Quarantine Sourdough Bread

Yes, COVID-19 sucks, but on the positive side it dragged us outside of our comfort zone and we got to try out many new hobbies. One of them being baking homemade sourdough bread!

A few loafs

I’ll show you how I got there. As you can see on the picture above, each try ends up with a different result.

The commencement: the sourdough starter

First of all, you need a sourdough starter, and this step takes some time (5-7 days). This is basically putting fresh flour and water every day in a jar so that bacteria (Lactobacillus cultures) and yeast can develop.

Once you got your sourdough starter ready, you can make your bread, and plenty of other recipes too using your sourdough discard. Because yes, after your starter is ready to use, you still need to feed it once a day.

The only drawback in making your own bread is that the process takes time and you need to be patient before being able to taste it. You need to start the prep in the morning, only to have a baked bread the next day at around noon.

Here is my go-to recipe for a nice sourdough bread:

  • 35g Spelt or Rye flour
  • 35g Whole wheat flour
  • 150g Bread flour
  • 250g All purpose flour
  • 340g Water
  • 7g Salt
  • 80~100g Sourdough starter

A few notes: please use good flour (organic / stone ground). Also make sure you use room temperature or lukewarm and filtered or bottled water. And use some nice salt too. The better the quality of the ingredient, the best the bread will be.

1. Make your leaven (Levain)

At around 9AM, start your leaven. You do so by mixing 25g of your sourdough starter, 25g of whole wheat or rye flour, 25g of all purpose flour and 50g of lukewarm water.

Mix everything in a glass jar with enough space for the rise (it will double or triple in size) until all the flour is hydrated. Let it sit in at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours. when it’s a bit cold at home, I usually put the jar on top of my computer case, I noticed the rise is bigger at a higher room temperature.

Leaven (levain) ready to use

2. Start your Autolyse

At around 2.30PM you will start your autolyse. You do so by simply mixing all the flours and the water in a big bowl.

Cover and put it next to your leaven for 30 min.

Autolyse (flour + water)

3. Mix everything

3PM: Uncover the bowl and add the salt (7g) and then the levain.

Start pressing / gently mixing with your fingers so that all the salt and the leaven is being incorporated to the flour and water preparation.

After a few minutes you should have a sticky dough with every ingredient well mixed together.

Autolyse with Salt and Leaven
Autolyse with Salt and Leaven mixed together

Cover again.

4. Start bulk fermentation

You will now let the dough fermente and rise for 4 hours.

But you will need to perform a fold, three times, during those 4 hours.

A fold is made by grabbing a side of the dough, and stretching it onto the opposite side. You will repeat that until you grabbed and stretched all sides of the dough.

And you will repeat a fold, three times.

5. Shape the loaf

7PM: Your dough now sit for a few hours, and it’s ready to be shaped.

Put it carefully on your kitchen counter top (avoid popping the bubbles) using a bench scrapper or dough scrapper and rotate it a few times until you have a nice ball.

The dough will be really sticky, you can use a little bit of flour on your hand and on the bench scrapper but be careful not to add too much flour, we need to keep the dough sticky.

Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Now, dust a little bit of flower on top and gently spread it out with your hand.

Using your bench scrapper, flip your dough upside down so the floured side is facing down.

Shape the loaf
Shaping the loaf of sourdough bread

Now this is an important part: grab the bottom of the dough and stretch it and fold it over half of the dough. Then stretch and fold the left side over the center and the right side over the left side. Finally grab the top and stretch it away and fold it over all the way down to the bottom of the dough.

Now flip the dough again and pull the dough underneath using your little fingers. Rotate the dough and repeat.

I know this part is super confusing so I have the perfect YouTube video for you: No Knead Beginner Sourdough Bread from Joshua Weissman. That’s the video I used to get started and everything is well explained, so please look at it.

6. Proof overnight

Your dough is now ready to be put in the fridge for the night. Put the dough into a proofing basket or a bowl and put it inside a plastic or large freezing bag.

Put it inside the fridge and that’s it for the day.

The dough will slowly rise overnight and develop some sour flavor. Pictures below (although not from the same batch) show the rise after 12-14 hours in the fridge.

7. Bake your loaf

The next day, around 10AM:

Preheat your oven at 250°C with your empty dutch oven (with the lid on) for 20-30min (A big part of the nice result we got is thanks to the dutch oven / cast iron pot baking).

Take the dough out of the fridge and flip it on some parchment paper.

Using a sharp knife, score it the way you’d like. You don’t have to go deep in the bread.

Take the dutch oven out (careful very hot) and throw your bread in it with the parchment paper.

Bake for 25-30min with the lid on.

Remove the lid and bake again for around 20 minutes. You can reduce the heat to 240-230°C in case your bread is too close to the top of the oven. I guess you’ll have to find it after your first try.

Once the time is over, let your bread sit on a kitchen grid for an hour.

Now you can enjoy it!

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