I bake this bread often. Very, very often. And there is a reason for that.
It’s simple but still so tasty. I never get tired of it.
The key to success is a mature starter and to let everything take its time.
The time required to bake this bread is at least 7 hours, but most of the time it manages itself. You can drink a glass of wine or maybe three, move the lawn, do some cross training or whatever you prefer between the different moments.
You don’t need any fancy equipment for this recipe. Just a pair of big bowls, a spatula, a kitchen scale and maybe a bench knife or scraper.
I will give you a complete list later on.
You don’t have to knead the dough either. At least don’t much. You only have to fold it a couple of times. So if you are a bit lazy, this is the bread recipe for you. I promise it is much easier than kneading.
It doesn’t have any prominent taste, so it suits to all kind of food.
You can change the recipe to get the flavor you want. It’s the perfect all-around bread. Did I say it was a no-knead bread?
OK, let’s start.
You need the following.
Two medium sized kitchen bowls.
Two kitchen towels to line the bowls.
One large mixing bowl.
A bench knife.
A kitchen scale.
Two big plastic bags.
800 g wheat flour (11.5% protein content).
50 g rye flour.
25 g sea salt.
300 g mature sourdough starter.
550 g water.
An oven with two plates.
Is the kitchen scale necessary? No, not really. But I urge you to buy one if you don’t have one already. Measuring with cups and scoops is very inaccurate. You don’t have to buy anything expensive. There are scales on Amazon for less than ten bucks. They will probably do the job.
If you still don’t want to buy a scale you can try the following:
5.5 cups wheat flour.
0.5 cup rye flour.
2.3 cups water.
4 teaspoons salt. 1.5 – 2 cups mature sourdough starter.
Mix the flour, sourdough starter, and water. Wait with the salt.
You don’t have to overdo it. Just make sure that all the flour is hydrated.
Cover the bowl and store somewhere warm for an hour.
Sprinkle salt over the dough and start to fold it in the bowl. Grab the dough and pull it gently towards the center. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn before each fold. Wet your hands with water if the dough is sticking to your fingers.
Eight times should be enough. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat the folding process and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat the folding process one last time and let it rest for 60 minutes.
Lightly flour your work surface and dump out the dough. Divide it into two halves with your bench knife.
Turn each half of dough on the counter while pulling it towards you at the same time. This way you will form a circle with a bit of tension on the top. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
Add some more flour on your work surface. Flatten the dough rounds gently with your hands.
Fold one side against the other and repeat with the other.
Repeat the turning process until you get a circular form again.
Let the dough rest for a few minutes before you place it seam-side-up in a floured towel lined kitchen bowl. In the picture, I have put the dough in a proofing basket. Instead of forming the dough into a round shape, I have gently rolled it into an oblong shape. You may also notice that it’s placed seam-side-down. I do that sometimes instead of scoring it. The bread will then hopefully burst up in the seam during the baking process.
Place the bowls with your shaped doughs in plastic bags. It’s not enough to cover them with kitchen towels. The final fermentation will take a few hours, and there is a risk that the surface will dry out.
Placing the dough in plastic bags will prevent that.
Allow the loaves to rise until they have doubled in size. How long that will take is very hard to say. It depends very much on the surrounding temperature. For me, it usually takes 3 to 4 hours at normal room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 500ºF / 260ºC with two oven plates. One to bake the bread on and one just below.
Take out one of the loaves from the plastic bags. Cut a piece of parchment paper that fits over the top of the bowl. Place it on a pizza peel or a rigid piece of paper. Invert the peel and parchment paper and place it over the bowl. Flip the whole thing over and remove the bowl. Now your dough is resting on the peel with parchment paper. I have “stolen” this idea from Maurizio Leo’s page The perfect loaf which I highly recommend. Note that the following photos are from another baking session where I have used a bowl instead of the above basket. I have included the to show how I flip the dough onto the parchment paper.
You can also try to score the center of the loaf with a very sharp knife or a razor blade.
Now you just let the dough and parchment paper slide off the peel into the oven on the upper plate. Pour some water on the plate below. Use an oven mitt, so you don’t get burned. The steam from the water will help the loaf to rise and also give it a nice golden brown color.
Turn down the temperature immediately to 480ºF / 250ºC and bake for 30 minutes. I usually lower the temperature to 430ºF / 220ºC after 20 minutes. If you think the bread looks a bit pale, you can let it stay in the oven an additional 10 minutes without a problem.
When done, use your oven mitt and take out the bread from the oven.
Let it cool on a wire rack.
Turn up the temperature and repeat the process with the other loaf.
I think this is the perfect beginner’s bread. You don’t need a dough mixer or any other special equipment. After you have baked this bread a couple of times, you can try to create your own “best” sourdough bread.
Maybe you can replace som of the wheat flour with whole wheat. Or maybe increase the amount of rye flour.
You can also increase the fermentation time to obtain more flavor to your bread. You can do that by letting it rise in the refrigerator overnight. There are no limits except your imagination.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab some of your kitchen bowls and start baking. And please tell us about your baking adventure with a comment below.