During the COVID pandemic, everyone leveled up their sourdough game, and I was no exception. After many failed loaves, and lots of trial and error, I found what I was missing when I found Bake With Jack's YouTube channel. So many helpful videos, and an adorable British accent!
If you don't want to do the deep dive that I did, you can follow along on this week's bread making adventure below.
First you will need an active, but hungry sourdough starter. I feed mine the night before I want to make bread. You can find instructions here. If you've let your starter sit in the fridge more that a week (like I usually do....) you may want to allow enough time to feed it twice before you dig into making bread.
Once your starter is good to go, you will be ready to assemble your dough. I always make 2 loaves. As long as I am spending a whole day attending to a dough, I might as well get 2 loaves out of it. If I don't think I will use two, my neighbor or my mother are always happy to take a loaf.
You will want to mix your dough by weight. If you need a scale, this is the one I use.
Here's the recipe I follow for two loaves:
200g active but hungry starter
900g flour (I use a high gluten, unbleached, white flour, but you could mix it up with some whole wheat or rye flour for some texture)
620g water at room temp
20g kosher or sea salt
Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl that is big enough to allow for your dough to raise. Mix it until it forms a shaggy dough. You will then let it rest 30-60 minutes for the hydration phase. This is the time your dough rests, and the water permeates all of the flour.
You will do a 'stretch and fold' 4 times throughout the day. I space them apart approximately 2 hours. If I need to do a couple closer together or further apart it's fine. And if you need to be away for a long time, you can pop the bowl into the refrigerator to sort of press the pause button.
After you've done your 4 stretch and folds, you will remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface for your pre-shaping. You'll divide the dough into however many loaves you want to make (I get 2 full size loaves, or two smaller loaves and a baguette or two - depends on what you want.) This time, I'm just making two big loaves.
You will shape your dough into round balls by folding the corners into the middle, then flip it over and tuck and spin it until you've got some nice tension going. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Once you've rested your dough, you will shape into loaves and pop them into floured bread baskets
...or baguette trays.
Let them raise again for another 30 minutes or so, while you pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. I stick a water pan on the bottom shelf of the over to create steam and make a crustier crust. This is optional, but I like a well-developed crust.
When your oven and dough are ready, you can turn them out onto a pizza peel, score them so they can expand while baking, and pop them into the oven. I have an old conventional oven that is pretty uneven, so I turn the loaves after about 20 minutes, and then bake for an additional 10-20 minutes until deep, golden brown.
Pull the bread out and let cool on a rack, completely, before slicing and serving.