San Fransisco Sourdough Bread #1
This was the first recipe for white sourdough bread I ever used, and for several years was the only way I made sourdough. It uses enough sourdough starter to give the distinctive tangy taste that we like about sourdough, but it cheats a little by also adding commercial yeast, which helps the dough rise faster. When you make a sourdough loaf with only your sourdough starter as the rising agent, you never really know how long it will take, as the rise is affected by how active your starter is, the temperature of your kitchen, and who knows … the mood of the yeast organisms that day (lol!). But when you add a little commercial yeast, even just the 2 teaspoons that is used in this recipe, you know how long it is going to take to rise within about 30 minutes, so it allows you to plan your busy day and still get the bread made. It also uses the overnight sponge method, where you mix your sourdough starter with about half of the flour the night before to make the “sponge”. The sponge sits overnight which allows the sourdough to proof (do an initial rise), and while that is happening, the yeasts and bacteria that give the bread it’s tangy taste are multiplying, so you get a good flavour as well as a good rise. Win-win!
This recipe also uses more milk, butter and sugar (or honey) than my basic sourdough bread recipe, which smooths out the tang of the sourdough and, in my opinion, has a nicer flavour. Or course, I really have a sweet tooth, and so I like a little more sugar in my bread doughs than is typical. Anyway, if you can remember to put the sponge together the night before, I would really recommend that you try this recipe. It gives consistently good results, and it tastes great! But if you like a traditional really tangy sourdough, then you should use the Basic Sourdough recipe instead.
Note: This recipe assumes that you already have sourdough starter ready to go. If not, you will either have to purchase some (Amazon is one source), or make your own. That is another whole post, so please refer to either my post on Sourdough Starter, or my post on Quick Sourdough Starter if you don’t already have a starter ready to go.
Here’s Herman. That’s my sourdough starter. Since he is mature, he lives in the fridge and only comes out for a couple of days a week to be fed. If I baked more often, I would keep him on the counter and feed him more often. These details and more can be found in my posts on sourdough starters (links above).
You want to ensure that your sourdough starter is active before starting the bread. For me, this means that I take it out of the fridge the day before, and feed it with 1/2 cup each flour and water, and then I leave it out on top of the fridge (my warmest place) overnight or about 12 hours before starting the bread. Since this recipe starts the sponge at night, I take my starter out of the fridge early in the morning and feed it, let it sit all day to activate, then use it at night for the sponge. (Make sure to feed it again before putting it back in the fridge.)
Measure out 1 1/2 cups of sourdough starter, and put it in the mixer bowl.
Add the 1 1/2 cups milk and half of the flour – here I added 2 1/2 cups flour. Use the paddle attachment and medium – low speed (3 or 4 on the Kitchen Aid) to mix it all together, and let it run for about 5 minutes to develop the gluten in the flour. (You can beat vigorously by hand for 10 minutes if you don’t have a mixer to do it for you.) Then cover the bowl, and let it sit out on your counter overnight. It will be ready for the next step in the morning.
If you know you are going to be busy the next day and won’t be able to get at the dough until later in the day, you can put the dough in the fridge overnight. That will essentially stop the yeast from working. Take it out the next morning and let it sit on your counter to warm up before working with it later in the day. But be aware if you do this that it will slow down the final steps too, meaning that it will take longer to rise once you have put it in the pans. And how long it takes is really hard to predict. It can be anywhere from 2 to 7 hours! But, it is one way to hold the dough over until you are ready to work with it, and as long as you are not in a hurry for the bread to be ready next day, it might work for you.
I used bread flour here, as it has more gluten than all-purpose and results in better bread. See how shiny the mixture is after beating? It’s nice and sticky – i.e., has lots of elasticity to hold it together. That’s from the gluten. You can use all-purpose flour if you like. It will work too, but the finished bread might be a little heavier, as it doesn’t have as much gluten to hold the air bubbles in.
