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here's how I create great sourdough loaves without kneading

cognitivefun's picture

here's how I create great sourdough loaves without kneading

My recipe for sourdough wheat bread

4 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup of unbleached full-flavor (dark) whole wheat flour
2 tspns fine sea salt
2 tbspns safflower or other good quality, flavorless oil
4 tbspns good local honey
2 cups wheat sourdough starter
3 - 4 cups icewater

My starter is flour and water only. It doesn't matter if you
use a firm or slack starter. Just make sure it is a good
lively starter that smells good.

In this recipe, I make my dough in a food processor in two batches
because home food processors can't handle the full amount of
dough in one batch. I have tested this with the classic Cuisinart
and with a Braun and the Braun works better. The new Cuisinart
may work better still.

To start, lightly oil a large bowl. Have room in the refrigerator for
the bowl. Also have a small bowl of water next to you.

1. Put two cups bread flour and 1/4 cup wheat flour into
workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.
Add 1 tspn salt, 2 tbspns honey, 1 tbspn oil, 1 cup starter
to bowl. To scoop the starter, dip the measuring cup into
the small bowl of water first, to prevent sticking.

2. Process for 20 seconds.

3. Add some icewater slowly while processing until the dough
becomes a ball. Stop adding icewater and process for 30
seconds. The ball will go round and round.

3. While processing, add more icewater until a slushy sound
is made and stop just as the ball turns into a batter and
falls to the bottom of the bowl and perhaps wraps around
the blade.

4. Scrape the dough (almost a batter at this point) into
the large oiled bowl. Dip your spoon, scooper or
hands into the small bowl of water before you
touch the dough each time to prevent sticking.

5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 so you have all the dough in
the bowl.

6. Fold the dough a few times with your watered hands. Do
this by wetting your hand, pulling one end of the dough
(roughly 1/3 of the total dough) to stretch the dough
and lift up. Fold over the remaining 2/3 mass of the dough.
Immediately cover and refrigerate at least overnight. The
dough can keep this way for a few days.

7. When ready to continue, take the dough out and set it
at cool room temperature 70F - 72F. Fold every hour the
first 3 or 4 hours using the above folding method. This
will be easy as the dough is very cold, then may get
a bit more difficult as it warms up, then becomes easier
again as the dough assumes more of a plastic quality. Don't
worry about losing some dough on your hands...that's okay.

8. Eventually, sometimes 4 to 8 hours later, the dough will
have doubled in volume.

9. Remove the dough onto a floured surface and prepare to proof.
If making a big loaf, line a round colander with a tea towel
and rub rice flour liberally into the
tea towel.

10.Put bread flour liberally around the perimeter of the mass
of dough in the bowl. "Pour" the dough onto a floured
board or countertop, using your fingers to move the
dough away from the surface of the bowl with minimum
manipulating or squeezing of the dough. The dough will
now be on the floured countertop

11.Work the dough to create a loaf by introducing surface
tension into it. Lift the dough and put it into the
colander lined with the rice-floured towel. I put the
colander back into the oiled bowl and cover the whole

12.Proof for a few hours. You want it to expand but not to
double. Heat oven for 1 hour at 550F with a stone in
it and a cast iron pot on the bottom. Turn a large
cookie sheet over and line the upside down cookie sheet
with parchment paper.

13.Carefully dump the dough from the colander onto the parchment
lined cookie sheet. Remove the towel -- there should be
no sticking even for a very slack dough.

14.Slash the proofed dough. Open the oven and carefully slide
the dough and parchment paper onto the stone. Put 1 cup
hot water into the cast iron pot BEING CAREFUL OF HOT
STEAM and close the oven. Repeat this in 2 minutes.

15.Turn the heat down to 425F and bake for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Open the oven and use a spatula to lift the loaf a bit and
use your hands or a tongs to pull the parchment paper out of
the oven so the loaf is now resting bare on the stone. It should
release and if not, try in a few minutes.

16.Bake the loaf to internal temperature of 200F - 205F and remove
and cool thoroughly before slicing.

cognitivefun's picture

For awhile, my bread wasn't getting sour enough and then I realized I needed a greater percentage of pre-ferment starter. That has made all the difference. You can actually get the bread to rise perfectly with only a tablespoon or two of starter but it won't make sour bread.

The other thing is using very cold liquid when prepping the dough and then whisking it into the refrigerator. Put ice in water and get it to 40F before you add it to the dough.

I keep my starter in the fridge and I sometimes add the cold starter to the dough. All to keep things really cold at the start. I refresh the starter and leave it out until it gets foamy, then back in the fridge it goes so often when I add it to the dough it is still quite cold.

This refrigerating the dough and keeping it cool at the beginning is a major part of the technique to make incredible bread -- even with baker's yeast it gives a marvelous product.

You can refrigerate the proofed dough again if you don't want to bake it when it's finished proofing, but it is this first refrigeration that I think makes all the difference in flavor terms. I am told that natural enzymes in the dough begin breaking down the starches and complex sugars and this refrigeration gives them time to act so that when fermentation starts (when you warm up the dough) it has more sugars to act on.

BTW, if you do a second refrigeration, you can bake the bread right out of the fridge even if it is very cold. Makes no difference and you still get plenty of oven spring without bothering to leave the bread out for a few hours to rise to room temperature. The ability to bake bread that is cold out of the fridge gives you complete control over timing.

Be careful not to overproof sourdough. I usually see 50% increase in volumes during proofing and then I bake or refrigerate. I get lots of oven spring that way. If I proof too long I don't get oven spring. I am still figuring out how to determine when I've proofed long enough but usually it's only 2 hours or so compared to 8 to 10 hours sometimes for the bulk fermentation.