SF Sourdough: Time, Patience and Planning Skills!
His recipe intrigued me when I first read it; the use of the refrigerator, the promised taste and sourness, and the sheer amount of steps and time. These kind of recipes always trigger my interest. Plan ahead for this recipe because it is going to take 4 days from start to finish. Perfect to incorporate in a very long weekend of baking. This recipe is based on the San Francisco Sourdough recipe from Peter Reinhart’s latest book ‘Artisan breads every day’. But of course, as you may know by now, I have made my own version (which comes with exact measurements and a time table!).
The trick of this recipe is to fit it in with other activities like sleep and work. The times given in the time table at the bottom of the recipe keep this in mind. Of course you can be a bit flexible with the time table, especially with the 34 and 15 hour periods the dough spends in the fridge. But alterations can have an effect on taste and texture. For example if you extent the time in the fridge the bread will become more sour, but the gluten strength will weaken, so you probably get a flatter, denser bread. If you want to make more than one loaf, just double or triple or quadruple the ingredients. We usually make 6 breads in one batch. That’s the maximum our spiral mixer can handle.
For the starter in this recipe I use a sourdough culture which is made with 100% whole grain rye flour. A sourdough culture based on rye flour is easier to maintain, it does not transform into a slurry when you forget about it, it is easier to stir because it has almost no gluten and it smells very very nice, a bit like fruit. I maintain the starter as a ‘almost’ stiff starter. This way it stirs easy but does not add as much water to the dough as a poolish starter. It is also very forgiving in the amount you feed it. As I am a bit lazy in feeding, normally I only feed it once a week, after my weekend baking. I just give it a few table spoons of water and rye flour, stir, and ready!
Ingredients for the Starter
126 g bread flour
83 g water
24 g sourdough culture
Making the Starter
In a bowl stir together 126 grams of bread flour with 83 grams of water at room temperature with 24 grams of the (rye) sourdough culture. Mix it well for about 1 minute until all the ingredients have been combined and you have a dough like ball. It is not a problem if your dough still looks a bit rough. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it preferment. After a minimum of 9 hours at room temperature it is ready for…the fridge. It will stay there for the next 34 hours! This means that on the morning of day 2 you put it in the fridge and in the late afternoon of day 3 you take it out again (see time table at bottom of recipe).
Ingredients for the SF Style Sourdough
makes 1 loaf (65,2% hydration)
Starter (233 g total weight)
264 g bread flour
50 g spelt flour (pref. whole grain)
204 g water
9 g salt
Making the Loaf
So, it is now probably somewhere in the afternoon on day 3 of the recipe (17.00 h if you stick to my time table). Take the starter out of the fridge and immediately start making the dough. Combine the starter with the 204 g water and stir for 1 minute to loosen the stiff starter. Add the flour and salt and knead (we use a spiral mixer) for 3 minutes. Cover the mixer bowl and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Take the dough out of the mixer bowl and onto a floured work surface and do one stretch and fold (a full letter fold, left over right, right over left, bottom over top, top over bottom; see our bread movie to observe this technique if you are not familiar with it). Leave covered to rest for 15 minutes on your bench. Do a second stretch and fold. Return to the (greased) bowl, cover and leave to rest for 40 minutes at room temperature. Now put the dough in your fridge and leave it there for the next 15 hours (yes you can go to sleep, the yeast cells in your dough probably will do a bit of hibernating of their own in the fridge, the bacteria stay more active in this colder climate and tend to produce acetic acid, which, if all goes well, will give your bread the sour taste of the sourdough.
It is now day 4 of the SF sourdough making process: Baking Day! In my time table it’s now 10.00 in the morning.
Take the dough out of the fridge and let it acclimatise for 2 hours at room temperature.
Now it’s time to shape. You can make a batard/oval loaf or a round one. I like to use the batard shape for this bread, it’s also good for a more even bake. I also use floured proving baskets/bannetons made of wicker. Transfer the shaped dough in a proofing basket or baking pan, dust a bit with flour, cover and leave to proof for 2,5 – 3 hours (at room temperature which is about 21 ºC). When you think it has risen enough, use your finger to carefully make a very small dent in the dough. If the dent remains, the bread is ready to bake, if the indentation disappears, the dough needs a little bit more time.
Preheat your oven to 235 ºC / 455 ºF (at what stage you preheat your oven depends on how long it takes for your oven to heat through, some take 30 minutes, some, like ours, with stone floors take a lot longer, up to two hours. The preparation time from this point until the bread actually goes into the oven is 3 hours.
Now your loaf is ready for the oven. Slash the top of the loaf with a lame or bread scoring knife. To get a nice crust, try to create some steam in your oven by putting a small metal baking tray on your oven floor when you preheat the oven and pouring a half cup of hot water immediately after putting the bread in the oven. Release some steam by setting your oven door ajar (perhaps with the help of a wooden spoon or oven mitt) 5 minutes before the bread is ready. If you are going to create steam with a baking tray, you maybe also want to turn your oven temperature a bit higher, because you are going to lose some heat in the process.
After 45 minutes of baking your loaf should be ready. Transfer onto a rack and leave to cool. This loaf also keeps very well in the freezer. But please make sure to eat at least some of it while fresh!
Note: We use European flour which absorbs a few % less water than American type flour. People using this type of flour should add 3-8 ml water to the final dough. If you dare you actually make the dough a few percentages wetter to get bigger ‘holes’ in your crumb. I lowered the amount of water in this recipe to make the dough easier to handle.
SF Sourdough Time Table
day 1 23.00 h Make starter let ferment for 9 hours at room temperature
day 2 0.800 h Put the starter in the fridge for approx 34 hours!
day 3 17.00 h – 18.40 h Making the dough
- Starter + water 1 minute stirring
- Add flour + salt 3 minute kneading
- 15 minutes rest
- Stretch and fold
- 15 minutes rest
- Stretch and fold
- 40 minutes rest at room temperature
day 3 18.40 h Put dough in fridge for 15 hours
day 4 10.00 h Take dough from fridge and leave at room temperature for 2 hours
day 4 12.00 h Shape the loaf and leave to proof for about 2,5 – 3 hours
day 4 14.30 – 15.00 h Bake for 45 minutes at 235 ºC / 455 ºF