How to make Sourdough white bread in a Breadmaker.

subject:   Recipe, 21. 2. 24

What separates Sourdough bread from your ‘run of the mill’ supermarket type loaf is that it is made using a “living” starter and no dried yeast which all other bread recipes for your bread maker generally require.

First I am going to focus on the SOURDOUGH STARTER.

Please note: the starter details here will provide you with a starter that can be used in either your bread maker loaf or an oven loaf. What differs are the loaf ingredients, the time and the cooking method you will use. 

You will want a :

Strong startera starter that is capable of raising the flour during the kneading and rising process to produce an appealing and tasty loaf rather than a brick. 

To achieve this I remade/refreshed my starter each day for a week after which time it seems to be really strong, hence you need the first item in the starter list below. You should only need to build up the strength once if you plan on baking a loaf regularly, as once it is strong enough each ongoing daily feed should maintain the strength. 

You’ll know it is getting stronger when the time taken to rise starts getting less and the air bubbles in the starter increase in number and size. For some, the starter will also get thicker and your loaves will get better and better.

If ( like me ) you don’t need to make a new loaf each day then keep your starter in its plastic container in your fridge and take it out and start feeding 24 hours before you use it. You will need to give it 2 feeds before you make a loaf.  Be prepared, to refresh your starter more, the longer it has been in the fridge and if it has been there without a feed for 10 or more days and has started to smell bad then discard it and start again.

To feed and refresh your starter you need: 

Heaps of Patience  the most essential ingredient for bread baking. 

Flour Mix   made from equal quantities of Bakers OO grade white flour and organic fine ground wholemeal flour – all mixed well together. ( mine is stored in an old plastic ice cream container kept in my pantry for my starter food)

Warm water ( 35 – 40 deg C ) a mix of filtered water (cold water run through a water filter to remove water company chemical treatments)  and boiled water from a kettle,  to get the right temperature. If you don’t have a water filter boil a kettle of water and let it cool then store it in your fridge.

Liquid thermometer to measure the water temp.

Metal fork  a dessert fork works well for me.

Small plastic container with lid  or a glass preserving jar or an old jam jar. MUST BE VERY CLEAN 

Electronic kitchen scales don’t skimp here as accuracy is necessary and they will get plenty of use. I measure all ingredients in grams. You may prefer ounces so please convert.

Garden or weather thermometer ( here they are not expensive) these generally have a measurement scale that can also be used to check the temperature in your home kitchen, or warm cupboards.  

Please note: Temperatures used here are in C as I am in the Southern Hemisphere so you may need to convert them to F for your country and thermometers.

Making and refreshing the starter

Day 1.

My small plastic container stands on the kitchen bench for a couple of hours to come to room temperature. Into it I put a heaped tablespoon of my current starter ( If you don’t have a current starter use the following process to make a new starter). 

I put my container with starter inside on my scales and zero them, then add 40 grams of mixed water and 40 grams of mixed starter flour.  I blend it well to a smooth creamy paste using the fork, then put a lid on the container add a whiteboard marker line on the outside of the container at the top of the starter, and then it sits on my kitchen bench (in summer)  or in a warm environment like the hot water cupboard or my heat pump (in the winter) where the temp is around a constant 23 – 25 degrees C – for as long as it takes to rise to double or treble the initial height in the container.  

Please bear in mind that I am refreshing a strong starter, if your starter only rises a very small amount and has just a few bubbles after days 1and 2 it’s working OK. Be patient.

I casually glance at it over 4 – 5 hours to see if it has risen though this varies with seasons and the initial strength of the starter. I have had new starters that have taken 10 hours before moving.   Be patient !!

Then it gets a little tricky as you ideally want to take the next step when it reaches the top of its feed. This will be a bit hit and miss initially but don’t worry just keep going and by the end of day 4 you’ll have a good idea of the time it’ll take in your kitchen. 

Okay, so when you can see marks on the side walls of the container to show that it has risen and started to drop down again, then repeat the feed process and remark the container. Leave it in the same place until the following day.

Day 2. Don’t be surprised if the starter has dropped back to its original line.

