Ever since I grew a sourdough starter two years ago, I’ve wanted to make a really good loaf of artisan bread with it. Although I waxed poetic about a sourdough loaf I made shortly after beginning to bake with sourdough, I realize now that the reason I thought it was so great was because it didn’t look like the disaster from the previous week.
I wanted a better crust, bigger holes inside, and easier preparation- one similar to my super Easy Artisan Bread which bakes in an enameled cast iron pot.
I should clarify here that by easy I mean a simple, everyday kind of sourdough loaf that uses cups to measure, few steps, and very little science involved. If you’d like to get really into sourdough – which can quickly become complicated and, frankly, overwhelming to me, I’ve found Northwest Sourdough to be very thorough and not too hard to follow for those wanting to dig a little deeper.
Since my first “success” two years ago, I have been searching for a technique that would produce a loaf of sourdough artisan bread that was all the things I desired. So I was happy to find a great recipe from Gina at Homejoys a few months ago that I have adapted to be easier for me, use my enameled pot, and consistently turn out good loaves.
Look at that crust! That’s bread-beauty right there, isn’t it? Blistered and cracked and bubbly. Yeah, getting all giddy about bread crust is kinda silly, isn’t it? Kinda like doin’ a dance in the kitchen when the eggs don’t stick in a cast iron pan. I really am about the simple things around here, I guess.
The sliced loaf pictured above was made with whole wheat bread flour (verses the previous loaf, which was made with whole wheat white flour), so the crust isn’t quite as lovely, but still passes the test. And the interior is full of holes, chewy, and with just a touch of sourness.
The timing of sourdough was hard for me to figure out in the beginning. For this loaf, I usually try to feed my starter the night before I want to bake, and then in the morning I start the bread and let it rise until early afternoon before baking (and cooling) it in time for dinner.
I have also rushed it when I’ve forgotten the starter the night before (what- you’re shocked?) by feeding it right when I get up in the morning and letting it sit until it’s bubbly (a couple hours) and then proceeding with the recipe. The bread doesn’t have quite the optimum time to cool, but we like it warm anyway, so a bit of squished crumb is OK with us.
- 3 c. flour (white whole wheat, whole wheat, unbleached, or a combo)
- 1-1/4 c. water (may need less if your starter is "wetter"- mine is a 100% hydration starter, fed an equal ratio of flour to water)
- ¾ c. active sourdough starter
- 1 Tb. honey
- 1-1/2 tsp. salt
- Mix all ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer just until combined and then let sit for 15 minutes.
- Using a dough hook, knead for 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, lightly coated with oil. Cover with plastic and let rise for 3 hours, turning and folding the dough once or twice.
- Remove dough, turn and fold again, and place it back in the bowl, seam-side up. Let rise for another 2 hours.
- After the second rise, place a square of parchment on a cookie sheet and gently shape the dough into a ball or oval (using lots of flour, as the dough is moist) and set on the parchment. Make sure there's a good coating of flour on the top, as this will make slicing the top later easier.
- Set an enameled, cast iron dutch oven into a cold oven and turn heat to 450 degrees (alternately, you can use a baking stone), and set the timer for 40 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife (in 2-3 places) and transfer it to the hot pot by holding the edges of the parchment (or stone).
- Replace the hot lid and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 13-15 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.