There is something about warm bread, especially sourdough bread, on a cool Sunday afternoon in the autumn that just makes me want to melt. The smell wafts throughout my tiny apartment and, combined with the lavender candle I burn, are exactly what I think love would smell like if it were, well, a smell. Once the bread is out of the oven and just cool enough to touch, I can’t resist cutting a slice slathering it with butter and blackberry jam. With a cup of tea this is possibly the best snack ever in the world, especially if your using homemade jam.
So if you are ready to take your sourdough starter from Monday’s post for a spin while enjoying your own version of the perfect Sunday afternoon, look no further. This is a straight forward, easy recipe for someone starting out with sourdough breads. It uses a little commercial yeast to help the rising process and the use of bread pans helps ensure that the bread keeps an attractive shape during the final rise and baking times. While the whole process takes a long time – it starts the night before you want the fresh bread – it requires minimal hands on work. I’m still working to perfect a free form sourdough recipe for sourdough bread bowls, but in the meantime this is a great recipe to use while getting used to working with sourdough. If you start to feel adventurous, you may even be able to cut out the commercial yeast and use only fed sourdough starter to make your bread.
Easy Sourdough Sandwich Bread
2 cups water
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups fed sourdough starter*
3 cups bread flour
3 cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoon sea salt (or table salt)
*For fed sourdough starter you will need 1 cup sourdough from the fridge, ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour, and ½ cup warm water.
1) In a large mixing bowl, 1 cup sourdough starter with ½ a cup each unbleached flour and warm water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
2) In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl combine 2 cups warm water with the yeast and let sit 1-2 minutes until the yeast is completely dissolved. Pour into the bowl with the fed sourdough starter and stir to combine.
3) Add all 3 cups bread flour and 2-3 cups all-purpose flour (you may not need all of the flour, it depends on how much liquid is in your starter) to the liquids, alternating one cup at a time and mixing completely between each cup. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to knead.
4) Knead for a minute or two just to bring the dough together into a ball. Sprinkle the dough with some flour and let sit for 5 minutes. During this time, enzymes will begin to break the starches into sugar and relax the gluten strands, making it easier for you to knead.
5) After 5 minutes, flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and sprinkle on half of the salt. Fold the dough in half, flatten again, and sprinkling on the rest of the salt. Fold in half and knead the dough for 10 minutes. If the dough becomes so gummy that it’s sticking to the board or your hands, add a tablespoon or two of the extra flour.
6) Let the dough sit for another 5 minutes and then knead for a final 10 minutes. The dough is ready if it springs back when you poke it with your finger.
7) Clean out your mixing bowl and lightly coat it with oil. Set your dough in the bowl and turn it a few times to coat it with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. The long slow rise time will help the dough develop its slightly sour taste.
8) Divide the dough into two equal portions, loosely shape them into balls, and let them rest for 20 minutes to relax the gluten. Meanwhile grease two loaf pans with nonstick spray, butter, or other grease.
9) Shape the dough into loaves by slightly flattening each ball and shaping them into rough rectangles. Fold the rectangles in three like a business letter and pinch the seam closed. Flatten slightly and fold the dough in half one more time, pinching the seam again.
10) Place loaves in the pans seam-side down and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the dough has just crested the top of the pan. One hour into rising time, preheat the oven to 450-degrees Fahrenheit. Place an oven-safe pan (like a broiler pan) in the very bottom of the oven.
11) When the loaves are ready, bring two cups of water to a boil. Using a sharp serrated knife, slash the tops of the loaves in three or four places about 1/2 inch deep. Slide the loaves into the oven and pour the boiling water into the pan. Close the door immediately to trap in the steam.
12) Bake for 10 minutes and then rotate the loaves in the oven for even baking. Also, I used a spray bottle and this point and sprayed the loaves with additional water.
13) When the loaves begin to show color, decrease the heat to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.
14) Continue baking for a total of 25-30 minutes. Loaves are done when they are deeply golden and brown, when they sound hollow if you thump the bottoms with a finger, and when a thermometer registers an internal temperature of 190-degrees Fahrenheit.