I needed some stale bread for a couple of dishes I’ll be making in a few days so this gave me an excuse to make more bread. Not that I need an excuse.
I chose this easy no-knead sourdough bread. It takes a couple of days to make from start-to-finish, but doesn’t require much hands on time. Most of the time is spent proofing the culture and the dough.
I followed the method in the book Classic Sourdoughs by Ed and Jean Wood. They have a very scientific, yet uncomplicated approach to making sourdough bread. Supposedly this method provides a reliable way of controlling the sourness and leavening of the sourdough. I liked the results of this bread even though I wasn’t able to proof at the recommended temperature.
Basic No-Knead Sourdough Bread
Adapted from Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood and Jean Wood
Makes: 1 Loaf
- 1 cup (240 mL) culture proof (see method below)
- 1 cup (240 mL) water
- 3 1/2 cups (490 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour (I used 50/50 mix of AP and bread flour)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
I used my apple starter which hadn’t been fed in a couple of weeks so it needed to be activated. It was also really acidic (sour smelling) so I needed to reduce the culture’s acidity level as well. This process is supposed to help with both.
To activate the culture, take the jar of starter out of the refrigerator and fill it with warm water while you stir it vigorously. Leave a little more than 1 cup in the jar and discard the rest. Feed what’s left in the jar with 2/3 cup (90 g) of flour and enough water to restore the culture to the consistency of pancake batter. If you are using a 1-quart jar, the jar should be slightly more than half full.
It’s best to proof at 70 degrees to 75 degrees F. for about 2 to 4 hours. It will be ready for the next step, the culture proof, as soon as it forms foam and bubbles and the volume increases by about 2 inches. If your starter has been refrigerated (or dormant) for longer than 2 weeks, you may have to repeat this process. My starter had been in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks or so, but I only had to do this step once. It’s really hot here so I proofed it at about 80 degrees F. It didn’t take quite as long for it to foam and bubble.
Step 2: Create a Culture Proof
This step is similar to the liquid-levain build that Jeffrey Hamelman uses in his breads. You need to start with a fully active culture (step 1).
Stir the culture vigorously and put half of the mixture in another quart jar. In each jar, add 2/3 cup (90g) flour and enough water to maintain the pancake-batter consistency. If it is thick, you’ll need about 1/2 cup (120 mL). My culture was more liquid so it didn’t need as much water. Proof the culture for 8 to 12 hours.
The book states that to get a good concentration of both yeast and bacteria to produce good flavor, leavening, and sourness, they like to proof their cultures for 2 to 3 hours at 65 degrees F, then another 6 to 10 hours at 80 degrees F. I didn’t have that option so I let mine proof for about 8 hours or so at 80 degrees F. They said the higher temperature will cause the culture to have good flavor and sourness, but could have moderate to poor leaving ability. I found that the culture was moderately acidic which added to the flavor of the bread, but the yeast wasn’t inhibited. I’ll have to experiment some more with this method to see if I get the same results each time with the higher proof temperature.
Step 3: Mix the Dough
Take the amount of culture needed (from the 1st jar), and place the remaining culture (from the 2nd jar) in the refrigerator to use another day. Combine the cup of culture and water in a large mixing bowl.
Mix together the flour and salt in a separate bowl, then add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients.
Mix just until you have a dry, firm, shaggy dough. Add up to 1/2 cup (120 mL) more water as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and proof for 8 to 12 hours at about 70 degrees F.
Step 4: Bulk Fermentation
After the 8- to 12-hour fermentation, use a plastic spatula to ease the sticky dough away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with additional flour and let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes to relax the gluten.
Step 5: Shape the Loaf
Gently form a loaf, without degassing the dough, and place it in a baking container. You can use a loaf pan or a covered casserole dish or baking pot. I used my Bread Dome.
Step 6: Final Proof
Proof the dough at room temperature (70 degrees F) for 3 to 4 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Since I proofed my dough at 80 degrees F., it only took about 2 hours or so to double in size.
Step 7: Bake the Loaf
Place the pot (with the proofed loaf in it) in a cool oven, then turn the temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and bake for 70 minutes. I removed the lid of the bread dome after about 55 minutes and let it finish baking with the lid off. It wasn’t browned after 70 minutes so I let it bake about 5 more minutes.
When the loaf is finished baking, remove it from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.
Step 8: Slice and Enjoy
I wasn’t as gentle with the dough as I should’ve been so the crumb doesn’t have a lot of holes. I’m okay with that because I actually need a tighter crumb for the recipe I’ll be using the bread in.
This bread tastes really good! It’s chewy with a hint of sourness, not too much, but enough to notice. It tastes great plain with butter or as a sandwich with peanut butter and strawberry jam. Yum!