The first step in baking most dishes is to preheat the oven. But what if we do not do that? What will happen if we bake sourdough bread in a cold oven i.e. without preheating it prior to baking. I was surprised to read about it. If there is one thing about baking sourdough bread, it is to bake it at the highest temperature. Most bakers will advice you to preheat the dutch oven before transferring the dough to it. That is to ensure the highest possible temperature for the dough to become bread. So this seemed very unusual. So, I had to try it. What do you think would happen to the resulting loaf? Let’s find out!
Of singing loaf and blisters in the crust
This loaf was quite a landmark in my baking journey. It got blisters on the crust ie the small bubbles you see on the crust. It is also my first loaf to sing. In sourdough terms, a loaf is said to sing if you can hear the crackling sound as soon as it is taken out of the oven. The crackling is mainly due to the difference in temperature of the sourdough bread and the ambient temperature in the room. I was so excited to hear it and I felt like I unlocked the next achievement level! It does not happen every time though.
The usual factors that enable the singing loaf is the difference in temperatures and hydration of the dough. The cooler the room the difference in temperature with the bread will be higher. So the chances of the loaf signing will also be more. If the water content in the dough ie hydration is more then the chances of the bread signing will also be more.
Of course, I have a recording of it. Check it out!
Blisters in the crust of a sourdough bread are also seen as a sign of a good loaf. In the famous San Francisco sourdough breads, blisters are usually a given. You will hardly find sourdough loaves there without the blisters on the crust. Honestly I was quite surprised to find the cold oven baking led to blisters in the crust. I think they look lovely. The blisters occur because the cold dough is transferred to the oven and the steam generated in the oven causes blisters. You will not find blisters if the dough is at room temperature before you transfer it to the oven. The chances of blisters are also low if you do not cover the dough while baking. The covered dough interacts with the steam created because of the closed dish and that causes the blisters.
Another way to get blisters on your loaf is to brush the cold dough with water before baking it. That also gives rise to steam and hence the blisters. Do try these tips and let me know how they turned out.
This loaf is my usual sourdough recipe with 20% starter but I increased the water to 78% and baked it fully covered without any time to bake uncovered. Since it is a cold oven I gave it more time to be baked closed to ensure a good oven spring. I have had one of my best oven springs and open crumb with this cold oven baking. Sounds unbelievable but it is so true !!!
For other sourdough recipes you can check out the Sourdough bread with lamination or Sourdough bread with minimal starter. If you find sourdough baking overwhelming then take the first step with baking with poolish. This easy and beautiful Ciabatta with poolish is just the right place to start.
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Sourdough bread in cold oven
- OTG or MIcrowave Oven to bake
For the sourdough starter
- 10 gms Unfed starter
- 20 gms All purpose flour
- 20 gms Water
For the bread dough
- 250 gms All purpose flour / Bread flour
- 195 gms Water
- 50 gms Sourdough Starter
- 8 gms Salt
- Take the unfed starter in a transparent jar. Add the flour and water to it and set it aside till it doubles in volume. It should take arounf 3-4 hours
- In a large bowl, mix the flour and water for the bread dough. Ensure no dry flour remains and cover it. Set it aside for atleast 2 hours to ensure the dough is supple and ready for the starter
- Add the active and bubbly starter to the bread dough mix along with the salt. Mix well to incorporate the starter in the bread dough. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes
- Use any method to strengthen the dough and develop the gluten. I prefer to use coil fold method but you can use stretch and fold too. See the video for the coil fold method.
- Perform 4 rounds of coil fold with a 30 minute interval after every round. The entire process should take around 2 hours. Cover and set aside
- Once the coil fold is complete, set the dough aside till it doubles in volume. It should take around 4 hours at 22C-28C
- Once the dough doubles in volume, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Stretch and fold it to form a tight dough ball.
- Transfer the dough ball to a banetton. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator for around 12 hours. The volume of the dough will rise significantly
- Take out the dough from the refrigerator and transfer it to a dutch oven or any oven safe dish. Score /slash the top of the dough with a sharp blade once or twice. This ensures the steam has a route to escape the loaf without spoiling its shape.
- Cover and bake the loaf at 230C for 50 minutes.
- Take out the loaf and cool it completely on a wire rack. Do not slice the loaf till it is fully cool. It should take around 2hours.