This was adapted from an excellent post at The Kitchn, “How To Make Sourdough Bread“. The biggest change: I pared it down to one loaf instead of two.
I’m going to be changing and updating this post (hopefully with photos) as I learn more but I wanted to throw it up here so I have something to consult as I progress. The Kitchn has a ton of photos and more extensive directions.
A traditional non-no-knead sourdough bread, it seems, takes several days to make (3, in this experiment). And that doesn’t include time to refresh your starter. I’m in for it though because I’m curious. The first day you make the leaven. The second day you knead the dough. The third day you bake it.
For the leaven:
2 teaspoons active sourdough starter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons water
For the dough:
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cup water
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour or bread flour (may substitute up to 1/2 with whole grain flour)
1. Day 1. Make the leaven: Combine sourdough starter with flour and water. Mix thoroughly to form a thick batter. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature overnight, anywhere from 12 to 16 hours depending on how warm your room is.
2. Day 2. Combine the salt with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Set aside, stirring every so often to make sure the salt dissolves. (The salt probably won’t dissolve all the way.)
3. Make the dough: Mix the leaven and water (I ended up using about 1 1/2 cups water because I had so much whole wheat flour) in a tall measuring cup. Stir to dissolve the leaven into the water. Add the flour(s) to a large mixing bowl. Pour the leaven-and-water mixture into the flour and stir until you see no more dry flour. You may need to add several more tablespoons of water if you’ve substituted some whole grain flour, as I did. You’re aiming for a shaggy dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes to 4 hours. This is the autolyse stage.
4. After the autolyse stage, pour the dissolved salt over the dough. Work it into the dough by pinching and squeezing the dough. The dough will feel wet and loose.
5. Begin kneading/folding the dough: To fold the dough, grab the dough at one side, lift it up, and fold it over on top of itself. Fold the dough four times, moving clockwise from the top of the bowl. Let the dough rest 30 minutes, then repeat. Do this a total of 6 times, every half hour for a total of 2 1/2 hours. Then, let the dough rise undisturbed for 30 to 60 minutes.
6. After the kneading stage, line a proofing basket or bowl with a clean dishtowel. Dust towel heavily with flour.
7. Sprinkle some flour over your counter and turn the dough out on top. Shape the loaf like you folded the dough earlier: Grab the lip of the dough at the bottom, pull it gently up, then fold it over onto the center of the dough. Repeat with the right and left side of the dough. Repeat with the top of the dough. Then, gently roll the dough right-side up. Nudge it into a round shape.
8. Dust the top and sides of the loaf with flour. Place into proofing basket upside down so the seams are on top.
9. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic. Let rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours or overnight: 12, 15, 18 hours, whatever you’ve got. If rising overnight, you can bake the loaves straight from the fridge. (I have only ever let it rise overnight in the fridge because I don’t have enough time at night to bake it.)
10. Day 3. Remove dough from refrigerator. Place Dutch oven into oven and heat to 500°F. When oven has reached temperature, carefully remove pot, tip the loaf into the hot pot so the seam-side is down. Score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife (score at a slight angle, so you’re cutting almost parallel to the surface of the loaf). Re-cover the pot. Return to oven. Good luck.
11. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 450°F and bake another 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking 15 to 25 minutes or until the crust is deeply browned. Remove pot from oven. Lift loaf with spatula and cool on a rack for about an hour.
I can’t see that the extra 3 hours of folding/kneading, and the extra hours devoted to autolyse, bought me much, compared to a no-knead sourdough. But I’m in no position to judge, having made just 2 non-no-knead loaves. The flavor is great, and the dough is chewy, but so were the no-kneads. I thought the no-kneads had slightly larger holes but that could have been anything … not least of which the hotter days. There are so many variables!
Something I learned making all these breads … instant yeast is FAST. Sourdough starter is slowwww. You can overproof a yeasted dough in just an hour … it turns yellow, smells alcohol-y, doesn’t rise anymore, and no oven spring. All of that is less likely with starter. I think these traditional sourdough breads lent themselves to a slower pace of life.
Someone recommended I line my pot with parchment before dropping in the dough for baking. Good idea and it will be done next time.