Since my original (mostly failed) experiments with sourdough way back when, I’ve come a long way. My lively starter is more than a year old, despite spotty feeding and frequent neglect, and I’ve finally developed a “feel” for working with wild yeast.
With confidence comes improvisation: I’ve been baking sourdough loaves spiked with small amounts of yeast (1/2 tsp), trying various flour combinations, nuts, and other flavorful mix-ins. This week’s improv loaf included white whole wheat & semolina flours and chopped olives. A bit of olive oil in the dough tenderizes the loaf and helps keep it fresh. Other tasty possibilities: sunflower seeds & ground flaxseed, raisins & pecans, blue cheese & walnuts, cheddar cheese & fresh chives…
Here’s the basic formula–don’t think of it as a recipe; it’s really a template for improvisation. It is my adaptation of Peter Reinhart’s “Basic Sourdough Bread” (p. 233, Bread Baker’s Apprentice).
Sourdough spiked with commercial yeast
- 340 g (12 oz) mature, 70% hydration sourdough starter*
- 574 g (20.25 oz) bread flour (or use a combination of your favorite flours, like white whole wheat, semolina, flax meal, etc. Balance lower-gluten flours with higher-gluten choices for best texture.)
- 12-15 g (0.5 oz, or 1 1/2 tsp) salt
- 368 g (13 oz) lukewarm water
- 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 1/3 cup to 3/4 cup chopped olives (or nuts, or seeds, or crumbled firm blue cheese, or raisins, or just about anything else you’d like to flavor the loaf)
- 2 T olive oil (optional, only used when it complements the flavor of mix-ins)
Place the sourdough starter, flour, salt, yeast, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend on low, using a dough hook, until a shaggy dough forms. Increase speed to 2 and mix 5 minutes. Turn off mixer & allow dough to rest for 5 minutes. Continue mixing on 4 (medium-low) for an additional 5 minutes. Check dough’s gluten development; it should easily form a thin “windowpane” when stretched between the fingers. Dough will be slightly sticky to the touch. Cover the bowl and rest until doubled (90 minutes to 2 hours, depending on room temperature). Using a bowl scraper, remove dough in one piece and place on a lightly floured countertop. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Shape lightly into rounds or batards. Allow to rise (either in a basket, banneton, or on a piece of parchment paper) for 90 minutes to 2 hours, again depending on room temperature, until the loaves are nearly doubled and do not spring back when poked (gently) with a fingertip.
Near the end of the rising time, heat oven to 500 degrees. Place a baking stone on a lower oven shelf and cast-iron steam pan on the oven floor. When ready to bake, score loaves with a razor blade. Place risen loaves onto the baking stone and pour 3/4 cup hot water into the cast iron pan. Quickly close oven. Within 1 minute, spray the loaves and oven walls with water. Repeat spraying after an additional minute. Bake loaf for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 450 and rotate loaves 180 degrees. Bake an additional 20 minutes until loaves are dark brown with an interior temperature of at least 205 degrees.
*”Mature” is a starter fed between 8 hours and 5 days prior to baking. “70% hydration” refers to the amount of water in the starter, expressed as a percentage of the flour. If your starter is drier or wetter, simply adjust the amount of water in the dough. You’re aiming for a dough that is slightly sticky, not dry.