Rising Dough and Raising Skills: Sourdough Breadmaking

(If you are here just for the recipe, it’s at the bottom!)

My cousin, Sherri, and I have both spent the last few months in a breadmaking extravaganza. Primarily, we have both been making sourdough breads. My family has wondered why I am making so much bread, and friends online have questioned whether my family can really eat this much bread (the answer is probably, but I’ve also been sharing with others).

But, making beautiful and excellent sourdough bread is a process. It requires patience – with the starter and with the loaves – and also practice. It’s hard to be a good sourdough baker from the start, because you have to learn the skills, but you also have to learn how the ingredients work in your unique environment. A warmer house will require a shorter proof, while a colder house will call for a longer one. More humidity in the air may mean that you have to cut back on the water in the recipe, but dry air may necessitate a little extra.

Sherri’s beautiful garlic loaf!
Look at the gorgeous ear that Sherri got on this loaf!
A pair of lovely loaves from Sherri’s kitchen

Not only have we worked on our baking skills and patience, but it has been a wonderful way to reconnect with one another. Almost every day, one (or both) of us are baking and sending images to the other. We talk about the trials and tribulations and plot our next bake. It’s been really sweet to develop our little bread partnership.

For someone who considers herself as a true lifelong learner, sourdough bread has presented an enjoyable opportunity to grow a skill, learn more about the science of bread and yeast, and study the different techniques used by the diverse array of bakers who present their recipes and processes online.

And, there is something about baking bread for others that feels like a very special kind of nurturing of body and spirit!

Ultimate Sourdough Recipe from Joshua Weissman

804g bread flour
75g whole wheat flour
740g water at 90*f
175g levain (35g starter, 35g whole wheat flour, 35g all purpose flour, 70g water)
18g non-iodized sea salt

  • Make your levain and allow it to double.
  • When you think that it is near the top of the rise, begin your autolyse by combining the flour and 660g of water. Allow to sit for 90 minutes.
  • Add the levain and a splash of water and mix, then slap and fold (or Rubaud knead) for 3-5 min. Allow to rest for 25 minutes.
  • Add salt and the remainder of water if the dough looks like it can handle it, then slap and fold (or Rubaud) 3 minute. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold, then rest for 15 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold, then rest for 30 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold, then rest for 30 minutes.
  • Stretch and fold, then rest for about 2 hours, watching for the dough to have rising at least 30%, be sort of marshmallowy on top, and show clear signs of fermentation.
  • Divide into 2 equal pieces and preshape. Bench rest for 30 minutes.
  • Final shape and place into floured bannetons or cloth-lined bowls.
  • Proof in the fridge for 12-16 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 500* for 1 hour. If baking in cast iron or on a pizza steel or stone, preheat that with the oven.
  • Remove loaf 1 from fridge, score and place in your baking receptacle with the lid on. Allow to bake 20 minutes, then remove lid.
  • Reduce temp to 450* and bake an additional 30-40 minutes.
  • Cool for at least 90 minutes before cutting.

Sourdough Banana Pecan Bread

This recipe makes 2 loaves in standard loaf pans. And it’s delicious!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sourdough starter (~ 1 cup can be older discard from fridge)
  • 4 large bananas, mashed
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips if desired

Process

  • Preheat oven to 350*
  • Mix bananas, butter, and vanilla well (I used a hand mixer)
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon
  • Combine banana mixture and dry ingredients
  • Fold in starter
  • Fold in pecans and chocolate chips if desired
  • Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
  • Allow to cool before cutting

Sourdough Bagels

We love bagels. We love them. My kids are amazed that I didn’t have my first bagel until college. What can I say?

This is, of course, a sourdough twist on standard bagels. It wasn’t hard to make, requiring little active time. This recipe is a bit of a conglomeration of various sourdough recipes that I read online. All props to those who have gone before me!

Ingredients

  • 200g active 100% hydration starter at its peak
  • 315g cool water
  • 30g agave syrup
  • 750g all-purpose flour (or 400g APF and 350g bread flour)
  • 10g fine salt
  • Semolina or fine cornmeal

Additional Ingredients for Boiling

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

The first afternoon…

  • Whisk together your starter with the water and agave syrup until the starter has dissolved.
  • Add in the flour and salt and mix with a stand mixer and dough hook. Knead on the lowest setting for about 6 minutes. This may make your mixer unhappy because it is a VERY stiff dough. Take breaks as needed. By the end, the dough should be smooth and pliable but firm. If you need to add a couple of extra tablespoons of water, do so, just do it slowly. You can knead this by hand. Get some Icy Hot first.
  • Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. I weighed them because that’s how I roll (get it). They were about 163g each. Shape each piece into a ball then cup the dough in your palm and roll on the countertop. *Do not use flour for this.*
  • Cover the dough balls with plastic wrap and rest another 15 minutes. They will get a tad more soft.
  • Select the dish/pan that you’ll use for proofing. An extra-large cake pan with a lid or cake carrier works well. I didn’t do this and had to make a whole tent system out of thin glasses and plastic. Don’t be a Lorin.
  • Place a sheet of parchment paper in the pan or sheet and sprinkle generously with fine cornmeal or semolina.
  • To shape the bagels, poke a hole with your finger directly through the centre of the dough ball. This works better if you don’t have any length on your fingernails. If you do, use the handle of a wooden spoon. Once you have a small hole through the center, insert your index fingers – one from each side – into the hole and circle them around each other to stretch the hole until it’s about the diameter of a quarter. It’s sort of fun. Do not fret if they are a little imperfect and wrinkled.
  • Place the shaped bagels in your proofing container, leaving ¾-1 inch of space between them to allow for rising. Let them proof in a warm place for 2.5 – 4.5 hours, or until they get puffy. They might take a little less or more time. You can check by taking one bagel and placing it in a bowl of cold water. If it floats, they are done!
  • Once proofed, you could proceed to day 2 instructions if you want less sourdough flavor. Otherwise, cover the pan or put the lid on and refrigerate 12 – 24 hours.

The next morning…

  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Prepare your baking sheet(s) by adding a layer of cornmeal and then a sheet of parchment paper. The cornmeal will absorb some of the heat and prevent your bagels from getting overdone on the bottom before the top is cooked.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add the baking soda and brown sugar.
  • While the oven is heating and the water is getting to a boil, prepare the toppings on plates or in shallow dishes. You can use dried garlic, everything seasoning, sea salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, an egg wash if you are making them for non-vegans, and so on, or just have yours plain!
  • Place the bagels into the boiling water two at a time. Boil for 30-40 seconds on each side.
  1. Remove the boiled bagels with a slotted spatula to allow them to drain.
  2. Once the excess water has drained away, you can dip the top of each bagel into desired seasoning. Then place each bagel on the baking sheet.
  3. Place the baking sheet into the center of the oven and turn it down to 400°F.
  4. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the level of golden that you prefer. Cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.