I am excited to see people gaining interest in baking, especially breads! During this unsettling time, baking can be a very calming and rewarding activity. It will also help keep you home and healthy longer by giving you less reason to need to get to the store. As long as you have flour you can make your own stater, eliminating the need for yeast, one less thing off your list.
Sourdough offers a great deal of health benefits as well. The fermentation makes it easier to digest as it is almost predigested for you. It sounds kinda gross but your tummy will thank you! It also takes longer to digest which keeps blood sugar levels from spiking, making it a good options for people with diabetes. Sourdough also contains an array of probiotics which is good for your gut health.
It is also incredibly beautiful. Sourdough is as much an art as a science. There is literally an art to making designs in the loaf. Also, a fresh loaf is one of the most delicious things you can enjoy, in my humble opinion. During trying times like these, a little comfort food can be very helpful.
Sourdough is almost magical in the simplicity of ingredients, starter, flour, water, salt, that’s it. The most important thing is to have your starter very bubbly so if you intend to make your dough in the evening feed your starter early in the day so its ready to go.
You are going to need a Dutch oven or a roasting pan. Basically you need to be able to cook the bread in an enclosed environment so it can create the steam it needs to create that crispy crackly crust. You will also need a food scale. Sourdough is pretty precise and volume measurements are often not accurate enough.
50 grams active starter
350 grams warm water
500 grams bread flour
9 grams sea salt
I like to start my dough in the evening as the bulk rise will take around 8-10 hours. Combine the starter and the water, then add the flour and salt. The dough will be rough and shaggy. Let it rest for 30 minutes. Then work into a ball by grabbing one side and pulling, then fold back to the center. Continue on all sides. The step helps to build up the gluten and give your dough some structure. Let it rest another 30 minutes then repeat for a total of four stretches.
Now you are ready for the bulk rise. Cover it with cling wrap or a damp towel for 8-10 hours, or over night. Look for it to have doubled in size, the time will vary with room temperature and health of the starter.
When ready, to shape, pour it out onto a floured surface, and do anther set of stretch and folds on all sides. Let it rest for 10-20 minutes. Then flip it over and put your hand behind it and pull it to you in a circular motion. You will see it begin to tighten further.
Now for the second rise. If you have a rattan basket, great, otherwise line a bow with tea towel and sprinkle it with flour. Place dough seam side up into bowl. Let it rest here for 30 minutes to an hour.
Heat oven to 450f and place dutch oven inside. When oven is at temperature and dough seems ready, cut parchment paper to be big enough to cover inside of dutch oven. Place over bowl with dough and carefully tip over to release. Pull hot Dutch oven from oven and put parchment and dough inside. Score top of dough. I made a cross cut pattern on the bread pictured here.
Return lid and place in oven on the middle rack. Cook 30 mins, remove lid, cook another 30 mins. Transfer to wire rack to cool at least 1 hour. It’s best consumed in one day. The crust is wonderfully crunchy, with a nice open crumb inside. Enjoy!