I am the sourdough king of the world. But as they say, it’s a small world.
My love of outdoor pursuits is almost eclipsed by my love of sourdough. I’ve made sourdough pizza, sourdough cinnamon rolls, and sourdough pancakes just to name a few. But my all-time favorite sourdough bake is bread. And I’m quite good at it, if I must say so myself (see first sentence, first paragraph). Within this post, I shall share my recipe for the best sourdough bread in the world. Think about it: The best sourdough bread recipe in the world from the sourdough king of the world. Read on.
First off, you’re going to need a sourdough starter. You can buy sourdough starter from various Internet sources such as Sourdough International, a great resource for sourdoughs from around the world. But I prefer to make my own starter by capturing the wild yeast and essential lactic acid bacteria that invisibly share my home. This makes my starter unique from any other starter on earth. There are lots of places on the Web that will guide you through the no-brainer process of making your own sourdough starter, so this is not our subject. I really want to get to the recipe for the World’s Best Sourdough Bread.
But first, a disclosure. I do not knead the dough by hand. I use a bread machine on the dough cycle. THIS IS NOT CHEATING, at least not by much. And it gives me more time to spend outdoors. So win-win.
The World’s Best Sourdough Bread
The following recipe was originally based on a recipe in Classic Sourdoughs: A Home Baker’s Handbook, by Ed Wood, Ten Speed Press (November 30, 2001), p. 177
About 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, unbleached and/or organic if prefered. I use a blend of unbleached white flour and whole wheat in a 2:1 ratio: 2 parts white flour to 1 part whole wheat. I think this improves the taste and makes the bread healthier with the addition of whole grains.
About 1-1/8 cups water (247 grams)
1/2 cup active sourdough starter
About 1 Tbsp vital gluten (20 grams)
First, you may have noticed above the reference to grams. This isn’t just a nod to our metric-minded friends; it’s very important to measure the ingredients precisely. As a friend once told me, “Cooking is an art, but baking is science.” You’ll need a kitchen scale that will weigh in grams.
1. Place 1/2 cup active culture in bread machine pan with 113 grams flour and 99 grams water. Machine-mix on dough cycle for 15 minutes, turn off bread machine, and allow 6-8 hours for mixture to “proof” or rise and get bubbly.
2. Add 113 grams flour and 99 grams water to bread machine pan, mix on dough cycle for 15 minutes, turn off machine, allow 6-8 hours for mixture to “proof” or rise and get bubbly.
3. Mix 1 tsp salt with 49 grams of water, add to pan, mix on dough cycle just long enough to blend, then add 220 grams flour and 20 grams vital gluten. Mix on dough cycle for 15 minutes.
This next part is especially important. The dough must be at the proper consistency. It should be sticky, but not wet. The dough ball should stick slightly to the sides of the bread machine as it’s being kneaded by the paddle or paddles in the bread machine pan. If it appears too dry, add water about 1/2 Tbsp at a time and allow the bread machine enough time to knead in the water. If the dough appears too wet, add flour 1/2 Tbsp at a time and allow the bread machine enough time to knead in the flour. Keep a record, as the relative humidity in your home will affect the consistency of the dough.
4. When the dough is at the proper consistency, turn off the bread machine, and with hands dusted with flour remove the dough ball and place on a lightly floured board. Shape dough into an elongated shape to fit a standard 9X5X3” bread pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap floured on one side or sprayed lightly on one side with non-stick vegetable spray. Place coated side down over bread pan. Allow dough to rise until it reaches about 1-1/2” above the lip of the bread pan. This last rise should only take about 3 hours at room temperature.
5. Place bread in cold oven and set temperature for 375 degrees. Oven temperatures vary, so check yours with an oven temp gauge and adjust the temperature accordingly. The purpose of the cold oven is that in response to the heat increase as the oven heats up, the bread dough will raise another inch or two. This is referred to as, “oven spring.” Set timer for 40 minutes. When time expires, check the internal temperature of the loaf at its’ center with a temperature probe. A temperature of 195 degrees means your creation is done. Less, and it means that your bread needs a little more time in the oven.
Cool, slice, and eat. Yum. And now that you have that starter, think of all the other sourdough goodies you can make: pizza, cinnamon rolls, and pancakes are only the beginning! If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or shoot me an email and I’ll get back with you real quick!