How to Make Homemade Sourdough Bread
I don’t often make bread products, but sourdough is the exception. After I watched the Cooked documentary on Netflix with Michael Pollan, I was immediately on the homemade sourdough bread train. The particular episode of Cooked, “Air” caught my attention because fermented sourdough, as bread was intended to be made, is easier for us to digest than regular bread. Who doesn’t wish bread was better for us? Modern bread is filled with preservatives and quickly risen, making it difficult for our bodies to use nutrients and digest. I make this homemade sourdough bread about once per month and freeze one loaf for later use.
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Homemade Sourdough Bread
Why is sourdough better for us?
Sourdough bread is easier for us to digest and it neutralizes phytic acid. Phytic acid is known as an anti-nutrient because it binds important nutrients that we need. Fermentation can have the yeast bacteria break down this phytic acid and make nutrients more available for us to absorb. The sourdough is “fermenting” almost like a pre-digestion to help us break it down when we eat it. It also apparently does not contain much gluten. According to Michael Pollan, if you are gluten sensitive you may be able to eat this (NOT if you have Celiac, just if sensitive!) Just like some people can eat bread in Europe but not here in America. Read about The Truth About Carbs and why certain types of bread may be better.
The process is easy and well worth the wait. You need white flour, whole grain wheat flour, rye flour, water, sea salt, a scale, ceramic/cast iron casserole dish, and possibly yeast. It makes 2 loaves and takes approximately 9 hours for the fermentation process and 45 minutes for baking. You could alternatively use two loaf pans as my husband has tried. It turns out more like sandwich bread. But be sure it doesn’t stick!
*Best option: Buy a sourdough bread starter. Especially if you live in a colder climate like I do, we can’t catch “wild yeasts”. It will come with instructions. And follow along below starting with “each day, feed starter”. It is worth the small expense as it will last for years if you take care of it.
Other option: Mix equal parts water and flour in a glass or wood bowl. I like to do 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Cover with a towel and wait. Use unbleached flour and non-chlorinated water. You can let tap water sit out for a few hours and chlorine evaporates off. Use a glass bowl as reactions could occur with aluminum. Set it in a warmer area and cover with a towel or cheesecloth, so air can still get in. You should be able to catch “wild” yeast. If not, add some yeast from a packet. You should see bubbles and smell yeast or alcohol.
Each day, feed starter → discard half the starter and add equal parts flour and water. Continue this for at least 5 days before you begin making bread.
Sourdough Bread Making
After the starter is bubbling well, you can start to make bread. The steps are as follows: Mixing flour and water the night before, mixing leaven in the flour mixture the day of, fermenting, shaping and rising, and baking. The first step happens overnight. Before bed, you will be mixing two different concoctions together. Grab two glass bowls.
The Night Before Baking Bread
First bowl: Leaven
- 100 g whole grain flour
- 100 g white unbleached flour
- 200 g warm water
- 35 g starter
Second bowl: Bread
- 600 g whole wheat
- 250 g white flour
- 150 g rye flour
- 900 g warm water
Mix each well. Cover both bowls and let them soak overnight
Bread Making Day
Mix Leaven In Flour Mixture
- Drop in a glass of warm water
- if floats→ leaven is ready
- if sinks→ add 1/2 packet yeast with 50 g warm water
- Note – I have had a sinker, not added any yeast because my starter is clearly bubbly, and it was fine.
- Add 1/2 the leaven to the bread mixture and let rest 20 minutes (should be soupy-ish)
- The other 1/2 of the leaven is your new starter (or just discard and use what you had before)
Start Fermenting the Bread
- Add 25 g sea salt dissolved in warm water to leaven/bread mixture you already let sit for 20 minutes, use hands to mix
- Ferment 4-5 hours.. this means put a towel over it and let it sit
- Every 45-60 minutes, turn dough→ stretch and fold the dough about 3 times.
- The dough is ready to make sourdough bread when “billowy and cohesive”
- if it smells very sour→ ready to shape
- should smell yeasty and sour
Shaping and Rising Bread
- Shape 2 globes and use additional flour if wet, cover, and rest 20 minutes (sometimes it’s not perfect but that’s okay). Mine often goes flat but working with it too much and adding too much flour makes it tougher and less “holey” appearance.
- Shape to a sphere or rectangle and put each on a surface and cover, rest the shaped dough for 2-3 hours (it might not shape perfectly, it’s okay)
- You can place in fridge overnight if you ran out of time to bake→ just leave out for 1 hour before baking to get to temperature
- Use ceramic casserole dish with lid for best results, with chewy center and crusty, crunchy crust (or loaf pans as mentioned above for a softer sandwich bread)
- Preheat oven to 500° with the ceramic dish inside the oven with the lid on
- Take out the dish and decrease the temperature for 450°
- Put flour, oats, or whatever you need to use so it doesn’t stick (it works well in my enameled cast iron without anything), place bread in dish CAREFULLY. Feel free to “score” the top any way you like to make your homemade sourdough bread look fancy.
- Bake 20 minutes with lid on
- Remove lid and bake an additional 23-25 minutes.
Brush with butter and enjoy! Let cool.
- You can freeze one loaf (or even half a loaf) for later use – just wrap in plastic wrap and foil
- It will certainly be hard to shape. It just plops in the pan but turns out great. The distinctive holes come about and it’s not too dry.
- If you do happen to knead it a bunch and add a lot of flour, it will be more dense but still fine. One time my husband made it, added an extra cup or more of flour and kneaded it for some reason. It still was good bread.
Cooked documentary on Netflix
First We Eat podcast “Sourdough”
Fresh Flavors: Homemade sourdough bread is easy to make with little work and allows easier digestion for the body.