My strategies for no-knead sourdough bread

I tried sourdough starter twice and failed. Then got inspired by Saveur prize winning blog The Perfect Loaf and tried a third time and succeeded. So now I am keeping notes on my sourdough routine. I use something more like the Perfect Loaf's small sourdough starter to reduce waste so that is the place to start if you don't already have a small starter.

For weekend baking, I take my sourdough starter out of the fridge in the morning on Fridays. Lately it's been rising in the fridge as it's pretty active. It is a jar of starter that I feed 50g of flour and 50g of water after each use. The flour is half rye, half white flour. I keep a 50/50 mix of these flours in a container so I can feed my starter easily. I keep an elastic band around the jar after I mix the starter so I can see the progress of the rise.

After waiting for the starter to rise to nearly double I discard starter until the jar has about 50g left in it. I then use the discarded starter (about 100 g) to make a loaf of bread, or alternately I use it to make a pancake or crepe batter (see below)

To make the bread, I mix 400g of flour (I may mix flours, see below) with 1 1/2 tsp. of salt, the 100g of discarded starter and 300g of filtered water. Then I put a plate over the bowl and leave it to rise overnight.

I'll feed the starter again (adding 50g of the rye/ap blend flour, 50g of water) and put it back in the fridge for the following week or leave it out if making bread the next day again.

In the morning I shape the bread by folding it and let it rise while the oven preheats to 475F. I sprinkle wheat bran or corn meal in the bottom of my cast iron Dutch oven. When the oven is ready I shape the bread once more and then drop the bread dough into the Dutch oven with the lid on. I don't preheat my cast iron Dutch oven as the bottom crust of my bread is always very crunchy (overcooked?).  I score the top of the dough with one long slash (at least 1/2" deep) and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Or a mix of caraway seeds and fennel seeds.

I bake the bread at 475F with the lid on the cast iron pot for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes I take the lid off and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. When the bread is done I turn off the oven and let it cool inside the pot in the oven for 20 minutes to dry and caramelize the crust. Then I let it cool on a cooking rack for about 15 min. before slicing. Or ten minutes if someone is starving.

400 g flour,  eg. 100 g red fife flour or whole wheat and 300 g white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
100 g sourdough starter
300 ml water (or you can swap out some water for olive oil, beer, molasses)
wheat bran or cornmeal for the bottom of the pan
sesame, caraway or fennel seeds to sprinkle on top

molasses and beer make for a nice brown bread
olive oil and fennel makes a nice Italian tasting bread
honey helps get the starter going if it isn't rising a lot
the starter should smell like ripe fresh fruit. If it is too sour it is probably passing peak activation. Discard more of it in that case and feed it more to get the ratio down.

Pancakes or Crepes

If I am making pancake batter I put the 100g of discarded starter in a bowl with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and stir and stick that in the fridge. Then, the following morning I'll add 1 egg and 1/2 tsp. of baking soda for pancakes, or Michel will add 2 eggs and some water for crepes. I often use 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour with 1/2 cup of all purpose flour if we want savoury crepes in the morning.


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