When I first started exploring sourdough and looked for the perfect formula, I found myself chasing after the biggest holes and the most uneven crumb one can possibly get.
I was convinced, the higher the hydration – the better. I struggled with 80-87% hydration, which was almost impossible to handle for an inexperienced baker like me back then.
Only with time I realized that the best bread was the one with an evenly structured crumb, without caves and huge holes in it. I understood the importance of proper warm fermentation and necessity of building the dough structure during the warm bulk.
A beautiful crumb can be achieved with 74-76% hydration, with easier dough handling and less stress.
Here is my favorite sourdough formula with 74% hydration.
- 270g bread flour (90%)
- 30g stone ground whole wheat flour (10%)
- 207g water (69%)
- 15g (5%) cold water added along with salt
- 60g levain (20%)
- 6g salt (2%)
- 7 am add starter to the water and whisk together, add flour, mix well, cover loosely, let it sit at a room temp 74-78F for about 8-10 hours until starter reaches its peak (at least triples in volume).
- Learn how to make starter from scratch here.
- 5 pm mix water with flour and cover, let it rest 1 hour for autolyse.
- During the autolyse the flour absorbs the water, becoming fully hydrated. This will activate gluten development.
- 6 pm add sourdough starter.
- Mix on low speed of your mixing machine for 2-3 min, or KitchenAid on speed 3 for 3-4 min until well incorporated.
- Cover, let rest for 30 min.
- 6:30 pm add salt and extra water.
- The process of adding extra water is called bassinage, it helps to tighten up gluten. Mix on low speed of your mixing machine for 2-3 min, or with KitchenAid on speed 3 for 5-6 min until well incorporated. The dough should come up together, but still be sticky on the bottom.
- We will continue gluten development and structure building by performing stretches and folds during the warm fermentation period.
- Leave to rest 30 min. At 74-78F /23-26C.
- 7 pm wet your hands and perform 1st stretch and fold.
- 7:45pm 2nd stretch and fold.
- 8:30 pm 3rd stretch and fold.
- 9:15 pm 4th stretch and fold.
- Performing stretches and folds will help with gluten development.
- Keep monitoring the dough, if it rises too fast, you can shorten the time between stretches to 40 minutes or less.
- After the final stretch let the dough proof for 30 minutes at 76-80F/ 23-26C. You should see some bubbles on the surface, the dough has to become lighter. We are looking for 40%-50% rise. If your dough didn’t reach 40% rise mark, add 1 extra stretch, it will extend time of warm fermentation, but will give you great result 🙏
- 9:45 pm Transfer the dough on to a work surface and dust its top with flour. Flip the dough over so the floured sides face down.
- Fold the dough onto itself so the flour on the surface remains entirely on the outside of the loaf. This will become the crust.
- Place the dough round on a work surface and let it rest for 30 minutes uncovered.
- 10:15 pm Dust the dough with whole wheat flour. Use a dough scraper to flip it over on to a work surface so the floured sides face down.
- Starting at the side closest to you, pull the right 2 corners of the dough to the left, then fold them up into half of the dough. Repeat this action on the left side too.
- Finally, roll the dough. Shape it into a smooth, taut roll.
- Transfer the roll, seam side up, to a prepared proofing basket (loaf pan with kitchen towel)
- Cover it with plastic and return the dough to the 80F (27C) environment for 15 minutes.
- Then transfer the dough to rise for 14-24 hours in the refrigerator.
- Preheat your oven to 500 F, place a cast iron pan with the lid inside for 45 min -1 hour.
- Remove the dough from the fridge.
- Flip it over on a parchment paper, score it with a sharp knife or a scoring lame.
- Transfer on to the hot cast iron pan, cover with the lid (to create steam for a beautiful and crusty crumb).
- Bake at 500F for 15 min with lid on.
- Remove the lid, lower the temperature to 450F.
- Bake for 20 more minutes until golden brown.
Let it cool for 2 hours and enjoy.