Monday, November 11, 2013

Sourdough Bread

I know I posted a sourdough bread recipe just a couple of weeks ago, but I was too excited about this recipe to wait any longer before I shared it. It turned out some of the most beautiful looking, and tasting, loaves that have ever come out of my oven. This loaf reminded me a lot of the sourdough at my favorite bakery, the bakery where I got the starter from, which makes me so happy. I just love their sourdough, and to now know that I can make a very similar loaf in my own home is super exciting. If you don't have a sourdough starter but you're interesting in trying it out, I highly recommend getting a starter from someone and giving it a shot. Don't wait as long as I did before you find that starter, just do it. Soon you too can have almost bakery quality loaves coming straight out of your oven.

So I was so happy with how these loaves turned out, partly because I tried making this recipe the week before and it failed pretty spectacularly. I did end up getting a tasty loaf of bread from this first attempt, but it was one of the funniest looking loaves I've ever seen. Not at all what I was going for, so it's a good thing it still tasted good. There is definitely a learning curve, and it took me a couple of tries, so if it doesn't work the first time for you, don't give up, just try again. It's worth it, trust me. 

Sourdough bread
For the sponge:
  • 1 cup fed sourdough starter*
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
For the dough:
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tbsp. water (optional)
To finish:
  • 1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. water
  • Water in a spray bottle
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the starter, water, and all-purpose flour. Mix together with a fork or wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill overnight, at least 12 hours.

Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the sugar, salt, and bread flour to the sponge. Mix until a ball of dough begins to come together. If some of the dry ingredients will not incorporate into the dough, add the additional 1 tablespoon of water to moisten them. Continue kneading the dough (on low speed if using an electric mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough once to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 3-4 hours.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Working with one piece of the dough, press gently into a rough rectangular shape. Make an indentation along the length of the dough with an outstretched hand. Press the thumb of one hand along the indentation while pulling the upper edge of the dough down over the hand to enclose the thumb. Tightly roll the dough towards you while forming into a rough torpedo shape, about 6 x 8 inches. If there is a seam, pinch it shut. Place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat shaping with the other half of the dough. Transfer the shaped loaves to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours.

Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Allow the stone to preheat for at least 20 minutes. Just before baking, lightly slash the top of each loaf three times diagonally using a sharp serrated knife. Brush the exposed surface of the loaves with the egg wash. Spray the loaves lightly with water. Slide the entire baking sheet onto the baking stone. Bake the loaves about 28-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the crust is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190˚ F. Transfer the finished loaves to a wire rack and let cool at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before slicing and serving. Sliced bread freezes very well, and stays the freshest in the freezer.

*Fed sourdough starter should have a portion removed, new flour and water added, and then be allowed to sit at room temperature for about 5-8 hours. Due to the timing of this particular recipe, it works well to feed the starter in the morning, proceed as directed with the sponge and overnight chill, and finish baking the loaves the following day. The various rests are essential to help develop the proper “sour” flavor of the loaves.

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