Sunday, May 24, 2020

Pandemic Era Sourdough Loaf

Pandemic Era Sourdough Loaf  

This recipe make one large size loaf

(Recipe is modified loaf from Maurizio Leo , The Perfect Loaf, “Sourdough with AP flour”)

 This loaf is one of the millions of loaves made all over the world while the world is mostly shut down and we're all home baking. History books will make note #pandemic baking #bakinginthetimeofcovid #covidbaking as the moment non-celiac individuals rediscovered the wonders of gluten. 

·         You can make this loaf with all AP flour. We liked the texture and taste of this version with wheat and rye.

·          This loaf is made in a regular loaf pan with good results.  For photos showing the same bread baked in a covered Staub round Dutch oven, see the end of the posting. 

Don’t skip the steps, this is the procedure I use for almost all sour dough bread. It’s a combination of several baker’s techniques, and it almost always works (baking sourdough bread is mostly science, part art - sometimes dough it out of control).  The proofing times can be played with, you can slow down the proofing by placing in the fridge. Proofing can be sped up (but don't rush too much) by using a proofing boy or placing dough in a warm oven. Turn the oven onto 100 degrees, place dough in the oven and SHUT OFF THE OVEN.  Another way to use your oven as the proofing box is by turning on the light in the oven that is NOT turned on. The bulb will create a heat. If your oven has a proofing cycle, I would not recommend it for sour dough breads, I find the proofing to be too warm for sour dough.

In this time of flour shortages, make sure you have enough flour. 

The WHOLE RECIPE will use:

460 g flour  (I mix up the flour, you can use entirely all purpose)

340 g water

9 g Diamond Crystal kosher or sea salt (sea salt is no better than kosher salt. Don’t use Morton’s kosher  

      salt, the crystals are different size, the measurement will be wrong).

92 g sour dough starter (any starter, rye, wheat of combination works equally well)

½ tsp instant yeast

2-3 Tbsp wheat flour or corn meal or rye flour for dusting the pan (optional)



Large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer

Scale , measuring spoons

A metal loaf pan (the large size)

                This loaf can be made in a smaller size (4 qt) round covered baker.

It is too small a loaf for the Lodge cast iron combo pan.  If using a covered baking pan, preheat

the pan in the oven and transfer on parchment into the pan.


1.       .Autolyze :

Measure off and combine in a bowl a beginning amount of water and flour.   

If you are going to work by hand, a big bowl will do, if you are going to use the kitchen aid, do this in the kitchen aid bowl.

a.       200 g water

b.       100 g  bread flour

c.       100 g rye flour

Mix with a spatula or spoon. Cover bowl with a very damp flat weave (not terrycloth) dishtowel and let rest 30 -60 minutes

2.        Add Sour Dough starter (you might see this step called “Biga” ):

a.       Stir in starter, cover with wet cloth, leave at room temperature 8-12 hours (overnight)

It will be puffy and wet – but not soupy.

3.       Add to aged starter mix:

a.       100 g water (you are holding back 40g of water until later)

b.       260 g bread flour

c.       ½ tsp yeast

You can either mix this in the kitchen aid , speed 2 for 2-3 min and then speed 4 for 3-4 minutes and let rest, covered, for 2 hours OR You can mix it in the bowl with a flexible scraper and then with very wet hands do a cycle of stretch and folds 4 x over 2 hours. You can slow down this process and place the dough in the fridge for up to 8-12 hours and more or less ignore. In this case, it will work more or less like a no knead bread. 

While it’s resting, you can use saran wrap to cover, or if the bowl is big and the dough will not touch the top, a wet towel will work. Don’t let the plastic or towel touch the dough (this is different than regular yeast doughs, where it won’t matter if the saran is touching the greasy dough).

4.     After 2 hours  (or have chilled in the fridge) you will see the dough almost double, but it’s still gloopy. You’re going to add the salt now and you will see the dough “seize up” and become more bread-dough like and stretchy. Salt improves stretchability, but it also steals water from the flour and yeast, so this is a technique of adding the salt after most of the proofing is done. 


