Sourdough Part 2: Loaves

Sourdough is criminally easy and when you break down the cost it’s too cheap not to make yourself. For me, using the best materials, each loaf with time and money factored in costs around $1.27.

You’ll need a sourdough starter to make this recipe and if you don’t have one you can use my method to easily make your own!

Here’s what you’ll need-

To make a leaven:

  • 75g of Flour (1/3 C.)
  • 75g of Water (1/4 C.)
  • 1 T. of Starter

To make the loaves:

  • 50g of Water (about 3 T.)
  • 1 T. of Salt
  • 475g of Water (about 2 1/4 C.)
  • 700g of Flour (5 1/2 C.)
  • A leaven

Minimum equipment:

  • 1 Large mixing bowl
  • 1 Dutch oven
  • Towel(s)
  • Proofing baskets or colanders and towels

While making sourdough bread is an overnight process that takes very little actual work it takes a bit of planning. First you’ll want to make sure your starter is active. My bread making coincides with my starter feeding. If it’s in the fridge you’ll want to take it out and warm it up. I keep mine fairly active so I can use it once warmed. You may need to feed yours a couple times first to get it going because you won’t be able to make a good loaf if it isn’t active.

Then you have to make a leaven.

The Leaven

The leaven is the basis for the taste and the yeast of the bread. 

To make a leaven add the flour, water, sourdough starter, and then stir together. Cover with a towel and let sit 8-12 hours. Basically overnight or from morning to night. The leaven will be ready when it is very bubbly with gasses and it floats in water. 

The pockets are filled with the gaseous byproducts of the yeast’s lifecycle process

The Loaves

Now that you have a leaven you’ll need a bowl big enough for the other ingredients.

  • Put the 475g of Water in the bowl.
  • Add the leaven (if it is ready it should float).
The amount of gasses built up in the leaven allow it to float in water when ready.
  • Stir the leaven into the water until dissolved. A few chunks or strands are okay.
  • Add the 700g of Flour to the bowl.
  • Stir the contents together until you have a shaggy dough and there is no loose, dry flour.
    • If the dough is too wet and sticky you may need to add more flour.
  • Cover the bowl with a towel and let sit for 1-4 hours.

This is the autolyse phase which will overall produce a better loaf and reduces the amount of time you need to knead. after this wait time we’re going to mix the salt and water to add to our dough.

  • Take the 50g of Water and dissolve the 1 T. of Salt into it
  • Pour the salt water over the dough and squeeze and pinch it into the dough until it is mostly absorbed.
  • Cover and let rest for 1/2 hour.
  • Uncover and fold the dough.
    • Grab the side of the dough in the bowl opposite of you.
    • Lift and fold over the top of the remainder
    • Rotate the bowl 90° and repeat the previous two steps until you’ve done it four total times.
  • Cover and let rest for 1/2 hour.
    • In total, at minimum, you should have folded four four times and rested the dough for two hours.

You can either continue or you can cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge until the next steps. If you do then you’ll want to deflate the dough via gentle pushing before continuing.

  • Turn the dough out onto a well floured countertop
  • Use a pastry scraper, large knife, or long, rigid device to cut the dough in half.
  • Shape the dough lumps into loose rounds.
    • Take the lump of dough, fold in half, pinch together and put it seam down on the counter. Use your pastry scraper (or hands) to rotate the dough under itself to create surface tension and a round shape. Sorta like this.
  • Dust the rounds with flour and let rest for approximately 20-30min.
  • While the rounds are resting prepare your baskets or colanders.
    • Line your proofing baskets with a clean cloth such as a towel.
    • Powder the towels generously with flower.
  • Place the rounds in the lined proofing baskets with their bottoms up.

Either preheat your oven to 500℉ and place your dutch oven in it or cover your baskets and put them in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. If you’re going to bake prepare a bread lame, a sharp knife, or serrated knife to score the bread with.

  • When your oven (and dutch oven) are heated to 500℉ remove your dutch oven using a hot pad.
  1. Open the dutch oven.
  2. Tilt 1 loaf from the basket into the dutch oven.
  3. Score the top of the loaf with your lame or knife.
  4. Put lid back on the dutch oven.
  5. Put the dutch oven back in the oven and bake.
    1. 25min at 500℉
    2. Reduce to 450℉
    3. 15min at 450℉
    4. Remove lid
    5. 10-15min more or until crust is at a desired darker color.
Leaving the lid on captures the moisture and creates a crispier crust. Resist the urge to look!
  • Remove the loaf with a spatula, or tilt it, onto a cooling rack.
  • Put the dutch oven back into the oven.
  • Heat the oven back to 500℉
  • Repeat steps 1-5 for the second loaf.

Let your loaves cool completely before bagging or freezing. I generally wait an hour or so.

As you make more bread you’ll figure out some things that you like and create some new methods that work to make a loaf more in line with what you want. Some tips from me:

  • I always use a blend of flour. But I keep the ratio of whole wheat to white flours about 40/60. Too much whole wheat makes the dough too heavy and makes a flatter loaf.
  • Adding things like garlic or onion to my loaves is a multistep process that happens after I’ve added the saltwater. Too much of something will weigh down the dough and flatten your loaf or add too much liquid.
    • Chop ingredient
    • Make paste with half
    • Fold into bread
  • Smaller loaves need less time and bigger loaves require more. If I’m making four loaves from one batch I’ll often take 5min off the time baked at 500℉. Or if I’m making one big loaf I’ll add 5min.
  • Don’t fret. Neglect is good. I’ve forgotten about dough and let it sit for too long and still baked a fantastic loaf. The bread will be okay.

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