I've been making sourdough bread for 11 months now!

White sourdough breadI've been making sourdough bread for 11 months now!

Hi! I've started making sourdough bread last year (in April if I remember well). My first attempts were disastrous but after a few weeks I've managed to master the basic principles. I have also bought a few books, but I wouldn't say they were very helpful. I think the best source of information and advice so far has been Sourdough Companion.

I bake mostly "simple" french-style bread for my family, and sometimes for friends. I've had some success with ciabatta, nut+honey bread and sourdough pizza crust. I plan to test sourdough pancakes and muffins next.

In October, I had to stop baking for 1 full month: I couldn't find any suitable flour in supermarkets and groceries in my region. I had to use whatever was left in the pantry to keep my sourdough culture alive till I found some decent flour. Ironically, I now use unbleached white flour from a major brand. It's cheap and it works well, although I'm still looking for a more "artisan" flour.

French-style white sourdough bread

SPONGE
75g starter (50% hydration)
100g water
100g unbleached white flour

DOUGH
275g sponge
410g unbleached white flour
240g water
12g salt
 

(see attached picture)


12 comments

Hi Hugo,

I reckon anybody would be proud of a loaf like that.  I seem to recall saying way back when that you would get there in the end.  Onwards and upwards.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

Hi Hugo,

I think we started on this baking thing at about the same time! Good to see how well your bread is turning out now. I have recently maded some small ventures into adding soaked seeds etc at the shaping stage and also sliced olives, but getting the additives evenly distributed is the current challenge. I too have had a lot of trouble sourcing the rye flour that I use for my stock starter and so I have switched to only keeping a small amount of stock and just take 20 g per loaf to make a single-use starter with the flour to be used for the loaf.

Hello Hugo,

Your loaf looks great! Do you bake your bread in a dutch oven or just by itself? Do you retard the fermentation, and if so, how long? 

In response to the last comment on distributing additives, I've had good results by mixing them in at the initial stage. I bake huge loaves for charity (I bake them in an oversized Le Creuset) and I mix the additives in with the water to distribute evenly at the first mix. No matter what the variety, it doesn't seem to affect the fermentation. A couple of days ago I even added raw egg to make a rich fruit sourdough, and it still worked very well.

Thank you for your post.

Maria

 

 

Hi Maria! I don't use a dutch oven, just a pizza stone. I've tried cast iron creusets for my first few attempts in bread making (very old creusets from my grandmother!) but while the bread had a nice overall coloration, the crust was very thick on the underside. We didn't like the results.

I retard the dough for a full night, or 9h, in the fridge.

Here is the process I've been using for the last few months:

DAY 1
8AM: feed the starter
14h: prepare the sponge (starter, water, flour)
20h: mix the dough (sponge, water, flour, salt), let stand for 30 minutes
(Sometimes I add 5 ml of cane sugar to enhance crust coloration.)
20h30-23h: fold the dough twice, every hour
23h: form bread, put in basket, wrap in plastic bag
(in the fridge till 8AM next morning)

DAY 2
7AM: place pizza stone in oven (2nd rack position from bottom), turn on electric oven at 475°F
7h30: add a pan of water
8h: score the dough, slide the dough onto the pizza stone in the oven

BAKING (total 40 minutes)
Cook for 20 minutes, spraying water on the dough every 5 minutes till mid-cooking.
Remove the pan of water. then reduce temp to 450°F.
Cook for 15 minutes more.
Open the oven door 1 inch (use a wooden spoon to block the door), cook 5 minutes more.

Let the bread stand on a wire rack for 1 hour before tasting it.

 

I've been making this sourdough bread with success every time and thanks for great recipe and direction.

Thank you Hugo!

Hi Hugo I have making bread for a while now without much success I have tried your French Style White twice now with more luck today see photos, a few questions to improve. I use a wholemeal starter 100gF 100g W 100g starter. People say my starter is good, so I don' think that is my issue. The technique and handling is my interest. How do you mix the wet ingredients into the flour? and do you knead at all? I have been using a knife and cutting it in so as not to overwork it before it is incorporated. I let it stand on the bench covered with a dry Ttowel. It is very soft and a little sticky. Then I fold twice on the hour as you say. In the morning I leave the dough in the fridge until the oven and stone is hot before pulling out of fridge and scoring. Do you let it out of fridge earlier to adjust to temp, or is cold to hot improtant. Regards Di

 

 

 

 

Hi Di,

I reckon you can be as rough as you like, you aren't going to kill it by stirring it too hard.  The technique that I use is to make a well in the flour in a bowl (or in a heap on the bench if you are that way inclined) and add the wet ingredients (starter and water mainly) into the well.  I then use a chopstick firstly to mix the starter into a slurry with the other wet ones and then to progressively bring in the dry flour from around the edges of the bowl.  When it all comes together into a raggedy mass and it becomes hard work with the chopstick, I use a plastic bowl scraper to incorporate the last of the dry stuff.  You can have a look at this to get an idea of the rest of the process.

http://sourdough.com/blog/one-way-make-loaf-bread

In terms of what to do after you have retarded in the fridge, it depends a bit on how much the dough has proved while it is in there.  If it is well proved, then you can easily go straight from the fridge to the oven but a lot of people seem to take it out of the fridge when they start heating the oven so that it is not quite so cold when it goes in.  But if it needs more proof time then it is not a problem to leave it on the bench for as long as it takes for the activity to pick up to get the volume that you want.

Hope this helps and good luck with your projects.

Farinam

UPDATE!

I've finally found two high-quality unbleached bread flours. The first is Dover "Oak" Bakers Flour from P&H, which I can buy at three locations in and around Montreal. It's used by many artisan bakeries. The second one is an oranic bread flour milled in Maskinongé (northeast of Montreal) and available at a bakery in my region.

Hi Hugo and all,

Been baking sourdough for a couple of months now; still learning and tweaking.

What is meant by '75g starter (50% hydration)' ? Does that refer to a starter that has been fed 50/50 flour/water?

Just found Sourdough Companion today - looks to be a great resource!

Cheers,

Kerrie

Hello Kerrie,

Hydration is the ratio of water to flour expressed as a percentage.

So 50 % hydration would actually be 50g water to 100g flour.  50g of water with 50g of flour would then be 100% hydration.

A 50% hydration starter would be very firm so I am wondering whether Hugo has made a mistake on that count.  Many people use a 100% hydration starter. 

I have calculated the hydration of the final dough using both 50% and 100% and it seems to me that 100% would be the way to go as it should give a good workable dough and that sort of fits with the feeding with equal amounts of flour and water to make the sponge.

Good luck with your projects.

Farinam

Thanks for clearing that up for me Farinam!