Monday, July 14, 2008

How to Make Sourdough Bread Bread
by Bob Hurt, 727 669 5511,  Full instructions at in articles.  More info and free starter at

  1. Weight, not volume.  Make all bread recipes by weight, not by volume.  Ideally, buy a scale that weighs up to 5 pounds accurately and USE it. 
  2. Starter. Keep starter culture in refrigerator and feed weekly.  By weight 1x starter, 1x flour, 1x water.  Culture contains bacteria and yeast. 
  3. Water. Use only unchlorinated water - if water contains chlorine, bring to boil and cool to room temperature before using for bread.  Chlorine kills bacteria.
  4. Flour. Use any kind of flour or even potato or other starch to feed starter.  Use bread flour for sponge and dough.  Substitute up to half of bread flour with other specialty flours like spelt, barley, oat, whole wheat, rye.  Soak coarse flour like rye overnight by boiling water and mixing hot water with coarse flour 3x water to 1x flour.
  5. Sponge.  make sponge from starter to use in dough recipe.  Sponge = 1x starter, 1x flour, 1x water (by weight). Stir together thoroughly. Let sit in warm area out of direct sun till frothy and bubbly 3 to 8 hours.  Okay to make sponge in one phase.  Ideally, make sponge in 3 phases by "tripling:" 1x culture + 1x flour + 1x water + sit time.  Sponge 1 = sit time 3 hours. Sponge 2 = sit time 9 hours.  Sponge 3 = sit time 8 hours.  This makes very robust sponge.
  6. Dough.  1x sponge, 3 x water, .1x salt, 5x flour.  Mix in order given till all ingredients are wet.  Let sit in warm area out of direct sun 45 minutes.  Stretch, poke with finger tips, roll into cylinder, then fold end to end.  Do this twice.  Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel, or put in oiled plastic bag. Let sit to rise 45 minutes to 1 hour. Repeat stretch, fold, and rise process twice more.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  7. Prepare Loaves.  Shape into loaf and lay on parchment paper or cornmeal-sprinkled or oiled cookie sheet.  Alternatively, put in oiled bread pan so dough does not protrude above rim.  Cover with plastic wrap or insert in plastic bag and let rise for 1/2 hour more.  Just before inserting in oven, slice the loaf with a razor, very sharp knife, or very sharp serrated knife.  Make your slices quickly but deeply.  Knife must not pull dough.  Slice length wise top and sides, or if round boule, slice like a square 1/2 way up the side. Usually it won't matter if you let the dough rise too long, but a proper rise will yield some oven spring (expansion of loaf in the oven).  Too much rise will cause the loaf not to expand while baking. If you want seeds on the loaf, paint cut surface with eggwash and milk, then sprinkle and gently pat with seeds. Keep loaves covered and warm till baking time.
  8. Bake.  Bake in 375 degree F cold oven  for 45 to 75 minutes, depending on size.  Or bake at 500-550 for darker and harder crust. Bake on on cookie sheet or stone or in bread pan on center rack. Use parchment paper to hold boules (non-pan loaves) for ease of handling. Mark start time at T=0.  At T+10 minutes paint loaves with milk or milk mixed with beaten egg for shiny crust unless already painted.  Do this quickly and shut the door to retain heat.  At T+20 lower temperature to 450.  Bake very small loaves 25 minutes, medium loaves 35 minutes, big loaves 45 minutes, and huge loaves 55 minutes, OR till a a probe thermometer in bread center reads 190 degrees F.  Done bread makes good thumping sound when bumped with fingers.  Immediately turn loaves onto a wire rack elevated off the stove top for cooling.  Allow 30 minutes cooling time before cutting or eating.
  9. Cut, Eat, and Preserve. Saw slices gently with serrated edge knife, or just rip a chunk of bread off.  Cool extra loaves completely, seal in ziplock bag, and freeze immediately to keep fresh a month or more.  Keep loaf-in-process in plastic bag in fridge, but after 3 days, reduce to coarse crumbs, toast on cookie sheet, and save in plastic bag for recipes requiring bread crumbs.

Typical Bread-Making Measurements

When making bread, you should use a food scale to measure portions of sponge, water, and flour by weight, not by volume.  The typical kitchen scale will not accurately measure small amounts of salt, so we assume certain weights for salt by volume. Remember that we can use the ounce unit for measuring either volume or weight, for a volume of one ounce of water weighs approximately one ounce, and that explains the use of ounce for both types of measure. However, a volume ounce of flour always weighs less than one ounce, so to avoid confusion, you might want to use grams for measuring bread components.  I have found the following equivalents suitable for bread making.

1 ounce weight (ozw) = 28.375 grams ; 1 pound (lb) = 16 ozw = 454 grams (g) = 7000 grains
1 ounce volume (ozv) = 1/8 cup = 2 Tablespoons (Tbsp) = 6 teaspoons (tsp); 1 Tbsp = 3 tsp
1 tsp salt = 5.2 g = .18 ozw; 1 Tbsp salt = 15.6 g = .55 ozw
1 gallon (gal) water = 8.35 lb; 1 pint water = 1.04 lb = 272 g; 1 cup water = .502 lb = 136 g.
1 cup flour sifted or lightly shaken out of bag = 4.4 oz = 125g
1 cup flour slightly packed by scooping it out of bag or tapping cup on counter = 5 oz = 142 g
1 cup sponge, not stirred down = 5 oz = 142 g 

The volumes below (shown as cups) vary some from the ideal, but after you make a few batches of bread, you will get a feel for the ideal stiffness.

Ideal weights ->1x 3x.1x5x
1.3 lb100 g300 g10g500g
1.8 lb5 ozw15 ozw1- Tbsp25 ozw
2 lb1 cup2 cup1+ Tbsp6 cup
2.5 lb1.5 cup3 cup1.5 Tbsp8.5 cup
5 lb2 cup4 cup2 Tbsp10 cup
6 lb3 cup6 cup3 Tbsp5 lb bag
Note that if you want lots of oven spring, bake after the first rise or second stretch and fold. If you want a thick hard crust, spritz the oven sides and bottom with water every 2 or 3 minutes for 15 minutes to make steam.