Fool Proof Beginner’s Sour dough Bread

Sour dough bread, either you love it or hate it. I am in the love it camp. I love everything about it. Flavour, texture, the cute gas pocket holes. I even love the fact that it is thousands of years old. Sour dough and wild yeast breads date back to biblical times. There is something really neat in knowing that your eating something you made with your hand that an ancient may have made over 2000 years ago.

The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

1 Kings 17:14

I am convinced that the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings was blessed with a Wild yeast starter. A few posts ago I posted on how to start a sour dough starter. It is the recipe i followed myself. I made several jars. I followed out lined steps until day 7 and then changed the feeding as a flavour experiment. Here are the results ranging from bold robust to mellow and dependable.

  • All purpose flour is sluggish starter, doesn’t develop as quickly – but is very consistent. LOOK: white and thick like elmers glue or paper mache paste. TASTE/SMELL : sour, almost “vinegary” while it will work well for sour dough breads the flavour was definitely acquired taste. BEST USE : This bread is very strong works well as robust flavoured bread- and best the next day as flavour mellows and mingle. My kids who normally enjoy sourdough did not like the extra strong flavour.
  • Whole wheat LOOK: pale with light brown flecks. TASTE/SMELL is similar, slightly less sour, more of a tang level – with toasty smell and lacking in depth of flavour. Inconsistent rises depending on brand quality. Some organics rose better then others. BEST USE: But on the whole I found it great for waffles pancakes and muffins and cakes.
  • Multi grain (12 grain blend) – this is my bread favourite! LOOK: almost looks like sand mixed with glue. SMELL : nutty, or woodsy. Flavour was not as intense very mellow but It has great complex flavour depth, with oats rye and spelt giving its own blend. This starter has a great rise- this admittedly did not like the switch initially but once a day or two in it was amazing. It constantly doubles and can be depended upon to have enough for bread production. TASTE : I am biased but it does makes the best tasting bread. The loaf I made with recipe below is exceptional.

Now I did find that the statement “better rise with age” is accurate. My bread with newer starter was a less structure flatter loaf then that of one I bake today. Until you get to a fully mature starter (1-2 months old of constant feedings) and are willing to experiment- I found a fool proof recipe to help “guarantee” your success and reduce the risk of waste.

This recipe comes from King Arthur Flour – who better to give advice on baking bread then the source. I love King Arthur site in general and when i first started this was the site I went to for bread advice. This was the recipe I used when I first started sour dough. I was nervous and did not want to waste ingredients or time. Slaving away for 8 hours on a bread that may or may not turn out in the beginning was really risky to me. I am sure others feel the same way. It is an excellent recipe although not 100% sour dough, it does have a wee bit of commercial yeast to help fool proof it. I have passed it on to others now trying sour dough to ease the fear and break that ice.

Fool Proof Beginners Sour Dough- 2 small loaves or 1 big.

Combine the following in a large mixing bowl, the bowl of your stand mixer, or the bucket of your bread machine:

1 cup (227g) ripe (fed) sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups (340g) lukewarm water
1 to 2 teaspoons instant yeast*
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 cups (602g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose – I have swapped up to 1.5 cups of the all purpose for other flours successfully.

Use just 1 teaspoon yeast if your starter is strong and vigorous; up to 2 teaspoons if it seems a bit poky.

Mix everything together and then knead to make a soft, smooth dough. It may be soft and slightly sticky, but you should be able to round it into a ball.

Allow the dough to rise, in a lightly greased, covered bowl or other covered container, until it’s doubled in size, about 90 minutes. If you’re using a bread machine, simply let the machine complete its dough cycle.

Since conditions can vary so much (warm vs. cool kitchen, a dough that’s slightly stiff vs. slightly slack), go by how the dough looks rather than your kitchen timer. If it’s doubled after an hour, proceed. If it takes 2 hours, be patient and let it happen. 

Shape in to 1 or 2 loaves cover the loaves and let them rise until quite puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Make two or three fairly deep diagonal slashes in each loaf; If not, a serrated bread knife or exacto knife, These slashes allow the bread to expand quickly in the oven without tearing along the sides.

Spray loaves with water and dust with a bit of flour for artisan look. Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, I use a covered clay baker lined with parchment- but a baking sheet or pizza stone with parchment will do, if you use a sheet or stone you can add a metal tray with 2 -3 cups of ice or cold water under your bread to create steam to help get a crisp artisan crust. Top up ice if ness. During baking.

Bake until it’s golden brown and its internal temperature is about 200°F on a digital thermometer.

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