French Sour to Start the Year

I finally made my first batch of bread of the year and I fell in love with sourdough once again. I had a couple days off so thought I'd make one of my favorites, the french loaf, but of course with only sourdough starter. This was a good slide back into bread for me and it also helps stock the freezer a little more since the holidays took a toll on my supply.


The final loaves were beautiful and full. I get worried a lot when I don't see much reaction when I do long sour ferments in the fridge but when the first batch came out of the oven I was overjoyed with how much they opened and filled with air. The crumb was a little finer which made for the best grilled cheese for dinner Friday night as well.

French Sourdough Loaves

This makes 4 loaves


Preferment:

90g Water

50g Starter

120g Bread Flour

30g Whole Wheat Flour


1. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients into a rough dough.


2. Cover and allow to ferment on the counter over night, about 12 hours.


Final Dough:

-- Preferment from previous day.

620g Water

50g Starter

780g Bread Flour

195g Rye Flour

18g Salt


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, measure the ingredients.


2. Mix on first speed for 2 minutes for the dough to start to form.


3. Once the dough has come together increase to second speed (4-6 on kitchenaid) and mix for 3 more minutes.


4. Remove from the machine and shape into a ball. Place into a greased bowl and cover. Ferment for 1 1/2 hours with a fold after the first 45 minutes.


5. Divide dough into 4. Shape into either boules or batards making sure to leave the shaping loose and not tight.


6. Place into floured baskets, floured couche, or floured tea towels.


7. Cover and ferment on the counter for 30 minutes. Then move to the fridge and ferment for 12-16 hours.


8. The next day, preheat the oven with a pizza stone and a large pan filled with water to 450°F for 30 minutes.


9. Remove the loaves from the fridge while oven preheats. Once ready, invert onto parchment cutouts and score.


10. Bake for 30-45 minutes until cut has opened and crust has darkened. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

This recipe actually used rye flour instead of whole wheat flour originally, but I rarely have rye flour at home and I have yet to finish a large bag of whole wheat I've had for awhile. I also increased the water by 30g in the final dough from the original to help with the water intake of whole wheat flour but also to help the sourdough. I find higher hydration doughs have better results when using wild yeast.


The dough was a little stiff but after the first 45 minutes of proofing had relaxed a bit and was easier to work with. It was also really easy to shape. Not too stiff but was also not sticky and didn't require a lot of flour on the bench. I shaped it very loosely to retain as much of the air that had already developed and allow for a more open crumb. I cut the dough as best I could into similar shapes that I needed so that I only had to fold in half and seal up the seem and place into floured baskets.


After shaping I always like to proof for about 30 minutes on the counter to get the dough active again before slowing it down in the fridge. I also do 30-60 minutes on the counter right before baking to wake up the dough and get the yeast active before baking.


The final loaf was pretty great. A lot more open than I expected. The scores opened up a lot and created really cute loaves that are perfect for sandwiches. In the past I have done a cold ferment both bulk with the dough as a whole and a second after shaping and those loaves get really sour and I love it. Because this batch only had one cold ferment it wasn't as sour as I'd like but it still had a really great flavor that will allow the bread to be used for more things without a strong sour flavor to fight other flavors in the use of the bread.


In the end I'm really happy with the results. This dough took very little effort and was an easy recipe to make when I don't have time but want some bread made. I will definitely make it again, maybe change a thing or two to see what I can do with it. Until then enjoy this recipe and let me know if you try it out at home!


-Harry

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