If you’ve been following my instagram story this month you’ve noticed my foray into sourdough baking once again. My two starters named Luella and Ramona each produced their first loaves last weekend. Luella is a wild Nantucket yeast starter that I created by leaving a mixture of flour and water out on the counter until it became bubbly as the yeast in the air and on the grain worked its magic. Ramona was gifted to me from my sweet friend Emilie, who sent some of her starter that she dehydrated. I brought Ramona to life with regular feedings and after a couple of days she was ready to bake some bread.
Sourdough can be very intimidating with precise measurements, percentages, techniques, and baking vessels. There are so many ways to do it. Thankfully Emilie has just released a wonderful companion for the sourdough novice. In Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, Emilie takes the reader though step by step instructions for creating crusty chewy rustic loaves to rival those of a centuries old European bakery. She breaks down the language, techniques, measurements, and entire process from creating your own sourdough starter to the moment you get to tear into your first loaf and also includes ideas for what to do with your leftover starter and recipes for accompaniments to your sourdough creations.
I decided on making her High-Hydration Sourdough recipe because I wanted those big air pockets in the crumb. Beyond the basic measurements and method, each step is further explained in tremendous detail. There are visual guides for the first stages of mixing the dough through bulk rise, as well as shaping and scoring the dough before baking. I purchased a banneton, which is a cloth lined cane basket made especially for the second rise of the dough, (after its has been shaped by hand) as well as a bread lame, which is essentially a razor blade used to score the top of the loaf into any type pattern you fancy.
I was completely happy with how my first loaves came out. Sometimes your first loaf can be a little wonky and maybe your starter needs to mature a little more, as I think is the case with Luella. I achieved nice air pockets with Ramona though, and a nice chewy but not gummy crumb with a crispy crust. I’m ready to bake another batch this weekend and have my eye on Emilie’s sticky date, walnut and orange loaf next. Beyond her basic everyday and high-hydration sourdough recipes she includes a large selection of approachable recipes for whole grain, sweet and savory breads, buns, rolls, bagel and other yummy creations.
This is a must have book for any avid bread baker out there or for anyone who has ever wanted to try making bread the old way, which is basically what sourdough is – how bread has been made for thousands if years! Also sourdough does not necessarily mean your bread will be sour tasting.
So without further ado, here is my take on Emilie’s High Hydration Sourdough method, in which I switched up the type flour to what I had on hand – all purpose and whole wheat. Oh and I’m giving away a copy of the book on my Instagram feed so hop over there to enter!!! If you can’t wait order the book here. Also check out Emilie’s amazing food blog, The Clever Carrot, for great family friendly recipes including a sourdough beginners guide post.
Yield 1 loaf
I love the sour tang which can be achieved by a longer fermentation process (rise time), but your sourdough starter is just fresh yeast that can create every kind of bread commercial yeast does. This is just the "old way" and in my humble opinion is worth the extra waiting time. Don't get me wrong, dry active yeast is great for when you want those cinnamon buns on Sunday morning and are starting them at 8am but once you get into your sourdough baking rhythm you can use your stater for everything.
- 50g (1/4 cup) bubbly, active sourdough starter
- 375g (1-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon) warm water
- 500g (4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) bread flour - I used 400g all purpose flour plus 100g whole wheat flour
- 9g (1-1/2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
Make the Dough:
- In the evening, whisk the starter and water together in a large bowl with a fork. Add the flour and salt. Mix to combine, then finish by hand to form a rough dough.
- Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 1 hour. Replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and store according to preference.
- After the dough has rested, work it into a ball, about 15 to 20 seconds.
- Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise overnight at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours at 70˚F (21˚C). The dough is ready when it has doubled in size, has a few bubbles on the surface, and jiggles when you move the bowl from side to side.
Shape the Dough:
- In the morning, coax the dough onto a floured surface. Dimple the dough all over with floured fingertips. Gently shape it into a round and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl or proofing basket with a towel and dust with flour. Using a bench scraper, scoop up the dough and flip it over so that the smooth side is facing down. Shape it again, and then flip it back over.
- Cup the dough and gently pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape. Place into your lined bowl, seam side up.
- Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour to set its structure (Note: You can chill this dough for up to 6 hours or more).
- When ready to bake, let sit at room temperature while the oven heats up.
- Preheat your oven to 500˚F (260˚C). Cut a piece of parchment to fit the size of your baking pot.
Score the Dough:
- Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release. Dust the surface with flour and rub with your hands to coat.
- Using the tip of a small knife or razor blade, score the dough any way you'd like. (Different scoring techniques are shown at the back of the book.) Use the parchment to transfer the dough into the baking pot.
- Place the pot on the center rack, and reduce the heat to 450˚F (230˚C).
- Bake the dough for 20 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes.
- Lift the loaf out of the pot, and bake directly on the oven rack for the last 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing. Enjoy!
This loaf will stay fresh up to 1 day stored at room temperature in a plastic bag.
Emilie includes loads of notes for each step, visual tutorials for stretching and folding the dough, shaping and scoring the loaf, as well as how to create your own starter from scratch in the book.
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