The Best Sourdough Bread

There's been a sourdough theme on my blog lately.  Things go in streaks I guess.  If I get the energy this morning I may make sourdough lemon pancakes for breakfast.  Big if... was up all night for work so I'm a bit tired and maybe just a little crabby this morning.

Back to sourdough.  It is one of my favorite breads and I finally learned to make it a couple years ago.  I've tried lots of different recipes and I've learned one big lesson.  Sourdough takes time.  I've tried many "quick" sourdough bread recipes and the results ranged from inedible to just OK.  Sourdough takes time.

And I don't just mean developing the starter, yes that takes time too, but you have to let sourdough develop on it's own schedule based on the ingredients you used and the temperature in the house.  I've now found two recipes that I would consider my "go to" for making sourdough.  One is Merlin's Magic Sourdough from King Arthur Flour and this is the other one.

I don't remember where I found it but I pinned it immediately and have made it twice now.  I love it.

Here is a link to the recipe:
Sourdough Bread: A Beginners Guide - from The Clever Carrot Blog

The blog post is really helpful if you are new to making bread.  Or, if like me, you're looking for a better sourdough bread.  Emilie even puts a nice weekend schedule in the post so you know when to do what with the recipe!

It starts with the starter.  For this recipe (and any good sourdough recipe I've found) you need well fed starter.  Like leave it out at least over night to get it good and bubbly.  I forgot to take a picture at this step so you'll just have to trust me.  I've had my starter for a couple years now.  I feed it weekly.  Well, almost weekly, some weeks I forget but it's fine!  I got my first bit of starter from King Arthur Flour.  I highly encourage you to find someone with some starter in their frig rather than start with the little bit from KAF.  It's not bad, but you'll want to make bread right away and, well, if you start with this starter-starter it will take a couple days to be ready and if you're impatient like me you'll be baking at 9:30 at night!  Check out my experience here:  My First Sourdough

So the starter is fed.  Next add a little water, olive oil and bread flour.  If you like your bread extra tangy like I do, add a little citric acid (you can get that at places like Cook's of Crocus Hill or King Arthur Flour).  I learned that trick on my 5th or 6th loaf!

Now the dough has to rest for about 45 minutes.  This allows the flour to fully absorb the liquids and makes the dough easier to work with and the bread taste better.  If you want details on this process, check out The Clever Carrot blog.  She has beautiful pictures and goes into detail about each step.

Next the salt is added.  Yes, after you have a dough you add the salt.  I'd have to go check but I believe Merlin uses this technique on his sourdough.  Adding the salt after the dough has had a chance to rest supposedly keeps the gluten from getting too tight and resulting in a lighter bread.  There are different schools of thought on this and according to Emilie at The Clever Carrot, she's added it in with the other ingredients and it worked just fine.

To the salt add a little water then work it into the dough by folding the dough over and over until you no longer feel grains of salt on your hands.

Now it's time for the long rise!  Place this beautiful dough in a bowl, cover it and go get a massage, go shopping, take a nap, go to a movie.  It can take anywhere from 3 to 12 hours for the dough to rise to one and an half or two times it's size.  This depends on the temperature of the house, the ingredients used, many factors.  I try to get to this point as early as possible on Saturday morning.  Then when I'm done running errands I can start the second rise.

Once the dough is about double in size, reshape it into a nice boule shape.  This dough can be cut in half to make two loaves but I prefer one big one!

The other part about this recipe I like is the bread is baked in a dutch oven!  I've been making Michael Ruhlman's bread in a dutch oven for years.  It comes out perfect every time.  I've also been known to make bread on the grill in my Lodge cast iron Dutch oven.  I do this on those very hot days in the summer when I don't want to heat up the house.  I've used the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day bread for this too.  Using a Dutch oven you don't have to put a pan of water in your oven.  The bread sort of self-steams for the first part of the baking giving it a fantastic crust.

So with the bottom of my Dutch oven coated in corn meal (keeps the bread from sticking), I put my dough in, the top on and wait another couple hours.  See why you have to be patient with sourdough?

Finally!  Time to put that beautiful slash on the dough and stick it in a hot oven!  The oven is pre-heated to 450 F and then dropped to 400 F when you put the dough in it.

After 20 minutes, remove the lid and let that beautiful dough brown up, baking another 40 minutes.  Emilie also has the tip to open the oven door during the last 10 minutes to let some of the moisture out, again enhancing the crust.

And viola, 24 hours after you started you get this beautiful loaf of bread.  It has a crispy, chewy crust and a soft interior and it has that classic tang of sourdough bread.  I love this recipe!

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