Sourdough is one of the world’s oldest bread and many food historians consider it as one of the most beautiful accidents of the world. Sourdough can be traced back to the time of the Egyptians. Bakers noticed that when the airborne wild yeasts contaminated the plain wheat dough, it expanded into a lighter-textured bread. Egyptian bakers maintained this beautiful contamination by keeping a small batch of uncooked dough, now called a starter, and mixing it into a new batch.
Sourdough Bread Trivia
- Basic sourdough bread can be expanded to other bread recipes such as pumpkin bread, squash bread, challah, molasses bread, and even pretzels.
- In honor of the oldest leavened bread, the US celebrates National Sourdough Bread Day every April 1. Sourdough enthusiasts and bakers bake sourdough bread from scratch, engage in a bake exchange, or just share recipes with friends.
Sourdough Bread Buying Guide
Fresh sourdough bread can be easily purchased in any local bakery. It’s best to eat them warm. You can ask your local bakers about their baking schedules, so you can get freshly baked, warm bread. High-quality sourdough bread should not contain any preservatives and chemicals, as it only relies on the freshness and stability of the natural ingredients.
Sourdough varieties include the classic and world-famous San Franciscan Sourdough bread, then there’s the Danish Rye, the New Zealand Sourdough, and the Italian Camaldoli.
Other popular types of Sourdough bread include whole wheat, whole grain, honey wheat, brown rice, spelt flour, gluten-free & vegan, rye flour, potato, soda bread, the bread machine sourdough bread, and the no-knead sourdough bread.
Sourdough Bread Production & Farming in Texas
Wheat best thrives in warm temperatures ranging from 70°C to 75°C. They require sunshine and are best grown in areas with low humidity as damp temperatures expose make them vulnerable to diseases.
The deep and fertile soils of West Texas provide some of the best environments for wheat to grow. Wheat can survive in loamy soils or in fine-textured clay soils.
Hard Red Winter is the most common wheat variety in United States primarily produced in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas. It is planted in fall and harvested in spring. Hard Red Winter has a high protein and gluten content making it ideal for baking breads, but it can also be used to make noodles.
Preservatives and Chemicals
Sourdough bread should only contain natural ingredients such as flour, water, oil or butter, salt, sugar, and yeast. It should not contain any artificial ingredients such as food coloring, artificial sweeteners, bread improvers, bread stabilizers, and dough conditioners.
Strict artisan bakers abide by the most traditional ways of baking this bread. Thus, sourdough bread is usually produced in small batches to ensure that everything will be sold to avoid having stale bread.
Artisan-made sourdough bread must be packed in airtight pouches to preserve its taste and texture.
Enjoying Sourdough Bread
Sourdough bread is a healthier substitute for white bread as it is full of Magnesium, Niacin, and Calcium. Eating sourdough bread can help improve digestion and maintain blood sugar levels, delay aging, lower cancer risks, and aid in arthritis.
Sourdough bread can be made into paninis, classic sandwiches, open-faced sandwiches, bruschetta, and even bread pudding.
Never store the Sourdough Bread in the refrigerator as it will stale faster and will result in a hard exterior. After cooling the freshly baked sourdough bread, wrap them in plastic and store them at room temperature. It’s also best to store them in airtight containers.
You can freeze sliced sourdough bread. To thaw, you can re-bake it at the oven or toaster. Spray some water to create steam to soften and moisten the sourdough bread
Sourdough Bread for Beginners
Many people have failed at making Sourdough Bread. A great tip is to be familiar with your house or kitchen’s natural temperature and humidity as these are critical points for making the perfect sourdough bread.
150g/ 5.35 oz bubbly, active starter
250g/ 8.80 oz warm water, preferably filtered*
25g/ .90 oz olive oil
500g/ 17.65 oz bread flour (not all purpose flour)
10g/ .4 oz fine sea salt
fine ground cornmeal, for dusting
*For a more soft and pliable dough, you can increase the water up to 300 g- 325 g total. Please use a cloth lined bowl (instead of the Dutch oven for the second rise).
**You will need a 5 1/2 or 6 quart Dutch oven for baking
You can use King Arthur Bread Flour, Gold Medal Bread Flour, or Pillsbury Bread Flour
Make the Dough
Whisk the starter, water, and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the flour and salt. Squish everything together with your hands until all of the flour is absorbed. The dough will be dry and shaggy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, reusable wrap or a clean, very damp kitchen towel. Let rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour, if preferred.
After the dough has rested, work the dough in the bowl into a rough ball, about 15 seconds.
Bulk Rise: Now the dough needs to rise.
Cover the bowl with wrap or a very damp kitchen cloth. Let rest in a warm spot to rise. The dough is ready when it no longer looks dense and has doubled in size. This can take anywhere from 3-12 hours depending on the temperature of your ingredients, the potency of your starter and surrounding environment. For example, in the summer rise times can take anywhere between 3-4 hours @ 85 F whereas in the winter, the dough will take about 10-12 hours @ 68 F.
Optional Step: Stretch & Fold the Dough
During bulk rise, you have the option to perform a series of ‘stretch & folds’ to strengthen the dough. Start 30 minutes into the bulk rise. Gather a portion of the dough, stretch it upwards and then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl ¼ turn and repeat this process until you have come full circle to complete 1 set. Do this once or twice spaced about an hour apart. Although this step is not mandatory, it will increase the total volume and height of your bread.
Cut & Shape the Dough
Divide your work surface in half; lightly flour one side (for cutting) and leave the other half clean (for shaping).
Remove the dough from the bowl, and place onto the floured section so that it does not stick. You do not need to ‘punch down’ the dough; it will gently deflate as you fold and shape it.
Cut the dough in half to make 2 loaves, or leave it whole for a single loaf.
To shape, use a bench scraper to move your dough to the non-floured section (if there is any flour present, it will be difficult to shape- brush away any excess). Starting at the top, fold the dough over toward the center. Give it a slight turn, and then fold over the next section of dough. Repeat until you have come full circle.
Then flip the dough over and place it seam side down. Using your hands, gently cup the sides of the dough and rotate it, using quarter turns in a circular motion. You can also pull it towards you to even out the shape. Repeat this process until you are happy with its appearance. *See note below.
Second Rise: Now the dough needs to rise again, but for a shorter period of time.
Coat the bottom of your Dutch oven with cornmeal. Alternatively, use parchment paper to prevent sticking (this is what I do, now). Place the dough inside for a second shorter rise, about 30 minutes to 1 hour and cover with the lid of the pot or a very damp cloth. The dough ready when it is slightly puffy but not double in size.
It’s baking time!
Preheat your oven to 450 F towards the tail end of the second rise.
Score the Dough
Right before your bread goes into the oven, make a shallow slash about 2 inches long in the center of the dough. Use a bread lame, sharp pairing or a small serrated steak knife.
Bake the Dough
Place the bread into the oven on the center rack (lid on) and reduce the temperature to 400 F. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue to bake (uncovered) for an additional 40 minutes or until deep, golden brown. Keep in mind that all ovens are different; you might have to make minimal adjustments to these temperatures.
You can also take the internal temperature of your bread to double check that it is done. For sourdough, it should read about 205-210 F.
Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing. Don’t cut too soon or else the inside will have a gummy texture!
When shaping, the idea is for the dough to catch enough surface tension on a non-floured area in order to create a tight ball. If there is flour present, it will slide around.