Sour is the dough: Perfect Homemade Slow-risen Sourdough

homemade sourdough

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Here’s a question for you? How would you like to be able to bake the most perfect crusty, airy and flavorful sourdough loaf in the comfort of your own home? Sounds good, eh? Then read on!

homemade sourdough loafs and cheese

Perfect homemade bread? Not a problem! The homemade cheese? That’s another post

In my most recent post, I taught you how to make your own sourdough starter at home and how to keep it well-fed and healthy. I also left you dangling in a bit of a cliffhanger, promising to tell you soon enough how to put it to good use. Today, I’m going to do just that, tell you how to put it to good use in creating the most unique and possibly most flavorful loaf of sourdough bread you’ve ever had. But first, I’m going to have to, once again, ask you to show a bit of patience. The bread we will be making today, ahem, over the next two days that is, is a most classic well-kneaded slow-risen sourdough bread – the basic ingredients of which are, amongst others, time and patience.

 

Flavor, Crust and Texture: the advantages of a slow rise

Now now, if you’ve been following this sourdough saga from the beginning, I know I’ve already asked you to spent most of a week making your own sourdough starter… and now I’ve got the nerves to ask you to show some patience? I know, outrageous, right? But please, bear with me, dear reader, there’s method to my madness, I swear! As those of you who have read and tested my pizza crust recipe will know, time and kneading are a dough’s best friend. By investing some time (or a lot of time, granted) and energy in properly kneading a dough, followed by an extra investment in time by slowly leavening it in a cool spot overnight, we will not only feel strangely accomplished when done, we will also be rewarded with what might well be the tastiest of breads you’ve ever had. I kid you not! All at the additional investment of an extra day’s worth of work and a little kneading. Slow-risen breads are a lot of work, granted, but by God they’re worth it!

sourdough starter

Sourdough, day one: Bringing the starter together

Sure, you can knock a perfectly good loaf of bread together in less than 24 hours and/or with minimal amounts of kneading, but can you make a perfect loaf of bread without going through a few more hardships? Well, maybe if you’re somehow able to channel the spirit of some long-deceased French master baker, but honestly, chances are you can’t! If you want to make the perfect loaf of homemade bread, you can greatly increase your chances of success by sacrificing a bit of time and a lot of hard work.

How so? Well, a perfect loaf of bread consists basically of a few basic factors: a nice crust, an airy crumb with perfect bite, and a wonderful flavor. Two of these factors, a nice crust and a good crumb, come mainly from kneading, i.e. working the dough to agitate the gluten in the dough and create an elastic mesh that will form a nice, solid crust when cooked, surrounding a nice, chewy interior. The airiness of the dough, on the other hand, comes from the yeast doing it’s magic and turning the dough nice and airy. The slower this happens the more gentle the rise and the more even and fluffy the results.

As for the last and probably most important single factor of the equation, the flavor, that’s yet another function of time. The longer and slower the yeast does its job, the deeper the yeasty, bready notes of the final loaf will be. Leave it to rise slowly for 24 hours at a low temperature and your yeast cells will be at their happiest and have produced the most deep and flavorful of results. Add a bit of sourdough to this equation for an added twang and funk and you’ll eventually have bread unlike anything you’ve ever had before, and you get to proudly proclaim: “I fuckin’ made this! In 28 hours or less! Ahem!”

sourdough rising slowly

Patience, young grasshopper!

Seriously, though if we accept the premise that to create a perfectly flavorful loaf of sourdough bred, we’re gonna have to put in a bit of work and a lot of time, then how the do we do it? Well, the process, shockingly, is actually simple enough:

  • Combine sourdough, flour, water, yeast, water and salt.
  • Knead thoroughly and constantly for no less than 20-30 minutes
  • Make sure that the gluten structure of the dough is perfectly developed
  • Put in a bowl and allow to rise slowly and steadily in the fridge for 24 hours
  • Bake until gorgeously brown and crusty on the outside and nice and airy on the inside

 

Simple? Right? Okay, maybe not… Want some more detailed instructions? No worries, I’ve got you hooked up. Before you get started, though, please note that this is one of these recipes where you may feel better off using an electric mixer rather than your hands. If you don’t mind going old school, know that while you can do this by hand, we’re working with a wet and sticky dough here. Things will get a bit messy and clingy once you start mixing stuff together and kneading away. You shouldn’t count on being able to use your hands for anything else for the 30 or so minutes you’ll spend kneading, oh and there will be some cleanup afterwards. Are we clear? Good! Now, if you’re gonna use your hands, put on some good music or your favorite podcast, zone out, get to work and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

An important note on quality of ingredients! Bread is one of the simplest prepared foods that this world has to offer. Yet, it can also be one of the tastiest and most rewarding simple meals out there. What’s the difference between good bread and superior bread? Well, it’s partially in the preparation but also in the ingredients used. If you want to make superior bread, use superior ingredients: Good clean water, organic flour of good quality, quality fats if needed. Heck, even use a good quality salt! Please! The difference, my friend, is in the details.

