“Every baker needs an all-purpose, go-to loaf in their repertoire. And if you’re new to sourdough, this is the perfect place to start. Simply make the dough, let it rise overnight, and bake in the morning. It requires very little effort with big reward. The crust is golden and crunchy, and the velvety crumb is perfect for sandwiches and toast.” These are the words from Emilie Raffa’s new book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, and I can tell you from my now very practiced experience that they are true.
I have very little experience making sourdough. Actually, let me clarify: I have very little experience making successful sourdough. Despite taking a sourdough bread baking class when I was in culinary school, I have always found the process to be overwhelming. To be fair, I enrolled in that sourdough class for free in exchange for being the instructor’s helper. The problem was that I spent more time cleaning his station and weighing out his flours than I did focussing on learning to bake bread. I loved participating but didn’t, in the end, feel like I had a lot of confidence delving into the sourdough world on my own.
Emilie’s book really changed that for me. Her recipes are almost entirely based on a no-knead overnight method of letting the dough sit. This process, called the bulk rise (or bulk fermentation), is where the yeast does most of its work of giving the dough flavour (though the production of alcohol and other byproducts) and helping it gain more structure as the gluten develops. It’s essentially a set it and forget it type of recipe. The minimal amount of work required at the end to assess, shape, and score it, helps you to slowly hone your craft as you practice looking at, feeling, and shaping the dough. And in the end, a delicious sourdough loaf will be your reward. I emphasize delicious because as a newbie sourdough baker I haven’t yet gotten good at shaping my dough and getting a good ear (except this one time :)). And I’m telling you this because despite it being ugly, it can still be extraordinarily tasty! I KNOW how intimidating baking sourdough can be. But if I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to not let that stop you from trying. You are this close to baking your own artisan sourdough. In your kitchen. By yourself. (Insert cheering crowd sound effect here.)
A note on whole grains: A lot of people prefer to eat bread made with whole grain flours, myself included. But I’ve been told by much more experienced bakers to first master this basic loaf so that you can get a feel of how to do it well and what it should look like. If you’re a newbie like me, you’re starting off on the right foot with this recipe. And while I certainly haven’t mastered this loaf, I have baked it many, many times and am starting to experiment with other recipes in Emilie’s book. I have made the high-hydration loaf many times and the flavour and texture is out of this world. I’ve also made the olive, thyme, and parmesan loaf and though it was a little misshapen (again, lack of experience), we loved eating it toasted with butter and alongside veggie soup. Some of the other recipes I’m eager to get my hands into include the cinnamon raisin swirl, the sticky date, walnut, and orange, the overnight danish rye, the light rye, the light and fluffy brioche, the mighty multigrain, the sesame, the basic no-knead focaccia, the overnight mini sourdough english muffins, the Sunday morning bagels, the salted chocolate caramel knot, and of course, the sourdough waffles–I mean, basically every recipe in the book! For you adventurists out there, there’s even a show stopping chocolate peanut and butter chip loaf. But back to this loaf–this is the loaf to get comfortable with. And all you need is flour, water, salt and starter. It’s magic.
Now for the best news! Emilie has generously offered to give away a copy of her book to one lucky reader (we can ship to the US or Canada). It’s a treasure of a book filled with inspiring recipes and beautiful photos, so be sure to enter. There are multiple ways to do so. You can:
- Leave a comment on this blog post telling us why you’re interested in baking sourdough. (Worth 1 entry)
- Follow us on Instagram. Like and comment on our post (coming later today, we’ll link it), telling us the same thing: why you’re interested in baking sourdough. (Worth 1 entry) You can also tag as many friends as you want (in separate lines) for additional entries. (Each tag is worth 1 entry.)
- BONUS: Subscribe to our newsletter. (This is worth 3 entries)
We’ll pick a winner on Sunday night, so you could have this book in less than 2 weeks! In the meantime, get rolling on your starter.
Instagram/Facebook Live – All Things Sourdough
We’re thinking of hosting an Instagram or Facebook Live to answer all of your burning sourdough questions. Let us know if you’d be interested in that, too. Until next time, happy baking friends!
As always, if you delve into the world of sourdough, we’d love to hear about all the glory and the failures (we’ve all had them!), so please tag us on instagram at @baked_theblog and #bakedtheblog.
- 50 g (1⁄4 cup) bubbly, active starter
- 350 g (11⁄3 cups plus 2 tbsp) warm water
- 500 g (4 cups plus 2 tbsp) bread flour
- 9 g (11⁄2 tsp) fine sea salt
- BAKER’S SCHEDULE
- Thursday–Saturday: Feed your starter until bubbly and active.
- Saturday Evening: Make the dough, and let rise overnight.
- Sunday Morning: Shape the dough, let rise again, score, and bake.
- MAKE THE DOUGH: In the evening, whisk the starter and water together in a large bowl with a fork. Add the flour and salt. Combine until a stiff dough forms, then finish mixing by hand to fully incorporate the our. The dough will feel dense and shaggy, and it will stick to your fingers as you go. Scrape o as much as you can. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes. Replenish your starter with fresh our and water, and store according to preference.
- After the dough has rested, work the mass into a fairly smooth ball. To do this, grab a portion of the dough and fold it over, pressing your fingertips into the center. Repeat, working your way around the dough until it begins to tighten, about 15 seconds.
- BULK RISE: Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise overnight at room temperature. This will take about 8 to 10 hours at 70°F (21°C). The dough is ready when it no longer looks dense and has doubled in size.
- SHAPE: In the morning, coax the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. To shape it into a round, start at the top and fold the dough over toward the center. Turn the dough slightly and fold over the next section of dough. Repeat until you have come full circle. Flip the dough over and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl with a towel and dust with flour. With floured hands, gently cup the dough and pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape. Using a bench scraper, place the dough into the bowl, seam side up.
- SECOND RISE: Cover the bowl and let rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The dough is ready when it looks puffy and has risen slightly but has not yet doubled in size.
- Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C). Cut a sheet of parchment paper to t the size of your baking pot, leaving enough excess around the sides to remove the bread.
- SCORE: Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release. Sprinkle the dough with our and gently rub the surface with your hands. Using the tip of a small, serrated knife or a razor blade, score the dough with the cross-cut pattern on page 195, or any way you’d like. Use the parchment to transfer the dough to the baking pot.
- BAKE: Bake the dough on the center rack for 20 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Then, carefully remove the loaf from the pot and bake directly on the oven rack for the last 10 minutes to crisp the crust. When finished, transfer to a wire rack. Cool for 1 hour before slicing.
- Sourdough is best consumed on the same day it is baked. To maximize freshness, cool completely and store at room temperature in a plastic bag for up to 1 day.