Since Grandma’s recipe for sourdough bread is a bit of a knock-off, I have gone on a 2-year adventure to learn how to make true sourdough bread. It involved buying a dutch oven (thick cast iron pot with a lid), a couple of eventual failed attempts at creating my own wild starter, and finally succeeding with a bit more confidence after 2 years of baking regular bread… regularly.
My thanks to Bonnie Ohara’s book “Bread Baking for Beginners” for the origin of this adapted recipe.
- 1000 grams all-purpose flour
- 680 grams water
- 20 grams salt
- 350 grams mature sourdough starter
Before you begin, do a float test with your starter: drop a spall piece of the starter into a glass of water to see if it floats. If it’s nice and buoyant, you’re ready to make bread.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients – a plastic dough scraper can help bring the dough together before committing your fingers to getting clogged with dough (this was a brilliant tip from Bonnie). Once you have a shaggy dough, let it rest 15-20 minutes.
Tip out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it until it is consistent, smooth and tight. It should be slightly sticky to the touch but still peel away from your fingers easily. I usually knead by the clock: 8-10 minutes usually does it.
Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a floured kitchen towel. Let the dough rise 1.5 hours. At this point, leave the dough in the bowl but fold it over itself 3-4 times and turn the dough so that the seams are facing down. Continue to let rise another 1.5 hours.
Do another float test. If the dough is properly aerated, the dough will float. If it doesn’t easily float, give it another 30 minutes or so to rise.
When the dough is ready, divide it into 2 equal pieces. One piece of the dough at a time, tip out onto a floured work surface. Fold the dough over itself 3-4 times. Turn the dough so that seams are facing down. Tuck the dough under itself to ensure the seams are not exposed and to bring tension to the dough.
Let the dough rest on the counter under a floured kitchen towel for 30 minutes.
Line 2 bowls with a floured kitchen towel. Gently place each round into the bowl seam side UP. Let it rise for approx. 1.5 hours. At this point, you’ll be turning on the oven to get it ready.
Place your dutch oven (minus the lid) in the oven and preheat to 475o.
Your dough is ready for baking when is it fully proofed. Bonnie’s tip: press a finger gently into the dough. If it seems springy and tight, it needs more time. If it feels airy and light, like a marshmallow, it’s ready to bake.
Tip the dough round onto a flour kitchen towel or countertop. Make 2 deep slashes in the top of the round.
Carefully remove your dutch oven from the oven. Carefully drop one of your loaves seam side DOWN into the dutch oven being very careful not to let your hands touch the pot. Cover the dutch oven with its lid, return it to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove the lid. The loaf will be very pale. Continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes – it will develop a nice crust and be a beautiful golden brown when it’s ready to remove from the oven. Another way to tell it’s done is by giving it a thump (I use the broad side of a knife) – a good indication is if it sounds hollow.
Immediately remove the loaf from the dutch oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
As soon as you have removed the first loaf from the dutch oven, repeat with the second round.