This sourdough sandwich bread is a classic sourdough bread, meaning it is made without the addition of commercial yeast. Baked in a loaf pan, it has the chewy texture of an artisan loaf but in a shape handy to slice for sandwiches or toast. Ohhh, the toast!
You don't need a heavy-duty stand mixer or strong arms for kneading. You don't need a pizza stone or a cast-iron Dutch oven, just a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; I use this equivalent 9x4x4-inch pullman loaf pan (without its lid).
I'll be posting about making your own starter soon. It's really simple. All it takes is unbleached all-purpose flour (preferably organic), filtered or bottled water (not distilled or chlorinated tap) and lots of patience.
Sourdough without added yeast is definitely as much art as science, so prepare to adjust to its timetable; it's not going to adjust to yours! It can take as long as 34 to 42 hours, but that's mostly time it's sitting around doing its thing while you're going about your business.
Sourdough Sandwich Bread
(Makes one 26-ounce loaf)
1 1/2 cups fed 100% hydration sourdough starter
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 Feed up your starter to 1 1/2 cups: Take 2 tablespoons starter out of refrigerated storage container. Put it in a 2-cup glass measure (It actually holds 3 cups, so shouldn't overflow when it doubles). Stir in 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. Stir vigorously, cover loosely and let stand at room temperature for 8 or 12 hours.
Tip: See schedule below to plan your bake.
2 Stir down starter and add 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water. Proceed as in previous step.
3 Stir down fed starter and measure 1 1/2 cups of of it into 2-quart glass measure. With a dough whisk or large spoon, stir in water, salt and 1 cup flour. When all the flour is incorporated, stir in 1 1/2 cups of flour a half cup at a time. Stir until dough just comes together into a shaggy dough (fairly stiff, but still sticky). Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap or lid and let stand at room temperature overnight.
Tip: Any leftover fed starter can be added to your stored starter in the refrigerator or just kept on the counter if you're making more bread in a day or two.
4 Grease bread pan. I use a 9x4x4-inch (1.5-pound) pullman pan (without its lid). It's about the same capacity as a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
5 Using no more than 1/8 cup altogether, sprinkle countertop with some flour. Gently scrape the dough onto the floured countertop. Sprinkle with flour. Press gently into a roughly 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Using a bench scraper, fold one third of the rectangle toward the center, then fold the other end to the center, like a letter. With the bench scraper, place folded dough in the pan, pressing it into the corners. Brush on a little water. Cover it loosely with an oiled or cooking-sprayed piece of plastic wrap.
6 Let rise until doubled. If using 9x5x3-inch loaf pan, it should rise an inch or two above the rim of the pan. If using 9x4x4 pullman pan without its lid, the dough should rise to below or just even with the top of pan. This can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. The dough needs to rise until the dough doesn't quickly spring back when poked with a floured finger or knuckle.
Tip: Check on the dough's progress regularly. After making it a few times, you'll have a better idea of how long it will take. And that will change as the weather changes. I keep my house rather cool in winter, so sourdough bread takes much longer to rise now than it does in summer.
7 Toward the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Just before baking, brush the loaf with a little water. Using a lame (pronounced lahm), razor blade or very sharp knife, score the top of the loaf with two or three diagonal lines. Holding the blade straight, make each cut quickly and about 1/4-inch deep. You might have to make the cuts twice. If the blade seems to be dragging, wet it before each cut.
Note: Actually, you don't have to slash the top. I've done it both ways, and it's simply not necessary with this loaf.
8 Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 35 to 40 minutes or until crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf registers 210 degrees on instant-read thermometer.
Tip: For reasons I won't go into (something about lactobacilli and yeast and ...), sourdough bread sometimes doesn't brown as well as other breads. If you're into the well-browned crust, take the loaf from the oven about 5 minutes early and brush the top with a little olive oil and put it back in.
9 Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack for 1 1/2 hours before slicing.
Schedule with two 8-hour feedings
6:00 am First feeding
2:00 pm Second feeding
10:00 pm Make dough
10:00 am Shape loaf
Schedule with two 12-hour feedings
9:00 pm First feeding
9:00 am Second feeding
9:00 pm Make dough
9:00 am Shape loaf
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