Making bread is intuitive and heavily influenced by style and personal preferences. This recipe and its directions are derived from Annabelle Choi’s incredible and refined process of making tartine-style artisan sourdough. There are many steps to the process, but not everyone will feel up to doing it all, so I am offering some alternatives. The fine-tuning aspects like pre-shaping or scoring, and steaming the oven are fun when you feel creative, confident, and energetic. That said, these steps are not essential to making delicious bread!
The only things that are really important are:
1) a vigorous starter
2) good ingredients, and
3) an instinct for knowing when your bread is ready to go in the oven.
In today's post I'll share my approach to making sourdough, including an addendum that features the step-by-step process of my exact timing.
The reason I call this my 'full-moon' sourdough is because I find the best, high-hydrated recipes can be executed most beautifully during the full moon. This might be hocus-pocus, but I put a lot of stock on my permaculture and biodynamic studies, and I do consider the fact that gravity and dew-points can actually affect how we garden, bake, and live effectively.
FULL MOON SOURDOUGH
-200 grams active starter (or levain)
-700 grams room temp water plus 50 grams hot water
-1000 grams flour (white bread flour is easiest to work with when you’re learning, but any high-gluten or bread flour will work great. Avoid bromated flours.)
-20 grams sea salt
-baking scale** (this is important!)
-two medium oven-proof* pots or one large pot with their accompanying oven-proof lids
-(opt) 2 batonnets
-(opt) a baker's blade
-(opt) a baker's paddle
Begin at least 24 hours ahead with the starter - feed it and keep an eye on it. If the weather is cold, your starter might need 24 hours to get really bubbly. If it’s warm and the starter is super active quickly, feed it again the morning (or 6 hours) before you plan to make bread. If your starter has been in the fridge for a long time without being fed, it may need several cycles of feeding before it’s vigorous enough to ferment a dough.
The indication that the starter is ready is that it has doubled in size, feels light, and it will float on room temperature water. It should smell yeasty, sour, and pleasant - often the aroma of a good, healthy starter reminds me of Elmer’s glue.
DOUGH - I like to begin in the late afternoon, say at 4pm. Measure out the water on a scale first - 700 grams. Then add 200 grams of starter. Whisk together water and starter vigorously to evenly distribute. Reserve the leftover starter to feed again and store. (see notes below on ‘feeding the starter’)
Next, I work in the flour with my hands making sure it is evenly hydrated. Once it all comes together in an even but sticky mass, the dough has been formed. If you can't or don't want ton use your hands, feel free to use a stand mixer or the hands of someone you know :-)
SALT - dissolve 20 grams of salt in the remaining 50 grams of hot water. Set aside to cool. (It’s ok if the salt doesn’t fully dissolve!)
AUTOLYSE - leave the dough for at least 20 minutes to properly hydrate the gluten before adding the salt. The salt water should also be cooling during the autolyse period so it reaches the right temperature to add to the dough.
POST-AUTOLYSE - add the cooled, salt water to the dough to evenly distribute. This means poking around and getting your hands dirty again.
REST - If you begin folding immediately after whacking it around with salt water, the dough will be very hard to work with, so best to give it some time to relax. The picture above is what your dough should look like after you have added the salt water and allowed it to rest for 20 minutes after which you may...
FOLD - This usually starts happening around 5pm if you began at 4. Simply fold in each side (there are 4 sides) - left/right, then turn the dough and fold in the remaining 2 sides left/right. Repeat this process 5 more times at 30 minute intervals for a total of 6 folds. This process takes 3 hours which should bring us to 8pm.
BULK FERMENTATION - I like to bulk ferment in the fridge overnight because it gives the dough more time to develop flavour. To do this, put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and tuck it into the fridge for a good night's sleep.
PRE-SHAPING - the following morning, remove the dough from the fridge. Allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before working it. Then, dump the dough onto a floured surface and divide into two.
To begin shaping the two halves into ‘boules’ or ‘rounds,’ repeat the folding process in addition to a final step - drag the dough toward you, along the surface you are working with to tighten the ball.
Leave boules to rest for 30 minutes and then,..
FINAL SHAPING - Repeat the pre-shaping process and then put the boules into a rice-floured (or other fine starch) bowl. If you have a banetton, that’s amazing to use, too, but not essential.
FINAL PROOFING happens in the floured containers, and takes 2-3 hours. You’ll know when the dough is 30 minutes away from being fully proofed when it springs back nicely from a poke from a floured finger and has doubled in size.
PREHEAT the oven complete with bakeware and tray 30 minutes in advance of the end of proofing so that the boules don’t end up over-proofing while waiting for the oven.
Most recently, I used a tray on the bottom rack and two medium-sized, oven-safe pots with lids. It is important to heat the entirety of the bakeware including the lids to maintain a very hot surface so the bread doesn’t stick.
Once proofing is done and the oven is at exactly 470* F, the bakeware should also be thoroughly hot. Begin by removing one of the pots from the oven, sprinkling with some kind of rough meal like corn or oats or sesame seeds. Dump one of the boules into the pot, seam side down. At this point you could score (cut) the boule with a fancy design or just leave it to crack the way it naturally would. I have used a razor blade, a pair of scissors, or simply a sharp knife for this process. Replace the lid, return to the oven, then repeat the process with the second pot.
STEAM now take a cup of water and pour directly onto the baking tray that is on the rack below the pots. This steam will help create a nice crust.
BAKE with lids on at 470* F for 20 minutes, after which you will remove the lids so the crust gets golden. Set a timer for 15 minutes. If the loaves aren’t brown enough, leave them in until you achieve the colour you want. If you desire fool-proof that your loaves are completely baked, insert an instant-read thermometer in the centre. It should read 190*F or higher when your loaves are done.
COOL the loaves completely before eating them, lest they be doughy and less flavourful.
Ahead of time - FEED YOUR STARTER 24hrs (roughly)
DOUGH 10 mins
DISSOLVE SALT 5 mins
AUTOLYSE 20 mins (minimum)
ADD SALT 5 mins
POST-AUTOLYSE 20 mins (minimum)
FOLDS 3 hrs
BULK FERMENTATION 12 hrs in the fridge
PRE-SHAPING 30 mins
FINAL SHAPING 20 mins
FINAL PROOFING 2-3 hrs
PREHEATING 30 mins (to occurring during proofing)
OVEN STEAM 20 mins
BAKE 20 mins
COOL 1 hour
FEEDING YOUR STARTER
- 150 grams water
- 30 grams leftover starter
- 150 grams flour
Weigh ingredients in a tall Tupperware (I reuse 750ml yogurt containers) starting with the water then following with the starter. Whisk the water and starter together vigorously, then slowly incorporate the flour. Store in the fridge or leave on the counter to activate again and use for another loaf once bubbly and doubled in size.
PS: the full moon in Vancouver, BC is coming up in two days (on January 31) which means it's the perfect time to wake your starter to bake with the lunar cycle.