 

Perfect slow-risen Sourdough

Want perfectly crusty and flavorful sourdough every time? All you need are a few quality ingredients, this easy recipe - and a lot of time!
Course Bread
Cuisine European
Prep Time 1 day 2 hours
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 1 day 2 hours 3 minutes
Author Johan Johansen

Ingredients

  • 10 grams live yeasy
  • 15 grams salt I used a lightly smoked variety
  • 100 ml sourdough starter
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk yoghurt
  • 450 grams organic wheat flour
  • 150 grams organic whole grain flour
  • 500 ml water

Instructions

  1. Combine sourdough starter, yeast and salt in a large bowl and leave to stand while you measure out the flour.
  2. After a few minutes, add flour to the sourdough mixture along with the buttermilk or yoghurt, also add the 500 ml of water and stir the dough together using either your hands or the dough attachment for your machine.
  3. Once the dough has come together, knead for at least 20 minutes by machine, 30 minutes by hand on a well-floured kitchen counter, slowly adding in the extra 100 ml of water as you go if needed. The dough should be wet and sticky, but not unmanageably runny.
  4. After your kneading time is up,your dough should be quite sticky still but manageable, even by hand. Tear off a small bit of dough, and hold it up to a window or other light source. Then stretch it carefully with your fingers. If you can stretch the dough so far that it becomes see through, you’re done. If it tears before reaching that stage, guess what, you’ve got more kneading to do!
  5. Once done kneading, put your dough in a lightly oiled bowl and leave it to rise in the fridge for 24 hours.
  6. After a good, quick 24 hour rest, remove the dough from the fridge and let stand on the kitchen counter for a few hours. While the dough acclimatizes, heat your oven as high as it will go.
  7. Grab a baking tray, line it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, then carefully slide the dough onto the tray, divide it in two and carefully nudge it into the shape of two loafs.
  8. Slide the tray into the center of the hot oven, then immediately decrease the temperature to about 250C.
  9. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the loafs are golden brown, crusty and produce a hollow sound when tapped. For perfect results, use a probe thermometer and pull the loafs when they reach an internal temperature of 99C.
  10. Allow the loafs to cool to room temperature before cutting thick slices and smearing them with butter and/or quality cheese for one of the best freshly baked experiences you’ve ever enjoyed.

Recipe Notes

If you're looking for a good sourdough starter, look no further than the previous post on this very website. Please bear in mind that this recipe produces a somewhat flat and slightly dense bread. If you're looking for a little more of an airy result, simply consider adding a little more yeast to the equation.

 

Slow-risen sourdough: the verdict!

Well, that all sounds utterly non-complicated, right? Well, maybe not quite, I’ll give you that. But is spending a few days on a slow-risen loaf of bread worth that much extra trouble? Like, really? Well, uh, put it this way…

People who know me, or read the first post in this series, will know that I’m not the most comfortable of bakers so it was actually with some amount of insecurity that I bit into my first loaf of homemade sourdough. As I did, though, a smile quickly shot across my face and across the faces of the lovely ladies I’d recruited to taste along with me: The crust was a deep, dark and insanely flavorful, lightly sour and almost toasted bready goodness, the crumb a chewy, complex yeasty affair. “Holy crap, this is actually really f’ing good,” we exclaimed in unison with some degree of surprise in our voices. “Worth it?” I ventured. “Definitely,” they shot back without hesitation.

Even my first try which turned out a little denser and a little harder than I would have liked was loved by all who tried it and was probably, quite honestly, the most tasty bite of sourdough I’ve had since visiting the hallowed bakeries of San Francisco some twelve years ago. No, honestly. And I’m not usually one to brag openly! I’ve since adjusted the recipe a bit to (hopefully) account for any minor flaws in the original recipe and the results now are even more rewarding. Making your own slow-risen sourdough bread from scratch may well be considered an insane amount of work, but it does produce an insane amount of flavor, and an insanely rewarding result.

sourdough loaf fresh out of the oven

Initial results… It’s not pretty, and yet… it’s pretty!

Is it worth doing on a regular basis for your so-called daily bread? Probably not! Is it worth doing for special occasions to wow family and friends? You bet! And with that, my friends, I thank you for sitting through this lengthy introduction to the wonderful world of sourdough. Now, go out into the world and wow people! And don’t forget to check back at a later time for more sourdough experiments.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Leave a Reply!