You can use any formula for your sourdough bread, it is all about the scoring, or scoring & painting, if you are so inclined. I offer a simple recipe, that you can flavor with different spices or leave plain.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

475g bread flour
25g spelt flour
365g water
70g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
10g salt
1 tsp spice flavoring (Garam masala, Ras-El-Hanout, Za’atar)

Make the levain mixture about 6 hours before you plan to mix the dough. It should be very bubbly and active.

When you are ready to make the final dough, place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the two types of flour, and salt. Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. You will notice the dough will gain quite a bit of structure even with just 4 minutes in the mixer. Remove from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. Because the dough is already a bit developed from the initial time in the mixer, you should get very good structure after 3 and a half hours, or even sooner than that.

After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.

Place three strings over the dough nicely spaced, and touch the strings to glue them lightly to the bottom of the bread. Place a parchment paper on top, a flat baking sheet, and invert the dough, flipping it out of the banneton. Flour the surface of the dough, and tie the strings on top as shown in the composite picture. Score as desired, forming a heart pattern. You can paint with an air-brush, if desired.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. I cut the strings quickly after 30 minutes when I open the pan, and moved them gently out of the bread. Don’t worry if some parts of the string stay glued to the bread, you can remove later. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

The first bread is a flash-back from a couple of years ago, and you can read all the details here.

If you like to add some color to this basic scoring, here’s how to do it…

Simply tie the bread as explained in the recipe, score the heart shapes, and carefully air-brush the design with red. This particular loaf was smaller (400g total flour instead of 500g), so I did not have much space to work on additional details with the razor blade. But I still like the end result…

And the third design, might be the simplest, as you won’t need to tie strings around the shaped dough before baking.

I floured the top of the bread, placed a cookie cutter on top, air-brushed the inside with red dye, removed the cookie cutter and cut the heart with a razor blade first, then used the scissors to clip all around it. A little spiral scoring all around, and that was all!

Comments: I am not sure which design is my favorite, maybe the last one, although the bread had such strong oven spring that the spiral scoring ended up a bit removed from the heart design on top. If you don’t have an air-brush, you can paint with a regular brush, diluting the food dye with a little vodka or water, depending on how fast you want the paint to dry (vodka or any other alcohol will dry faster than water). You can also just score the heart and leave it plain.

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I consider this bread a work in progress, as the color is fading a bit during baking. Sugarprism stays very well on cookies (as I showed in the first cookie from this post), but I suppose 450F is a different story. However, this was only my second time doing it, and I already saw some improvement from the first attempt. Any sourdough recipe you are fond of will work. I opted for Elaine’s Herb and Olive Oil Sourdough, which I used as a teaser recipe in my recent review of her wonderful book (click here to read it, in case you’ve missed it). I like the way the olive oil in the dough seemed to tame a bit the crust explosion, and that worked well to keep the design untouched.

Basic things to consider when painting… minimize the amount of flour on the surface. When we do stenciling or even artistic slashing, a coating with flour is super important. In painting the dough, it makes things difficult and interferes negatively with the color. In today’s bread, for the outline I used black cocoa diluted with water. For the petals, Sugarprism in yellow and red. For the center of the sunflower, bronze luster powder diluted with vodka. As you can see, from the before pictures the bronze luster powder was the champion as far as keeping the color during baking. Black cocoa will always stay well, but if your goal is color, that cannot really help you much…

Just in case you are curious, below you see my first attempt painting sourdough. Two small issues happened: the dough had so much oven-spring that it lifted the design in ways that were not ideal. And I coated the surface with flour, which made the Sugarprism color interact with it and fade even more. The flour also gave a rough texture that made it impossible to spread the color nicely with a brush. In this case, I re-painted the bread the moment it came out of the oven to bring the color back. But my goal is to not have to do that, and get some method that retains the color during baking. Stay tuned then for my next adventure, in which I will use exclusively luster powder + vodka, hoping for a happy, very colorful ending…

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