Plain ‘Ole, Basic Sourdough Bread

While I appreciate fancy food on occasion, I don’t consider myself a foodie. Just give me plain ‘ol eating, and I’m happy. That’s what this recipe for sourdough bread is. Just plain and simple. Enjoy!

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Fermentools’ recipe page is full of sourdough recipes. Check out:

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Posted by Michelle

In literary traditions, bread is so important it is referred to as the “staff of life.”  This basic food is found, in some form, in every continent, sustaining people and giving rise (See what I did there?) to countless variations.  Even with the current anti-gluten craze in the US, there is no mistaking the allure of the tastes and aroma of fresh-baked bread.

No need to run to the store to buy something in a plastic bag, however!  There’s a reason bread is so ubiquitous—its simple, and anyone can make it.  This sourdough recipe uses only four ingredients, and it is my go-to for making my family’s weekly bread.  In addition, some research indicates that the fermentation process involved in sourdough may make it easier for those with gluten sensitivities to digest.

How to Make Basic Sourdough Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sourdough starter
  • 1.5 cups of warm, filtered water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 or 3.5 cups whole wheat flour

(Note:  The amount of flour you need to use varies on the day’s humidity.  I find that I use far less flour in the summer than I do in the winter.) 

I have provided a time line illustrating when I usually bake my bread, but you can adjust this to your schedule.  This is a rather short time for dough to ferment—you can certainly let it go longer, even overnight. Just keep in mind that the tangy sourness of the bread will become stronger the longer it rises.  This timing produces a very mild loaf that I find perfect for my uses.

9:00pm:

1. The night before you intend to bake, feed your sourdough starter.  If you only have a little bit, don’t reduce it before you feed it—that way, you’ll have plenty left over after baking.

8:00am-8:20am:

2. Measure out sourdough starter and filtered water into a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly with your hand.  Add salt, then flour, one cup at a time, and continue to mix with your hand.  The dough should be wet feeling. If it is dry or hard to work with, add a little more water.

3. Let the dough rest for ten minutes.

4. Wet your hands and knead the dough in the bowl.  It may seem counter intuitive, but whole wheat needs to be kneaded with water, not flour.  Trust me on this one!  Knead the dough in the bowl for four minutes, wetting your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. If it is hard to knead at this point, you’ll want to introduce more water, about a teaspoon at a time, until it is workable.  It’s okay if it feels slightly “too wet.”  It will soak it up, guaranteed.

5. Allow to rest another five minutes.

6. Wet your hands again, and knead for four more minutes.  You’ll probably notice that the dough is now smooth, supple, and not as sticky.  Form into a round, then lay in the bowl, cover with a towel, and put some place warm for the next four hours.

12:30pm:

7. The dough should have risen quite a bit during this time.  Punch down, then gently shape into a round ball by pulling the edges into the center.  Line a large bowl with a threadbare cotton or linen towel, then dust the dough liberally with flour.  Lay the dough in the bowl and put back in the warm place to rise again for at least three hours.

3:30pm:

8. Preheat your oven to 475 ° F.

4pm:

9. If using a baking sheet, both grease and scatter corn meal over the surface before gently flipping the bread onto it.  If using a pizza stone (my favorite method), dust your pizza peel with corn meal before turning the bread out onto it.  With a sharp, serrated knife, score the top of the bread to allow for expansion during baking.  (Make it pretty if you want.)

10. Slide the bread into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Then, lower the temperature to 425 ° F (without opening the door!) and bake another 20 minutes.

4:40ish:

11. Your bread is done if the internal temperature has reached 200° F.  You can check with a meat thermometer, or use the traditional method of tapping the bottom and listening for a hollow sound.

12. If you can resist the urge, allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before slicing so that it can finish internally steaming.  But to be honest, Andrew and I never wait that long.  We’ve been staring at this bread-to-be since 8 a.m., and the house is full of that amazing baked bread smell, so we’ll risk the burned fingers to get a wonderfully steaming slice of real sourdough as soon as possible.

Once cool, wrap in a towel and store in a cool, dark place.  It should stay good for about four days.

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Andrew and Michelle are the new owners of a 12-acre homestead in rural America. They are just embarking on this journey that is far removed from their city-life upbringing, so they realize that they have a lot to learn in order to succeed in this new place.Come along with them and read more about what they learn as they make this transition at their blog Simple Life Homestead.

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