Combine (mix with a spoon or your finger, you don’t need to have it totally dissolved)

a.       40 g  warm water

b.       9 g salt


5.       Stretch and fold the dough one full time around (it’s 4 stretch folds, moving the bowl around ¼ of the way until you’ve made a circle).  You can either let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes or a better way of doing it is to: pour the dough out onto a floured surface and using your flexible scraper, slide the scrapper under one side of the dough, bring up toward the middle , continue around the bread, so that all around the bread you’ve folded it toward the center. This will increase the tension of the skin of the bread. This helps the dough to hold it's shape and will form a better crust.


6.       Using the scraper, place the dough in a metal loaf pan. Either grease/flour (you can use cornmeal or rice flour for this) OR you can line the pan with parchment paper and skip the grease /flour part.  Let rest until it gets puffy, 30-45 minutes.


7.       Seeding and Baking:

a.       While the bread is resting in the loaf pan, heat the oven to 450 degrees and place a pan (best to use a cast iron frying pan if you have one) filled with water onto the bottom shelf or oven floor. Be careful when you open the oven later on, there will be steam in the oven that will rush toward your face.

b.       When you are ready to place the dough in the oven, use a lame, razor or scissors and slice a few well spaced slits along the top of the bread. This helps with oven “spring” and will increase the rise of the bread. 

c.       Spritz the top of the dough liberally with room temperature water and sprinkle any seeds or combination of seeds, dried onion, za’atar on top.


8.       Be careful opening the oven (it is steamy !!!!).

a.       Place pan in the middle of the middle shelf of the oven , close the oven door

b.       Immediately lower the heat to 425 degrees, bake 20 minutes and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.

c.       Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for approximately 15- 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes).  I use the color of the bread to indicate doneness, if you want to use a thermometer, the inside of the center of the loaf should read 190- 195 degrees.

 Let the bread rest for 10 minutes when you remove it from the oven, and then turn it out of the pan. Cool on a rack. This will help it remain crusty.

Pictures below, same loaf made, unseeded, in a Staub covered baker. 


 If  you are looking for other sourdough breads, you can check by search terms. If you happen to have whole wheat flour (also at a premium right now) check out : Whole Wheat & Walnut Sourdough Bread

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sourdough Wheat and Barley Rustic Loaf

I played around with barley bread recipes after visiting Orkney and Shetland (Scotland), where barley is a staple grain for eating and making Scotch (whiskey) and beer. Bere barley, an ancient barley variety, is not available outside of the UK. The dough made with bere barley is a bit "springier," off-white in color and a bit sweeter than when made with American barley. In any case, the resulting bread is very chewy, has a great crust and nice sweet yeasty smell. 
Barley, like wheat and rye contains gluten and is not safe for people who are gluten sensitive. The percentage of gluten in barley is much lower than wheat; therefore wheat flour is required in order to make a good textured bread (rather than a cracker). 
This is a slow rising bread, don't rush it, it affects the texture of the finished product. The process will take approximately 36 hours to complete once you have ripe sourdough starter. 
You can stretch it out for another 12 hours or thereabouts, modifying the process to work around your busy day. 
The ingredient list and steps look more complicated than it actually is. 
The secret is to take it slowly and build the dough. 
 I'm showing the bread baked as six smallish (~ 210g/ 7 oz.) baguettes, you can bake it as one large round sourdough loaf in a 3 qt. Lodge cast iron combo-cooker. 

  • Ripe sour dough starter (the starter should have been "fed" 8-10 hours prior to using it)
  • Mixing starter and initial amount of flour (with an 8hr- overnight proofing period)
  • Completing the wheat dough (another 3 hours, but can be "retarded" by allowing to proof in the fridge for up to 8-10 hours)
  • Adding barley flour, proofing for an hour or two
  • Adding salt and a bit of water. The salt will modify the yeast activity and the dough will become more elastic. Proof for another 30- 60 minutes or again, you can retard the dough's activity by chilling for up to 8-10 hours. 
  • Bench rest 30-60 minutes, Shaping and rest for 30-60 minutes
  • Bake 
  • Get ready for an exceptional bread eating experience !

