With our new ‘pet’, the sourdough starter that lives in our fridge and needs to be fed once a week, I’ve been baking sourdough bread and learning about it along the way. Before I started with this sourdough adventure, I was baking bread always the same according to recipes that I perfected over time: Italian white bread and multigrain bread. I’m still trying out different recipes with sourdough and I’ll let you know when I’ve found my favorite recipe. All the sourdough bread I’ve baked so far has been good, so I feel comfortable sharing with you what I’ve learned so far.
The basic ingredients of bread are flour, water, yeast, and salt. You can add other ingredients like sugar and fat, but those four are essential.
‘Normal’ bread is made with a ratio of 5:3 for flour and water, with 4% fresh yeast (calculated as a percentage of the flour weight, so 40 grams of fresh yeast for every 1000 grams of flour) and about 2.5% salt (again calculated as a percentage of the flour weight). This type of dough takes about an hour to double in volume when it’s rising. (The rising time depends on the temperature of the water, the temperature of the room, whether you added sugar, and the type of flour.)
‘Californian’ sourdough bread is made with a combination of sourdough starter and yeast. The ratio is 9:5:2 for flour, water, and sourdough starter, with 0.0167% fresh yeast of the weight of the flour. The sourdough starter is 1/8 of the total weight. This bread rises more slowly than ‘normal’ bread, about 4 hours at cool room temperature for the first rise and then 2 hours at warm room temperature for the second rise. Compared to ‘normal’ bread, this bread has a softer more elastic texture and more flavor. It takes about twice as long to make.
For die-hard sourdough fans, ‘Californian’ sourdough bread seems like cheating, because you still use some yeast. It is possible to make sourdough bread using only a sourdough starter for leavening. This requires a 5:3:4 ratio of flour, water, and sourdough starter, so the sourdough starter is 1/3 of the total weight. This will take even longer to rise, about 8 hours for the first proofing and 4 hours for the second. With shorter proofing times I still got a nice bread, albeit a bit dense and the crust wasn’t as crispy. What works well if you don’t have time for long proofing times is to use just a tiny bit of yeast, which I call the ‘hybrid’ recipe.
I’ve also baked a sourdough version of my multigrain bread, which turned out great. This is the bread I will be baking once a week. The night before I take half the starter from the fridge and feed it. After feeding that half goes back into the refrigerator. The other half I use to make multigrain bread. The first proofing is overnight, and then the second proofing in the morning so the bread will be ready for a lunchtime sandwich. This way, I don’t have to discard any of the starter. If I want to bake a bigger bread, I will feed the starter another day in advance without discarding any of it, thus more than doubling the amount of starter.
|Description||Flour||Water||Sourdough starter||Fresh Yeast|
- You can of course scale the recipes to any size that will fit in your stand mixer and oven.
- The amounts of flour and water assume a sourdough starter refreshed with a ratio of 2:2:1 (sourdough starter : flour : water).
- For sourdough bread often a bit less salt is used, in this case 6 grams instead of the usual 9 grams. This is because salt makes the dough rise even more slowly.
- The water should be at room temperature for normal bread, and a bit warmer when you are adding sourdough starter from the refrigerator to the dough (30ºC/86ºF).
- If using dry instant yeast, divide the amount of fresh yeast by 3.
- I assume that if you are serious enough about baking to maintain a sourdough starter, you are certainly serious enough to get scales and work by the gram. So no cups and tablespoons this time around.
Preheat the oven to 225ºC/440ºF (not fan forced). (If you allow the bread to rise in the oven, make sure to remove it before turning on the oven…) When the dough has doubled in volume, either sprinkle it with flour or carefully score the top a few times with a knife.
…and then after a couple of minutes the crust started to crack! Scoring the top could prevent this, although you may actually like this effect. In terms of crust, the Californian sourdough bread had the most crispy crust of all my sourdough breads so far.
Penne with Bell Peppers and Pancetta is a quick and simple weekday pasta dish that came about when I wanted to make Penne with Bell Peppers and Salami, but only had pancetta available. You could also think of this as Penne all’Amatriciana with added bell peppers. This dish turned out to be better balanced than the version with salami, as that is a bit high in acidity. But the most important thing is that you get a lot of flavor for not a lot of work.