Sourdough Bread Recipe
- 2-1/3 cups fresh sourdough starter (see below)
- 3-1/3 cup flour
- 1 to 1-1/2 cups water (approximate)
- Scant tablespoon salt
This recipe can be used to make a basic loaf of sandwich bread or artisan-style bread.
- Mix sourdough starter, flour, and salt together. Use enough water to make bread dough. A moist dough is preferable to a dry dough.
- Knead dough until it passes the “window pane test.” That is, a small piece of dough will stretch between four fingers thin enough to allow light to pass through without breaking.
- Split the dough in half. Shape each half into a loaf.
- Place in a loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3"), proofing basket, or on a board. Cover lightly with a towel and allow the dough to rise for 4 to 24 hours. If desired, a short proofing period (4 to 12 hours) can be used and the dough can be punched down, reshaped, and allowed to rise a second time, but a second proofing period is not required.
- Slice an X shape in the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife or razor blade. This allows the loaf to expand during baking without splitting in unexpected places.
- Bake at 400°F until the internal temperature reaches 190° to 210°F. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the bottom or side of the loaf. Bake 30 to 60 minutes, depending on loaf size.
Allow the bread to cool before slicing. Makes two standard size loaves.
Three Critical Steps for a Light and Fluffy Loaf
Very Active Fresh Sourdough Starter
Very active yeast and bacteria are critical for proper leavening of bread dough. If your sourdough starter has been stored in the refrigerator, it has been living in a dormant state. Plan to remove the starter from the refrigerator 1 to 2 days in advance and feed it at least three times prior to baking. Each feeding should use the following ratios:
- If using a scale: One part (by weight) sourdough starter to one part water to one part flour OR
- If using measuring cups: One part sourdough starter to one part water to a scant two parts flour (e.g., 1/2 cup sourdough starter to 1/2 cup water to a scant 1 cup flour)
Feedings should be 4 to 12 hours apart to allow the starter to become bubbly and rise between each feeding. The exact length of time will depend on room temperature as well as the nature of the individual sourdough culture. The sourdough starter is ready for baking once it's been fed at least three times and is reliably bubbly and generally doubling in size within 4 to 12 hours of being fed.
Adequate Kneading to Activate the Gluten
It is very important to allow the gluten to fully develop, so thoroughly kneading the dough is a critical step. If you are kneading by hand, plan for a minimum of 20 minutes. Or you can take breaks, such as kneading for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. If you are using a mixer to knead, check the dough often to ensure it's not overheating (which can damage the yeast). Stop the process once the gluten is well developed. While there isn't any danger of over-kneading when kneading by hand, mixers can abuse the dough if not watched. To determine if the gluten is adequately developed, perform the "window pane test": take a piece of dough and stretch it between your fingers. If the gluten is sufficiently developed, the dough should stretch thin — so you can see light through it — without the dough breaking. If it breaks before it can be stretched thin, keep kneading.
Plan for a Long Proofing (rise) Period
As a natural yeast, sourdough tends to take significantly longer to rise than dough made with commercial yeast. Timing is dependent on the specific starter and conditions in your home, so until you have determined the best rise period for your particular starter, plan for a 4- to 12-hour rise period. If you desire more sour bread, plan for 12 to 24 hours (see below).
Tips and Tricks for Making Sourdough Bread
- Use a large container for proofing sourdough. Active sourdough starter will generally double in size at least, and can easily spill out of a small container.
- Keep your recipe simple like the one above. You really only need sourdough starter, water, flour, and some salt for flavor.
- If you end up with extra sourdough starter during the feeding process, there's no need to throw it out. Just make pancakes. Check out these recipes for ideas for using excess sourdough starter.
- Sourdough doesn't need to be sour. In fact, making sour bread takes some effort. For a more developed, sour taste, allow for more feedings than the recommended three feedings and allow for a longer proofing period (12 to 24 hours) just prior to baking the loaf.
- Test the internal temperature of the bread to determine if it's done. It can be difficult to tell if bread is really cooked through. To avoid a doughy center or dry bread, use a meat thermometer inserted into the bottom or side of the loaf. Bread should be pulled out of the oven when it reaches an internal temperature of 190° to 210°F.
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