EASY, ARTISAN, SAN FRAN STYLE SOURDOUGH BREAD
Alrighty guys, without further ado.. here is our beloved sourdough recipe!! Our version of sourdough baking involves being as time efficient as possible, while also creating the best artisan sourdough bread ever! Our recipe uses a classic stand mixer (which takes a lot of the labor out of the bread making) and in my opinion is a lot more simple and easy to achieve than most sourdough recipes out there! I hope that you find this to be your new go-to and if you do happen to use it, tag me! Enjoy!
1/2 Cup Active Wet Sourdough Starter
5.5 cups Bread Flour (Divided)
3.5 cups Filtered Water (Divided)
2 teaspoon Salt
1/8 cup Cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon Cornstarch (If using the glaze)
Stand Mixer with Paddle & Bread Hook Attachment
2 large bowls
1/2 cup & 1 cup measuring cups
4 Proofing baskets (optional)
Plastic Wrap or 4 Tea Towels
Bread Lame (Scorer)
Small Spray Bottle
Large Cookie Sheet
Small mixing bowl (if using a glaze)
Basting Brush (if using a glaze)
STEP 1 FEEDING YOUR STARTER BEFORE MAKING YOUR SPONGE:
The sponge is a pre-ferment that helps build your sourdough and assists in the leavening process. Before starting the process of making sourdough, you'll want to determine how sour you want your bread to be.
If you want it to be less sour, feed it 1 or 2 times before making the sponge, but make sure to feed and wait at least 12 hours before making the sponge, I sometimes like to wait 1-2 days. If you want it more sour, feed it and then let it sit for at least 2 weeks in the fridge before making your sponge.
STEP 2 MAKING THE SPONGE:
Your sponge is what the bulk of your bread will be made of and needs that time to feed on the flour and ferment. Make your sponge about 8-10 hours before you are ready to start making your bread. I usually make my sponge before heading to bed, between 10pm-12am that way the sponge is ready to go between 6am-8am. To make the sponge you'll take 1/2 cup of your starter and add to a large bowl, add 3 cups of bread flour and 3 cups of water to the bowl and whisk until no clumps of flour remain. PLEASE NOTE: Do not use COLD water, if you have to, use tap water before using cold water! Ive noticed cold water retards the starter and it will never rise properly.
Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and set on the counter, try to avoid hot or sunny spots in the kitchen as too much heat can cause your sponge to die and never rise properly. I usually set mine inside the oven BUT just make sure you don't turn it on in the morning and bake your sponge on accident! NOTE: Use distilled water if you prefer but not necessary.
If for some reason you forget about your sponge and go over the 10 hours, see if its still bubbly and if it is continue on and if not just feed another 1 cup flour and 1 cup water and wait another 4-8 hours before proceeding to next step.
STEP 3 MAKING THE AUTOLYSE: Don't skip this step!
Once your sponge has been feeding for 8 or so hours it should be very bubbly and active and should be a very sticky but also runny texture. Now is time to make the 'autolyse', which is the time required to allow the flour and sponge to fully absorb into each other and is very important in the process of making sourdough.
In your stand mixture: measure and scoop out 3 cups of the sponge and pour into your mixer bowl (there will be about 3.5 cups left over in the sponge bowl- you will be making two batches with this recipe). Then add 1.5 cups of your bread flour and mix thoroughly using the paddle attachment. If too dry, add a tsp of water at a time until mixed thoroughly.
Once fully combined, scrap out into a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise for 60-90 minutes, it should double in size in that time. Repeat this full step with the other 3 cups of sponge left in the original bowl, then put that into a separate greased down bowl and continue with all the steps going forward.
STEP 4 MAKING THE DOUGH:
Now that your autolyse has been rising for 60-90 minutes you are ready to begin making your dough. Working with one bowl at a time, add the dough hook attachment onto your stand mixer and add the autolyse back into the mixer bowl. Now add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 more cup of flour and any additional ingredients (roasted garlic, herbs etc.) and mix on speed 2 until its creates a fairly stiff dough- moist but not TOO sticky. If its too sticky, keep adding a tablespoon of flour at a time until it reaches that consistency. Once its all cohesive keep the mixer on speed 2 and allow to knead dough for about 5 minutes but not much longer. If you over knead the dough, it will get too warm and the gluten will collapse and it will never rise properly no matter what you do.
Once 5 minutes has passed, using greased or floured hands, remove the dough from the mixer bowl onto a slightly floured surface and knead dough just a minute more just so you can get a feel of what kind of consistency it is, some loaves come out more sticky, some come out more dry. The stickier the loaf the harder it is to handle but it also has a less of a rise time than those drier loaves (from my experience). Shape into a perfect round. Now repeat with other autolyse bowl.
STEP 5 1ST RISE:
Grease the large bowls you had your autolyse in, place your dough back inside them and oil the top of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and place somewhere non-drafty to rise until it has doubled in size. I like to take a picture of the loaf on my phone to help remind myself of the size of it in the beginning of the rise so I know when it has doubled in size.
A good indication on whether its ready to move to the next step is to stick your finger into the dough, if it bounces back and fills in the hole you created with your finger- it needs to rise longer, if it doesn't bounce back quickly- then its ready to go to the next step. Check on your dough every 30 minutes.
