Sourdough French Bread

Sourdough French Bread

My father gave me some sourdough starter he brought from Montana some time ago and although he's mainly into it for the pancakes and my grandfather before him was in it for the biscuits, I'm more of a bread girl so I started looking for a simple bread recipe I could use it in. It just so happened that the whole no- knead bread revolution had really made things easier for me than the last time I tried to do this.

If you haven't been able to get a good harvest loaf to work for you I highly recommend visiting the Red Star Yeast or King Arthur Flour baking websites to get some practice using their No-knead bread recipes. If you are anything like me you will be hooked and marvel at how incredibly successful your bread can be and then you'll want to make more!

Since then I've come up with what works for me and I have found there are seemingly limitless variations on my basic recipe now. Here's what I baked up yesterday to go with dinner.

I started at 1:30pm and it took me 20 minutes to put together the dough and get it set on its first rise. About 3:30pm I thought it looked like it had about doubled in size so I rolled it back out onto my floured board and degassed the dough by folding it over on itself 3-4 times. then I started rolling it up like a newspaper fairly tightly. You want to get some decent surface tension going on the outside of the loaf you are forming. Then I put it in my floured proofing basket to get its second rise. I had planned to put this loaf in my oblong shaped dutch oven to bake so I got that out and started heating it up in my oven set to 425 degrees.

After about 30 minutes my bread had risen and the oven was hot so I got ready to score the loaf and get it into my dutch oven. First I took the dutch oven out as it was now preheated to 425 degrees and set it near me on the stove top with the lid on.

Then I started working on scoring my loaf by turning it out onto a piece of parchment paper and making deep slashes all the way across the bread with a razor blade (top left corner of breadboard). Don't you just love those pop-up parchment paper sheets they are soooo handy!

Did you notice how large this bread was getting? I had misjudged the capacity of my oblong pan for a loaf as large as this one had become.

So earlier that day I had been simmering some pork hocks for 2 1/2 hours before beginning this bread and my house was far more humid than usual. This greatly effected my regular bread recipe and I needed to add 1 cup more flour than usual to get the dough to come to the right consistently. That's why so many bread recipes will call for 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups of flour or something like that. Humidity....I actually added an extra cup of flour to this recipe and the loaf was a bit larger as you can imagine!

Quickly, I took out my new Nordicware aluminum half-sheet pan and moved on to another method of baking!

First I turned the temperature up to 450 degrees then I lifted my bread using the parchment paper and carefully set it on the aluminum baking sheet (paper and all) and popped it into the oven.

I grabbed the bottle I use for misting water and after about 1 minute I opened the oven slightly and generously sprayed the interior walls of my oven on both sides quickly closing the door after. I repeated this once more after one more minute. This helps to develop the crust and allow for a better oven rising.

Then I asked Alexa to set a timer for 35 minutes. Hands free timers are one of Alexa's great features!

I thought that the higher temperature for this recipe would help since I didn't have the added security of using the dutch oven any more.

Wow! That was a close one. But how great did it turn out? It's really tasty!

This will last a few days too because fresh bread made at home always seems to keep better than what I get at the store. Why not make a large loaf?

Sourdough French Bread

3-4 hours start to finish

Ingredients

3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup bread flour

2 tsp Active Dry Yeast - not instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt

1 Tbl real butter or olive oil

1 cup sourdough starter - fed the night before and about the consistency of pancake batter

1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water or whey if you also make cheese and have some on hand like I do

Dutch Oven method

I took this picture of a Dutch oven method loaf a few weeks back. It has a different scoring pattern.

1. Add both flours and yeast to a stand mixer ( I don't sift) and mix on low speed with the hook attachment to somewhat combine.

2. Add your butter or oil and sourdough starter all at once and mix again on low speed to somewhat combine.

3. Begin to drizzle in the liquid very slowly with the machine running on low speed until you have used a little more than 1 cup.

4. Allow the machine to continue to work the dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of the mixer adding more liquid tablespoon by tablespoon if it seems too dry. If you go too fast and the dough gets too wet add more bread flour a few tablespoons at a time. The dough should become just slightly sticky and be very soft in about 5 minutes. Let the machine knead a few minutes after it comes together maybe 7-8 minutes total. The dough should be just tacky now and still very soft.

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured board with a spatula. Flour your hands and then knead the dough just a few times by folding it over itself one direction and then the other.

6. Gather the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl that has a tablespoon of oil in it and roll it around so it's lightly covered with the oil. I use grape seed oil but any good oil will do.

7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it somewhere warm to rise for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size. The more you bake in your house and the warmer it is, the faster your bread will rise. The extra yeasts in the air and some warmth will do amazing things!

8. When your bread has risen until you can still see your fingerprint when you poke it gently and it doesn't immediately spring back then it's time to form your loaf!

Roll it back out onto a floured board and degassed the dough by folding it over on itself 3-4 times, then started rolling it up like a newspaper fairly tightly. You want to get some decent surface tension going on the outside of the loaf you are forming. Then I put it in a floured proofing basket called a banneton to do its second rise. Cover it with the cover that often comes with your banneton or very loosely with plastic wrap that you've sprayed with oil.

You can make a proofing basket out of a bread basket or pan lined with towels but it's not nearly as convenient if you make bread regularly.

9. Put a cast iron dutch oven in your oven and begin heating it to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

10. After 30 minutes, very carefully remove the preheated dutch oven to your stove top leaving the lid on.

11. Roll your loaf out of the basket and onto a piece of super handy parchment paper and score as shown above.

12. Remove the lid from the dutch oven with an oven mitt and gently transfer your loaf by lifting the parchment paper and setting the whole thing in the pot paper and all. Replace the lid using an oven mitt and put the whole dutch oven back into your oven.

13. I like to turn down the temperature on my oven to 400 at this point and have Alexa set a timer for 45 minutes. If you would like a darker crust you may want to keep it on a higher temperature but it should be done within 40-45 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool at least an hour before slicing.

Half-Sheet Pan method

Follow intructions 1-8 as written

9. Preheat your oven to 450 for at least 30 minutes

10. Roll your loaf out of the proofing basket and onto a piece of super handy parchment paper set on an aluminum half-sheet pan, score as shown above then place the scored loaf into the oven on the half-sheet pan.

12. After about 1 minute open the oven slightly and generously spray the interior walls of the oven on both sides quickly closing the door after. Repeat this once more after one more minute. This helps to develop the crust and allow for a better oven rising.

13. Bake at 450 degrees for 35-40 minutes, bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool at least one hour before slicing.

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Copywrite © 2019 by Melisa Smith