It seems a little complicated and time-consuming, and well, it is. But sourdough is worth it! And it gets easier with practice. If you have a starter and are struggling with more traditional “knead and shape” recipes, try a low knead, dutch oven recipe like the one below.
My start on the sourdough journey was lucky – I got a nice mature sourdough starter and very specific instructions to a tried and tested recipe from a friend. The starter actually originated from the famously delicious Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone, California.
This recipe uses the Dutch Oven method for bread baking, which I love because almost no skill is kneaded (pun intended) to shape a loaf, and it makes a nice crunchy crust without having to mess with baking tiles and steam. I use a 3.5 quart Le Creuset.
Hearty Whole Grain Sourdough Bread*
Low knead / dutch oven baking method
Evening (night before baking):
Mix dry Ingredients:
- 300 g (about 2/12 cups) whole wheat flour
- 100 g (about 1 cup) rye flour
- 150 g (about 1 ¼ cups) unbleached white flour
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- (optional) 50-100 g toasted sunflower seeds, flax seeds or any combo of flax/sunflower/sesame seeds
Mix wet Ingredients:
- 300 g (about 1 ¼ cups) filtered water at 105 degrees (give or take, but not over 110)
- 200 g (about 1 cup) mature room temperature sourdough starter, well stirred
- (optional) 1 tablespoon white vinegar
Stir the wets into the drys and mix well. Get your hands in it to get all the ingredients well mixed.
Put the dough in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover a layer of plastic wrap and then with a dark dish towel. Place into a slightly warmed (110 degree) oven with the oven light on. Be sure the oven is turned off, but keep light on for warmth.
Leave overnight, 12 – 14 hours.
Flour a bread board with unbleached white flour.
Turn the bread out onto the breadboard and flatten out. Use a rubber spatula to help it out of the bowl.
Knead the loaf using unbleached white flour. Use plenty but don’t get it too dry. It should still be slightly sticky on your wrists.
Form the dough into a ball by stretching the top down toward the bottom as you turn the dough ball in your hands. Go all the way around.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on your breadboard. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick oil (I use Trader’s Joe’s spray Olive Oil). Place the doughball on the oiled sheet so you can pick it up by the 4 corners of the parchment paper.
Place the whole the parchment + dough into another ceramic bowl (regarding size, you want there to be enough room for the dough to rise, but still have walls supporting its upward movement).
Cover with plastic and the dark dish towel, and place in a warm oven with the light on, as before.
Leave it for 2 hours or so.
After the 2 hours, remove the bowl from the oven, insert the Dutch Oven and its lid, and turn the oven on to 500 degrees and preheat for 30 minutes.
Right before going into the oven, make 2 or 3 slices across the top of the loaf, and salt the top with coarse salt (I paint a little olive oil or melted butter over the top of the bread before salting it, some people use an arrowroot glaze — makes the crust crunchier).
Using the 4 corners of the parchment paper, carefully lift and place the doughball into the hot Dutch Oven. Replace the lid.
Bake for 35-55 minutes, then check the internal temperature. (I usually need 55 minutes, but all ovens are different). Bread is done when the internal temp is between 195 and 200 degrees. If it’s been cooking for 55 minutes and the thermometer is still not there, I take the bread out and thump it on the bottom. A hollow sound confirms it’s ready.)
Remove the loaf from the Dutch Oven by turning it over carefully and catching the loaf with a towel or hotpads.
Let the loaf cool on a raised wire rack for least one hour. Resist the urge to cut the bread right out of the oven – it well shred and deflate the loaf.
*Original recipe courtesy Alan G. aka Alonzo.