  • scale
  • large mixing bowl
  • flexible bench scraper 
  • covered baguette baker (I use the Emile Henry 3 baguette baker)

Initial dough: 
  • 25 g ripe sourdough starter (mine is 1/2 wheat, 1/2 rye)
  • 25 g bread flour (I use King Arthur flour)
  • 25g room temperature water  
First build: 
  • 500 g water
  • 250g bread flour
  • 250 g all purpose flour
  • 30 g honey 
2nd build:
  • 135 g barley flour (different barley will give you different dough colors) 
Final build 
  • 10g kosher salt mixed with 30g water 
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the initial dough ingredients with a flexible spatula. Make sure to break up the globs of sour dough starter.  Cover with a very damp dish towel and let rest at room temperature for at least 8 hours. It will be puffy like melty-marshmallow when it's ready. 
  2. Add the ingredients for the first build. Again, vigorously stir with a flexible spatula. Cover a very damp towel, allow to rest at room temperature for 3-5 hours. It will begin to bubble. If it is not bubbling, place in a warmer spot (you can pre-warm the oven to 100 degrees and SHUT OFF the oven) and let it sit for an hour or so more.  Perform 2- 3 sets of stretch & folds over the 3-5 hours the dough is resting. Stretching and folding the dough in the bowl will improve the gluten structure and help the bread to bubble and rise. Your working hand must be very wet, this will keep the dough from sticking to your hand AND makes it easier to stretch and fold. The elasticity of the dough will remarkably improve after just one set of stretching and folding.
  3. Mix in the barley. This will be difficult, the barley does not hydrate easily. Start off with the spatula, but I find that mixing in by hand (with a stretch and fold motion) works well. Make sure your hand is very wet with warm water, another 1/2- 1 oz or so of water mixing in will not ruin the dough. You want to blend in all of the barley flour.  Let rest for 1-2 hours. 1-2 sets of stretch and folds during this time. You should see some largish bubbles right under the skin of the dough. 
  4.  Pour the salt water over the dough and stretch and fold, incorporating the water into the dough. Rest 30 -60 minutes OR place in fridge and retard the proofing over night.
5. The dough will be sticky, flour the work service and keep your hands wet. Stretch and fold the dough and portion out six balls, approximately 130 gms (~7 oz). Flatten out the balls into a disk that is about 3- 4 inches across, pulling the edges up toward the center of the disk. Turn so that the seam is on the work surface. Repeat for all six balls. Cover with plastic or a well floured flat weave dish towel. Let rest 30-60 minutes (this is a "bench rest")

6. Dust the wells of the baguette pan with corn meal or rice flour.

7. Shape each ball by flattening to a 6x4 rectangle. Fold long edge over to the center of the rectangle and flatten edge with finger tips. Repeat with the other long edge. Bring both edges together and pinch the seam. Roll lightly , while simultaneously stretching , forming a baguette that is approximately 16-17 inches long. Place in the pan wells. Sprinkle cornmeal or rice flour on the top of the loaves. 

There are 3 wells in the Emile Henry baguette pan. You can be extravagant and purchase 2 pans or bake the initial 3 loaves , cool the pan on the stove top for about 20 minutes and then carefully, without directly touching the hot clay pan, repeat with the remaining 3 baguettes. 

Alternately, you can use an aluminum baguette pan, although the crust will not be the same. 

Let the shaped baguettes rest for 30 minutes and then use a lame or sharp herb scissor to slash the baguette. Slashing will help the bread rise during baking and creates a beautiful design on the baked bread. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees at this time.

7. Cover and bake in your pre-heated oven.  25 minutes covered. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional 7-10 minutes. Cool completely before removing from the pan.