One of the things I really wanted to learn how to do this year is make bread! I know I know, for some of you who are experts you are probably laughing at me right now, but for me – this was a big goal 😉 So I set out to make my own Sourdough Starter, in the hopes of getting some sort of edible product out of it in the end. Once my starter was mature enough to use, I tried a bunch of different recipes and none of them created an edible loaf of bread… until this one! It’s so easy that even someone like me could follow it! I made some step by step instructions that are easy to follow… so hopefully you can get something yummy in the end too! While mine still aren’t too pretty and fancy looking, they do taste great! So for me, this is a win!!
One thing I learned, is that it takes time to make bread! This recipe takes me 2 days from start to finish, so just be prepared before you start 😉
To start off, you need a good mature starter. There are a few different opinions on when you should “feed” your starter so you have an active healthy starter to use before you start to make your dough. I found that for me, what works best is to feed it, then about 4-5 hours later it’s ready to use. Since I’m no pro, I still use the float test… where you take a spoonful of your starter and drop it in a glass of water to see if it’s ready. If it floats, you’re good to go! Here is a picture of what my starter looked like. It was bubbly with lots of holes, and has basically doubled in size since you fed it.
Mixing the loaf. Here is where I noticed a big difference. Buy a food scale!! At first, I tried to convert the measurements and just use regular measuring cups… but get a scale. It will make your dough more accurate, and I got mine at Walmart for about $10 – it was worth the investment!
Take 200 g of your starter and put it into a large glass bowl, and mix it with 525 g of warm water. (This will be the same bowl that you proof the dough in, so make sure it’s large enough) Whisk the starter and water together now, because it will make it easier to add in the flour later.
Then you will add in 700 g of flour. I use all natural baking flour that is unbleached. I’ve found this bakes the best, and gives us the taste we like! It also keeps the texture of the bread light. You can use a whole wheat flour, but it will give the bread a heavier texture.
Mix the flour in with the starter and water mixture until well combined. The dough will be very sticky! Let the dough sit for 1 hour. This resting stage, is known as the Autolyse. Don’t add the salt yet, it slows down the fermentation process, so you want to wait the hour, then add it.
After it has sat on the counter for an hour, now it’s time to add the salt into the mixture. Take your salt and fold it into the dough. Pull up on each corner of the dough and you’re going to fold the dough over itself to the opposite side of the bowl. (If you wet your hand before doing this, it will make it less sticky for you!) I try to do this on every side of the bowl to really mix the salt in well.
After you have mixed the salt in, let the dough rest for 30 minutes, and then repeat this “folding” and “turning” 5-6 times every 30 minutes. This will build the gluten of the dough, and helps make it strong. This process will take about 3 hours. The more you do this, the more the dough gets an elastic feel to it! After you have done this 5 or 6 times, you are going to let the dough rest for one final hour on the counter.
After this hour, cover the bowl with plastic or a lid, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (at least 12 hours, but I have left it in the fridge for almost 20 hours before and it still works just fine!) The next day, when you take your dough out of the fridge it should look like this, with some bubbles under the surface.
Now we are going to shape our dough. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and divide it into two equal sized pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, by folding the edges under. Let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes. This is the “bench rest.”
Now we are going to do the final shape and rise! Gently take one of the balls and roll it on the counter and continue to tuck the edges under to create some more tension. By now you should have a nice round ball of dough. For the final rise you can do this in a proofing bowl, but I just use a regular bowl lined with a tea towel dusted with flour. Make sure there is plenty of flour lined around the towel or bowl, as well as dusted on top of your dough. This makes it so the dough doesn’t stick to the edges when we flip it onto the parchment paper later. Place the dough in the bowl, seam side up.
If you’re using a towel, fold the towel over the top of the dough. Place each bowl back in the fridge for 3-4 hours for the final rise. I have tried to do this on the counter before… but if your kitchen is warm it will rise faster, and if it’s cold it will rise slower. So doing it in the fridge takes the guessing out of it and I know exactly how long to wait!
About 30 minutes before your dough is ready, you will want to get the oven ready! You’ll want to use a Dutch oven to cook your bread. I have tried to do this on a regular baking sheet, a pizza stone and it just doesn’t work the same! The Dutch oven creates steam while it cooks, that mimics a steam oven. It definitely cooks the best and gives my loaves the fluffy texture that we like. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the Dutch oven with it’s lid on.
Once the dough is done rising and your oven is preheated, flip one of the loaves onto a square sheet of parchment paper. This is why we placed it in the bowl to rise seam side up… when you dump it over the clean, round side is on top!
Now, this is where you are going to score the bread. This I still need a lot of work on! 😉 Some people can create pretty designs, and mine is a work in progress. What the scoring does, is control the expansion of the bread. If you don’t score the bread, it will bulge out and burst in random places…. which mine still does a little bit! But with time I’m determined to create some pretty designs!
Once the oven is preheated to 500, turn it down to 450 degrees to cook the bread. Take the parchment paper that has your dough on it, and place it in the Dutch oven with the lid back on for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, take the lid off for the final 10-15 minutes of cooking. This will give the crust a golden brown color.
After you have baked the bread an additional 10-15 minutes take the bread out of the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool for a few hours. You want to give the bread enough time to cool before cutting into it, so all of the steam doesn’t escape out of the loaf!
Your house will smell amazing for the rest of the day! Our favorite way to eat this is with some fresh avocado slices and a little Sea Salt, but it also tastes so good just plain, or with a little butter. It’s super easy, and it’s been so fun to be able to successfully make my own bread!
Here is the recipe as a whole to reference:
200g Sourdough Starter
1 tbs Sea Salt
Enjoy!!! If you try this recipe out let me know what you think in the comments, and if you have any expert tips out there send them my way too! I’m still learning!! But hopefully this will give confidence to all you newbies out there like me, to try something new!