This week I chose to make three similar breads. For a long time, I couldn’t decide on the type of bread I would make for the theme. And then when I came back from Hyderabad, I got the inspiration from the sourdough masterclass by Varada. I have tried to make my own sourdough starter years back, and I also made some breads with it. But I was not too serious about it and my starter went to waste. And that time, no one liked sourdough breads except for myself. So I didn’t show any interest further. But everything changed when Sruti’s taste buds changed and she started loving crusty breads. Even though I discussed sourdough with friends, read a lot on it in blogs and books, I never got the confidence to try it again. When Varada got us sourdough starter flakes and taught us how to re-hydrate it for a bubbly starter, I was totally inspired. And then came Sowmya’s bread made with the starter flakes. I was so tempted that I re-hydrated my starter the same day.
The starter revived beautifully and I was so happy to see it bubbling. I made a bread the next day, but I was totally impatient that the bread turned out like a brick. I am so much used to baking breads in short periods with instant yeast, that my mind wanted the sourdough bread also to behave the same. That is where I was mistaken. Sourdough bread doesn’t need lot of work, but needs lots and lots of patience. Though the hands on time with the dough is little, the waiting time is longer. So next attempt was this bread and I decided to be patient. I left the firm starter to mature overnight in oven and also let the final loaf rise in the oven overnight. So it nearly took two whole day for me to bake this loaf, and I was certainly happy with the result. The crust was so crispy and when I sliced it with a bread knife, I could hear the crackling. And the crumb was so soft and porous. I am amazed that I got a decent bread at my second attempt. The flavour of the sourdough is completely different from the yeast bread. I won’t say that one is better than the other, but they are equally good. As now I have a live starter at home, you will see so many sourdough recipes in the near future in the blog. I am yet to name my starter. Let me get some idea first. Though my first bread was a total failure, I didn’t waste it. I sliced it up, dried it in oven and made some flavourful bread crumbs out of it.
The recipe is from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Usually sourdough breads use bread flour because of its high protein content. As it is impossible to get bread flour in Madurai, I have added some gluten to the flour mix. You can easily buy gluten in amazon. If you don’t have it, just skip it in the recipe. As this was my first attempt, I used maida/all purpose flour. But I will be using wheat flour next time.
When your starter is fed and bubbly, use it to make the firm starter. After an overnight in oven, use the firm starter to make the dough. Knead it for 15 minutes until it passes the window pane test. Check my post on that. Now let the dough rest for four hours until double. Then shape the loaf and put it inside the tin. Now cover and let it rise in oven overnight. I baked it in the morning. Sourdough breads need to be baked with steam or baked in a Dutch oven which creates steam inside. That ensures a crusty bread. I have used a tray at the side with hot water poured over while baking to form steam. My bread took nearly one hour to bake and get a golden crust, but it varies with each oven, so keep an eye on your loaf. Once the bread comes out of the oven, remove it immediately on to a wire rack and cool it completely for minimum one hour before slicing. When sliced hot, you would squish the texture and the bread might look gummy. I hope I will inspire you to bake a sourdough. Happy Baking!!
Sourdough Starter – 1/3 cup
All Purpose Flour / Maida – 1/2 cup
Water – 2-3 tbs
All Purpose Flour / Maida – 2 1/4 cup
Wheat Gluten – 2 tbs
Salt – 1 tsp
Water – 3/4 cup + 3-4 tbs
In a bowl, mix together, starter, water and flour.
Combine to form a sticky dough.
Cover and set aside for four hours or until double in volume.
Now place this firm starter in refrigerator overnight.
Remove it from fridge and set aside on counter for two to three hours until it comes to room temperature.
In a larger bowl, add flour, wheat gluten, salt and mix well.
Add in the firm starter and 3/4 cup of water to make a sticky dough.
Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.
Now take it onto the counter and start kneading.
When the dough becomes firm, add a tbs of water and knead.
Knead for 15 minutes and do a window pane test.
By the end, the dough must be slightly sticky but still firm to touch.
Oil a bowl, place the dough inside and rotate so that the dough is coated with oil.
Cover with cling film and set aside for 4 hours or until double in volume.
Gently transfer dough back to counter, without deflating it too much.
Shape it into a loaf and place it in a parchment lined bread tin.
Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
Take it out two hours before baking and place it on counter to bring it back to room temperature.
Half an hour before baking, preheat oven to 250°C.
Place a deep tray at the lower rack of the oven.
Remove the wrap and place the tin in the middle rack of the oven.
Pour boiling water in the tray placed at the lower rack and close the oven door immediately.
Bake until the top is nicely browned. It took nearly one hour in my oven. But check your loaf at 30 minutes.
Remove the loaf from the tin and cool on a wire rack for one hour.
Slice it and enjoy!