Sourdough bread might be a big challenge for a baker-beginner. You may think that making bread is science but the opposite might be true. You just need to realize a few things and have a sourdough starter. You can find more relevant and useful information about it in our previous tutorial post – The magic of sourdough.
With sourdough bread, you have to keep in mind that the long time of fermentation is for your own good and it’s worth to think about some clever time-management ways. This basic recipe for rye-wheat bread (most typical type of bread in this region of middle Europe) is convenient for everyone who lacks the time and is afraid of kneading. This bread is easy and doable by a total beginner. Basically, everyone could do it 🙂 And, the only ingredients needed are flour, water, salt, and caraway (if you like it) 🙂 The advantage of this bread is that you don’t need to prepare active sourdough starter in advance, as in almost all other recipes. The dough is simply mixed together with a small amount of sourdough and is left to ferment for a couple of hours at room temperature. The shaping of bread needs a bit of handiness but overnight gluten development in a long fermented dough holds nicely together, so you shouldn’t have many problems.
The following ratios of ingredients are always adjustable according to the type of flour you are going to use. All flours have different water-absorbing abilities. For example, whole grain flours absorb more water but it might take longer. Do not be a slave of grams in the recipe. If you feel the dough needs it, you can a bit more water or flour. The dough will be quite wet and muddy in the beginning but it will change after final shaping and proving in a basket form. I’m using pedig baskets (called also bannetons) which give the bread its final shape and hold it together. You can find other types of baskets as well but if you don’t have one, you might use a steel mesh strainer lined with a fabric kitchen towel dusted with flour. Ideally, use gluten-free flour, like buckwheat or rice flour. You might use corn or potato starch as well. Of course, you can bake this bread in a greased regular loaf pan 🙂
- 1 tbsp sourdough (about 30g)
- 100g rye wholegrain flour, fine
- 400g wheat bread or plain flour
- 300 – 350g water, lukewarm
- 8g salt
- 2 – 3 tsp ground caraway
Mix the sourdough with lukewarm water and add the flours mixed with salt and caraway. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until you don’t see any dry places in the mixture. The dough is tacky but it’s normal. Cover with plastic wrap so that it’s airtight and let it rise for 10 to 12 hours at room temperature, ideally overnight.
The next day put the dough onto a floured surface and knead slightly until smoothed out. I prefer folding the dough from outside to inside so that only the surface is floured. You create tension in the dough with this and the bread will hold better together. You don’t want to incorporate a lot of flour into it, though. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes and then repeat the folding to prepare its shape for the proving basket.
Shaping the bread
Folding the bread into a rounded shape is easier. Just fold it together as if you are making a bun or a ball of dough. The folds should be facing up in the basket. Dust your basket with a nice amount of gluten-free flour or starch. Put some more flour onto the smooth side of the dough and transfer it into the basket. Let it rise covered with a plastic bag for at least 2 hours, maybe even 3, again, depending on your room temperature. However, it’s always better to have it a bit under-proofed then over. If your bread has risen too much it will tend to be sourer and it won’t grow much in the oven anymore. You might let it rise in the fridge for 24 hours if you like.
My schedule is usually following. I make the dough in the morning and let it proof during the working day. In the evening, when I come home from work, I fold it into a basket a let it rise in the fridge until the next evening. If you want to bake it in the morning, count with at least 1 hour time for it.
Baking the bread
The baking itself has 2 main rules which you should follow. The first one heating-up your oven to a high temperature in the first phase of baking. It’s important for developing a nice crust. Another thing which you might want to do is preheat your baking pan/sheet which you will use for baking the bread. It will ensure that the bread bakes through evenly and will rise better. The second rule is steaming the oven. You might put another baking pan with water at the bottom of your oven but I honestly never did it. I just spray some water right onto the baking tray and the bread itself. I have the feeling that it creates enough of steam as well. You can bake your bread in a baking dish from glass or cast iron which have a lid and you just close it. The bread creates enough steam itself.
So preheat the oven to 250°C degrees for at least 20 – 30 minutes. Keep the baking tray preheating in the oven. If your bread was rising in a loaf pan, you will put it in the preheated oven like it is. Take out the baking tray from the oven, line it with baking paper and put the bread from the basket on it. Put a bit more flour onto the bottom of your bread to prevent it from sticking. Don’t burn yourself! Work cautious but quickly. You don’t want the baking tray to cool down too much. Make a quick clean cut on the top of the bread with a sharp knife or razor blade. Without this step the crust will probably crack. Spray with water and quickly put into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes at high heat. If your bread was rising in the fridge, make this step 13 – 15 minutes long. After this time, open the oven and let the steam and heat go away. Turn down the temperature to 200 – 210°C. You want the bread to be cooked through but don’t burn it. I bake it in the lower middle part of the oven. This smaller loaf of about 700 – 800g might bake for 25 – 30 minutes. After you take out the bread from the oven and knock on the down part it should sound as hollow inside and be light from air 🙂 Let it cool down on a wire rack. Don’t cut into it when hot! Even if it’s too appealing 🙂 You might destroy its texture. I wish you good luck and nice loaves of tasty bread! 😉