Perfect sourdough bread - with a little help from a French friend

I love my sourdough.  I love it slightly toasted with some
 cheese.  And yes, I'm planning to make my own soon. The
Rose jelly is also a favorite and easy to make.
Another bread with a different recipe.  I've been making the same bread a few times but thought I'd try something a bit different.  So I found this websitechocolateandzucchini.com, which is the very best one that I have found so far.  It has very detailed explanations and she even tells you the why's.  I love that.  I need to know why.  I hate not knowing why, so this woman is my new hero.   She is French, but she writes it in English.  I just love her blog and highly recommend it to everyone interested in cooking, because this blog is not just about baking.

This recipe has worked very well for me every single time.  I have followed Clotilde's recommendation to make the starter in the evening and start the dough the next morning.  Clotilde is very good a explaining everything, but this is my shorter version of it.

200 g. Starter sponge.  This post explains how to make the starter.
400 g. Water
600 g. Various flours
           I usually use about 150 g. Rye, 250 g. Spelt, 200 g. Whole wheat and mix them with a whisk.
15 g. Salt (the recipe calls for 10 g, but I like salty bread)

Put the sponge in the Kitchen aid bowl and add the room temperature water and stir. Then add the flours.  Stir on the lowest setting for a few seconds.  Then let it rest for 30-40 minutes.  The rest allows the flour to absorb more water.  Then add the salt and any nuts or seeds that you want to add.  I've used sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and pine nuts.  Mix for a few minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and looks smooth.  (This can all be done by hand, obviously).  I put olive oil on my hands to avoid the dough sticking to them and gently coax the dough out of the bowl and into an earthenware bowl.  As I do this the surface of the dough gets covered in oil, but additionally I put the plastic bag on top and wrap the bowl in a kitchen towel and put it by the shelf for an hour or two.

After that the dough will have risen.  Then I take the dough out and use a spatula to fold the edges into to the center.  I do this all around the edges of the bowl and then I cover it with plastic and wrap it a towel and let it rest for another hour.  Then I repeat that.  Let the dough rise until it has doubled.  If in doubt poke a finger into it and if the indentation remains, it is ready.  I fold the dough again and gently lower it into a pot.  To prevent the dough sticking to a pot.  I pour a bit of oil into it and add some flour.  Rub the mixture on the bottom and sides of the pot.  I have a terrible time remembering to cut slashes in the bread, but that looks pretty neat.  I found that using oiled scissors is much easier than a sharp blade or knife.  Put the lid on and put the pot into the cold oven.  Turn it to 240 C/460 F and let it bake for one hour.

Many people use dutch ovens or baking stones, but I own neither.  I have used a stainless steel pot with its lid to bake the bread.  It works beautifully even if it is rather unconventional.  When the time is up I take the pot out of the oven turn it upside down and knock on the bottom.  If it doesn't sound hollow I put it back in the oven.  Alternatively stick a cooking thermometer into the center of the bread.  It is done if that reads 100 C / 210 F.

When it is done, the bread needs to cool completely before being cut or it will be gummy.  I've found this to be true.  The bread lasts me a week and I don't freeze it, but it is easy to freeze half for use later in the week.

This recipe works really well for me. The bread rises beautifully and much better than when I have put the dough into a preheated oven like many other recipes suggest.  I am working on getting the courage to try the sourdough baguette recipe next.
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Comments

  1. My hubby was on a breadmaking kick last year, and he came up with all kinds of methods. I remember the sponge. Thought it sounded strange, but it sure makes good bread! This sounds yummy too!

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  2. Lovely post, Ambra :) I'm about to embark on some bread baking as well, working with Edward Espe's bible of bread baking "The Tassajara bread book" . Wonderful movie on bread baking is "How to cook your life", a must see for bread bakers!

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