Ingredients for a medium sized loaf that will fit inside a 4.5 – 5 litre Dutch Oven. (yes, you’ll need a Dutch oven to make a decent sourdough bread)
Sourdough starter: 90 – 115g
This dough will have a hydration of 75% (375g/500g).
I like to feed my sourdough starter around 1 – 3PM, and give it 4 – 6 hours before I use it. If you want to save time, you can skip this step and use the starter right out of the fridge. I’ve done this several times and the bread turns out fine. You just have to make sure to refeed your starter right after using it for the recipe, and put it back in the fridge. It’ll rise slowly in a day or two, and it can stay like that for up to a week until you have to make bread again,
I make bread every five days and use the starter right out of the fridge without feeding it.
Then, around 5 – 7PM, I’ll start working on the bread.
Between mixing the ingredients and the two rounds of stretch and fold, it’ll take about one hour of “work” which includes about 50 minutes of waiting.
Then, about 12 – 14 hours later, which means around 7 – 9AM the next day, you’ll do two more rounds of stretch and fold, after which the dough goes in the fridge for 2 – 3 hours.
9AM – 1PM: heat up your Dutch oven: bring it up to 500F and start baking the bread, for a total of 45 minutes. Take the bread out of the oven and let it cool for 1 hour or so. By 3PM you should be eating a nice, fresh slice of sourdough bread.
I’ll explain why the fairly loose timeframes in a minute.
Let’s get started with the instructions.
(Optional)Feed your sourdough starter. I like to add equal parts of flour and water, 80 to 100 grams each. Stir well, cover the jar and wait until it’s almost doubled in volume. Or, you can use it right out of the fridge as mentioned above.
In a large bowl mix water (375 grams) with starter (90 – 115 grams). Add 10g salt and stir until you get a milk-like liquid.
Re-Feeding the starter: Now, before you forget, discard all but 100 grams of starter, and add 80-90 grams of water and the same amount of flour. Mix well with a chopstick, cover (LOOSELY) with a lid and put in the fridge.
Put the bowl with the mix of water, salt and starter on a scale and bring it to ZERO. Do NOT skip this step!
Add 500 grams of flour. If this is your first time making this bread, use only all purpose flour. It rises a lot more than other flours and it’s easy to get a soft and fluffy bread. I’ll share some flour combinations I experimented with towards the end of the recipe.
Mix the flour and water/starter liquid with a solid wooden spoon. As you mix more, it will get super hard to mix. Keep going for 1 – 2 minutes until you have a thick mix. Scrape whatever flour stuck to the edges of the bowl and incorporate it in the mix.
Cover the bowl with a wet towel and wait 15 – 30 minutes.
Now it’s time to do your first stretch and fold. It’s fun!
Keep a bowl of warm water handy so you can wet your hand.
With a went hand, pinch about 1/4 – 1/3 of the dough ball and pull away from the dough mass. Don’t pull until the dough breaks!
Fold the stretched dough over the ball. Turn the bowl a quarter turn (90 degrees) and repeat.
You’ll notice that the shaggy mass you started with is starting to look like a dough ball, and it tends to maintain its shape. At some point when you pinch and lift up, the entire dough will get unstuck from the bowl. Stretch and fold one more time. The dough will look like this:
Now let it sit for another 15 – 30 minutes, covered with the wet towel.
When the dough has rested for 15-30 minutes, it’ll look very loose like this:
Repeat the stretch and fold one or two more times.
Re-wet the towel, and cover your dough for 12 -14 hours.
It’s important to use a wet towel especially in the winter and/or when you’re in a dry environment.
Next morning, remove the towel and take a look at your dough. You’ll see that it’s risen quite a bit. When using white all-purpose flour, it would more than triple in size!
When using other flours like whole wheat, durum or Atta, it won’t rise as much, but it’ll at least double in volume.
You’ll also notice a couple of fairly large bubbles at the top. That’s a sign that you can do your final stretch and folds.
If you leave it in the fridge for too long it might not bounce back, which might mean it’s over prrofed. I let it sit for 7 hours without any issues, but I wouldn’t recommend leaving it there for longer than that.
As you can see, it will rise a little in the fridge but not a lot: (by the way, I added some sesame seeds to it. Feel free to experiment with different seeds as you gain more experience and confidence)
At this point the dough is airy and fluffy. It’s also stuck to the sides of the bowl, so you’ll have to wedge your fingers in there to separate it from the bowl. As you do this, it will collapse a little. That’s totally fine. 🙂 Just be gentle with it.
When you’ve separated the dough from the sides of the bowl, it’ll simply rest at the bottom. Now you can wedge your hands from either side, between the dough and the bottom of the bowl. When your both hands make contact with each other under the middle of the dough, pull the dough up form the middle. It will stretch from the middle, with both sides hanging, resting on the bottom of the bowl.
Lower the middle of the dough slowly, allowing the dough to fold over itself and rest on the bottom.
Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat this motion. The two ends of the dough “string” will probably separate from the bowl. That’s fine.
Let the folded dough sit for 15 – 30 minutes.
Now bring your proofing basket nearby. After the last stretch you will transfer the dough to the basket. make sure it’s well coated with rice flour. Do not use normal flour, it just sticks like crazy. Rice flour is your friend.
Quick side note about prepping your proofing basket: I like to splash a small amount of water on the proofing basket cloth liner and sprinkle some rice flour on it. When the basket was new, the dough would stick to it, but after using it 3 – 4 times, the dough wouldn’t stick at all!
After 15 – 30 minutes repeat this stretch and fold: wedge hands under, lift, fold over itself, turn the bowl 90 degrees and lift. Now lower the dough into the proofing basket (NOT into the bowl!)
Dust it with some flour and place it in the fridge for about 1 – 3 hours. This will help enhance the flavour. You’ll notice that if you poke the dough with a floured finger, it bounces back fairly slowly. Here’s what it looks like before putting it in the fridge:
After 1 – 3 hours, put your Dutch oven in the… well, the oven and heat it up to 500F or 260C.
Take out the pot, remove the lid and lower the dough in the hot Dutch oven CAREFULLY so you won’t burn your hands. At this point I like to lower the temperature to 485F. You might want to experiment with leaving it at the same temperature or lowering it a little.
Put the lid back on, and bake for 18 – 20 minutes.
After 18 – 20 minutes, remove the lid. the bread should have risen close to the top of the Dutch oven.
It’ll look something like this:
Bake for another 25 minutes with the lid off. Keep an eye on the bread. It’ll get a dark brown, almost black in certain areas. Don’t worry if it’s quite dark. You’ll love it. 🙂
After 25 minutes of baking with the lid off, you can take out the pot from the oven, and remove the bread and put it on a cooling rack. Don’t cut the bread while it’s HOT!
I’ve cut the bread while fairly warm (see video at the top) and it was fie, but the gods of bread don’t want you cutting it when you just took it out of the oven.
About an hour later, you can eat bread.
Leave a comment below if you had success following this recipe!