Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sourdough Bread, For Real

Update: Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to make this entire recipe in a KA Artisan stand mixer. It will not fit! Definitely half it.

Taking the plunge a couple weeks ago and cultivating a sourdough starter was quite the leap of faith. I wouldn't know until Day 15 whether it had the potential to leaven a real loaf of bread, let alone give me a slice of bread that had that appealingly sour taste to it. And when it hit Day 16, I had to make another big decision - what to bake?

In the end, I went with Susan's favorite sourdough recipe over at Wild Yeast. It required a scale, which luckily I had bought out of frustration with all of the amazing recipes by European bloggers being written out by mass instead of volume.

But look! It called for some rye to make it nice and hearty, a lively sourdough starter (which I hoped mine was), and could be easily scaled to make two nice small loaves. Which promptly flattened out into saucers, but I forged on! The bread is very wet, which made it difficult to shape, but lent itself well to the nice big holes in the end.

Because really, here's where the money shot is:

Look at those holes! Beautiful, beautiful holes. And the aroma? Wonderfully yeasty and sour, as was the taste. Success! Next time, I might need a couche or brotform, just so that the bread can get a nice shape to it. Also, as is an option in the original recipe, I suggest refrigerating to retard the second rise - the resulting bread is tangier and has more structure to it than the one I baked straight off that day.

Norwich Sourdough
(adapted from Vermont Sourdough in Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman, taken from Wild Yeast)

Yield: 2 kg (four or five small, or two large, loaves)


    Mix/autolyse: 35 minutes
    First fermentation: 2.5 hours
    Divide, bench rest, and shape: 20 minutes
    Proof: 2.5 hours (or 1.5 hours, then retard for 2 – 16 hours)
    Bake: 35 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 76F


    900 g white flour
    120 g whole rye flour
    600 g water at about 74F
    360 g ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter
    23 g salt


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute.
  2. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development. This should only take about 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled container (preferably a low, wide one so the dough can be folded without removing it from the container).
  5. Ferment at room temperature (72F – 76F) for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 400g – 500g pieces. I usually make four 400g loaves and refrigerate the rest to use for pizza dough later. Preshape the dough pieces into light balls.
  7. Sprinkle the balls lightly with flour, cover loosely with plastic, and let rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Shape into batards and place seam-side-up in a floured couche or linen-lined bannetons.
  9. Slip the couche or bannetons into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 2 – 2.5 hours. Alternatively, the loaves can be proofed for about 1.5 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated for 2 – 16 hours and baked directly out of the refrigerator; this will yield a tangier bread with a lovely, blistered crust.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  11. Turn the proofed loaves onto a semolina-sprinkled peel or parchment. Slash each one with two overlapping cuts that are almost parallel to the long axis of the batard.
  12. Once the loaves are in the oven, turn the heat down to 450F. For 400g loaves, bake for 12 minutes with steam, and another 15 – 18 minutes without steam. I leave the oven door cracked open a bit for the last 5 minutes of this time. The crust should be a deep brown. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for 5 minutes longer, with the door ajar, to help them dry. Larger loaves will need to be baked longer.
  13. Cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut until the loaves are completely cool, if you can manage it!


Di said...

Wow, that is so cool! I want to make sour dough one of these days. I've been reading along on The Sour Dough blog about how to get started, but I just don't have the time or energy right now. Your bread looks great!

Susan said...

Caitlin, the bread does look great indeed. I think the reason why the loaves flattened out is because your dough was probably wetter than the recipe intended -- if you used Mary's starter recipe your starter would be about 160% hydration (equal flour and water by volume, not by weight), not the 100% hydration my recipe calls for. This would make the amount of water in the overall dough higher also. Nonetheless, your bread looks fabulous!

Susan at Wild Yeast

Jenny said...

Nice holes!

Michelle H said...

That bread looks awesome! Fantastic jobs, the holes look great!

Engineer Baker said...

Thanks all! I think I've gotten the sourdough bug - and I'm working on others in my office too! After seeing this loaf, I had a couple ask for George's toss-off :)