- Tereza Novakova
THE Sourdough Bread
Are you ready for the challenge? I do intentionally call it THE Sourdough Bread. It took me multiple trials and numerous fails to get to the point when I am fully confident at making it. And I am not saying this to discourage you, on the contrary! Take this as your new challenge. To conquer the Sourdough Bread recipe! To become a true master! So let's do it! 💪
First of all, there are soooo many tutorials on Youtube. I spent hours and hours watching so many of them and I picked the best out of each. I will first make a list of practices or words that I will be using together with the explanations on how to do them and some videos that I followed on that matter. Once we clarify that, I am sharing right below my ultimate recipe. Together with the photo documentation that I attempted to make at my best knowledge and competency it hopefully will be your ultimate guide to the sourdough bread.
That's the key of it all. A good starter. I was lucky and got mine from good friends who got it from some other friends. So my starter has been fed and aging for the past 3 or 4 years if I am not mistaken. Of course, the older the starter, the better. I would advise you to use your social media to ask whether there's someone you know already feeding theirs and could share one part. That would give you the best quality starter which has this typical acidic smell from the bacteria living (fermenting) in there.
Starter itself is just flour and water that as it rests together creates this wonderful bacteria that does all the magic in the sourdough bread for you. Well, not all but good parts of it. To launch your starter, I would recommend checking this video out:
Once your starter is prepared, you can keep it in the fridge. I feed it every week (or every time I bake). I feed it equal parts starter - water - flour. So 1-1-1 basically - when you take 300g of starter, add 300g flour and 300g water. Also, you might be asking yourselves - what will I do with the scraps of the starter that I don't use? Do not throw it away, I repeat - DO NOT throw it away. What rests, I fry it on a pan as a flatbread and it's soooo yummy! You can just add salt and pepper as it's on the pan or you can also add some freshly shopped herbs. I serve it with mashed avocado over it.
"Stretch and fold"
No, I am not talking about a Jane Fonda workout video. This is the way you would work your dough as soon as you put all the ingredients together. It helps to build up the gluten in it. As you put the dough on your working surface, you would take part of it with your hands, stretch it out and fold it over it. You would go around the dough until it's not stretching anymore and then you would put it back to rest.
Proofing basket (Banneton)
The proofing basket (Banneton) is the basket you put your dough to proof in. Here's the deal - I did try regular bowls or baskets with a towel in there. There are plenty of videos online saying that you can do that in any bowl but it just NEVER worked for me. It stuck to it, it didn't hold the form, it just screwed up all the long hours I spent working on my dough. So... if other solutions work for you, kudos to you. If they don't, you can order some online, I went for the good old Amazon and purchased this one (twice) and it also came with the orange scraper (not sure if they still include it in the order):
The final part of working your dough - basically you are trying to make tension over the surface of your dough. This steps is the key to your final result and that once you take your bread of your banneton and put it in the over, it won't become a huge blob. Once I take the dough for shaping, I would first fold fold it as a letter. One fourth towards the middle from the left, one fourth towards the middle from the right and then I would roll it over. Once it's rolled over, you will use the scraper to help pushing it towards you to shape it. Finally after the shaping, you would place the dough (seam up) to your banneton. I know, not the best way to explain it but here are some pictures and also you can check out a video I have to share with you:
This is the part when you put your dough to rest in your fridge. It is super important. First of all, it helps to hold the form of the bread thanks to the banneton and also to make the best crust. This is the one part when you will leave your bread uncovered so it will get all "dry on the surface" as it rests in the fridge. Let the bread proof for at least 12 hours (ideally even 24h).
Your dough rested well in the fridge and it's now time to bake it, just before doing it, you have to score your bread. You will need a razor blade (DON'T do this with a knife, no knife is THAT sharp to do this smooth quick cut that wouldn't compromise all the tension in the dough you worked so hard for). The reason to score is basically to make the space for the bread to grow and not break (to have a tumor like blob popping out on the side as the steam had nowhere to go). There are soooo many different patterns and ways of scoring. I personally prefer doing a looooong cut through the whole bread - like a centimeter or two below the top on a 45 degree angle (make sure it goes deep, don't be affraid). And then I would just do these tiny cuts to make a little "flowers". Get creative and make whatever makes you happy. I guarantee you though that once you manage to do the perfect "ear", you will feel like you just became the Bread Master with a black belt. 😃
So now it's time to bake! I decided to make the recipe with a timetable for you to have an idea when to start working your dough. It is a process and it's for sure your sourdough bread needs some love and patience. But the reward is so much worth it!
