Making sourdough bread is not hard. It just takes patience and some TLC. As a matter of fact, your ‘hands on’ time with the bread itself is only a few minutes. Most of the time you are either mixing in some flour and water or waiting for the dough to rise.
Now, I am no expert here. For a real sourdough expert you will want to visit Wardeh @GNOWFGLINS. I used her basic recipe and watched for my dough to ‘do its thing’. However, there are a few things that I am going to tell you NOT to do. You know . . . .like the things that will make your bread hard as bricks! I know not to do them now because I did them and it resulted in crappy bread and a crappy attitude to boot (I hate wasting food!) So, hopefully you can benefit from my oopsies.
My bread has the moisture and similar density to Anna’s Daughter’s bread. However her bread was made with rye and mine was made with spelt. She also adds seeds and fun things in hers that add more texture . . . I’m not there yet. But, if you have ever tried this bread you will have an idea of what this bread can turn out like. Just know that this bread is definitely NOT fluffy like what you would find with commercial yeast. The beauty of real sourdough is that it has slow rising bacteria and wild yeasts that break down the bad stuff (phytic acid) and make the good stuff (vitamins and minerals) more available for your body.
First you need a starter. You can either purchase a starter or make one from scratch like I did. Cultures for Health is a great place to get a sourdough starter. Just follow their directions for use. I made my own starter so I could literally tell you how its done from scratch.
- 1/3 cup spelt (fresh, but not freshly ground or hot from grinding – NOT SPROUTED)
- ¼ cup filtered water
- 3 cups fresh starter (recently fed and brought to room temperature)
- 1 cup filtered water (warm)
- 1 tablespoon celtic sea salt (or Himalayan)
- butter (or coconut oil. Small amount to coat after making bread)
First, in a half gallon mason jar (have two so you can alternate), add 3/8th cup spelt and 1/4 cup filtered water. The water needs to be filtered. Chlorinated water will kill any good bacteria and yeast you are trying to grow.
Mix well and cover with a paper towel and a rubber band (or use the screw top over the paper towel without metal the lid to hold it in place).
Leave in a warm place (like the top of the refrigerator) for 12 hours which is when you will feed it again.
Second feeding — stir in briefly with a wooden spoon (no metal here!).
Add another 3/8 cup spelt and 1/4 cup warm filtered water.
Mix, scrape down the sides, cover and keep in a warm place for another 12 hours.
If at any time you need to take a break, just feed and refrigerate your starter until you can begin again. But the starter will need to be fed at least once a week in the refrigerator.
Bring to room temperature before starting the process again.
If refrigerated bring starter to room temp and mix 3 cups spelt with 3 cups filtered water to replace the starter you are taking. I let mine sit for a couple hours after adding flour but this is not really necessary as you will be letting the dough sit out and rise later and it will eat up the anti-nutrients then.
Then take the 3 cups needed for the recipe! Let the remaining starter sit out for 12 hours and then refrigerate to use in another recipe. You should always aim to replace what you take, that way you can always have starter for the next recipe.
Mix 3 cups starter with water and 1 tablespoon salt on slow speed in a blender.
Slowly start to add spelt flour a 1/2 cup at a time. I only used about 4 cups of spelt even though Wardeh’s recipe called for 5-6.
If you are using hard wheat instead of spelt for the bread you will use closer to 5 or 6 cups. But basically the dough needs to be wet enough that it sticks to your fingers yet desires to stick to itself more.
However, the dough should be pulling away from the side of the bowl and not sticking to it. If it is, add more flour.
When I use hard whole wheat it is closer to the 5-6 cups needed.
Knead the dough. I do this right in the Kitchen Aid with the dough hook.
Knead for 5 minutes on slow.
Let the dough rest 15 minutes.
Knead again for another 5 – 10 minutes.
Grease a bowl with butter or coconut oil.
Place the dough in the bowl then flip to coat the dough in the grease.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for a minimum of 5-6 hours.
I let mine rise overnight.
You are looking for the dough to a double in size!
Once risen, punch down and cut dough in half.
Place in a buttered loaf pan (or free form shape into a boule).
Cover and let rise until double. I have a proof option on my oven. I proofed the dough a second time for 3-4 hours. Dough should double in size again. If you have a glass loaf pan you will be able to see the air pockets form as it rises. Voilà — all natural wild yeasts. None of that commercial stuff!
When ready to bake, make diagonal cuts in the loaf or an x in the boule.
Brush with a little butter.
Bake at 175ºC / 350ºF / Gas Mark 4 for about 35 – 40 minutes. I have a convection oven so my time might be less than yours. If you don’t have a convection oven it might be closer to an hour of baking.
Keep checking at about 35 minutes on. The loaf should be golden brown on the outside. And there should be no bounce back if you push on the crust.
When finished, brush with coconut oil or butter to keep the crust from getting too hard.
Let cool completely before cutting into the bread.
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