A week to make this bread. But look at it this way: you have one whole week to up your bread-baking game. The ancient method of making sourdough bread is suddenly all the rage, and with good reason.
Have you always wanted to bake your own sourdough loaves, but never really had the courage? Or have you tried, and failed? No need to worry. Follow this recipe to a T, and success will follow. The end result will reward your time and effort generously.
That said, there’s actually no need for a giant effort. Just a bit of accuracy and the right set of tools. And lots of waiting.
On today’s trip to the supermarket, pick up a kitchen scale and a glass jar, if you don’t have those already. Special bread rising baskets are very useful, and possessing them makes you feel like a professional baker. But if you’re not ready to invest in them just yet, you’ll do fine with any similar-size baskets or wide mixing bowls.
Use good quality organic wheat and rye flour for the best result. So all set to get started?
Day 1 (Saturday)
In a clean glass jar, combine 65g (½ cup) organic wheat flour, ½ cup lukewarm water, and 1 tsp honey. Mix vigorously with a spoon to incorporate air. Close the lid and let the jar sit on a kitchen counter top, at room temperature.
The mixture will start capturing wild yeasts, which live on the surface of grains, fruits, vegetables and even in the air. Wild yeasts will have your starter bubbling in a couple of days, and eventually, they will make your bread dough rise. Yep, store-bought yeast won’t be needed in any part of the sourdough process.
And remember! Weighing the ingredients with a kitchen scale is a much more reliable method than measuring them by volume.
Day 2 (Sunday)
Add 35g (¼ cup) flour and ¼ cup water to your starter. Mix well. Close the lid.
You might already detect a lightly sour aroma, as the mixture is in an early stage of its fermentation process. Not only does the fermentation create a pleasant tang in the bread, but it also makes grains easier to digest. Fermentation breaks wheat gluten down into amino acids. So those who feel uncomfortable after eating regular yeast wheat bread can enjoy sourdough bread without any stomach issues.
Day 3 (Monday)
It’s alive! Your starter should be bubbling. Pour it out, and measure 50g (about ¼ cup) back to the jar. Discard the rest.
Add a larger amount of the basic ingredients: 65g (½ cup) flour, and ½ cup water. Mix vigorously, and close the lid.
Now you’ve successfully created your sourdough starter. Don’t feel bad about discarding most of the bubbly stuff. It has served its purpose. Just continue feeding the starter you poured in the jar, every 24 hours. Giving the starter its food makes it strong enough to eventually leaven your bread dough.
Day 4 (Tuesday)
Add 65g (½ cup) flour, and ½ cup water. Mix well, and close the lid. Don’t be alarmed if you detect some brown liquid on top of your starter. Instead of pouring it out, just mix it back in when adding water and flour. That brown liquid adds acidity to your sourdough and helps it develop more of the delicious tang.
Day 5 (Wednesday)
Add 65g (½ cup) flour, and ½ cup water. Mix well, and close the lid. Be patient. This long fermentation process allows gluten to develop consistency in bread dough. A strong starter will help your dough trap gases produced during rising. Your loaves will get nice and airy with moderate kneading time. Very soon the starter will have captured enough yeasts and bacteria to be used for baking.
Day 6 (Thursday)
It’s time to make the leaven to serve as the base of your bread dough. In the morning, combine 100g (about ½ cup) starter with ½ cup water and 100g (¾ cup) wheat flour in a bowl. Mix well, and let it sit at room temperature for about 8 hours. Keep covered.
Note! If you want to bake sourdough bread often, keep the rest of the starter on your kitchen counter, at room temperature, feeding it daily. If you’re a more casual sourdough baker, refrigerate your leftover starter. Feed it with 65g (½ cup) flour and ½ cup water 24 hours before you want to bake again, or at least once a week to keep it alive. If you end up with too much starter, simply pour out some and discard.
In late afternoon or early evening, start the bread dough. In a bowl, combine 140g leaven (generous ½ cup), 600g organic wheat flour (4½ cups), 80g rye flour (¾ cup), and 2 cups lukewarm water. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, covered with a cloth.
Then, knead the dough with your hands or mixer using the dough hook for about 10 minutes. Add 2½ tsp salt, and mix for another 2 minutes. Lightly grease a wide bowl with a bit of olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with cling wrap, and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
Gently plop the dough onto a counter-top sprinkled with flour. Divide the dough in two.
Line two raising baskets or regular mixing bowls with cotton cloths, and sprinkle the cloths well with flour.
Shape and fold the two dough pieces gently into loaves, and transfer them to your floured, cloth-lined baskets or bowls.
Cover lightly with cling wrap or cloth and refrigerate overnight.
Day 7 (Friday)
Place an oven tray in cold oven, and start heating the oven to 250°C. Once the oven is very hot, place an oven-proof dish with about 1 cup water on the bottom of the oven.
Take the hot tray out, and sprinkle it with a bit of flour. Take the bread baskets from fridge and plop the dough loaves on the tray.
With a sharp knife, cut 3-5mm deep slits on the surfaces of both loaves, either one vertical or three diagonal lines.
Place the tray in the oven, on lower middle level, and bake the loaves for 30–35 minutes until quite dark and toasted on the surface. Knock on the crust, and you should hear a hollow sound.
Let the breads cool and rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
Now that you have mastered how to make sourdough bread, here are a couple of ideas on what you could do with it; there are innumerable possibilities