You will need:
900g bread flour (below the combo that I like the most)
600g hard unbleached bread flour
300g whole wheat bread flour
8 PM: Take out the starter and feed it - you can feed all you have and then just separate around 300g (you will use 200g the next day) and put in a jar and place the rest in the fridge. Make a mark to know where you are at when you fed it. Let it rest in a room temperature till another day.
7 AM: Mix your flour and water and work it together. I use my Kitchen Aid robot for this. It's so much easier! Let it rest in the bowl covered with a cling foil.
7:30 AM: Your starter should have (at least) doubled in size by now. Add it in the dough together with salt and work it well together. Again, I use my Kitchen Aid. Let it rest in the bowl covered with a cling foil.
8:00 AM: Wet your surface a bit, wet your scraper, scrape your dough on the working surface and stretch and fold it for the first time. First time you might go around the dough for about 10-12 times. Put it back in the bowl, spray some water over it (if you have the little bottle to spray your plants, get one for the dough, otherwise wet your hand and just run over the dough with your wet hand. Nothing crazy, just a bit of wetness) and cover it with cling foil and let it rest.
10:00 AM: Wet your surface a bit, wet your scraper, scrape your dough on the working surface and stretch and fold again. This time you might go around the dough for about 6-8 times. Basically until it lets you. Put it back in the bowl, spray some water over it and cover it with cling foil and let it rest.
12:00 PM: Wet your surface a bit, wet your scraper, scrape your dough on the working surface and stretch and fold again. This time you might go around the dough for about 6-8 times. Basically until it lets you. Put it back in the bowl, spray some water over it and cover it with cling foil and let it rest.
2:00 PM: Wet your surface a bit, wet your scraper, scrape your dough on the working surface and stretch and fold again. This time you might go around the dough for about 6-8 times. Basically until it lets you. Put it back in the bowl, spray some water over it and cover it with cling foil and let it rest.
4:00 PM: Flour your surface lightly, scrape the dough out of the bowl, divide it into two somehow similar parts and stretch and fold each of them. Once you fully finish the stretch and fold (basically you are doing a pre-shape here), leave it on the floured surface covered with a bowl (each separately) to rest.
6:00 PM: Flour your surface lightly and start shaping your dough. Once shaped, put it in the banneton (make sure you flour the banneton generously first). and let it rest in the fridge until the next day.
7:00 AM: Preheat your over at 485F. Put 3 trays in the oven - two flat ones for the bread in the middle of the oven and one deep tray on the bottom of the oven. You are going to pour water in that one when you put all in the oven. Boil your water (we will pour it in the tray boiling). Once the oven is ready, cut out 2 baking sheets and pop the breads out of the bannetons. Be gentle, it's a bit like taking a cake out of a mold but gently to make sure you don't break it. You can eventually brush off the excessive flour from the bread. Score the bread and pull the baking paper with the breads on the hot baking trays and place them next to each other in the oven. Before closing the oven door. Pour the hot water (a generous amount) on the bottom (third) tray. The steam allows the bread to grow and not making the crust immediately. The crust would prevent the growth. Bake for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, take down the temperature to 435F and take out the tray with remaining water. Now just let it bake for 15 more minutes and then, you are done! Once I take them out, I let them rest on the bannetons so they can breath out the heat. Now the hardest part - wait until they cool down.
You don't have to follow the exact times but I would highly recommend 2h between each stretch and fold and at least 12h of proofing.
Don't hesitate to make the recipe your own once you master the basics! Mix up the ratios of flour, water, types of water, add nuts and seeds, score beautiful drawings on your breads... Let the imagination flow!
Constantly search for inspiration! Trust me, the sourdough community is sooooo diverse! Look into how others do things! Tag me on Instagram on your creations, let me know how you are doing! Check others out too! To start, here are some tips on videos I found really useful (beside the ones I have already shared):