In your container you have 80 grams + a tablespoon of hungry starter, so now remove one heaped tablespoon of it and place it in a clean dish or bowl. Discard the remainder of the starter and thoroughly clean the used container. Ensure your last rinse is with filtered water and then dry thoroughly. Now return the heaped tablespoon of starter and repeat the process you used on day 1.   As before – be patient

Day 3.   Repeat the process again and be patient

Day 4.  Repeat the process again. By now you should be seeing some bubbles and a clear rise of the mix, but if you’re not persevere. It is a living organism and some eat slower than others.

Day 5.   Repeat the process again. 

Keep doing this twice per day until you see that your starter after each feed is clearly doubling or even trebling in height in the container and the bubbles are increasing. 

Whichever day you are now on when this happens, and it will, plan your time for bread making the following day.

When your starter is doubling etc in size and the bubbles are growing it is gaining strength but may take another day or two before it is strong enough to successfully make bread. This is a trial and error situation but waiting an extra day and refreshing your starter again will only be good. 

When you think you are at the time for making a loaf you are going to have to exercise a time judgement as you want to use the starter when it is close to the top of its rise phase. I tend to do this after the morning feed and rise so I can be baking bread later the same day. In some cases it will all happen after 3 days for others it may take 10 days. Above all be patient. 

And now to make the bread: 

Ingredients  all measured in g = grams.

150 g starter,    This needs to be strong. See the information guide above.

405 g flour,        I use high grade supermarket white flour only. 

8 g salt.               Natural NOT iodised.

15 g honey.        Liquid NZ Manuka is best but other liquid honey will also work

15 g butter.        Soft or nearly melted. 

245 g water.       I use filtered water + boiled water to temp 35    40 deg. C per the starter

Later for shaping I recommend you use rice flour or fine semolina.

1.

Put ingredients in bread maker bowl (with the paddle inset) in order shown. I found loading the top 5 ingredients ingredients to the left side of the bowl and water to the right worked well, and now insert the bowl into your bread maker and close the lid.

2.  

Go to your dough settings where hopefully there is one for sourdough  – on my machine this takes 2 hrs 30 mins – and follow the instructions for your machine to start it.

Then and VERY important: while your dough is mixing, preserve your starter by feeding the small amount of starter left in the plastic container following the instructions above for feeding, and when it has risen in the container after 3 – 4 hours pop it in the fridge and leave it.   

3. 

When the dough mixing has finished set the bread maker to knead setting – about 20 minutes

4.  

When this process is done its time for you to shape the dough. Wash your hands thoroughly and rinse them well. You do not want any chemical or soap  residue left on them then dry them well. Now flour your hands (I use rice flour) and put some rice flour onto your kitchen bench or board.  Gently remove the dough from the bread maker bowl and put it onto the floured surface.  The dough is likely to be a little sticky hence the rice flour which will not blend in to the dough. The rice flour will allow you to handle the slightly sticky dough without it all sticking to your hands and the rice flour will not affect the  loaf cooking, if it starts to stick to your hands flour them again and scrape any off with a blunt knife. After you have tipped the dough onto your bench or a board with your flared hands  you can gently shape the dough into a ball. 

Next you are going to introduce air to the bread and start a shaping phase. 

.

GENTLY pull the dough into a square shape and, starting at one corner, fold the edges into the centre to make a rough round shape, pushing the inner point down a little into the sticky dough beneath. As you do this cup your hands vertically and place them on the outside edges of the dough and with a soft grip turn the dough ball an 8th of a turn anti clockwise. Keep this process up folding and turning and gradually squeeze the dough from the circumference into the centre until you have a round dome shaped ball of dough about twice the width of your hand and three fingers high at the centre. 

Using the same soft grip as above, turn the dough dome three or four times with half turns around anti clockwise on the bench, in one movement turn it over so the fold points are underneath, give it a couple of turns and then leave it alone to rest for 15 – 20 minutes.

The 1/8th turns and the half turns will help to strengthen the surface of the dough and some will become the side walls of your loaf.

5.

While the dome rests on the bench put your sticky bread maker bowl into tepid to cold water and wash off the residue of dough. Rinse, preferably with filtered water. Remove the paddle, and dry the bowl thoroughly. 

