Bread bakers are a very passionate bunch. The passion can become obsessive, particularly once you get into baking with wild yeast and slowly reach that snobbish point of view that baking with commercial yeast is “for sissies.” Granted, I am not that snobbish, but I admit that once you start down the wild path, it’s hard to turn back. The flavor of bread leavened with wild yeast is more complex, and the whole process a lot more elusive, therefore so much more fun! Some days your bread will be spectacular, others not so much, even when everything seems to be the same. Last month I stumbled onto this post by a super passionate baker named Maurizio. Of course, a post entitled My Best Sourdough Recipe got my attention right away, and what I found inside was a very detailed picture-loaded tutorial of the making and baking of a superb sourdough loaf. If you are new to bread baking, then dive into his article, read it carefully, and go to work. I am sharing with you just the basic recipe, but insist that you should visit his site for the full details. He’s got a ton of great bread recipes! In fact, just as I type this post, I have another recipe from his site undergoing its bulk proof. One hint: it has walnuts… Are you in love yet? What if I say it has a particularly tasty dry fruit too?
MAURIZIO’S BEST SOURDOUGH RECIPE
(slightly modified from The Perfect Loaf blog)
for the liquid levain starter:
(make 12 hours before making the dough)
35 g liquid starter (at 100% hydration)
35 g whole wheat flour
35 g bread flour
70 g water
for the final dough:
402 g white bread flour
37 g whole wheat flour
375 g water at about 90 degrees F (divided, 350 g + 25 g)
9 g sea salt
75 g levain (made as above)
Build the liquid levain 10 to 12 hours before you want to make your final dough. Leave it at room temperature (around 72 F).
Next morning, mix flour and 350 g of water very well in a bowl and cover. Ensure all dry flour is hydrated. Leave it to autolyse for 1 hour. Add the levain with the reserved water and hand-mix it into the dough until it is very well incorporated. Leave it 30 minutes at room temperature, or if you have a proofer, set it to 78 F and keep the dough at this temperature all the way through. After 30 minutes, add the salt, and mix well.
After the salt is incorporated perform folds for about 2-3 minutes in the bowl. Grab under one side, pull up and over to the other side, then rotate the bowl a bit and repeat. Do this about 30 times or so (it goes fast and easy). At the end the dough should still be shaggy, but it will be a little more smooth and will slightly start to hold itself together more in the bowl. Now you are ready to start bulk fermentation. If your home is at 78 to 82 F, bulk fermentation should last 4 hours.
During fermentation, do 6 sets of stretch and folds, the first three at 15 minute intervals (it will take you to 45 minutes of bulk fermentation), the last three at 45 minute intervals (by the time you do the last one you will be at 3 hours, with a final hour in which the dough is left undisturbed). If your dough is too “weak”, seeming to lack structure, add one more cycle of folding after 30 minutes and leave the dough undisturbed for another hour.
Lightly shape the dough into a round, cover with inverted bowl or moist towel, and let rest for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the towel or bowl and let the dough rest 5 more minutes exposed to air. This step helps dry out the dough just a bit so it’s not too sticky during shaping. Lightly flour the top of your dough rounds and flour the work surface. Shape into a batard or boule. Place in a banneton very well floured, leave it at room temperature for about 20 minutes, then retard in the refrigerator for 15-16 hours.
Heat oven at 500ºF. Bake 20 minutes at 500ºF with steam, and an additional 25-35 minutes at 450ºF, until done to your liking. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.
to print the recipe, click
I made this bread a day before our dear friends from Brazil arrived for their visit. They loved it, and were actually quite interested in the process of sourdough baking. So, I decided to refresh my starter and make a second loaf with them, this time shaping it as a round loaf instead of slightly oblong. The second loaf, much to my delight, had even better oven spring…
That loaf traveled all the way with us to Colorado, and made our first evening in Silverthorne quite special… nothing like a nice loaf of bread to make you feel home and cozy….
So, is it the best sourdough recipe ever? I think the best bread recipes are the ones that work consistently and fit your schedule well. It also helps to have a method that is easy to follow, so that by the time you make it for the third or fourth time, it becomes second nature. I don’t have the exact same flours Maurizio used, so every time I baked this bread I felt that as written the formula had a tad too much water. It was hard – for my level of technique with the folding – to obtain good gluten structure. Once I held back a little of the water the dough turned out perfect, it had more “muscle”, which ultimately gives a better oven spring and crumb structure. You will have to play with it a little. I published the recipe the way it worked best for me.
The schedule is perfect for my style of baking. I can start mixing the dough early in the morning on a Saturday or Sunday, by 3pm maximum it is in the fridge and I don’t need to think about it until next day. I am usually up at 5am, so I can turn the oven on and have the bread ready before it’s time to go to work, if I made the dough on a Sunday. So, all things considered, it is a GREAT recipe that I intend to use often and play with to add goodies to the dough. Walnuts, seeds, cheese, olives, herbs… you just wait and see!
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