STEP 6 SHAPING THE DOUGH:
Now that your dough has doubled in size, with a well oiled fist, gently punch down the middle of your dough to the bottom of the bowl, then gently push all the outsides of the dough into the hole you just made with your fist. This is called "punching down" the dough and its purpose is to rearrange the gluten strands, which encourages a proper 2nd rise.
Now you'll dump the dough onto your counter and divide your dough with a plastic dough scraper, I usually make 2 loaves around lb each (some weigh a little less) from each round of dough. This specific recipe should land you with 2- 2 lb loaves or 4-1 lb loaves or 8 -1/2 lb loaves or whatever you fancy. After you've divided the dough into your separate loaves, 'round' each loaf and then let it rest on the counter for about 15 minutes, covered with a greased plastic wrap or damp tea towel to keep it from drying out. While they rest, prep for baking.
How To Round: Working with one at a time, pick up each ball of dough that will become a loaf and pull/stretch the cut edges of the dough underneath, creating a round ball with no cut edges exposed. Pinch the bottom firmly together and set seam side down, place your hands on either side of the dough and push from different angles so that the dough goes around and around on the counter, the skin will tighten, but be gentle so you don't rip it. Then set on the counter for the 15 minute rest, repeat with all loaves.
STEP 7 PREPPING FOR BAKING:
Preheat oven to 475-500 degrees F, the hotter the better tbh. Set a metal pan filled with water in the bottom of your oven, this will create steam as the dough bakes, the steam helps create a crispier crust on the bread. Allow to preheat and sit preheated for at least 30 minutes before baking, the oven and water in the metal pan needs to be evenly and thoroughly heated for the best bread baking possible.
Now line your baking sheet with parchment paper and then sprinkle a generous amount of your ground cornmeal across the whole baking sheet. The cornmeal adds the artisan like texture to the bottom of the loaf, so don't skip this step either! If you are making one large loaf, instead of a few small, I've been setting my loaves directly onto a cornmeal sprinkled parchment paper and then sticking that directly onto a hot pizza stone that is in the oven. The even heat from the stone helps make the loaves rise a ton in the oven.
At this point I like to create a glaze for my bread. Some people don't use them but because I don't have an oven that gets hot enough IMO, I like to sometimes (not all the time) use a glaze to increase the crispiness of my dough, I call it my 'Blister Crust'. The glaze I use is a simple water & cornstarch mixture, it consists of 1/2 cup water to 3/4 teaspoon corn starch.
Lastly, I'll lightly flour the inside of my proofing baskets and fill my spray bottle with fresh water (the spray bottle is an additional step that inst required but i think it creates the best crust and I never skip this step, we will go over it more later).
STEP 8 SHAPING LOAVES AND 2ND RISE:
Now that your dough has rested for 15 minutes, its time to shape and set for our 2nd and last rise before baking! You can shape your loaf in anyway you'd like but since I use the round 9 inch proofing baskets, I tend to just stick with the round-boules type shapes. After shaping, set your loaf inside your proofing basket, seam side up for its 2nd and final rise. If you don't have proofing baskets, set loaves directly on cornmeal sprinkled baking sheets. Cover with oiled plastic wrap or tea towel and let rise in a non-draft place for anywhere between 1 1/2 - 3 hours.
Mine generally take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to rise but if you keep your house on the colder side or if you are baking in the middle of winter, it may take closer to 3. Keep in mind, the cooler the temps and the longer the rise time with contribute to a better flavor and crispier crust. If I happen to have the room in my fridge (which is hardly ever), I'll set my baskets in there for their 2nd rise. Also keep in mind that the loaves don't rise up, they rise OUT, they will do they rising UP in the oven.
STEP 9 BAKING YOUR LOAVES:
Once your loaves have doubled in size, they are ready to be transferred to your prepared baking sheet to begin the baking process. Gently flip over the proofing baskets, holding the loaf from falling out with your other hand and then gently set the loaf onto the prepared baking sheet.
Dip your bread lame into a clean glass of water and then score your bread in whatever patterns you desire. When scoring, do not use too much pressure or you will cause your dough to fall. Its always best to use lighter pressure and go back a second time, rather than to use too hard of pressure and cause your loaf to fall.
Using a basting brush, gently glaze the loaves with the cornstarch/water mixture and then immediately place loaves into preheated oven, once in oven mist the sides of your oven walls and the bottom of your oven and gently across your loaves with the mister bottle, close the oven and set a timer for 2 minutes. Repeat the misting process 3-4 times in the first 8-10 minutes of baking, yes its extra work but its SO worth it! Also, make sure to avoid the bulb in your oven when misting!
After misting is done, set timer for 15 minutes and allow to bake. Once timer goes off, remove from oven, rotate baking sheet so opposite side is now facing the back of the oven and set timer for another 15 minutes. This is to ensure an even bake and browning across your loaves.
After the second 15 minutes has passed, removed loaves from oven, they should be a gorgeous golden to amber and very crispy and if they are not, place back in oven and continue to bake in 10 minute increments until browned to your liking!
Wait for loaves to cool before cutting and enjoy!!