Sunday, 27 August 2017

Our Favourite Sourdough Bread Recipe

My sourdough starter is a mature 3 years old now and I have tried a number of bread recipes. This is our favourite and I bake 2 loaves a week. The entire process takes about 18 hours depending on the room temperature. It is possible to speed or slow down the rising time by using a slightly warm oven or by letting the dough rise in the fridge. (slow!) The recipe is versatile and bread is moist, slices easily and resists mould due to the acidity. 

I feed the starter once a week and keep it in the fridge after it has bubbled. I use cold starter for the recipe and feed it with equal parts of flour and water before putting it back in the fridge.

The basic recipe is 3/4 cup of starter, 1-1/4 cups water, 1 tsp salt and 3 cups of flour. 

I use a combination of flour types and like to add flax seeds, poppy seeds and/or hemp seeds. Because I use the sourdough infrequently, I add 1/2 tsp baking soda to counter any excessive sourness in the dough. 

I use half whole grain flour and half unbleached white flour for the bread. Sometimes I use some whole rye flour or whole oat flour along with the whole wheat flour but keep the total amount at 1-1/2 cups. 

The total amount of flour needed depends on several factor that are beyond my control such as humidity. After making the bread a few times, it becomes easier to know when there is enough added flour. It is not necessary to knead the bread for 10 minutes as the sourdough starter does that work in the extended rising period.

Put the dough in a covered container and leave for 8-12 hours. (I oil the container) If I am in a hurry, I heat the oven to 100 F, turn it off and set the container in the oven. This is helpful to give a good start to the rise, especially in the winter if the house is cold.  After the first rise, I place the punched down dough in parchment paper. If you don't have parchment paper, coat the dough in flour for the second rise. 

The second rise is faster and takes 2-4 hours depending on the room temperature. I use a 4 or 5 litre cast iron pot with a lid for baking. You really can use any pot you want as long as it has a lid. The bread is less crusty in a lighter pot. Alternately, you can put some foil over a pot if you do not have a lid. 

Heat the pot in a 450 F oven for 30 minutes. Carefully lift the parchment paper and dough into the pot and put the lid on. The bread is basically steaming for the first 15 minutes. Remove the lid for the last 15 minutes of baking time. 

I have made this bread with 100% white flour and it rises higher due to larger air bubbles in the dough. I would recommend slashing the top of the dough with a sharp knife in a couple of places if you use predominately white flour. This allows some of the air out so the bread is not too "holey".

Some notes about the starter:
I use the starter weekly, but if I was unable to bake bread, I would remove 1/2 cup of starter and feed it with 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. I use a quart jar for my starter but if it is filled too full, it can overflow once it starts to work. I prefer to use whole wheat or whole rye flour for my starter. Sometimes the starter gets too sour. From time to time I get a clean jar, add a cup of flour and a cup of water and just a couple of tablespoons of the sour starter. Leave the jar at room temperature until the fresh starter starts to bubble. 

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