Nothing beats the taste of a fresh loaf of homemade bread…
especially when it’s Rustic Sourdough Bread!
I can’t believe it’s been this long since I baked a loaf of homemade bread. Bread baking is one of my absolute favorite things to do in the kitchen, and I just haven’t done it in a while. Perhaps all of that snow outside is causing my brain to short-circuit. Perhaps it’s also because my wife and I have been spending a ton of time at the curling club lately. (We’re addicted now. It’s official.) Ah, who am I kidding…those are just sorry excuses for not getting in the kitchen and baking some fresh bread. Well, now that we are firmly in the middle of winter, it’s time to fix that problem. It’s time to bake some bread!
I’ve had a little canister of sourdough starter sitting in the back of my fridge for well over a year now. I feed it religiously, but I just haven’t used it as much as I should. I decided it’s time to fix that and bake up a couple of loaves of delicious Rustic Sourdough Bread. (Did you know that you can keep a sourdough starter going for, well, almost forever. Some people even name their starter. As long as you feed it some new flour and fresh water occasionally, it will keep on going. Crazy, right?)
Rustic Sourdough Bread
Another fun fact: Sourdough bread primarily relies on wild yeast. Yup, there are yeast spores all around us. That’s where the sourdough starter comes in. A starter is basically just flour, water and wild yeast. That’s it. The wild yeast finds a home in the flour and water mixture, and there you have it. That’s why San Francisco has such a distinctive sourdough bread. The wild yeast out there in the Bay area is very different from the wild yeast here in upstate New York. But that’s the beauty of sourdough. Every starter is a bit different. They all produce that same characteristic sourdough flavor…but each one is slightly unique. You can make your own sourdough starter at home, and I tried that once, but it just didn’t work out so well. You can just order a starter online, too. Frankly, I recommend just ordering a starter. It’ll save a ton of time, and it’s guaranteed to produce a viable starter.
My father-in-law was in a town a couple months ago, and he asked what made sourdough taste sour. Well, I realized I didn’t know the answer. So I consulted the ultimate source of knowledge (i.e. Google), and I found that there is actually some science at work in that bread dough. The wild bacteria (good bacteria, that is) in the dough produce lactic acid and acetic acid. Acetic acid is the stronger of the two, and it lends that distinctive sour taste to the bread. Acetic acid also loves colder temperatures, so that’s why many sourdough bread recipes (including this one) call for the dough to ferment in the refrigerator overnight. Yup, that little nap in the fridge is producing flavor!
For anyone who has ever made homemade bread, you know that it’s a long process. It truly isn’t very difficult, but you need to be patient. You can’t look at the clock at 4pm and decide you want sourdough bread to be ready for dinner at 6pm. It’s just not gonna happen. You need time. (Cue “Time” by Hootie & the Blowfish.) But that time will yield some awesome bread.
I did use a little bit of instant dry yeast to give this bread a quick boost after it chills in the refrigerator overnight. I also used a bit of citric acid to intensify the sourdough flavor. The citric acid is optional, but it really does produce an extra-sour loaf…just the way I like it! I found a jar of powdered citric acid at my local organic grocery store. (Fun tip: citric acid is also used if you make your own cheese.) But don’t go crazy with the citric acid. 1/2 tsp is all you need for this recipe. I highly recommend using it, though!
Sure, you can go buy a loaf of sourdough at your local bakery, but there is something magical about making it yourself. I’ve heard from a bunch of readers in the past that making homemade bread is on their bucket list. Well, winter is here, and it’s the perfect time to learn a new skill!
Did you make a batch of this Rustic Sourdough Bread at home? Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog). I’d love to see your creation!
Rustic Sourdough Bread
For the Sourdough Bread
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 - 1½ cups water varies—see Instructions below
- 5 cups all-purpose flour divided
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- ½ tsp citric acid optional, produces an extra-sour bread
For the Seed Topping
- 1 egg white
- 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- In a large bowl, combine the sourdough starter, 1¼ cups of water and 3 cups of flour. Stir until well combined, about 1-2 minutes. The goal is to create a smooth dough. If the dough looks a bit “shaggy,” just add more water 1 Tbsp at a time until a smooth dough develops. Cover and let dough sit at room temperature for 4 hours.
- Transfer dough (still covered) to the refrigerator for 12 hours, or overnight.
- In the bowl of a countertop mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the refrigerated dough, remaining 2 cups of flour, 2-3 Tbsp of additional water, sugar, salt, yeast and citric acid (optional). Mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes. Increase speed to medium for 3 minutes, or until dough is smooth.
- Place dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rest in a warm (85°F) location for 2-3 hours, or until almost doubled in size. (The time will depend slightly on the strength of your starter, so just keep an eye on the dough occasionally during this stage.)
- Divide the dough into 2 equally-sized pieces.
- Gently shape the dough into 2 round loaves. Dust two parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal and place loaves on pans. Cover lightly and let dough rise until very puffy, about 1½ - 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Brush tops of loaves with the lightly beaten egg white. Combine the poppy and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Sprinkle seeds evenly over tops of loaves. Score (i.e. make shallow slices in the top of the dough) the dough with a simple cross shape.
- Bake at 425°F for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown in color.
Looking for more tasty bread recipes? Check out some of these other favorites, too: