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The Bread Bakers Forum



All kinds of wonderful things can be made using a sourdough starter. There are endless varieties of breads that you can try. And sure, everyone has heard about sourdough pancakes and biscuits, haven't they? But you can also make pretzels, cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, pizza dough and cookies. How about sourdough applesauce spice cake? Or better yet, how about sourdough chocolate cake? The list goes on.

To get you started, here is a recipe for a basic sourdough french bread. Check our Recipes site for more sourdough recipes. You will find links to many other sourdough recipes on the Sourdough Links page.

A Basic Sourdough French Bread

Remember, sourdough leavens are much slower than commercial bakers' yeast, so it will take longer for this bread to rise. Exactly how long is dependent on your particular starter and the ambient temperature.  With sourdough, as with any bread, the longer it is allowed to ferment (without over-rising), the more flavorful the bread will be.  Bread rises more slowly at cooler temperatures than warmer, so you may need to do some experimenting to determine what temperatures and times work best for you and your starter.

This recipe involves the building of a two-phase sponge prior to mixing the final dough. It yields an approximately 1 1/2 pound loaf. It can be mixed in a stand mixer, by hand or in a bread machine..

Start with fully activated starter. Unless you have activated your starter recently, it may take more than one feeding to fully activate your starter.


Sponge Ingredients:
1/4 cup (2 oz) fully activated starter
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
1/2 cup - 1 cup (2 oz - 4 oz) flour (depending on the consistency you prefer)

Combine to make a thick pancake batter and stir well. Do not worry if the mixture is a bit lumpy. Let this sit until it is fully activated (might be as long as 8 to 12 hours, depending on your starter and temperature).


Sponge Ingredients:
All of the sponge from above (8 - 10 oz)
1 cup (8 oz) water
1 cup - 1 1/2 cups (4 oz - 7 oz) flour (depending on the consistency you prefer)

Combine to make a thick pancake batter and stir well. Do not worry if the mixture is a bit lumpy. Let this sit until it is fully activated (might be as long as 8 to 12 hours, depending on your starter and temperature).

You can mix your dough anytime after your starter has reached its peak fully activated state during this phase.


Bread Dough Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups of fully activated starter-sponge from above
2 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp salt

Pour the starter-sponge into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour (reserving the remaining 1/2 cup to use if needed) and knead until the dough reaches the proper consistency of bread dough - a smooth, soft, moist ball of dough, not sticky but slightly tacky is okay. Add flour or water as necessary to achieve the proper consistency. After kneading for several minutes and the gluten has set up some, add the salt and continue kneading until the gluten has developed and the dough forms a smooth, elastic, soft, moist ball.


Place the dough in a lightly covered bowl, turning to coat both the top and bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it has doubled in volume or until an indentation remains when you press two fingers in 1/2 inch.  Once again, how long is dependent upon your particular starter and the ambient temperature.


Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Gently pat out the dough to 1" - 1 1/2" and form into a rough circle-like shape. Gently press out the dough but do not really knead it as you attempt to deflate the larger air bubbles while retaining the smaller ones (this will help create an open-hole texture in your bread). Shape the dough into a ball, stretching the skin fairly tightly across the top. Pinch the seam together on the bottom of the ball. If you are baking hearth loaves, place your loaf into your prepared banneton, basket, or bowl seam-side up and cover. For free-form loaves, the dough on a well-floured board or oven peel seam-side down and cover.


Allow the dough to rise until it is not quite fully proofed (free-form loaves are best baked just slightly under-proofed). The dough should just begin to hold the indentation of your fingertip when you lightly press into the dough and should not be pushing back at you.

Prepare your oven in sufficient time to fully heat your baking stone/tiles/bricks (usually 30 - 40 minutes to pre-heat to 450 to 500 degrees F).

Uncover the loaves, turn them out onto a cornmeal-dusted peel if they are in containers, slash (dock) and bake.  For a thick chewy "crusty" crust use steam during the first 5 - 7 minutes of the bake.


Now for the hardest part of all.  Allow your loaf to cool completely (about 2 hours) before cutting into it.  A loaf of bread is not fully flavored until it is fully cool and it is much easier to slice cool.


Now for the fun part - finally!  Slice up your loaf, slather it with lots of fresh creamy butter or thin slices of cheese, sit back with your favorite beverage and some good friends, and enjoy the fruit of your labors.  It will be great!

Additional sourdough recipes can be found in the Recipes forum at this site or any of the recipe sites linked on the Sourdough Links Page.

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