I’ve started baking more this winter, after a season or two of not getting as deep into it. I’ve also been sharing my sourdough starter and wanting to share how I bake my most standard basic white loaf of sourdough bread.
I started by writing up a rough recipe: https://github.com/jywarren/recipes/blob/sourdough-bread/Baking.md#basic-white-sourdough-bread (also see below)
With camerawork, directing, encouragement and editorial help from Aisha Jandosova, I also edited a video guide, showing all the things you can’t really get across in text.
I know there are a lot of truly great guides out there, but as folks have enjoyed my bread, and I certainly enjoy it, here’s my take!
Basic white sourdough bread
source: Flour Water Salt Yeast, modified and retold by @jywarren
Get the preferment going by adding 50-60g to 200g all-purpose white flour, 50g whole wheat flour and 200g body-temperature water.
Mix briefly to incorporate, until it forms a rough shaggy loose mixture, and leave covered (mostly airtight) in a warm (75 F) place for 7-8h.
It should rise a bit then collapse as the bubbles burst, since it has not enough gluten chain development to stretch.
Mix 804g all purpose white flour, 76g mixed whole wheat, rye, and other interesting flours, and 684g body-temperature water with very wet hands (to avoid sticking) in a large tub until fully incorporated. Use one hand to mix, and use another very wet hand to scrape extra dough off fingers.
Let sit covered (airtight) for 15m to autolyze (hydrate the flour).
Add 250-300g of the preferment and 22g (preferably non-iodized) salt and incorporate with a wet hand, using a “pincer” motion to massage and integrate the ingredients well. Scrape tub bottom to get leftover flour.
Cover and leave in a warm (75 degree) place for 12-15 hours. After 30-60m, reopen and stretch-and-fold 3-4 times until you feel elasticity building. Repeat at roughly 1.5h and at 2-3h (intervals slowing) by which time you should feel the dough building structure and elasticity and it should remain longer in a springy pile, only slowly relaxing back to fill the bottom of the tub.
When 12-15h have passed, the dough should have doubled in volume. Left too long or too warm, it can triple, but then it will have been exhausted and overstretched. An incandescent lamp can warm a tub in a small space like a cabinet when it’s cold out.
Shaping loaves + proofing
Open lid and lay liberal flour around the edge of the bowl. Sprinkle liberal layer of flour on a large working space, minimum 2ft wide.
Pour dough onto flour “carpet” and separate it from tub with a well-floured hand. To get a cleaner separation you can throw in more flour as you scrape the bottom with fast hand motions. Make as compact a pile as you can in the center of the work area.
Pour a deep “pathway” of flour across the pile where we’ll cut the dough with a scraper or the backside of a big knife. If you’re careful you can gently cut through the flour pathway with the sharp side of the blade in a soft rolling/chopping motion but don’t damage your table.
Separate the two halves and fold the edges of one loaf over its sticky exposed surface several times, making a ball. Use flour on hands and bottom of the loaf and “trap” the folded-in edges (we’ll call this the seam) under the loaf by turning it upside down. Repeat for second loaf.
While they sit for a moment, bring out and liberally flour a banneton (or a big bowl or pot which you’ve lightly oiled the inside of, so the flour will stick to the walls). You could use sesame or poppy seeds instead of flour if you don’t mind getting your banneton seedy.
Carefully place a loaf, seams down as you’d left them on your working surface. Sprinkle a bit of leftover flour over the top and edges. Cover loosely — I use the tub lid so I can stack them, but a slightly loose plastic bag or a cloth can work — and store in the fridge for 6-8 hours. You can leave them in the fridge for 12 or more hours if you have to, but 8 is ideal.
Set oven to 400-450 degrees (many recipes say 475 but I’ve found this can burn the bottom) and put a slightly open cast iron or enameled dutch oven inside. Be sure the lid handle is oven-safe, and if there’s any oil residue, clean this out with soap because it’ll cause the bottom to stick and burn, transferring heat too well.
After heating up, remove the lid (I have to take out the dutch oven to do this) and put a layer of coarse cornmeal or durum flour or just all-purpose flour in the bottom. Something coarse is good to avoid burning the bottom.
Carefully place loaf, seam up (so, flipping it from how it was in the banneton) at the center of the pot bottom. Cover with lid (be careful, I always burn myself) and bake for 25 minutes.
Open and remove lid and bake for another 25-30m, or until top is browning and starting to crisp/burn. The seam will open nicely for a natural look, instead of having to cut the loaf. If you underbake it you can always bake it a little later to finish the crust.
Set it on a wire rack — even on a gas burner grill can work, or a flat colander — it just needs some airflow underneath. Don’t cut it open for 30m or more — the bread is still baking inside!
Once it’s completely cool, I store bread in plastic or airtight containers, then rebake or toast it. Much preferable to stale bread.
Lots of butter.