30-35 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 400 °F.

With this recipe I did not like the structure of the bread, it was crumbly and compact. Furthermore I did not like the amount of coconut oil in this bread.

So after trying the recipe of the blog Farmhouse on Boone, I baked the next bread. The recipe, or better said checklist, was from Mike of the Pro Home Cooks YouTube channel. This bread was baked in a Dutch oven and proofed in proofing baskets. This recipe involved the fold and stretch method so it was basically a no knead bread. All went well until the dough was proofed overnight in the fridge. The night before I floured my proofing baskets heavily but in the morning the dough did not want to come out of the baskets. While trying to get the dough out, the dough ripped open and the beautiful bubbles, which were formed during the bulk rise stage, were gone. The result a tasty but heavy and flat disk of a bread.

After that fiasco I started to combine some of these recipes and came up with my own recipe. It involved honey, butter and no proofing basket but a loaf pan. This is not the bread I want to bake, but I need some more experience to be able to use proofing baskets and get a nice oven spring bread.

So, this is enough chit chat, see the recipe below. I would say it is fool proof and until now it worked every time. I bake this bread every weekend. It yields two loafs, enough for the whole week.

Baking Supplies

  • A bowl with a towel or a cooking pan with a lid
  • Scale
  • Small jar
  • 2 loaf pans

Ingredients

  • 90 grams of sourdough starter
  • 145 grams of bread flour (I used whole wheat spelt flour)
  • 600 grams of flour (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 565 grams of filtered water
  • 110 grams of honey
  • 14 grams of Himalaya salt

How to Bake

  • Add 45 grams of water to 45 grams of bread flour and mix these with 90 grams of your sourdough starter.
  • Put a hair tie around your jar or draw a line on your container so you can observe when your starter is activated enough to add to your dough.
My activated sourdough starter
  • Add 600 grams of flour, 100 grams of bread flour, the honey and 520 grams of water in a bowl or cooking pan and mix these together until your flour has absorbed all the water. Cover your bowl with a towel or your pan with the lid and put aside.
  • When your sourdough starter has doubled in size you may add it to your dough together with the salt.
  • Take a pinch if your dough and put it in a small jar. Draw a line or put a hair tie around the jar to keep an eye on the rising of your dough.
  • After half an hour start stretching and folding your dough. Repeat this every 15 minutes for 2 or 3 hours or until your dough has a nice strength. Between the stretch and fold keep the lid on the pan or the towel over your bowl so the dough doesn’t dry out.
  • Take some butter and grease the loaf pans so your bread won’t stick to the sides.
  • When your dough has a nice strength, remove it from you bowl and divide it in two equal parts.
  • Take the dough and stretch it out as far as possible. Fold the upper side to the middle. After that, fold the lower side also to the middle, roll the dough as tightly as possible, put it carefully in a loaf pan and flour the top of the dough.
  • Depending on how much time you have, cover the bread pans with a towel and let the dough rise at room temperature or put the pans in a plastic bag and store them overnight in the fridge.
  • When the dough is doubled in size, bake the bread in a pre-heated oven for 20 – 30 minutes at 200 °C (until the bread has a beautiful brown colour).
  • Leave the bread in the pan for 10 minutes so the bread will get out easier.
  • Enjoy your freshly baked and homemade sourdough bread!
Sourdough bread

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread by the blog Farmhouse on Boone.

The Bread Code recipe.

Pro Home Cooks recipe (checklist link in the video description).

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