Simple Sourdough Loaf – 1

Since I have plunged headlong again into making my Sourdough (SD) starter, I am back to doing the easiest thing that can be done with it, ie bake truck loads of crackers (which is a distraction that I used to indulge in, even during the first time that I made SD starter some years ago).

However, thoughts of SD breads have been gently nudging my brain and what better way to beat the gloomy Corona initiated lockdown, than sticking my hand into gloopy dough and hitherto unexplored textures and territories.

In my opinion, SD breads are usually associated with crusty boules and batards, with that open crumb to die for. Pretty as they are, my Indian palate can only take so much of that chewiness, after which it quickly seeks the softer regular sandwich bread. Hence I temporarily shelved all thoughts of attempting to create these ventilated crumb beauties and moved on instead to alternate options.

So, I had to start somewhere to achieve my aim to eliminate commercial yeast from my life and so I decided to undertake the SD sandwich loaf project wherein the bread is 100% SD since it uses the SD starter and not instant commercial yeast and also the soft loaf is identical to the regular yeast one but with the goodness of SD.

This loaf gave rise to a great response on social media, where similarly fatigued Indian palates were seeking alternatives to chewy boules.

Besides, this dough is also much easier to deal with for a beginner, since it has a lower hydration than the high hydration ‘incredible hulk’ squishy doughs that the nice looking boules emerge from.

Of course I am hoping that I will soon conquer those too, seeing how it is not really rocket science, since so many people are successfully doing it already.

But for now, let us begin with the SD Sandwich loaf where the chances of failure are lower, especially for people like me who have little patience to deal with potential frustration.

I have delayed documenting this recipe because I have been busy with household chores and other recipe experiments in the Corona era but today I will not get distracted until I present to you my pretty SD Loaf 🙂

This is my first experiment, hence I have named it SD Loaf 1. Further trials will be documented in future posts.

Sourdough bread – 

I have explained what SD is about in the earlier posts on SD starter 1  and SD Starter 2 and before you can attempt any bake with SD, you will need to have a nice, enthusiastic starter ready. I would recommend that you read those first, in case you are a beginner.

The process – 

While attempting to bake SD breads, please note that while the recipe is a guideline, the process is also very important and merely having the correct recipe is no guarantee of a perfect bread. The skill that is involved, is developed over time and the learning process is eternal.

While there are several methods of making SD breads, I will talk mainly about the recipe and process that I have employed.

But first let me explain a couple of terms.

What is Levain – 

The starter has to be refreshed before baking and a levain has to be prepared in advance. The levain is nothing but a freshly fed starter which is expected to double in volume within a maximum of 6 hours and is used as the leavening agent in the upcoming bread. Depending on how much levain is called for in the recipe, one has to weigh out the starter and feed it, preferably in a 1:4:4 ratio.

What is hydration –

Hydration is simply defined as how hydrated your dough is. For example if you have a dough made from 100 gm flour and 60 gm water, then your hydration is 60%. It is obvious that working with a firmer ie less hydrated dough, would be more manageable that working with a high hydration dough.

However, the process of handling both the doughs, is different and in this recipe we handle our low hydration easy dough, just as we would work with a regular commercial yeast dough.

High hydration dough is worked on with a process called Stretch and Fold etc and we will talk about that, if and when I get to making a SD boule in future.

The steps – 

The steps to obtain a regular SD loaf are different in some parts from a high hydration SD bread. As I mentioned, the process is quite similar to making bread with commercial yeast, the difference being that the SD dough takes much longer to rise.

1. Make or have your SD starter ready –

Refresh your starter a day or two before baking, depending on how neglected it has been.

2. Prepare the Levain –

About 5 – 6 hours before making the dough, take a portion of the starter and feed it with equal weights of flour and water in a 1:4:4 ratio.

For example if I need 90 gm of levain in the recipe, I will take 10 gm starter and feed with 40 gm water and 40 gm flour at least 6 hours before beginning to make my dough. If my starter is known to double in less than that time, I will create my levain accordingly.

Usually the quantity of levain used is 20% by weight, of the total flour in the recipe. For a quicker sandwich loaf, I have used 40% of the total flour (exact figures in the recipe below).

The float test is a good method to see if the levain is ready. Drop a teaspoon of levain gently into a glass container of water. If the blob floats for a while and does not sink right away, the levain is ready to be used.

3. Autolyse the dough –

Around 1 -2 hours before the levain is ready, mix the rest of the flour and water from the recipe and let it sit covered in a bowl. Autolyse has many benefits and loosely speaking they include helping the dough to fully hydrate, giving a better flavor and texture to the finished product etc. Of course there is much chemistry behind this but I will not get into that here.

4. Kneading –

One can perform hand kneading or machine kneading with a stand mixer. This is done till the dough comes together as a soft, cohesive mass.

5. Bulk Ferment –

The kneaded dough is rolled into a ball and smeared with a bit of oil and left to ferment and rise in a covered container (sometimes if the hydration is high, I also prefer to do around 3 Stretch and Folds aka SnF at intervals of 30 min – 1 hr).

