I have been a fan of sourdough bread for quite some time now. I love the taste, smell and the look and feel of a freshly baked sourdough bread. In addition to it being simply awesome, it is also healthy. See realfoodforager.com for more information.
In this article I have collected my over two years of experimentation and compiled my findings into this post, containing photos of breads and even the oven spring (as animations at the bottom of the page). According to my notes, I have baked about 70 bread. Most of these were of a rye/wheat mixture recipe I got from Breadtopia check it out, it is really good.
Tip: I serve the bread roasted with molten butter and scrambled eggs (coming soon… eating scrambled eggs every day for a year).
The recipe from Breadtopia is very nice but I found that the zest of orange was a bit overpowering so therefore I removed it and added some sunflower seeds. The seeds adds a nice nut taste when toasting the bread. In addition to this change I also use dark bread syrup, instead of melassis.
The bread requires about 12 hours of rest, so I prepare the bread just before midnight. The preparation is simply to add all the ingredients into a bowl that I put a plastic foil over.
Tip: If you let it rest at this stage for over 12 hours, the bread will become increasingly more sour. This is because of the build up of lactic acid as the bacteria eats the complex carbohydrates and protein in the dough. Additionally, the oven spring will not become as impressive.
Mix it in the bowl, wait for 15 minutes, mix again, wait for 15 min and then finally mix and let it rest. The dough will now rest over night. This step is called ‘proofing’ or ‘first rise’.
Tip: If you cheat and only mix once, it’s ok, but I believe the bread will not retain as many bubbles as it does when you give it that extra care.
…12 hours later
Fold the dough…
…15 minutes later
…put it in a floured basket for ‘final proofing’.
…half an hour later
turn oven on!
…half an hour later
Place the bread on a bread paddle and score by cutting across the bread with a razor or a sharp knife (not depicted)
Place in the middle of the oven at 220 degrees celsius.
Tip: Use bake stones to get more of a “airy” bread.
The bread should bake for 25-30 minutes. Let bread cool down and then wrap in some type of cloth.
The oven spring (animations)
The most fascinating part of the baking experience is the oven spring. It is when the hot air in the oven makes the cool air in the bread expand. The cool air pockets inside the bread is pressing the dough outwards. The scoring lets the dough escape, greating holes in the bread. Some believes the larger the holes are, the “better”. The spring action takes about 10-15 minutes, until the bread sinks slightly and eventually gets harder as the dough cooks.
Tip: Don’t get the dough too wet, it will then be too sticky to handle.
Tip: Let the starter wake up from slumber in a closed environment by feeding it and placing a hot cup of water to speed up the process. Activation takes about two hours.
Sourdough is a healthy alternative to eating ordinary bread. Learning to master the art of baking sourdough bread is a reward in itself. If you love the taste, try it out for yourself. Why not give away a home baked bread and a sourdough starter as a gift to a dear friend?