When the days haven’t yet lengthened and the weather is settling into its coldest months, there’s no better indoor activity than baking bread. Making a sourdough loaf is a great way to warm up both your kitchen and (hopefully) your heart, especially when sharing it with friends or family. We know that sourdough is often painted as a bread not for the faint of heart, but when you follow the below tips from our in-house bread master, you’re sure to succeed.
- The majority of your bread is flour, so start with something high quality. If you have access to something locally milled, it will have higher protein content and make for a better loaf than the supermarket brands. If you don't, King Arthur Flour is a great option.
- A sourdough starter is really high maintenance to start, but really easy once it's active. We recommend pulling it out the day before you want to use it, discarding 50%, feeding it and leaving it at room temperature. Use what you need, then feed it again before putting it back in the fridge.
- If you're in the process of making a starter, it can feel like a ton of waste. Luckily, there are lots of recipes that use the "discard" – our personal favorite is Sam Sifton's Sourdough Waffles.
- If you have a Brotform to shape the loaf, that's great. If not, just use a bowl lined with one of our linen napkins, then dust it with some whole wheat flour.
Liquid levain starter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (135g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (170g) water, cool
1/4 Cup (44g) ripe (fed) sourdough starter
Liquid levain starter, from above
4 1/2 cups (560g) All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (100g) Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (93g) Rye Flour
Scant 2 cups (440g) water
1 tablespoon (18g) table salt
Makes 2 loaves
- Mix the Levain ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Loosely cover and leave at room temperature for 12-16 hours. The mixture should bubble slightly.
- Combine the Dough ingredients, except for the salt, in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix together until the ingredients are just combined. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- Add the salt and mix the dough until it is evenly incorporated, 2-3 minutes. Cover and let sit for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour uncover the bowl and, using a bowl scraper or spatula, run the scraper or spatula down the inside far wall of the bowl. Bring the dough up from the bottom of the bowl, and fold it over on top of itself. Turn the bowl 90° and repeat; repeat twice more (for a total of four times), turning the bowl 90° each time. This process, which helps develop the dough, is called a fold. Re-cover the bowl and let the dough rise for another 90 minutes, adding another fold after 45 minutes if the dough doesn’t seem elastic and strong enough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide equally into 2 pieces. Each piece should weigh approximately 750g. Cover with a slightly damp towel and let sit for 20 minutes before shaping.
- Shape the dough into tight rounds. Place in 2 large bowls lined with a towel and dusted with whole wheat flour. Refrigerate 8-12 hours or overnight.
- Place a large baking dish (preferably cast iron) with the cover on in your oven. Preheat to 500°.
- Remove one dough from the fridge, turn the dough out onto the towel lining the bowl. Score the top using a sharp knife or lame.
- Remove the dish from the oven, reduce oven temperature to 450°. Place the loaf into the baking dish and cover.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the cover on the baking dish.
- Bake for another 20-25 minutes until the loaf is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before covering.
- Repeat steps 7-10 with the other loaf.