6. Shape the dough and place in loaf pan –

When the dough has increased to around 1.5 times its original volume (around 3 hours in my warm Indian kitchen), it is then shaped and placed in the greased/lined loaf tin.

7. Final rise –

The tin is covered in plastic wrap and set aside till the dough  rises again to nearly double (around 2 hours in my kitchen)

8. Preheating oven –

Around 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to maximum temperature.

9. Scoring and baking –

Slash or score the dough and bake it in the oven. Timing will depend on individual ovens.

SD loaf recipe –

Well we have finally arrived at the actual recipe and do not deny that you were wondering when I would shut up and get to the point 😀

But I did tell you that in SD baking, the process is critical and hence the meandering path to finally get here.

So this recipe I have created by tweaking my regular Tomato bread to adapt to SD conditions. Of course I have taken the guidance of my bread guru Ponnanna too and I harassed him at every step, taking advantage of his extreme patience 😀

Time –

Approximately 11 – 12 hours from start to finish.

Makes – One 12x4x2.5 inch loaf (I shaped it into 4 pavs/buns)


For the dough –

1 – Levain – 160 gm – See Notes

2 – All-purpose flour (maida) – 320 gm – See Notes

3 –  Whole Wheat flour (any brand atta) – 50 gm

4 –  Water at room temperature – 120 gm – See Notes

5 –   Salt – 8 gm/1 teaspoon

6 –  Oil/ghee/butter  – 40 gm (I used soft butter)

7 –  Egg – 1

8 –  Raw sugar (or any sugar) – 20 gm

9 – Oil for coating the dough – 2 teaspoons

Ingredients for greasing the pan and dusting –

Oil (any neutral type. I used Sunflower oil) – 2 teaspoon

Flour for dusting the loaf – 1 tsp

Equipment that I used – 

Kitchen Aid Bowl Lift Stand Mixer

Kitchen Aid Professional Grade Loaf Pan 12x4x2.5 inches

You can hand knead it just as easily and use any shape of pan or even bake a free form bread.

Method – 

1. Refresh your starter a day or two before baking, depending on how neglected it has been.

2. Prepare the Levain – About 5 – 6 hours before making the dough (say 8 am), take 20 gm of the starter and feed it in a 1:4:4 ratio with 80 gm flour + 80 gm water. If the starter is active, the levain should double in around 5 – 6 hours or less.

Perform the float test if you need to confirm if the levain is ready. Drop a teaspoon of levain gently into a glass container of water. If the blob floats for a while and does not sink right away, the levain is ready to be used.

3. Autolyse the dough – Around 1 – 2 hours (say 12 pm) before the levain is ready, mix the 220 gm of maida (APF) with 120 gm water and let it sit covered in a Kitchen Aid mixer bowl or regular bowl.

4. Kneading – At around 2 pm, add 160 gm of levain, sugar, egg and 100 gm maida (APF) to the autolyse. Knead for 5 minutes in the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Add the 50 gm of whole wheat flour little by little till it is incorporated and you get a soft dough. I added this extra flour because my dough still looked too mushy and I wanted it a bit firmer. You can take a decision based on how your dough looks. Add the salt and butter and knead for another 5 minutes till the dough comes together.

Perform hand kneading if you do not have a stand mixer. Knead till the dough comes together as a soft, cohesive mass.

5. Bulk Ferment – Roll the kneaded dough into a ball and smear  with a bit of oil and leave it covered in a greased bowl. I use my Kitchen Aid bowl itself. The dough should rise to 1.5 times in volume in 3 hours (say 5.30 pm). You can also place the dough in a tall see through container so that the rise in volume is clearly visible. Unlike commercial yeast breads, do not expect a significant rise in volume.

6. Grease the loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

7. Weigh the dough and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a tight bun and place it in a line in the pan.

You can also make a regular loaf by pressing the dough into a rectangle whose length is equal to the length of the loaf pan. Gently roll up the dough into a cylinder and place it seam side down in the loaf pan.

8. Cover the pan with cling wrap and set it aside till the dough  rises again to nearly double (say 7.30 pm)

9 Around 15 minutes before baking (7.15 pm), preheat the oven to maximum temperature.

10. Dust some flour on the dough through a tea strainer. Score the dough with a blade and place it in the oven.

11. Timing will depend on individual ovens. In my oven I left it at maximum 250 deg c for the first 15 minutes until I saw the top browning. Then I reduced to 200 deg c for another 15 minutes.

12. Take out the loaf and invert it on a cooling rack. Slice ONLY when completely cool.

Notes –

The levain quantity I have used, is around 40% of the total flour. The total flour was to be 400 gm but I added another 50 gm of Whole wheat flour while kneading since I found the dough too sticky.

The maida is 320 gm and is derived from subtracting 80 gm which the levain has, from the total 400 gm in the recipe.

The water is 120 gm, which means a total of 200 gms if you include the 80 gm that is used in the levain.

The hydration (meaning how much water you wish to use) is up to you. For a beginner, the hydration level in this recipe, is easy to deal with.

I hope you will successfully try this recipe and I would really appreciate if you leave your feedback in the Blog comments.

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About Currylines

A food and travel enthusiast who plays with words
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