White sourdough bread

Vitt surdegsbröd

A white sourdough loaf on a cooling rack

To be honest Swedish vitt surdegsbröd (white sourdough bread) isn’t really very different to white sourdough bread made anywhere else in the world! So why have I decided to include a recipe for it on this site?! Partly because it is becoming increasingly popular in Sweden, but mainly because it tastes so good and I love baking it!

The cover of Jan Hedh's book about bread in Sweden
The cover of Jan Hedh's book

Much of the increased popularity of sourdough bread in Sweden can be attributed to the work of country's most famous baker: Jan Hedh. He runs a bakery and café, Olof Viktors (note: the link is in Swedish), in Glemmingebro, near the coastal town of Ystad in southern Sweden. The bakery is surrounded by fields and is really rather isolated, but the car park seems to always be full as people flock to enjoy his fantastic baking. For more information about sourdough bread in Sweden click here.

I have suggested using a stand-mixer to help with the initial mixing and kneading because I think most people will find it easier than doing it by hand. Most artisan bakers have several kneading machines in their bakeries, so please don't feel that you are cheating if you use a machine!

The recipe may seem complicated at first, because I have broken it down into small steps and included lots of notes. Also, although some of the techniques may be new to you, if you have not made sourdough bread before, but they are not difficult to master, so even your first loaf is sure to look beautiful and taste fantastic! John Duxbury

Summary

Recipe summary for white sourdough bread

Tips

A nice bubbly sourdough starter made using rye flour, water and honey

• The key to success is to use a nice bubbly starter (leaven). For our recipe click here.

Some sourdough starter (leaven) floating in water

• You may have read that if you drop a spoonful of sourdough starter into water it should float. Whilst sourdough starter that floats is definitely ready to use, don't panic if your starter does not float! As long as your starter is nice and bubbly it will be fine.

A selection of equipment used when baking sourdough bread

• For a guide to recommended sourdough baking equipment click here. In particular, I recommend using a baking dome (La Cloche) as it is like having a miniature brickoven in your kitchen.

A bag of strong white bread flour from Wessex Mill 

• Experiment with different flours until you find one you like. They alter the flavour, colour, crumb and crust.

A kitchen timer being used when making sourdough

• Timings can only be a very rough guide as a lot depends on the vigour of the starter and the ambient temperature. My timings are based on using a rye starter and a kitchen at around 19-20ºC (66-68°F).

A no-knead sourdough loaf on a cooling rack

• If you might struggle to find the time to knead the dough try our recipe for knådfritt surdegsbröd (no-knead sourdough bread) instead. It only takes 6 minutes to prepare it for baking, although that is spread over 3 days!
• Before handling dough in a mixing bowl, run your hands under some cold water to prevent your hands sticking to the dough too much.

Ingredients

Dough

200 g* sourdough starter (leaven)
320 g water at room temperature
500 g strong white flour (bread flour)
10 g sea salt
  oil

*All bread ingredients are normally measured in grams

For the banneton and the baking stone

2 tbsp flour, preferably white rye
¼ tsp semolina flour or polenta

Method

The instructions are numbered. The notes are in italics and can be skipped if you prefer.

Preparing to make sourdough

1. The night before you want to bake, prepare your starter and pour some water into a jug to give it time to come to room temperature.

Mixing without salt (autolysis)

Salt is added to dough to improve its flavour, make the bread last longer and to tighten the gluten to make it stronger. Unfortunately, salt isn't kind to yeast, so it is usual to delay adding salt to sourdough to give the fermentation process time to get off to a strong start without salt inhibiting it.

2. Fit the dough hook and splashguard to your stand-mixer. (If you've not got a stand-mixer, then simply mix the ingredients by hand.) Add 200 g starter, 310 g of the water and 500 g of bread flour to the bowl of your stand-mixer and mix on a low speed for about 30 seconds, until no flour remains. Cover with the splashguard, clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a shower cap and leave to rest for 30-60 minutes.

Adding salt and kneading

Once the fermentation process is well underway, salt can be added and the bread kneaded. I recommend kneading three times and folding it twice, as this produces a smoother more elastic dough than if you only knead it once. If this is inconvenient, you could knead the bread once for 10 minutes instead.

White sourdough after kneading in a stand-mixer

3. Add 10 g (1½ tsp) of salt and the remaining 15 g (1 tbsp) of water to the dough and then knead it on a low speed (2 with a kMix or 3 with a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. (If you are kneading the dough by hand I suggest you knead it for about 20 seconds every ten minutes for about an hour and then move the step 4.)

Sourdough is a bowl with the initial level marked with a pen

4. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Gently flatten the top surface and then mark the level with a pen, so that you can see how much the dough rises later. Cover the dough with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a shower cap and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

5. Knead the dough by hand for about 15 seconds (you can do this in the bowl), until you feel the dough begin to tighten. Cover again and leave for 30 minutes.

6. Repeat step 5, cover again and leave for 30 minutes.

Stretching and folding

Gently stretching and folding the dough helps to improve the structure of the bread. It elongates the bubbles formed by the yeast and adds some air.

Sourdough after being folded in a mixing bowl

7. Grab the underside of the dough furthest away from you with both hands and gently stretch it up and fold it over the rest of the dough. Rotate the bowl through 180º and repeat. Cover the dough again and leave for 30 minutes.

