a slow rise

Last week I told you about my dear sourdough starter and the fun that I've had getting it a-bubbling.  This week I thought I'd share my bread making process with you.  As I mentioned last week, I found this bread recipe at the end of last year and have tweaked it a bit to better fit my bread-making style.  

Bread making, for me at least, has always been an idealist thing.  The idea of having only homemade bread in the house, is lovely, but let's be honest...who has time for that!?  Bread making is such a process--and a mess maker.  And while I've always loved that process, it's never been a spur of the moment kind of project in my life.  That is, until I met this recipe!  

Not only have we come to love the flavor of this bread, but I truly love the easy process!  All you do is mix it with your fingers in a bowl, let it rise for 12 hours (or so), knead it into a ball, let it rise again for 12 hours (or so), shape it into a ball, let it rise again (1-12 hours), then bake it at 350 degrees for 40 min.  No messy countertops.  No greased bowls or pans.  No fancy ingredients.   Just flour, water, salt, and sourdough starter.  It's a marvelous thing!  

Below is the recipe and pictures of the process.  Please know that this recipe is not my original recipe.  I've tweaked the Nourished Kitchen's No-knead Sourdough Recipe just a bit, because it seems to work better for me.  

Sourdough Bread

3 cups flour (I use a mixture of wheat and bread flour--typically 2 cups wheat, 1 cup bread)

2 teaspoons salt (I typically use sea salt)

1 cup bubbly sourdough starter

1/2 cup to 1 cup water (I prefer filtered water)

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix with your fingers until all of the flour is moist and mixed in.  I usually do a little light kneading in the bowl, just to get the flour all worked in.  Cover and let rise for 12 hours or so.  I typically do this in the evening before bed.  It takes about 10 minutes to mix up the dough and then feed my sourdough starter.  

In the morning, my dough looks like this.  It has risen a bit and is a little sticky.  At this point, you should gently press it down to get any air out of it.  Then knead it into itself a few times so that it forms a nice ball.  If it's too sticky, work a bit of flour into it.  Cover and let it rise for another 12 hours or so.  I usually do this step in the morning before I head out the door.  This takes about a minute or two.  

When I get home from work, my dough has doubled in size and is ready to be shaped into a loaf.  Prepare your baking stone by sprinkling corn starch or flour onto it.  You can also do this on a pizza peel or counter and then slide the risen bread onto a hot stone in the oven.  However, I'm all about the easiness of this process and so I skip that step.  It leaves me with a weird looking loaf sometimes that occasionally sticks to my stone, but I don't care.

Press your dough down gently to real ease the air.  Then shape it into a ball (or boule) by pulling the top down to the bottom side of the ball and gently working it into the bottom of the dough.  This should just take a couple of minutes, as you don't want to over work the dough.  Once it's in a ball-like shape, place it onto the cornstarch on your baking stone.  Cover lightly and let rise.  The rise time can be anywhere from 1 to 12 hours.  We have found that the flavor and texture improves with a longer rise time.  However, I've had times where I've only let it rise for 30 minutes or so, and I still ended up with a loaf of bread...

I sometimes do this step when I get home from work and then bake it in the evenings or sometimes I do this step right before bed and let it rise all night.  It just depends on what the day looks like, and what our bread needs are.  

The longer rise times will produce a loaf that has doubled in size--leaving a lighter, airier loaf.  Once you are ready for baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put a few 1/2 inch cuts in the top of your loaf.  This will help it to keep a nice shape as it bakes.  Bake for 40 minutes.  

After the bread comes out of the oven, move it to a cooling rack to cool.  Once you cut into it, keep it wrapped tightly to keep it from drying out.  We find that our bread tastes best if we eat it within 5 days, which is usually not difficult to do.  It's so yummy!  

Because sourdough is easier for your body to digest (due to the fermented dough and long rise times), we find that we can eat a lot of it and still feel great--which is not always true with other types of bread (especially store-bought bread).  This means we use this bread for everything, and love it!  

Happy bread making!