I then pop mine back into the machine and close the lid for whatever time is remaining of the dough standing time, so it can enjoy any warm air left in the machine. I also think you could put some hot boiled water in it to lift the temperature a little but haven’t tried it myself. If you do,  make sure it is thoroughly dry afterwards.

Take this opportunity to wash any kitchen tools you have utilised such as a knife, a spatula, the bread maker paddle and a dough blade (if you have one) in cold to tepid water ready to put away. DO NOT PUT THE PADDLE BACK IN THE BREADMAKER. Its work is done.

6.

Now when the stand time is up, turn the dough back over and this time you are going to shape the dough into a rectangle with one of the short sides close to you. 

Starting at the furthest short side corners GENTLY grip and fold them up and in to the centre  and twist them under themselves, hopefully the stickiness under the surface of the dough will  aid them to blend together, then pinch a spot a quarter way down the length on either side to give you a small handle and repeat the fold into the centre. Two more for the side centre and quarter closest to you brings you to the bottom corner do the same and then turn the whole over, so the braided fold joints are on the underside.  

This whole action is fairly quick and takes lots of practice so don’t worry if it looks odd. Only do it once though and it will trap more air under the flaps you folded. Don’t worry if it resembles a dogs breakfast you’ll get better each time. 

The closest comparison I can think of will be the top of a Cornish Pastie where the dough has been lightly squeezed together almost in a braid. 

Now you have a rough rectangle of dough on your bench with the fold points underneath and a smooth elongated dome on top. Gently, using both hands or maybe a large slice lift the dough in one piece and place it in the bread maker bowl with the fold points still underneath and where it should extend from one end of the bowl to the other. Don’t push it down or stick anything into it as this will deflate the dome. On top should be the smooth side. Make a mental note of how high it sits in the bowl.

Return the bread maker bowl to the machine, close the lid and set it on the rise setting. I assume everyone has one. Leave it to rise for approximately 30 minutes at 28-38 degrees C. This will have the effect of warming the air in your bread maker so do NOT open it after the time is up but now, leave it to stand for about 4 hours. This will have created a warm rise environment for the final rise of the dough. 

7. After this time, lift the lid of your bread maker a tiny amount so you don’t let too much of the warm air escape and take a peek at the dough. It should have doubled in height and risen to a medium size loaf. If so it is time to cook. If not then close the lid, re set the bread maker to a rise setting again and then and leave for an hour longer. Then peek again. If it still hasn’t risen you have the base for a brick so either bake it or toss it – your choice. The cause will be a weak starter or rough shaping. It is more likely though that you will have a good rise and it’s time to cook.

8.

Cooking time. I now set my machine to bake,  for one hour and 10 minutes and hit start. 

9.

1 hour 10 minutes later I have a great looking sourdough loaf in the bowl. Take the bowl out of the bread maker and stand it on a board to cool. Turn off the breadmaker. 

Don’t be anxious and try to remove the loaf yet. Be patient, as it will release its grip on the bowl more easily when it has cooled slightly. Wait about 15 minutes then you should be able to easily tip it out.

10.

Finally!!! 

A loaf. NOW, if you want to enjoy the whole loaf straight away with some equally delicious soup for example, then break it up by hand while it’s still warm, but if you intend keeping it to  enjoy over a few days or as sandwiches etc, then let cool overnight then it will last better before you slice into it. AND pat yourself on the back – you have made proper sourdough in a  bread maker. 

If you have experience of making sourdough bread in an oven you will already be aware that this bread maker loaf does not have any wholemeal flour in it. If you want some then I suggest you reduce the total quantity of flour by 55 grams and add 50 grams of wholemeal. I have fond that wholemeal is slightly heavier than white and requires a strong starter to get the same rise. If  the top drops in the final loaf, or the crumb is rather coarse, experiment with either an increase in the amount of starter or a little extra water. Great play around opportunity. 

The end.

PS  Be aware that these loaves are moreish so be prepared to have to bake more often than you would buy from a supermarket but they are soooo much better.

Happy days.