Sourdough Bread

Posted 3/30/20 by Matthew Stone

During COVID-19 quarantine I've been doing a lot of baking. One reason is I really enjoy it. The other is it's harder to get our typical items from the grocery store. I've been posting pictures of it on twitter.

This lead to some people asking me for the recipes for a couple of the things I make with my sourdough starter. So this post will outline two recipes. One is a traditional artisan loaf of sourdough (pictured above) and the other is the sourdough pizza crust.

Sourdough Starter

There are a lot of resources online for sourdough in general and how to get a starter going. I really like Joshua Weisman's method and I've outline the basics below. If you don't have access to Rye flour you can substitute for some unbleached or whole wheat organic flour.

Day 1

  • 150g Water
  • 100g Rye Flour

Day 2

  • 70g Starter (from previous day)
  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 50g Unbleached Flour (AP or Bread)
  • 115g Water

Day 3

  • 70g Starter (from previous day)
  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 50g Unbleached Flour (AP or Bread)
  • 115g Water

Day 4

  • 70g Starter (from previous day)
  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 50g Unbleached Flour (AP or Bread)
  • 100g Water

Day 5

  • 70g Starter (from previous day)
  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 50g Unbleached Flour (AP or Bread)
  • 100g Water

Day 6

  • 50g Starter (from previous day)
  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 50g Unbleached Flour (AP or Bread)
  • 100g Water

Day 7

  • 25g Starter (from previous day)
  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 50g Unbleached Flour (AP or Bread)
  • 100g Water

Carry on with the day 7 feeding indefinitely. You can optionally put the starter (just after feeding) into the fridge to slow the starter down and allow you some time between feedings. Search online for what you should be comfortable with for letting starter go in the fridge.

Levain

Levain is just your starter; however, there's a way to kickstart it on the day of backing to allow you to quickly get to the point where your starter is ready to use. You'll learn this as you bake more and more sourdough, but your starter is only ready once it can safely pass the float test (roughly doubled or more in size). For my starter this happens around 4 or 5 hours after feeding it with the following "bakers ratio".

  • 100% Water
  • 50% Unbleached Flour (AP or Bread)
  • 50% Organic Whole Wheat Flour
  • 50% Starter

So if you had 100g of water you'd have 50g of each of the other items. You'll see this "bakers ratio" approach below when I talk about the sourdough recipe below.

You'll need to get to know your starter a bit to know when it's ready to use, but testing it out with the float test before using is a fool proof way to know it's ready.

Sourdough Loaf

Ratio

Below is the ratio I use for my loaves. I typically make 2 and use 900g of flour with the below ratio.

  • 85% Unbleached Flour (Bread)
  • 15% Organic Wheat Flour
  • 70% Water
  • 25% Starter
  • 2% Salt

So for 900g of flour it would be the following

  • 765g Unbleached Flour (Bread)
  • 135g Organic Wheat Flour
  • 630g Water
  • 225g Starter
  • 18g Salt

Method

This part is mystical and everyone has their own little style. I presume you will too by the end of it. That said I will lay out my entire process and you can take the bits you like and leave the bits you don't.

  1. One hour before starter is ready mix flour and around 85-90% of your water. This process known as "autolyse" and it has something to do with science and shit. Just cover it in a bowl and let it sit out or in a turned off oven with the oven light on.
  2. Add in the starter to the dough. It will be stubborn coming together but keep at it and eventually it will be a cohesive whole. Let this rest for 20 minutes to kick start fermentation.
  3. Dissolve salt into the remaining water and pour over the rested dough. Incorporate. This again will be stubborn at first but just keep working the dough until it comes together.
  4. After this has come together you need to kneed this for around 10 minutes. This dough is high hydration so it will be sticky. Just keep at it and from those gluten.
  5. Over the next four hours (yes four) you need to fold the dough in on itself every 30 minutes. I just go in a circle around the bowl pulling the edge I select into the opposite edge of the bowl. The goal here is to create more gluten structure in the bread. This step and these four hours made the single biggest impact on my bread rise and quality.
  6. Separate the dough into the number of loaves you intend to make and shape each one. Try not to disturb the dough much during this process but you want to build tension on the top of the loaf to promote rising when you bake. Once shaped place in a banneton, cover, and place in the fridge overnight.

I usually start the leavin around 8am and put the loaves in the fridge around 9pm give or take.

Cooking

The following morning preheat your oven to 500 degrees. You really need some kind of dutch oven or similar to bake this type of bread in. The heft of a dutch oven retains its weight and the food safe lid will help trap steam in the first part of the cook. This is critical for rise…because science and shit. Make sure you put the dutch oven in while the oven is preheating. You want the dutch oven to be as hot as the oven when you place the bread in.

Remove the first loaf from the fridge ~30 minutes before placing it in the oven. I usually let the oven preheat for around 30 minutes so I preheat and get the loaf out at the same time. After 30 minutes flip your dough onto parchment paper to help transfer into the dutch oven. Score the bread with a razor. Place the dough into the dutch oven, cover, and place back in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and cook for an additional 20+ minutes. You'll know its ready when it forms that nice caramelized crust.

Let the loaf cool completely before cutting into it. If you don't it can dry the bread out and cause it to stale quickly. Because science and shit.

Pizza Crust

If the above looks intimidating well, this is the opposite.

  • 100% Flour
  • 80% Starter
  • 40% Water
  • 4% Salt
  • 1% Active Dry Yeast

I typically mix this at 300g of flour to make two crusts which results in:

  • 300g Flour
  • 250g Starter
  • 120g Water
  • 12g Salt
  • 3g Active Dry Yeast

Mix, cover, and let rise for around 3-4 hours. Then septate into equal parts dough balls and let them rest for 15-20 minutes. They're then ready to be used and make the best pizzas. I cook them one of two ways. Either on the big green egg which can reach really high temps or in the oven with the heat cranked all the way up and we have a pizza stone that we cook them on there.

The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.
Nikola Tesla
©Copyright 2018 Matthew Stone