I have been asked often for my secrets to perfecting the art of making sourdough bread. What is it about everyone’s passion for this beloved bread? It’s one of the most ancient foods, it’s one of the most healthy bread, it smells wonderful, and can be used for so many other recipes. When I make sourdough, the whole house seems to light up and we all put a smile on our faces.
I started perfecting the art of making sourdough bread ten years ago. I would be remiss if I did not tell you who is partially responsible for my success at it. King Arthur Bread Company has been around since the late 1800s and knows BREAD. They have high quality, affordable ingredients that you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Those ingredients make perfecting the art of making sourdough bread easier… bread that stands out from the rest. They also have classes too. I have not taken the classes. But I have no doubt they are excellent, like the rest of the company.
But, before we dive into my adapted recipe from King Arthur, where the heck did sourdough come from anyway?
Bread is older than metal; even before the bronze age, our ancestors were eating and baking flatbreads. There is evidence of neolithic grinding stones used to process grains, probably to make a flatbread; but the oldest bread yet found is a loaf discovered in Switzerland, dating from 3500 BCE. The use of leavening was discovered and recorded by the Egyptians; there is some discussion about how this process happened, and the degree to which there was an overlap between brewing and bread-making, but obviously without a handy time machine it’s going to remain one a debating point among historians of ancient food. What is not in doubt is that the ancient Egyptians knew both the brewing of beer and the process of baking leavened bread with the use of sourdough, as proved by wall paintings and analyses of desiccated bread loves and beer remains (Rothe et al., 1973; Samuel, 1996).
From Egypt, bread-making also spread north to ancient Greece, where it was a luxury product first produced in the home by women, but later in bakeries; the Greeks had over 70 different types of bread, including both savory and sweetened loaves, using a number of varieties of grain. The Romans learned the art of bread from the Greeks, making improvements in kneading and baking. The centrality of bread to the Roman diet is shown by Jevenal’s despair that all the population wanted was bread and circuses (Panem et Circenses). We have sourdough recipes from seventeenth-century France using a starter that is fed and risen three times before adding to the dough. The French were obviously far more interested in good-tasting bread over an easy life for the baker.
The introduction of commercial yeasts in the nineteenth century was to the detriment of sourdough bread, with speed and consistency of production winning. By 1910, Governmental bills preventing night work and restricting hours worked made more labor-intensive production less sustainable, and in response, the bakers moved again towards faster raising bread, such as the baguette. It’s only since the nineteen-eighties that there has been demand again for sourdoughs in the UK, to the extent that in 1993, regulations were issued defining what could be sold as sourdough bread. In Germany, again, the use of sourdough was universal until brewers’ yeasts became common in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds. The overlap between brewing and baking was reflected in monasteries producing both bread and beer, using the heat of the oven to dry malted grain and the yeast to raise the bread. However, the big difference was that in Germany, sourdoughs continued to be used for rye bread, even as bakers’ yeasts became more popular for all other types (credit: The Sourdough Company, UK)
I have loved every step of learning how to make bread. Perfecting sandwich bread is a piece of cake compared to making sourdough or country rye. I plan on talking a bit more about this in the Green Kitchen Section of my blog. Where we make healthy, wholesome, satisfying food. I had to take my knowledge and make it mine. All those recipes I researched and experimented with stuck. I adapted and made my own recipe. Again, King Arthur made the most impression on my education. I give them most of the credit for putting my practice into action and making good sourdough.
Homemade Tangy Sourdough Bread
Perfect the art of making homemade sourdough with this tried and true recipe
Starter or Sour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water (warmed to room temperature)
- 1` tsp dry active yeast
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cup water (warmed to room temperature)
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
To make the simple starter
Mix the flour, water, and yeast until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours until bubbly and the smell is sour. Cover with a cloth with a lid or plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Feed once a week. Discard or give away one-half cup of the sour. Add one-half cup of all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour. Stir and set aside in a warm place for 3 hours. Place in the fridge until you use it or feed it. Remember to feed it once a week. Repeat …..
To make the sourdough bread
Let stand in a small glass bowl for 15 minutes.
Mix all the other ingredients in a large rounded glass bowl. Add the water and yeast mixture. Stir with a large fork or rubber spatula. Place in the bread rising basket with the liner inserted. Make sure to flour the cloth liner to prevent the dough from sticking while rising.
The first rise for 2 hrs. Gently punch down, fold under and make a smooth ball.
Let rise again a second time for 1 hour. Punch down and fold under to make a round ball.
Let rise again for 1 hour. Punch down and fold under to make a round ball.
Halfway through the last rise, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Add your dutch oven with the lid to the oven and preheat it too.
After preheating the oven, remove the dutch oven and sprinkle the inside with flour. Please be careful as the dutch oven is extremely hot. Gently turn the breadbasket over the dutch oven and dump it in the pot. Take your razor blade and make a “hash-tag” across the top of the loaf. Go fast and swift. Put the lid back on the pot and transfer it back to the oven.
Remove the lid on the dutch oven and return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the loaf from the oven and place it on a wire cooling rack Listen to it crackle.
Cool for 1 hour. Enjoy. Cut in half and then cut serving pieces one-half inch wide. Butter or enjoy alone. Store in a cloth bag to prohibit mold.
If you are interested in investing in good-quality bread bakeware, here are the links to the equipment that makes this perfect sourdough. It is an initial investment. But, don’t feel like you have to buy all of these at one time. I bought a few at a time myself. They are affordable and so convenient to make that wonderful bread we all love.
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Tip: Bread is fresh for three days. After three days, I use it for toast. On the 5th day, don’t toss it. Use it in recipes. I’m going to talk about this in my next post.
Thank you for reading along. Whether you are new or experienced at baking bread, Sourdough is a unique craft in itself. Bon Appetite! See you in the next post!