HEADS-UP! THIS IS MY PERSONAL OPINION ON GLUTEN AND IS NOT PART OF THE RECIPE, SO YOU CAN SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU WANT. Gluten has gotten a bad rap in the last few years as something that is supposed to make us feel bloated and gain weight. But gluten is what gives the bread dough its elasticity, and ability to stick together to trap the air bubbles created as the yeast does it’s work. And that is what makes the bread light and airy. Gluten allergy is called celiac disease, and is a lot more rare than certain books would have you believe. Anyway, don’t shy away when gluten is mentioned if you are making bread. It is an essential ingredient for good bread, and unless your doctor has told you that you have celiac disease, it’s very unlikely that you will have any problem with it. (Sorry – just my personal rant on the latest craze of everybody thinking they can’t have gluten, just because a popular diet book says it’s so. Bread will make you fat if you eat a whole bunch of it. And likely you won’t feel great either. Same as if you eat a whole bunch of bananas, for example. If you eat a whole bunch of bananas, you might get a stomachache. And if you eat a whole bunch of bananas every day, you might get fat. It doesn’t mean that you are allergic or even sensitive to bananas. It just means that you should treat bananas the same as anything (like bread) in your diet – enjoy in moderation.)
OK, back to the sourdough. It’s been sitting there all night, the yeast working on the flour, giving a nice initial rise, and providing more of that tangy sourdough taste. All you do now is add all the rest of the ingredients, with the flour added last. Install the dough hook onto your mixer, and gradually add in the remaining 2 – 2 1/2 cups of flour. You may need a little more or less, depending on how liquid your starter was to begin with. Keep adding flour until the dough pulls away from the bowl as in the right picture above. Let the dough hook knead it for another 5 minutes. You may also stir in the last of the flour by hand if you don’t have a dough hook.
Take the dough out of the mixer and knead by hand on a lightly floured surface until it holds together and springs back when lightly touched. At this point, the recipe says to let it rise, then punch it down, divide in two then let it rise again. I have found that you don’t really need that additional rise – it doesn’t seem to make much difference other than a finer crumb, so I have taken it out of my recipe. If you are a baker and want to give it that extra rise, go right ahead. But for ease, and as long as it’s not a disaster if you have a big air bubble under the crust, then just go ahead and divide the dough now and let it rise just the one time. So, … Divide dough into two even pieces and pat into a rectangle. Fold up like an envelope and pinch bottom to shape into loaves.
Grease tops of loaves and cover loosely with wax paper. (I like to spray the tops of the loaves with cooking oil spray. Here, I’ve used butter flavour Pam.) Set in warm place, like your oven with the light on, to rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until doubled in volume. (Note that if you put the dough into the refrigerator overnight, this rising stage can take up to 7 hours.)
When doubled in bulk, gently remove the wax paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 30 minutes. Loaf should be nicely browned on top, and sound hollow when tapped with a finger tip.
Remove from pans and set on cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.
A simple, delicious white sourdough bread, relying solely on your sourdough starter for the rise. A mild, delicious white sourdough.
- 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 4 ½ - 5 cups bread flour
- 3 Tbsp white sugar or liquid honey
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp margarine
- Put sourdough starter in bowl. Stir in the 11/2 cups milk and 2 ½ cups of the bread flour. You can do this in your mixer to develop the gluten, or just stir in by hand and let tomorrow's kneading process develop the gluten. In my experience, it's really worth mixing the dough well at this stage; otherwise you have to knead it a lot more the next day to get the elastic texture you need which is what allows the loaves to rise nicely without flowing over the sides of the pan. Cover loosely with wax paper or damp tea towel, and let sit on counter overnight. This creates the “sponge”.
- 1) To your sponge in a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, salt, margarine, and 2 more cups of bread flour. Mix with wooden spoon or use bread hook of mixer. Knead in the remainder of the flour gradually (3/4 - 1 cup), 8-10 minutes by hand or 4-5 minutes in mixer. Dough should feel smooth and elastic, not sticky.
- 2) Shape into 2 loaves. (Regular bread loaves, or rounds.) Place into greased pans and grease tops. Set in warm place to rise till doubled in bulk - anywhere from 2 to 5 hours.
- 4) If desired for round loaves, you can score them, brush tops with egg wash to make them shiny, or sprinkle with cheese, seeds, or chopped onion. I usually brush or spray with butter.
- 5) Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, or till bottom of loaves sound hollow when tapped. Let cool on wire rack.
You will need to have your own, active sourdough starter on hand. Depending on the consistency of your sourdough starter, a little more or less flour may be needed to achieve the smooth elastic consistency of bread dough.