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San Francisco Sourdough Bread

I have been baking bread to bring to work and someone asked for the recipe, which is modified based on ideas from Tartine Bread and The Bread Baker's Apprentice books.

Wild Yeast Levain

  • 1/4 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 and 3/4 cups unbleached bread or all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water

Mix the ingredients by hand for a few minutes. The mix should be slightly sticky but doughlike. Transfer the starter to a work surface and knead for a minute. Transfer to a bowl with oiled surface and leave it until it has doubled in size. The temperature in my apartment falls to about 60F at night and I just leave it out on my countertop overnight. To retard the growth, you can store the levain in the refrigerator for a few days.

Dough (makes two loaves)

  • all of levain
  • 1 and 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 and 1/2 cup of unbleached bread or all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons of coarse salt
  • [optional] 4 tablespoons of potato flour
  • [optional] nuts and seeds, about 4 tablespoons

Sift the flour and salt, then add in the levain and water. Mix by hand for a few minutes until the dough coarsely holds together and then let it rest for 5 minutes. By giving the gluten time to form the bonds, time helps me strengthen the dough and makes the next mixing and kneading steps easier.

After a short rest, continue mixing, adding flour and/or water until the dough is soft and only slightly sticky. This is also when I add the nuts and seeds. Then transfer to a work surface and knead for a few minutes.

Use stretch and fold technique to develop the dough. Let the dough rest for 10 to 30 minutes in a bowl or container, and then stretch and fold the dough. Repeat one or two more times.

After last stretch and fold, transfer to a lightly oiled bowl which is big enough for the dough to double in, and cover. Leave the bowl out for 1 to 2 hours and then leave in the refrigerator until baking day.

Baking

I bake in the morning, so I take the dough out the night before. I leave it for 2 hours to warm to room temperature, and then I split the dough into halves. I then shape the dough and leave them overnight (about 10 hours) to proof.

In the morning, I preheat the oven to 500F for 30 minutes. The oven has two pizza stones and a metal pan. So even though the oven might say it's reached the right temperature, I do not proceed until the baking stones are warmed up too.

Turn the shaped dough onto a pizza peel, and then score it ([boule] and [batard]) just before placing it in the oven. Repeat for the other dough. Before closing the door I add one cup of hot water to the metal pan.

After one minute, I spray water to the side of the oven, and then again the next minute. I then lower the oven temperature to 450F. After 15 minutes I rotate the loaves so that the baking is even. I leave the loaves in for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Bread with sourdough starter

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