This is the twenty-fourth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Make if you have: sourdough starter, flour (whole wheat, bread flour, or all-purpose)
Makes 1 medium-sized round loaf
I’m sure, by this point in quarantine, you have come across mention of the elusive sourdough starter. As yeast shortages have hit supermarkets across the world, many have turned to creating their own leavening agent, the sourdough starter, in order to explore the expansive world of homemade bread. I admit that sourdough bread-baking is daunting at first. It may take you a couple of tries to get it right, but when you do, you will understand how this mighty little natural yeast has started such a large cult following. There is truly nothing that measures up to a loaf of homemade bread and this particular loaf is one of my personal favorites.
If you are starting from the very beginning with your own starter, I suggest you take a look at the following websites:
Or, even better, ask a friend who has a healthy starter or your local bakery to give you some of theirs! All you need is about 3 tablespoons to get you started. Before you begin baking, read through the whole recipe to ensure that you have planned properly in terms of timing. I promise, once you’ve dipped your toes into the world of sourdough baking, you’ll never again be able to buy a store-bought loaf of bread.
1 ⅛ tablespoons (19 grams) mature Sourdough Starter (at its peak)
3 ¾ cups (448 g) Whole Wheat flour (if you don’t have Whole Wheat flour, use All-Purpose or Bread flour or any combination of the three)
⅓ cup (43 g) All-Purpose or Bread flour
1 ⅔ cups (383 g) Water, room-temperature
1 ½ teaspoons (9 g) Salt
In a small bowl, mix together starter, ⅓ cup of flour, and ⅓ cup of water. Mix thoroughly so there are no dry spots of flour. This is called the leavain, which is the natural yeast culture that will leaven our bread! Cover with a clean towel and let sit for 6 hours.
Mix together the remaining flour and water either by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix until there is no dry flour. Cover with a clean towel and let sit for an hour.
Add your levain and salt to the flour/water mixture. Mix thoroughly. The dough should look a bit lumpy and should form one cohesive mass. Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with a towel. I have found it best to let your dough rise inside a turned-off oven with the light on.
1:10 pm – 5:10 pm
Throughout the 4 hours that your dough is fermenting, you will perform three sets of what are called ‘stretch and folds’. I suggest you look this up in order to visualize it, but it is basically a way of stretching your dough to strengthen the glutens in the flour. Stretch and fold your dough 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 1 hour and 30 minutes into the dough fermentation.
It may take longer than 4 hours for your dough to finish fermenting. You will know it is finished when it has a smoother, domed top and there are small bubbles across the top and edges.
Once your dough is finished fermenting, dump it out onto a lightly flour surface. It will be difficult to work with so make sure you use flour on the work surface and on your hands. Form into a round-ish shape and let rest for 20 minutes.
Make sure that you have a small bowl prepared with a tea-towel inside. Generously flour the inside of the bowl/tea-towel. Shape your dough into a round (use above links for references on how to shape) and place in the bowl lined with the tea-towel. Flour the top of the dough. Place in the refrigerator to proof for 16 hours.
8:30 am (next morning)
Preheat your oven to 500 F. Place your dutch oven or cast iron skillet (whatever you are using to bake in) inside the oven to heat up for an hour.
Dump out your dough onto a sheet of parchment paper on a wooden cutting board. Carefully peel away the tea-towel from the dough. Score the dough with a very sharp knife. Slide the parchment into the vessel you are baking in and put in the oven. Decrease the oven temperature to 475 F. If you are using something with a top (dutch oven/combo cooker), cover the bread with the top. (Optional: spray some water into the hot oven to create moisture, which leads to a better crust). Bake for 20 minutes with the top on. Decrease the oven temperature to 450 F and remove the top. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the bread is past golden brown.
10:30 am (ish)
Remove bread from the oven and dump out of the pan to cool. Allow the bread to cool for at least an hour before cutting into it (otherwise it will be gummy and taste undercooked). Enjoy!!