Sunday, September 09, 2012

Bob Hurt's No-Knead 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Bread

Bob Hurt's No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Everybody who studies and writes about something serious like law ought to have some pleasing, useful pass-times.  Now you get to read about one of mine.

Check out these 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Bread loaves I baked a few days ago.  I have another batch of starter becoming sponge in the kitchen right now.  Next time I'll put less dough in the pans.  This stuff has serious rising power.


  1. STARTER.  Get 1 TBSP starter (8 g) reconstituted from, free with SASE.

  2. SPONGE.  1 full day. Use only unchlorinated water, any flour
    1. To starter stir in equal weights of flour and water, cover, let sit 9 hours- 24g
    2. Stir in equal weights of flour and water, cover. let sit 8 hours - 72g
    3. Stir in equal weights of flour and water, cover, let sit 7 hours - 216g

  3. DOUGH. several hours. Use unchlorinated water, bread flour
    1. Mix together till integrated and wet, in this order:
      1. 200 g (1 cup storred down) sponge (feed and save the 16g excess as starter in fridge)
      2. 620 g (1 1/3 cup) unchlorinated water (may substitute vegetable juice)
      3. 20 g (4 tsp or 1 heaping TBSP) salt
      4. 2 TBSP olive oil or butter, optional
      5. 2 TBSP sugar, optional
      6. 2 beaten eggs, optional
      7. up to 1/2 cup seeds of choice (sunflower, carrawar, etc), optional
      8. Make to mix thoroughly all the above before adding flour
      9. 1 kg (8 cups) bread flour (substitute up to 500g  whole wheat, barley, rye, oat, spelt)
    2. Let sit, covered, 45 minutes, then stretch and fold.
    3. Repeat the above step twice more
    4. Form into loaves and cover with lightweight wet towel or plastic wrap or large bowl. If you use bread pans, grease the pan bottoms and sides first.
    5. Let sit to "rise" for 2 to 5 hours, depending on temperature, till about double in size.

  4. BAKE.  Temperature and time depend on size of loaves.
    1. Uncover, slice tops to accommodate rising in oven (use razor, very sharp knife, or scissors)
    2. If baking open loaves, boules, baguettes, rolls, I sprinkle cornmeal on the baking surface (stone or cookie sheet)
    3. Put in cold or preheated oven at 375F, bake till internal loaf temp = 195F.  
    4. Immediately remove loaves from pans and set on a rack atop the warm pans. Allow them to rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Sourdough Notes

  1. Chlorinated water kills the bacteria in the starter/dough. I recommend using reverse-osmosis, bottled, or distilled water for the starter and dough.

  2. Making and using the sponge allows the starter to mature into a robust yeast/bacteria colony and makes better bread.

  3. 1 cup of bread flour weighs about 128g poured (139g scooped); 1 pint water weighs 473g; 1 tsp salt weighs 4 to 5g.

  4. To stretch and fold, dust top with flour, stretch dough gently , poke the surface all over with fingertips, then fold in thirds till it becomes a blob again.

  5. I like my dough sloppy wet  IF I incorporated any flour other than bread flour to allow the flours to absorb more water.  Sometimes, I boil some of the water and mix in the rye/whole wheat into it and let it cool overnight to allow chemical action and full absorption of the water.

  6. When making rolls or baguettes that have small bulk, I preheat the temperature correspondingly high.  This shortens baking time, and it requires raising the baking humidity to keep the crust from making oven spring (rise) difficult.  Baguettes 425 to 450 for 30 minutes, rolls 450 to 500 for 15 to 20 minutes.  Put pan of boiling water on lower rack and spritz oven inside sides and bottom every 3 minutes for the first 9 minutes to elevate the humidity. Or, just toss a couple of double handfuls of ice cubes into the bottom of the hot preheated oven. The resulting humidity will create a crunchier crust.

  7. I sometimes paint the loaves with a milk and beaten egg wash, or just milk, before baking or after 15 minutes of baking.  This makes a glossy crust. I do it before baking and sprinkle with sesame or other seeds.  The wash makes the seeds stick.

  8. I sometimes pour 2 to 4 tablespoons of melted butter in the groove made by slicing the dough top, or paint the tops of rolls with melted butter.

  9. By adding more sugar and flavoring (vanilla, cinnamon, etc), eggs, butter, and candied or dried fruit to the dough, one can make dessert bread like panettone or cinnamon rolls. 

  10. All sourdoughs contain (by definition) both bacteria and yeast.  The yeast feeds on the dough to produce CO2gas and alcohol.  The bacteria produce acetic acid (the sour taste) and a little gas. Different kinds of yeast and bacteria live in different areas of the world.  Each has its unique properties of byproduct production.  For example, 1847 oregon trail sourdough contains fast-acting yeast at room temperature, and slow acting bacteria, so you will not get a sour taste from it.  But San Francisco sourdough has the opposite, and if you let it rise overnight at 50F (in an ice chest above but not on the ice), you will get tart loaves from it.  The coolness retards the yeast so the dough does not lose its rising power overnight. 

  11. You can make your own starter by mixing sterile flour (microwave it for a minute or two) and unchlorinated water together to make a watery goo, then let it sit a few days.  If it rots, toss it and start over, if it just gets sourish and does not smell rotten, you have your own starter.  Pioneers made the starter for the above bread in 1847 while traveling on the Oregon Trail.  People keep it alive by feeding it a starch like flour or potato or taro root every6 or 8 hours, or once a week if refrigerated.  See a discussion of starter I made in Hilo Hawaii at
Haole Hawaii Sourdough Bread with Poppy Seed Crust
Bob Hurt
Clearwater, FL 
(727) 669-5511
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