Sourdough bread is one of the finest foods around. While I could sit here and elicit memories of eating San Francisco sourdough (and taking some home with me on the plane ride, too) all that would do is make you jealous.
.... but also incredibly excited about the powerhouse that is sourdough! So, I'll cut to the chase.
Sourdough bread reflects the traditional preparation of grains. It is slow-fermentation. It takes time, it takes patience. It's a huge slice of the food movement.
Go back to days of old (and your digestion will thank you!) Sourdough and the it's process removes phytic acid present in the grain, these are enzyme inhibitors and other anti-nutrients present in the bran.
Whole grains are actually harder to digest than white refined grains. But if they are prepared properly and traditionally like sourdough fermentation, whole grains are more nutritious, because you will actually be able to absorb the nutrients and minerals in the grains as you make them available during the soaking time.
When grains are not properly prepared, as in most commercial bread products, the phytic acid in the grains binds up all the minerals and blocks their absorption in the intestines.
Sourdough is a dough containing a Lactobacillus culture, usually in symbiotic combination with yeasts. However, the lactobacillus is much greater in proportion to the yeast.
This doesn't mean the bread has active probiotics in it once it's been in the heat of the oven - it's not the same as popping a probiotic supplement, drinking traditionally brewed kombucha or kefir - but the process of using a starter makes the bread more digestible, meaning that even folks with difficulty digesting bread can usually handle a rightly-done sourdough. The bacteria and yeast in the sourdough culture work to predigest the starches in the grains, thus making it more easily digestible for you! Plus, our starter being inoculated with Okanagan yeasts gives it a terroir-feel. Fancy.
On with it.
Here's the scoop.
Traditional Sourdough Bread ~ yields 2 Standard Loaves
2 1/3 cups fresh sourdough starter (you can purchase through the shop for pick up in Penticton or Kelowna, or make your own)
3 1/3 cup flour
1 to 1 1/2 cups water
Scant tablespoon salt
Mix sourdough starter, flour, and salt together. Add 1 cup water, then more as needed to make a moist bread dough.
Knead dough until it passes the “window pane test.” This test means stretching a thin window of dough between four fingers - is it thin enough to allow light to pass through without breaking?
Split the dough in half. Shape each half into a loaf.
Place in a loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3 inches) or bowl and cover lightly with a towel, proof 4-24 hours. While a second proofing period is not required, some folks like to punch the dough down after 4-12 hours, reshape, and proof again.
Slice any shape you like in the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife or razor blade to allow the loaf to expand during baking without splitting in unexpected places.
Bake at 400°F for 30-45 minutes, depending on loaf size, or until you smell it - and then give it 10 more minutes. If you're really worried, you can absolutely use an instant-read thermometer in the side of the loaf until the internal temperature reaches 190° to 210°F. Cool before slicing.
Wake it up! If your sourdough starter has been stored in the refrigerator, it has been living in a dormant state. Plan to remove the starter from the refrigerator 1 to 2 days in advance and feed it at least three times prior to baking using 2 parts flour to 1 part water.
Adequate Kneading! Thorough kneading of the dough is a critical step to allow the gluten to fully develop. You'll also want to make sure you've mixed your bread dough properly prior to kneading. If kneading by hand, plan for at least 20 minutes of kneading, taking breaks if needed.
If using a mixer, take care that the dough does not overheat, which can damage the yeast. Always knead the last 5 minutes by hand. When the dough passes the window pane test, it has been kneaded sufficiently. If it breaks before being stretched thin, continue kneading.
Plan for a Long Proofing (Rise) Period! As a natural yeast, sourdough tends to take significantly longer to rise than dough made with commercial yeast. Timing depends on the specific starter and conditions in your home, and may vary widely. Plan for a 4 to 12-hour rise period.
I'm no bread master. But with a healthy starter and the drive to do it yourself, you'll love playing with your new pet - your bread making, wild, living microbial sourdough! You can find a healthy, local sourdough starter to get started on the right foot here in the shop.