10 Tips for Working with a Traditional Sourdough Culture
Working with a traditional sourdough culture is a rewarding experience and with a few techniques, you can make delicious bread and other baked goods your whole family will enjoy!
10 Tips for Working with Traditional Sourdough:
Use only fully active starter for baking. Follow our instructions for Making Fresh Sourdough Starter to ensure that you have fully active yeast and bacteria to properly leaven your bread.
Measure ingredients using a scale rather than measuring cups whenever possible. Measurements will be much more accurate, and your results more consistent.
Kneading the Dough
The dough should be slightly sticky when beginning the kneading process. Dry dough indicates too much flour was used and will result in dry bread. Use wet hands and a dough scraper, and add only small amounts of flour at a time, to facilitate kneading.
Knead dough by hand for 15-20 minutes.
Knead 5-10 minutes at a time, taking breaks in between.
Avoid using a mixer for the kneading process, which can heat up the dough too much and may not activate the gluten in the flour effectively.
If using a mixer, always knead the last five minutes by hand. When a small piece of dough will stretch thinner and thinner until light can be seen through it like a window pane, the dough is kneaded enough. If it breaks before being stretched that thin, continue kneading.
Proofing the Dough
After kneading, shape your loaf, cover it, and let it proof for 4-24 hours, depending on your specific sourdough starter and ambient temperature. Manipulate the sourness of the bread with a longer rise time. A 24-hour rise time will produce a much more sour bread than a 4-hour rise time.
If using a shorter rise period (4-12 hours), a second rise period is an option but isn't required. If desired, simply punch down and reshape the dough following the first rise and allow the dough to rise again.
If you don’t have a 8- to 24-hour lead time to let the bread rise, add just a pinch of instant yeast. You will still get the complex flavor of the sourdough but a much faster rise time.
Bake the sourdough bread on a baking stone whenever possible. Heat the stone in the oven for up to an hour.
Use a thermometer to determine when the bread is finished baking (internal bread temperature of 195°-210°F). The finished loaf should sound hollow when thumped.
Let the bread cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.