South African from Sourdoughs International
Keep starter in fridge and feed every other day about a quarter cup of flour and water to make a thick batter. When the starter jar is about 1/3 full, discard 1/2 and keep feeding every other day. I use about a two quart jar.
Step 1: expanding the starter
About Six to twelve hours before you want to make the loaves, fill the starter jar up 1/2 full with flour and enough water to mix well, and let sit out on the counter for the room temperature rise. It can take as little as six hours to double in size, (fill the jar).
If prepping for the next day, you can do this the night before for making loaves in the morning. Or most of the time, I do this in the morning for making the dough at night, then bake the bread the next morning.
If you wanted make bread all in one day, like a Saturday or Sunday, I would expand the starter at night right before you go to bed, then get up in the morning and make the dough which takes about 30 minutes, let it rise for around six to ten hours, and then bake. This is what I have been doing lately because I can watch the rise and cook at just the right time- expanding the starter about ten or eleven at night and then make loaves around 9am and bake around 8pm.
If you are in a hurry and the bread still hasn't risen all the way because it's cold or something, you can put it in a 100 degree oven for an hour and it will rise really fast. More than an hour at this temp can make an off-tasting loaf.
Step 2: Making loaves- (Six to twelve hours later):
Grind flour: use Spelt, or Einkorn, Farro, or Kamut, or a mix. Fill up the grinder hopper all the way, or better yet weigh out the 1280 grams of grain and then grind it. Lately I have been using Spelt, it tastes good and so far makes a more sour bread.
I usually make five loaves, but I made the recipe below for four baguette size loaves that basically fill the pan within about an inch from each end so they don't go off the ends. If you make less than 3 or four loaves my machine doesn't knead it very well.
Starter- 670 Grams
Water- 570 (adjust for the grain moisture by experience- see below)
Honey or Agave- 50 (optional)
Whisk the above together.
Flour 1280 grams
Add flour. Knead in machine for 16 minutes at low speed (default)
If too darn sticky to form a loaf add more flour and knead a couple more minutes.
(Just recently, I put my batch of dough in the mixer, let it knead for 16 minutes, and then forgot about it for a couple hours, then formed the loaves and let it rise. It turned out to be the best loaves yet as far as rising and having a light airy loaf. I have heard bread makers talk about letting their loaves "rest" after kneading and before forming the loaves, so maybe this it what they are talking about, although two hours is probably a very long rest.)
To get sourdough to rise well, you need to have pretty wet sticky dough, if it's too dry it won't rise as much. It's kind of a pain to work with. I put olive oil on my hands for each loaf I form to keep the dough from sticking to my hands. I sprinkle flour on a cutting board and roll the dough to form the loaf.
Form the loaves and cover them with cloth, the fabric napkins work well because they are lightweight. Ideally, you want to get all the rise you can without the loaves falling back down from rising too much. In the summer this can be as little as six hours. I try to slit the loaves with a razor blade about 1/4 inch deep after they have risen a couple hours, often I forget or am asleep. They rise more if you slit them. The way I tell if the loaves have risen fully is to wait until some cracks are appearing, like fissures, and the loaves have doubled in size. I would guess 5 to 12 hours, but can be less, or in winter more. Over rising is not a big deal, I try not to, but because of my schedule I often do an eight hour rise when 5 or 6 was ideal. (summer temps). Over risen loaves have flat tops from falling a bit. Flavor not as good.
Step 3: Baking- (Six to twelve hours after step 2)
Place loaves in a cold oven, careful not to jiggle them. Turn on oven at 350 and set the timer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes use the thermometer and probe center of loaves for the ideal 190 degrees. Try not to go over 195 degrees or the loaves will be dry in a day or two.
(Short loaves can take about 20 minutes). If the temperature of the loaves are at say 165, the next 30 degrees goes fast, like three or four minutes it seems.
Place in bags after around 20 minutes out of the oven so they retain moisture.
Equipment and Supplies
Baggette Pan: (Bend to get the shape you desire)
Over the past year I have discovered some new things about the sourdough bread.
First, the South African starter is quite susceptible to spoiling. I have switched to Tasmanian starter and it has worked flawlessly. I leave it in the fridge, feeding it every other day. When I am ready to bake bread, I add about half the flour I need for my starter and leave it out on the counter for about 8 hours, then feed it again adding all the flour I need for my batch of starter and let that sit out for about 8 hours, and then add it to the other ingredients listed below to make my loaves.
Second, my mix times have been shortened to about 6 minutes, one or two minutes wet with all the ingredients except flour, then add flour and mix for four or five minutes instead of sixteen minutes, my old time. This is with my dough mixer.
Third, I found that a dry non - sticky dough makes for dry bread. It’s easier to form loaves, but not good for the moistness. I like the dough to be just sticky enough that it’s a little tricky to keep it from sticking to your hands, but not so sticky that when you touch the dough it grabs onto you like glue and won’t let go.
Fourth, I found that rising the dough to the point where it is slightly collapsing, makes for a better tasting bread and larger air pockets.
My current recipe for six smallish loaves is:
60 grams olive oil
850 grams starter
65 grams salt
800 grams water
1600 to 1700 grams Spelt flour