I have not posted to the blog for nearly a year because I need surgery on my severely arthritic and deformed fingers, and it is painful to type. Because of the COVID-19 virus, my surgery scheduled for April was cancelled to help preserve resources and minimize spread of the virus. I’m fine with that, except my fingers hurt!
I call this bread “Cheater” Sourdough, because, like my “Cheater” Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, I use discard from feeding my sourdough starters for long-fermented sourdough bread in addition to yeast to create a loaf that has a sourdough tang but doesn’t require that 12 hour fermentation period of true sourdough. This is a very active dough; it rises very quickly and bakes up a beautiful loaf of bread suitable for slicing for sandwiches, toast, or anything else you want to do with it. My husband prefers it to true sourdough because it is softer and has a light crumb, more like store-bought bread. That is partly because this is an enriched dough, which means it contains things like egg, milk, oil, and a bit of sugar, that long-fermented sourdough usually doesn’t contain. And it’s fast.
“Cheater” Sourdough Bread
2 cups of sourdough starter discard (it doesn’t have to be freshly fed because you will also add yeast)
½ cup milk or milk kefir (I use milk kefir if I’m going to eat the bread because I’m lactose-intolerant, but you can also use store-bought or homemade buttermilk to help “sour” this bread a little more)
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons of sugar
¼ cup of cooking/baking oil (mild-flavored)
1 teaspoon of salt
3—3 ½ cups of bread flour (plus more to knead in for shaping the loaf if needed; all purpose flour can be used, but you may have to knead more to develop enough gluten to get decent structure–I recommend bread flour with its higher gluten content for best structure)
1 1/2 teaspoons of instant or bread yeast (quick rising or any other yeast can also be used; if directions on yeast say to activate it or proof it first, you can add it to the milk, warmed, with the sugar, mix together, let sit until it starts to bubble, but I never do).
For bread machines: add ingredients in order listed, and use the lesser amount of flour. Most bread machine recipes require the liquids on the bottom, dry ingredients on top, with the yeast added last. Check the instructions for your bread machine. Set to dough function, which means that the machine will mix and knead your dough, let it rise, and then you will turn it out to punch it down and shape it into a loaf. Warning: Do not let the loaf bake in the machine. It must be turned out to shape. Please note: I haven’t tried this in the bread machine because I don’t own one any longer. I created this recipe mostly for my sister, who wanted to make an easy sour loaf in her bread machine, and then her machine broke! The plan was for her to test the recipe in the bread machine and report back to me her results, but that went by the wayside. If anyone does try this in a bread machine, please let me know how it works, if you think the dough needs more or less flour, etc., and I can alter instructions to suit.
My mixing method: I use a stand mixer with a dough hook to save my hands. Mix the liquids together thoroughly in the bowl, mix the salt and yeast into a cup of the flour, mix that into the liquids, and begin adding the rest of the flour half a cup at a time while mixing on low, until a ball of dough forms. When the ball of dough is mostly cleaning the bowl, turn the mixer up a couple of speeds and mix for at least five minutes. The dough should slap around the bowl a little, and because of the egg, oil, and sugar, it will probably be a little sticky.
(If you don’t have a stand mixer, use your hands. Most bakers recommend this anyway because you get a better feel for the dough. Use a wooden spoon to mix the liquids and first cup or two of flour–don’t forget the yeast and salt–into a batter. Then get your hands in there and mix the rest of the flour into the batter until it becomes a dough, probably sticky, but that’s okay, it will firm up as you knead it. If you think it is still way too loose to knead, add more flour a little at a time.)
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, adding flour to the board as needed to keep the dough from sticking, about 5 more minutes (it’ll take 10 minutes of hand kneading if you didn’t use the stand mixer and dough hook for 5 minutes). Shape into a ball and poke your knuckle into the center. If the dimple rises and smooths out quickly, your dough has developed enough gluten to hold good structure when shaped and baked.
Lightly oil a bowl or covered container and place the dough ball into the container, turning to coat the top lightly with oil. Cover with tight lid or plastic wrap, and leave in warm place (about 70 degrees is fine) to rise. Check the dough after an hour. If it has doubled, it is ready to shape. If not, leave until doubled, usually not more than another half hour. This dough rises very quickly because of the yeast added to the sourdough discard, so keep an eye on it.
When the dough is ready to shape, you can either form it in a boule shape by cupping your hands around the mound of dough and turning and tucking the sides under until it forms a smooth, round ball; or a freeform loaf shape, which requires stretching and patting the dough into a rectangle and then folding in thirds and tucking and pinching the seam and the ends under, or rolling and sealing the crease and tucking and pinching the ends under. Your shaped loaf can be placed on a greased cookie sheet or into a greased bread pan for its second rise. I like to form my loaves in a French bread shape, and I oil my cookie sheet with avocado oil for high-temp baking and sprinkle the pan with cornmeal, which also helps keep the loaf from sticking if in rising it exceeds the oil I’ve brushed on the pan in the shape of the loaf. I also brush the top of the loaf with a little oil, whatever is left on the brush from oiling the pan. If you use a loaf pan, I recommend using shortening so the bread doesn’t stick to the pan.
Cover your shaped loaf with plastic wrap. Warning: if you don’t oil the top of the loaf, the plastic wrap will stick. Plastic wrap keeps the dough from drying out while it is rising. Again, place in warm place (70 degrees is about right) and allow to rise until double again. This may only take a half hour. It might take longer if the room or place is a little cooler, but I’ve never had it take longer than an hour to double because of the yeast plus sourdough discard.
When your loaf has doubled, it’s ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is up to baking temperature, remove the plastic from your loaf and use a bread lame, a single edged razor blade, a very sharp knife, or a large pair of kitchen shears to slash your loaf. You can do one lengthwise slash down the middle of the loaf, no deeper than ¼ inch, or a series of five or so crosswise slashes, again only ¼ inch deep. (Use the lengthwise slash for bread loaf pans.) This allows steam to escape and keeps your bread from blowing out the side as it bakes.
Bake your loaf for 30-35 minutes for French bread and boule shapes, or until they are browned and sound hollow when tapped. For loaf pans, which I don’t use, bake 30 minutes and then check to see if the bread is pulling slightly away from the top edge of the pan. Pans may take longer or shorter depending on what kind of pan you use.
When done, lift or turn the bread onto a rack for cooking. When baked on a cookie sheet in boule or French loaf shape, use spatulas to lift the loaf onto the rack. They should slide free of the cookie sheet easily. If your loaves don’t come free of the bread pans easily, they might need a little more baking time. However, you can also run the tip of a sharp knife around the top edge of the pan to see if that helps the loaf come free. If it doesn’t, it’s probably underbaked.
Now, this is the hard part. Let the loaf cool completely before slicing! If you don’t, your bread will be hard to cut and will dry out very quickly. On the other hand, if you just want to gorge on warm, homemade bread, dig in and eat the whole thing!
This bread, properly cooled, slices easily with a bread knife. I like to cool my loaves overnight and then slice and freeze them in Ziploc bags so we always have bread available.