My journey to making my own Sourdough Bread from scratch was a painful one. It took me 7 days just to prepare my Sourdough starter and another 2 days just to make the bread but it was all worth it to see the end result 🙂 (be prepared to dedicate a whole day to making this…)
The first time I attempted this, my dough didn’t rise at all during the proofing period and the result was a super dense bread with barely any air pockets. I think the problem was that I over hydrated the dough (against my instinct) and the levain wasn’t fully ready yet.
Here’s what I did differently this time round. First, I made sure to feed my starter at least twice a day for 2 days prior to baking to make sure my starter was nice and strong. Then, I prepared my Levain (another term used for sourdough starter):
8am – Prepare the Levain:
- 45g starter
- 45g unbleached all purpose flour
- 45g bread flour
- 90g warm water (90F)
I followed Joshua Weissman‘s recipe on Youtube for this recipe. Mix everything together in a jar with a loosely fitted lid and allow to ferment for 3-4 hours or until doubled in size. I kept my Levain in my oven with the light turned on which simulated an ideal proofing environment of ~75F. Meanwhile, prepare your Autolyse. This is a stage in bread making where where you hydrate the flour with water and allow to rest to help with gluten development which will ultimately lend to a better rise in the bread.
11am – Autolyse
- 273g bread flour
- 500g unbleached all purpose flour
- 175g whole wheat bread flour
- 660g warm water (90F)
Once my Levain doubled in size or has tons of bubbles (see photo below), this indicates that it is ready because my starter culture is producing lots of gas.
Another way to test if the Levain is ready is to do a ‘Float Test’. You take a little piece of the Levain and drop it in a bowl of water and if it floats, it’s ready because it has trapped enough gas that it can float! If yours sink immediately to the bottom, it’s not ready yet and you need to give it more time. For me, it reached this stage at around 4 hrs.
12pm – Combine Levain with Dough Mixture
- Levain Mixure
- Dough mixture (from Autolyse)
- 18g Kosher Salt
Once your Levain is ready (i.e. it passed the float test), combine it with your dough mixture with your hands, squeezing/pinching it in to ensure it’s well incorporated into your dough mixture. Then sprinkle on your salt and mix that in as well. I then proceeded to do a few “slap and fold” with the dough on a non floured surface where I slapped the dough on the counter, folded it on itself, rotate, and repeat. I did this for about 4 minutes to further strengthen the dough and reduce the slack. Once done, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot (the oven with the light on is great for this) for approximately 3-4 hours for Bulk Fermentation.
During the Bulk Fermentation process, you will have to stretch the dough several times in 15-30 minute intervals. Basically, you will stretch the sides of the dough over itself to reform a dough ball shape. You will need to do this 3 times – See folding schedule below.
12 – 4pm – Bulk Fermentation
- 12:15pm – First fold
- 12:30pm – Second fold
- 1pm – Final fold
- 1-4pm – Allow to rest in fermentation area
After bulk fermentation is done, your dough should have doubled in size, potentially with air bubbles forming to indicate the trapped air. Gently scrape out the dough with a bench scraper onto a non floured surface. With a floured bench scraper, divide the dough into 2 and shape them into 2 round balls. Cover with them with a large bowl and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Then, remove the bowl and let it rest uncovered for another 10 minutes to let the skin dry out a bit.
Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and flip it upside down so the floured side is on the counter, and the top part is sticky. Stretch the dough from the bottom and fold it up half way, then fold in both sides, and finally fold the top half down to the middle. You are essentially reforming the dough into a ball. Pinch the bottom shut and flip seam side down and shape the dough into a tight ball.
Prepare your banneton (proofing basket) if you have one. I didn’t so I used a small colander instead lined with a tea towel generously dusted with flour. Flip the dough seam side UP and flour the top of the dough . Cover with the tea towel and place in a closed plastic bag to place in the fridge so it can continue to ferment overnight to really develop the flavour of the bread.
On the morning of baking day, preheat your oven to 500F (or as hot as it can go) and place your dutch oven(s) with the lid on inside the oven while it is preheating and keep it in there for about an hour (you want the dutch oven to be super hot before baking). Once ready, take your dough out of the fridge and flip it (seam side down) onto a round piece of parchment paper so that it won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Score the top of the dough if you wish to make some cool patterns. Then, quickly (and carefully!) drop the dough into the hot dutch oven. Cover with lid and place in the oven for 20 minutes with the lid on. Then, take the lid off and drop the temperature to 475F for another 25-30 minutes or until it is a nice deep brown color. When you knock on the bottom of the bread and it sounds hollow, this indicates it’s done. Allow to rest for about 30 minutes before cutting into the bread.