8. Rotate the bowl through 90° and repeat step 7. Replace the cover.

Leaving alone to double in volume

The dough now needs to be left alone to ferment and generate more bubbles of carbon dioxide by which time it would, like the starter at the top of the page, be light enough to float in water! This means that the volume needs to double, which in the case of a curved bowl means the height needs to increase by about 50%.

A bowl marked to help judge when dough has doubled in volume

You can either judge when the volume has doubled by eye (it doesn't need to be exact) or you can work it out in advance by pouring 1 litre (1000 g) of water into the bowl and marking the level.

9. Leave the dough for about 2 hours until the volume has roughly doubled to about 1 litre.

Shaping

The next stage is to shape the dough into a hemisphere. The exact technique you use to do this isn't too important, but try to do it as quickly as possible (otherwise the dough will stick to your hands), without adding too much flour and without knocking too much air out of the dough.

A lightly floured worksurface

10. Lightly flour the worksurface (or rub the surface with a little oil) and then very gently transfer the dough to the worksurface. Using your hands and a dough scraper, form the dough into a hemisphere.

Shaping sourdough into a hemisphere

One way of forming the dough into a hemisphere is to do it in three steps:
a) gently pat the dough out into a circle,
b) sprinkle some flour onto your scraper and then use it to fold the dough into the centre eight times to create a very rough octagon, holding each fold in place with one hand as you do so,
c) quickly flip the dough over and finish rounding the dough with your hands, sprinkling a little flour on to the top of the dough (to prevent your hands sticking) and then smooth the surface.

Creating a taut surface

The surface of the dough needs to be taut to help it retain its shape and to prevent it sticking to the proving basket. It sounds complicated, but it is actually easy to do! Resist the temptation to spin the dough round and round, but gently push it from side to side with your scraper and you will see the surface tighten as it tries to resist the sideways movements.

Gently moving the dough from side to side to build up a taut surface

11. Move the dough slightly from side to side a few times to build up tension on the surface. When you have a taut smooth surface leave the dough uncovered for 10-15 minutes.

Preparing the proving basket (banneton)

A banneton is used to ensure a well-shaped dough with an attractive pattern on the crust. It needs to be sprinkled with flour to stop the dough from sticking to the basket. (If you've not got a banneton you can use a colander lined with a clean tea cloth and sprinkled with flour.)

A proving basket sprinkled with rye flour

12. Brush a 1 kg banneton clean and then add 2 tablespoons of flour, preferably white (light) rye flour. Tip the basket around until the flour evenly coats the sides and bottom of the banneton.

Poke testing

The easiest way of knowing when your dough is ready to bake is to poke it gently with your finger. If it:
• quickly springs back it is not ready for baking,
• keeps the dent for a while and slowly springs back it is ready for baking,
• caves in a bit where it is poked and doesn't recover it is over-proved!

If you accidently over-prove dough the gluten will not be strong enough to support the gas bubbles, so it is best to bake it without slashing the dough as the knife cuts are likely to make the dough collapse.

White sourdough after being transferred to a banneton

13. Using your hand and a dough scraper, transfer the dough to the proving basket with the smooth side down. Gently poke the dough with your finger to see how it springs back. Cover the dough with a cloth and leave it to rest.

A sourdough being poked to see if it is ready to bake

14. Every 30 minutes or so, gently poke the dough with your finger. The dough is ready for baking when it slowly springs back after being poked. This is likely to take about 2 hours, but it varies a lot depending on the vigour of your starter and the temperature.

Preheating your oven

Dough needs to go into a hot oven, either onto a baking stone or into a baking dome (La Cloche). The heat gives the dough a quick springboard to help it rise as soon as it goes into the oven.

15. About 20 minutes before your dough will be ready for baking, place your baking stone or La Cloche into a cold oven and heat it to 220ºC (425ºF, gas 7, fan 220ºC).

Slashing the dough

Sourdough being slashed and then baked

Dough is usually slashed to create an attractive pattern on the crust and to control where the dough "bursts" when it breaks. It is easier to slash the dough using a grignette, but any sharp blade can be used or even a pair of scissors.

The base of a baking dome sprinkled with semolina flour

16. When hot, sprinkle the bottom of your baking dome with a little semolina flour (or polenta) or, if using a baking stone, dust a peel with semolina flour or line a tray with baking parchment.

17. Quickly turn the dough out of the banneton onto the base of your baking dome (or your peel or your baking tray) and, using a sharp knife, score the top in a pattern that you like. Do this as quickly as you can, holding your blade at an angle of about 45° and making the cuts about 3 mm (just over ⅛") deep.

Baking

If you are using a baking dome, the dome will trap the steam generated by the dough and keep the bread moist, but if you are using a baking stone you need to give the top of your oven a quick spray with water just before you put the bread into bake.

A water sprayer used to produce some steam in an oven

With a baking dome (La Cloche)

18a) Bake with the dome in place for 30 minutes, then remove the dome and bake for another 20 minutes, until nicely browned or until the internal temperature reaches 96ºC (205ºF).

With a baking stone

18b) Give the top of your oven a good spray of water, quickly slide your dough off your peel onto to the baking stone and bake for about 50 minutes, until nicely browned or until the internal temperature reaches 96°C (205°F).

Cooling

A loaf of baked white sourdough on a cooling rack

19. Leave to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Feedback

If anything needs clarifying please drop me a line: john.duxbury@swedishfood.com

Downloads

printer copy sb  printer version.pdf

Phone and tablet h32  phone & tablet version.pdf 

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