San Fransisco Sourdough Bread #2
This recipe is the same as my San Fransisco Sourdough #1, except that it doesn’t use the additional commercial yeast. Since the sourdough starter I keep for making bread is the only thing providing the rise (natural yeasts are in the starter), the time it takes for the bread to rise can be quite unpredictable. Even in the same kitchen with the same starter and same ingredients, the rising time can be more or less on any given day. This is because it’s all about how your starter “feels” that day, meaning that it’s affected by how active the yeasts are in the starter. ( I call my starter “Herman”. It’s a living thing, so I figured he needed a name.)
King Arthur Flour has a good explanation of what sourdough is and how it works. The following excerpts are from their sourdough baking guide:
“Friendly bacteria (lactobacilli), present in our natural environment; and the wild yeast attracted to and living on flour begin to work with one another when flour is mixed with warm water. The result: sourdough starter. These tiny living creatures (lactobacilli and yeast, collectively called the sourdough’s microflora) generate byproducts that cause bread to rise and give it complex, rich flavor. …
How does it all work to make dough rise? Lactobacilli (remember, they’re all around us; you don’t need to “add” them) break down flour’s complex carbohydrates into simple sugars—exactly what yeast needs for food. The yeast, feeding on these simple sugars, produces carbon dioxide bubbles. The elastic wheat gluten in bread dough traps these carbon dioxide bubbles, causing the dough to expand as if it contained a million tiny balloons. …
When you put a risen loaf into the oven, the yeast quickly dies; but the CO2 it generated remains trapped beneath its flour/water matrix, producing a golden loaf of beautifully risen bread.”
I don’t know if it’s really true or not, but I have read that plain, simple sourdough that uses only your sourdough starter to produce the rise, is supposed to be better for you. The argument is that sourdough is easier to digest, since the natural yeasts have already started to break down the flour in the dough, almost like a “pre-digestion action”. This is supposed to make it easier for our stomachs and digestive system to handle the bread. Plus, the naturally growing yeasts in the sourdough starter also go into our digestive system, and contribute to the “good bacteria” in our systems. I have a sensitive digestive system anyway (with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux). Because of this, I try to eat in a way that doesn’t exacerbate my GI symptoms, which is mostly being careful not to eat high fat or very spicy foods. I also have taken various types of probiotics on and off, but I haven’t really noticed any difference when I do take them.
However, I still believe in the science behind the idea of taking probiotics, so I have been making a few of my own fermented foods, trying to get the good bacteria into my system in a more natural way. (Besides Sourdough, I make my own yogurt, and my own Kombucha, which is a fermented sweet tea.) I have been tested and know that I am not sensitive to gluten (in fact, dry toast is one of the few things I CAN eat when I get an upset tummy). I like sourdough bread, and I enjoy baking bread, so I figured that I would take the plunge and go for the more risky (in my opinion) method of making sourdough that doesn’t rely on additional commercial yeast to give it the rise. I looked carefully at many sourdough recipes, and decided that one is as good as the next. Since I liked the way my own sourdough tasted when I use my own recipes, I decided to try using the same recipe but just without the commercial yeast. And guess what? It’s been a resounding success! It does take longer, and I sometimes despair that the bread will never rise. But, I just give it more time and quit worrying about it, and it always rises.
So, what can I tell you about going completely “au naturel” with your sourdough? It’s all in the starter! Make sure that Herman (or whatever you call your starter) is happy: meaning healthy and active. If you keep it in the fridge, remember to take it out for a couple of days each week in order to feed it and let it rise. And in the same way, take it out the day before you plan to bake with it, and feed it, and let it sit in a warm place to activate overnight. As long as your starter produces bubbles and rises up when you feed it, it should provide a good rise for your bread. You can refer to my blog entry on creating and caring for your Sourdough Starter if you are unsure at all.
So, on to making the bread! This recipe It uses the overnight sponge method, where you mix your sourdough starter with the liquid, and about half of the flour called for, 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.
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, although the rising time can be a little temperamental. If you want more control over the rising time, you could use my San Fransisco Sourdough Bread #1, which uses additional commercial yeast to ensure that your bread achieves a good rise in a couple of hours. Or, if you prefer a traditional really tangy sourdough, then you should use the Basic Sourdough recipe instead. Sheesh! So many choices! I love this recipe. AS long as your starter is nice and active, and you aren’t in any big hurry for the bread to rise (it may take all afternoon), then please, try this recipe. You won’t be disappointed!
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).
The Morning Before Baking:
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.
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.
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. 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 anywhere from 2 to 5 hours, or until doubled in volume.
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, using both sourdough starter and yeast. Once you’ve had this, you won’t ever want to eat plain white bread again!
- 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
- 2 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water
- Put sourdough starter in bowl. Stir in the 11/2 cups milk and 2 ½ cups of the bread flour. Cover loosely with wax paper or damp tea towel, and let sit on counter overnight. This creates the “sponge”.
- 1) Soften yeast by putting it into the warm water with 1 tsp sugar dissolved in it. Let it bubble up, then stir down and add to the mixing bowl with your sponge from the night before.
- 2) 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.
- 3) 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.