Any self-respecting home baker should try their hand at creating a loaf of sourdough bread at least once, if for no other reason than to participate in an ancient tradition. Baking with wild yeast sourdough can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians over 3,500 years ago, and has been modified in countless ways by countless human cultures ever since. How’s that for a bit of perspective, San Francisco?
Bavaria offers its own, well respected bread making traditions, and since I planned to stay for more than a few days, it seemed to me the perfect place to tweak my own recipe for Seven Day Sourdough Bread. It’s delicious with the alpine cheeses famous in Southern Germany:
Back to the sourdough… you really do need seven days from start to finish, even with a little help from a bit of cultivated/packaged yeast, because sourdough starter needs time to develop. Don’t worry – Days 1 through 6 each require only about 10 seconds of attention. You can do it. At the end of a week, you will be the proud baker of a wonderful loaf of sourdough, with plenty of sourdough starter left over. You can keep it forever as long as you give it a little love (flour) every once and a while, and you can also give some away. How about greeting the new neighbor with a loaf of fresh bread and a pint jar of sourdough starter?
Combine the following ingredients in a squeaky clean, quart size mason jar:
2/3 cup white flour
1/3 cup rye flour
1 teaspoon yeast (I used German yeast for a more authentic German sourdough, but really any yeast will work fine)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
Stir gently to combine (lumps are fine). Cover with coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. It’s important to let the sourdough breathe – do NOT use a jar lid! Place your jar in a warm location. 85 degrees F is widely considered “ideal,” but it is very important not to let the jar reach 100 degrees F, or the yeast will die. Every day for a week, add 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup lukewarm water, stir only once or twice, and recover with the coffee filter. You will occasionally see a liquid separate onto the top of the starter. This is normal byproduct of fermentation. Just stir it back in.
On Day 7, you are ready to bake! Remove 1 cup of starter for the recipe below, and continue feeding the remaining starter with 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup lukewarm water every day. If you only plan to bake occasionally, store your jar in the refrigerator and feed once weekly. Sourdough starter can last indefinitely, but if it turns a reddish color or starts to smell bad, throw it away and start fresh.
On Day 7, combine the following ingredients in a large bowl:
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups flour
Step 1) Combine ingredients with a mixing spoon, then dump onto a floured countertop and knead for 12 minutes.
Step 2) Place kneaded dough in an oiled bowl. Flip the dough over once so that the top is lightly oiled. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let rise in a slightly warm location at least four hours, or overnight. Don’t rush this – the longer the dough sits, the better it will taste! Dough should double in size during this step.
Step 3) Place dough on floured countertop again, and knead gently for one or two minutes. The flour which gets kneaded in feeds the sourdough and helps create a second rise. Shape the dough into a loaf (round or oblong, it’s up to you). Place your loaf on a baking pan coated in cornmeal. Let rise for two more hours.
Step 4) Using a pastry brush, coat the loaf with a bit of water. This helps create a nice crust. Bake your loaf in a preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting and serving. Don’t rush – this bread is worth the wait!