I have tried a number of sourdough bread recipes with success (sometimes more, sometimes less success) and the thing I noticed, is that all have some degree of flexibility to meet the characteristics of our starter, our time to make bread, our know how, and our nutritional and flavor goals.
My starter goes especially well with a recipe that was adapted from a set of other recipes. A step from one, a different time from other one, a particular proportion of ingredients, etc. In the end I found myself with a very distinctive recipe and procedure that I recommend you try. But again, it is the recipe that works best for me, which can vary greatly from person to person. I confess that it was enough to do it in another place and at a different time of year to have different results. But with a few adjustments, by the second time, I got my usual sourdough bread.
With these particularities aside, the recipe itself is very simple. It requires a bit of planning and is a bit time consuming, as are all sourdough bread recipes (that’s part of it: if you want a super quick bread, you don’t want to venture into sourdough, it’s as simple as that!) But it’s actually a recipe made up of short, simple steps interspersed with waiting times, and it works every single time. Overall it’s very rewarding and, surprise surprise: no kneading required!
The planning part is actually very simple: we have to have an active starter to begin. That forces us to feed our starter about 8-12 hours before we start making sourdough bread. Depending on the temperature conditions, the flour used in the feeding, etc somewhere during this period of time the starter will grow and start to shrink. This is when it is active and ready to be used.
Mix and rise
To start making this sourdough bread simply add all the ingredients in a bowl except the salt. Mix until uniform and let it rest for 30 min. Add the salt by wrapping it in the dough with a series of “stretch and fold. That means stretch the dough with one hand, fold it over on itself, turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat the process about 10 times. Let it rest for 30 min. Repeat the “stretch and fold” series and rest time another 3-4 times, every 30 min.
Shape the sourdough bread for the final rising. Place the dough on a smooth surface dusted with flour. Stretch the dough a little with your fingers to form a rectangle, circle or square and fold the corners over the center to form a ball. Turn the “seam” formed by the corners downward. Bring the loaf towards you by dragging the dough with your hands or with the help of a spatula. Repeat until the surface of the dough is very smooth and small bubbles start to appear. In a bowl lined with a clean cloth dusted with flour (you can use a banneton) place the dough with the “seam” facing up and cover it with the edges of the cloth. Let rise about 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius. Chose the baking pan you will use and place it in the oven: it can be a “pyrex” pan, a “dutch oven” or a simple tray. If you use a tray, I advise you to add a container of water underneath to create steam inside the oven. Pyrex pans or the dutch oven don’t need it because they can be covered with the lid to trap the steam from the dough.
Turn the dough with the seam side down onto a sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle with a little flour and, using a razor blade or a very, very sharp knife, score the dough. Scoring is making cuts in the surface of the dough that allow for steam to release and growth during baking. I recommend making a long, deep cut (1 cm deep) and, if you wish, other shallow decorative cuts.
With the help of the baking paper place your dough immediately in the oven, inside the pans (don’t forget to put the lid on) or on the tray. Lower the oven temperature to 195-200 degrees.
Bake your sourdough bread covered (or with the water container if you are baking on a tray) for about 30 minutes. After this period the bread should have risen almost completely. Remove the lid from the pan or your container of water and bake until the sourdough bread is golden brown (about 20-30 min). Remove the bread from the oven and let cool. When removing it from the oven, the base of the sourdough bread should be firm and have a hollow sound when tapped with the hand.
Now I share my favorite timings for making this bread! On friday morning, before going to work I feed my starter (if I have kept it inactive in the fridge I try to reactivate it a few days earlier). When I get home, while I’m making, eating and packing up dinner, I put the ingredients together and do the stretch and fold sessions every 30 minutes. Then, before sleep I shape my sourdough bread for the final rising and leave it to rise overnight in the refrigerator.
On Saturday morning I score my sourdough bread immediately after taking the dough out of the refrigerator (the dough is firmer and the blade works much better!) and bake the bread in a very hot oven!
Check the image below for the full recipe.