CHEWY SOURDOUGH BREAD

Sourdough bread on top

Even if a person is one of my newest acquaintances, they probably know that I love bread. (There are just some things I can’t keep secret!) OK, not store bought white bread, but really good artisanal bread. And homemade yeast bread, as far as I’m concerned, falls into that category.

So when I want my guests to feel at home, I bake bread for them. And as scary as that might seem to some of you, baking yeast bread is not rocket science. It’s science, but there are no rockets involved. However, there are rock stars! They come in the form of tiny little, seemingly insignificant granules commonly known as yeast. And yeast is no more frightening to use than either baking powder or baking soda. (For the science around yeast, baking powder and baking soda, please refer to the articles below.)

After all, yeast is just another leavening agent. But unlike both baking powder and baking soda, you get to watch the progress the little yeasty beastie cells make as they digest food to obtain energy for growth. This results in the production of carbon dioxide gas. (The dough seemingly grows before your very eyes.)

Now, I am not going to tell you that this sourdough bread is easy and perfect for bread baking beginners. The instructions alone would probably put a beginner off bread baking for years. This bread is more for people with time on their hands and nothing better to do! So why all the falderal in the first couple of paragraphs about the ease of bread baking if you’re just going to tell me not to bake this bread? Well, I want you to consider baking your own bread. Maybe not this one, but I have plenty of other bread recipes on this site that are easy and perfect for beginners. For example – Overnight Rye Beer Bread, Soft French Baguettes, or Light Rye Bread. I would also invite you to read my article on Bread Baking 101 for more information about the fine art of baking your own loaf.

For seasoned bread bakers, go for it! This recipe, based on a King Arthur flour recipe doesn’t have difficult instructions. You just have to understand that sourdough bread dough feels “funny” and reacts differently from regular yeast doughs. But if you like sourdough bread that’s chewy and soft at the same time, and has a lovely crunchy crust, this is a great recipe.

Again for beginners, baking bread is not difficult. It simply takes some planning and time management. But the reward is worth the effort. The ingredients in bread are inexpensive. There are no added ingredients with names too complicated to pronounce, and the smell while the bread is baking is irresistible.

Look for another bread recipe coming soon. I’m on a roll. Or should I say baguette?

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.

To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.

If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. (First remove about ½ cup of the existing starter. This allows room in your container for the new flour (yeast food) and water.) Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.

Day 1 – Sourdough Bread (2 day process)

  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1½ c. lukewarm water
  • 4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt

Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, or for no less than 12 hours.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour (or more as needed), and the salt. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms. (The dough will feel different than regular bread dough. Even though the dough gets to a point where it won’t accept anymore four (the bowl appears clean as a whistle and stays that way while the dough is being kneaded), the dough should still be tacky to the touch. That is what you want!)

Allow the dough to rise in the mixing bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap until it is light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. (Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer). Gently deflate the dough every hour or so by pushing it down with your fist. When the dough is light and airy, gently divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours or longer. (Give the loaves sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. (If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine.) Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works very well.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (I turn on the convection option on my oven about 10 minutes before the bread is due to come out of the oven. This helps give the crust a nice golden brown color.) Remove from oven, and cool completely on a rack. (Sourdough bread is fully baked when an instant-read thermometer registers 195-200 degrees.)

Store bread cut side down and loosely draped with a tea towel for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

Day 1 – Sourdough Bread (3 Day Process for a tangier sourdough flavor)  

  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1½ c. lukewarm water
  • 4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt

Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, or for no less than 12 hours.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour (or more as needed), and the salt. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms. (The dough will feel different than regular bread dough. Even though the dough gets to a point where it won’t accept anymore four (the bowl appears clean as a whistle and stays that way while the dough is being kneaded, the dough should still be tacky to the touch. That is what you want!)

Allow the dough to rise in the mixing bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap until it is light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. (Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer). Gently deflate the dough every hour or so by pushing it down with your fist. When the dough is light and airy, gently divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and place back in the refrigerator for 12-16 hours. Remove from fridge, and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours or longer. (Give the loaves sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. (If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine.) Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (I turn on the convection option on my oven about 10 minutes before the bread is due to come out of the oven. This helps give the crust a nice golden brown color.) Remove from oven, and cool completely on a rack. (Sourdough bread is fully baked when an instant-read thermometer registers 195-200 degrees.)

Store bread cut side down loosely draped with a tea towel for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

What is Yeast? Source of article – Red Star Yeast website

Yeast are single-celled fungi. As fungi, they are related to the other fungi that people are more familiar with, including: edible mushrooms available at the supermarket, common baker’s yeast used to leaven bread, molds that ripen blue cheese, and the molds that produce antibiotics for medical and veterinary use.

Yeast cells are egg-shaped and can only be seen with a microscope. It takes 20,000,000,000 (twenty billion) yeast cells to weigh one gram, or 1/28 of an ounce, of cake yeast.

The scientific name for the yeast that baker’s use is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, or “sugar-eating fungus”. A very long name for such a tiny organism! This species of yeast is very strong and capable of fermentation, the process that causes bread dough to rise.

Yeast cells digest food to obtain energy for growth. Their favorite food is sugar in its various forms: sucrose (beet or cane sugar), fructose and glucose (found in honey, molasses, maple syrup and fruit), and maltose (derived from starch in flour).

The process, alcoholic fermentation, produces useful end products, carbon dioxide (gas) and ethyl alcohol. These end products are released by the yeast cells into the surrounding liquid in the dough. In bread baking, when yeast ferments the sugars available from the flour and/or from added sugar, the carbon dioxide gas cannot escape because the dough is elastic and stretchable. As a result of this expanding gas, the dough inflates, or rises. Thus, the term “yeast-leavened breads” was added to the vocabulary of the world of baking.

The ethyl alcohol (and other compounds) produced during fermentation produce the typical flavor and aroma of yeast-leavened breads.

How Do Baking Powder and Baking Soda Work? Source of article – exploritorium.edu, the accidental scientist

Baking powder and baking soda both produce carbon dioxide, which helps raise or “leaven” baked products. Baking soda works best in conjunction with an acidic ingredient. In the case of banana bread, this may be buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses or the bananas themselves. Recipes generally include just enough baking soda to balance the acidity in the batter. For instance ¼ teaspoon baking soda is balanced with ½ cup buttermilk, applesauce or mashed just-ripe banana (note that bananas become less acidic as they ripen). This produces sufficient carbon dioxide to raise one cup of flour.

This however, may not be sufficient to leaven the whole recipe. Here’s where baking powder comes in. Baking powder contains both baking soda and a dry acidic ingredient. Since it isn’t dependent on acid ingredients in the batter, it is used to add the extra leavening necessary to raise the rest of the batter. Generally one teaspoon of baking powder leavens one cup of flour. In the case of recipes like banana bread which contain heavy ingredients, such as bananas and sometimes heavy grains like wheat germ or whole wheat flour, this may be increased to 1½  or 2 teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour.

 

 

 

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks