Sourdough bread is something that fascinates me. Like a lot.
Bread is quite possibly my favorite food, and it has always been. “Bread” was one of the first words I’ve ever pronounced – and I like to think of it as a sign.
I’ve had a little experience baking bread a few years ago. I lived in my student apartment in Brescia at that time, and there were no proper tools to be used. So I kneaded a mini boule (or so I thought) with dry yeast, using a cake tin to bake it. This was the result. Needless to say, I was over the moon just because it had risen.
Then a friend passed me a blob of his starter. Things changed. I wanted to dive deep into sourdough bread baking, and I was already picturing all the beautiful loaves my oven would see.
The thing is, I was totally ignorant of sourdough. I wasn’t even sure how I was supposed to deal with the stuff. The instructions that guy gave me were a bit hard to understand, and I had no idea what smell my starter was supposed to have, I didn’t know anything really.
Sure, I was a dummy of a baker. But I felt kneading flour and water together, letting everything rest and then bake, was something that really belonged to my fingertips. Now I’d rather say baking bread belongs to my right upper arm, as the movement starts from there, but that’s not really poetic right?
Jokes aside, when I found out sourdough bread was best baked either in a dutch oven or an earthenware pot, I went crazy to find one of the two. Turned out I could reach for were both, as they were hidden in my kitchen cabinets.
I think I managed to bake about 5 loaves before mom overfed the starter and then neglected it when I was away, letting it die. I didn’t bother to salvage it, and my first sourdough bread baking season was over.
A few weeks ago the urge to knead started to grow again. I have no idea where it came from. You know when something feels so important, you would work your schedule around to fit that very thing in? Well, I felt like that towards baking.
While I was testing the recipe for this faux sourdough bread I baked it three times in a single week. Bear in mind, I have a desk job with no fixed schedule and fitting a day-long baking session is no easy task. Each time was a thrill anyways. I learnt to understand the dough, how much kneading it needed, if it was ready for the next step or not.
Now you may ask, why faux sourdough bread? That’s because there’s no sourdough starter in this loaf. Fresh yeast and plain, non-fat yogurt leaven the bread, and the latter contributes to the slight sour flavor sourdough bread has. I ran into a similar recipe from Lady and Pups, back at the beginning of my baking adventure. That one swaps the whole water content for plain yogurt, building the sourness of the bread with its tart flavor.
My recipe is an adaptation of Mandy’s. The flavor of this bread isn’t super sour, yet it’s complex thanks to the mix of different flours I used. Sure, you could get away with just one kind, or maybe two if you want it to be semi-wholewheat, but I promise you, it’s worth it.
You’ll end up with a rather big boule, with a soft and almost custardy interior. And air pockets, if you treated the dough right.
This bread stays fresh for three to four days, then it’ll be the perfect vessel for your morning or lunch toast.
Let’s get baking!
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Ever wanted to bake your own sourdough bread, but you have no starter? Fresh yeast + yogurt are the perfect cheat alternative for an easy and delicious loaf.
- 200 g organic strong white flour
- 100 g organic whole wheat flour
- 50 g organic rye flour
- 100 g organic all-purpose flour
- 125 g non-fat natural yogurt
- 10 g fresh yeast
- 6 g salt
- 300 ml bottled water
In a big mixing bowl, add flour and salt and mix to distribute.
Make a well in the middle, pour water in and crumble yeast on top. Mix with a fork to obtain a batter-like consistency. Add in yogurt, then start working the flour into the wet center until you get a loose and crumbly mixture.
Dump the dough onto a working surface and knead 25-30′ until the dough feels strong and elastic. Fret not if it seems not to come together or way too wet – it will eventually turn into a sticky ball. You can pull the dough towards the working surface with a bench scraper, once the dough starts to feel consistent.
To test for doneness, check if you can stretch a piece of dough until paper-thin without tearing it. This is also called the windowpane effect.
Oil a square container and rest the dough in a warm place, covered with a clean towel, for 2h. This is the bulk rise.
Perform a set of stretch and fold every 30′. You’ll feel the dough gaining strength and structure with each set. The total stretch and fold count should be 4.
Dump the dough on a floured surface and shape it into a boule. Pull the dough ball towards you a few times to tighten the surface.
Prep your desired proofing vessel and rest the dough seam side up in there. I used a floured, cloth lined bread basket. Retard 3h in the fridge, wrapped in a plastic bag or a large piece of film.
Towards the end of the second proof, preheat oven and a cast iron pot to 250 for 20′.
Flip dough onto a piece of parchment paper, score and quickly transfer to the hot cast iron pot.
Transfer the pot to the oven and bake 15′ covered, then 20′ uncovered. To test for doneness, tap the bottom of your loaf. If it sounds hollow, it’s done. If not, return to the oven for ~10′.
Let cool completely before slicing, about 2h.
If you’re vegan, I think you could safely use plant yogurt instead of the dairy version, and still get the result you’re after. Shop for a variety that’s low in fat and relatively tart, unsweetened and unflavored.