Ready to take your starter for a spin?!
This beginner loaf uses straight sourdough starter and a bit of yeast to help with the rising. With this recipe, we're more interested in getting that great sourdough flavor than the slow-rise sourdough technique. Don't worry--we'll get there! Just taking a few baby steps on the way...
Beginner Sourdough Loaf
Makes 2 loaves
2 cups (16 ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 cups (16 ounces) sourdough starter
4-5 cups (20-25 ounces) flour
1 1/2 Tablespoon sea salt (or table salt)
1 cup extra flour, as needed
In a large mixing bowl, combine the water with the yeast and let sit 1-2 minutes until the yeast is completely dissolved. Add the sourdough and stir to combine.
Add 4-5 cups of flour to the liquids, one cup at a time and mixing completely between each cup. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to knead (see left).
Knead for a minute or two just to bring the dough together into a ball. Sprinkle the dough with some of the remaining flour and let sit for 5 minutes. During this time, enzymes will begin to break the starches into sugar and relax the gluten strands, making it easier for you to knead.
After 5 minutes, flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and sprinkle on half of the salt. Fold the dough in half, flatten again, and sprinkling on the rest of the salt. Fold in half and knead the dough for 10 minutes. If the dough becomes so gummy that it's sticking to the board or your hands, add a tablespoon or two of the extra flour. A bench scraper can help unstick the dough at this stage!
Let the dough sit for another 5 minutes and then knead for a final 10 minutes. The dough is ready if it springs back when you poke it with your finger (see below).
(Note: All the kneading can be done with a standing mixer, but we suggest kneading by hand a few times so you know how the dough feels at each stage. In a mixer, use a dough hook and knead at medium speed for about 12 minutes total, taking breaks to let the dough rest as described.)
Clean out your mixing bowl and lightly coat it with oil. Set your dough in the bowl and turn it a few times to coat it with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place like the top of a fridge for 2 hours. Unlike a typical yeast dough, this dough will only rise to about a quarter of its size (see below).
Divide the dough into two equal portions, loosely shape them into balls, and let them rest for 20 minutes to relax the gluten. Meanwhile grease two loaf pans with nonstick spray, butter, or other grease.
Shape the dough into loaves by slightly flattening each ball and shaping them into rough rectangles. Fold the rectangles in three like a business letter and pinch the seam closed. Flatten slightly and fold the dough in half one more time, pinching the seam again. (This extra fold helps give the dough a smooth, taut surface.)
Place loaves in the pans seam-side down and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the dough has just crested the top of the pan (see below).
When the loaves have been rising for one hour, preheat the oven to 450-degrees Fahrenheit. Place an oven-safe pan (like a broiler pan) in the very bottom of the oven.
When the loaves are ready, bring two cups of water to a boil. Using a sharp serrated knife, slash the tops of the loaves in three or four places about 1/2 inch deep. Slide the loaves into the oven and pour the boiling water into the pan. Close the door immediately to trap in the steam.
Bake for 10 minutes and then rotate the loaves in the oven for even baking. When the loaves begin to show color, decrease the heat to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.
Continue baking for a total of 25-30 minutes. Loaves are done when they are deeply golden and brown, when they sound hollow if you thump the bottoms with a finger, and when a thermometer registers an internal temperature of 190-degrees Fahrenheit.
Allow to cool completely before slicing and savoring!
(All photos by Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)