Sourdough Bread Tips from a Beginnner
I have had some people reach out saying that I inspired them to start making sourdough bread... so with that I thought rather than retyping out my process a million times, I would put it here so I can refer people to it. I can't promise it will work for you - but it's what's working for me. It already varies based on the temp of my home - and it's going to vary based on the flours you use and a million other factors.
My best advice is to just start... start baking and keep going. It's going to take time, heck I'm only 6ish weeks in and still learning. However, I deep dove, researching and watching videos and baking countless number of loaves. Even if they don't turn out perfect, they usually still taste good - if it's to dense, toast it or make french toast. It's usually salvageable unless its hard as a rock.
I am still learning along the way and loving every moment of it. It's a true labor of love that seems so daunting in the beginning, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. I was so scared making my first loaf. Now it's super easy and still just as fun!
Artisan Sourdough Bread
200g active starter
650g warm water
250g whole wheat flour
350g unbleached all purpose flour
350g bread flour
20g flaky salt
8-12+ hours before you are ready to mix your dough, make your leaven. To make this recipe, I usually do a couple spoonful's from my starter into a clean jar, add 1/2 cup + of flour and water and mix. I have played around with a thinner and stiffer (thicker) leaven and can't say whether one is better than the other. However, the thinner (more water) your leaven, the quicker it will rise to peak than a stiff leaven. It really all comes down to timing - trying to time it right to be mixing your dough for when you have the time to do it. For me, on a work day I like to make my leavens in the morning so they are ready by the time I get home to make dough that evening. On a weekend, I will make leavens the night before so I can mix dough in the morning. It's just figuring out what works for you based on your time and the temperature of your home. If you want to speed things up, throw it in your oven with just the light on and if you really need to speed it up, us the proof button, if you have it.
When your starter has peaked, it should have almost doubled or more, no longer be dome shaped at the top and have lots of bubbles at the surface. You want to use it right as it's peaking or right after it's peaked. In a bowl, mix 650g warm water, 250g wheat flour, 350g unbleached all purpose flour and 350g bread flour. Mix until there are no big dry patches of flour and then let it autolyze (rest) for 20-30 minutes. Then mix in 200g active starter and 20g flaky salt. Mix well and rest for 30 minutes.
With wet hands (use cold water), bring your dough together and perform your first set of stretch and folds. Cover and rest for 30 minutes. Repeat this process a total of 4 times. I usually do 2 stretch and folds and 2 coil folds. The start of stretch and folds is the start of your bulk fermentation process - so pay attention to time and your dough.
Once you have completed stretch and folds, let your dough bulk ferment until it has increased in size to around 75%. I put my dough into a Cambro round container so I can track this growth. It is usually around the 1.5 quart mark and I like to let it rise until it's just between the 2 and 2 1/2 quart mark. This can take anywhere from 3-8 hours depending on the temperature outside and inside your home. It might be shorter or longer - we keep our house cold in the winter and warmer in the summer. So things are changing vastly for me and it's all just keeping an eye on your dough. In the summer, when it's warmer I like to throw my dough in the fridge for an hour before pre shaping. Now, I don't do that because my dough isn't as warm.
Meanwhile, rice flour your bannetons. When bulk ferment ends, on a lightly floured surface, turn your dough out and divide in half and pre shape. Rest on counter, uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Then do your final shaping and into your bannetons to do your final proof. Proof on the counter for an hour or into the fridge for 2-24+ hours. Your bread is ready to bake when you have a positive poke test. With a floured finger, you want to poke your dough and have it leave an indent that slowly bounces back about half way.
Put your Dutch ovens into your cold oven and preheat to 500 degrees F. Meanwhile, I prepare my parchment papers. I fold a square for the bottom to help prevent the bottom of my loaf from burning. Then I make a sheet to bake my loaf on. I get out my water bottle for misting the loaf as well as my lame. Then tongs and a bowl of ice cubes. I like everything out and ready so I can score and get my dough into the Dutch oven and then the actual oven while things are hot for maximum oven spring. I also place a baking sheet on a rack below my Dutch oven as this really helps with ensuring the bottom of my loaves don't get too dark.
Mist the bottom of your loaf while in the banneton and then turnover onto parchment. Score and mist with more water and place into your Dutch Oven. Then tuck ice cubes under the parchment, quickly with tongs, being careful not to burn yourself. Place lid on quickly and get into your hot oven. Bake at 475 degrees for 27 minutes and then 450 degrees for 28 minutes. I leave the lid on the entire time as my loaves get too dark if I take the lid off. This will vary from oven to oven. Sometimes they get darker quicker and so then I put a sheet of tinfoil on top of the lid and this helps as well. I temp my loaves immediately and like them to be 207+ degrees F. Remove to a cooling rack and wait at least an hour to cut into your bread. Enjoy! If you prefer a little less chewy of a crust, lightly mist the outside of your bread as it cools.
There are a ton of resources out there for baking sourdough. My best advice is to search Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and Youtube and find who you enjoy watching. On Facebook, I joined the groups "Sourdough Geeks" and "Sourdough Starters - Sourdough Support Group". On Instagram, I follow @sourdoughsparrow, @turner.farms, @theclevercarrot, @farmhouseonboone, @thefoodnanny and many more. On Youtube, I really enjoyed watching "Pro Home Cooks" and "Gluten Morgen". Hope you have fun!