The best part of baking sourdough bread is that it can be adapted to any schedule, weather and time. I love this stiff dough sourdough bread because it is perfect to bake during the Indian summer when the chances of over proofing are so high.
What is a stiff dough sourdough bread?
A stiff dough bread is when you bake with lesser hydration. Usually sourdough breads, especially the artisan boules that are all over Instagram are high hydration doughs i.e. water weighs around 80% or more of the flour. But this one is a stiff dough bread with a hydration of only 60%. It is a good place to start before going on to handle higher hydration doughs. I adapted this recipe from Trevor Wilson’s with changes for time because the weather here is warmer.
Since I bake this in summer it has only 16% sourdough starter. Usually I use 30% of the flour weight as the starter. But if I do that in this very hot summer then the dough will overproof easily and the bread will taste too sour to eat. In order to reduce the speed of fermentation we can reduce the amount of starter and control the taste and proofing. Let’s get started!
Makes one ~400 gms Boule
Ingredients & Equipment
For the starter
8 gms Mature sourdough starter from the refrigerator
14 gms All purpose flour
14 gms Water
For the dough
225 gms Bread flour
135 gms Water
36 gms Sourdough starer (from above)
8 gms Salt
Banetton / Proofing basket
Dutch oven (optional)
Oven to bake
For the Starter
- Mix the 8 gms of mature starter with 14 gms flour and 14 gms water in a glass jar or bowl.
- Cover and set it aside till it becomes active and bubbles form well. Sourdough starters usually rise to double in volume but that is not mandatory. If it is bubbly and alive it can be used to bake bread.
- Usually the starter will take about 3 hours to become active and double in volume if the weather is hot. Else it can take upto 6 hours for the same.
For the dough
- Autolyse -Mix the 225gms flour and 135gms water in a bowl. Do not knead. Only mix them ensuring no dry flour remains. Cover and set aside for 5-6 hours if the temperature is between 23C-28C. If the weather is warmer then set aside for 3-4 hours. If the weather is cooler then set it overnight.
- As seen in the picture above the water and flour mixture has attained good extensibility after the autolyse.
- Add the starter and salt to the flour mixture and knead them into the dough.
- Perform 4 sets of stretch and fold to the dough at 30 minute intervals. So the total time taken will be 2 hours.
- Strech and fold is a technique by which you aid gluten formation and help trap the gases in the dough for a good rise. As the name suggests, strech and fold involves stretching the dough on one side and folding it on top of the rest of the dough. This needs to be done on all four sides like an envelope.
- When you stretch be careful to not tear the dough. Stretch gently only till you feel resistance and then fold it on top of the rest of the dough.
- At each stretch and fold, you will feel the dough developing and the gluten network getting stronger.
- Cover the dough and set it aside for 3-4 hours till it doubles in volume. If you live in a dry environment then it will be good to cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel. Else you can cover it with any lid or kitchen towel.
- The dough will double in 3-4 hours depending on the temperature. If the temperature in your kitchen is too cold it may take longer. Keep the dough in a warm place. Ensure it is not too hot or too cold. I find the top of the refrigerator to be ideal and give consistent temperature at all times.
- Once the dough doubles, transfer it to a lightly floured surface
- Handle the dough gently and shape it into a sphere
- Transfer the dough to a floured container and cover it with a cling wrap or shower cap
- Transfer the dough to the refrigerator for 8-10 hours
- Preheat the oven at 230C
- Transfer the dough to a Dutch oven or any covered oven proof container
- Make 1-2 cuts with a blade on the top of the dough
- Bake for 30 minutes covered and 20-25 minutes uncovered till the bread gets a nice golden brown colour on top.
- Cool on a wire rack for an hour or till the bread completely cools down
- Bread flour can be replaced with all purpose flour
Stiff Dough Sourdough Bread
- Mixing bowls
- Dutch Oven (optional)
For the starter
- 8 gms Unfed starter
- 14 gms all-purpose flour
- 14 gms water
For the dough
- 36 gms Fed starter (from above)
- 225 gms all-purpose flour
- 135 gms water
- 8 gms salt
- Take the unfed starter in a small transparent jar and add 14 gms each of all purpose flour and water. Set aside for 3-4 hours till it doubles in size
- Mix the 225gms flour and 135 gms water for the dough in a mixing bowl. Set aside for 3-4 hours till the starter is ready
- Add the starter and 8 gms salt to the mixing bowl with the flour and water. Mix well to incorporate the starter and salt and form a shaggy dough
- After 30 minutes, stretch one side of the dough and place it on the middle of the dough. Repeat the same stretch and fold on 4 sides of the dough like an envelope.
- Do 3 more such stretch and folds at 30 minute intervals totally taking 2 hours.
- Cover the dough with a cloth or lid and set aside for 3-4 hours till it rises significantly in volume
- Once the dough has risen, carefully transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Perform one more round of stretch and fold and form the dough into a tight ball.
- Transfer the dough ball to a banetton or any lightly floured bowl. Cover it with cling wrap or a ziploc and refrigerate it for 10 hours
- Preheat the oven to 250C and grease a dutch oven or baking tray
- Transfer the dough to the dutch oven and use a blade or sharp knife to make some cuts to the top of the dough. This allows the steam to escape from the loaf while baking
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes till the top is a nice golden brown
- Cool the loaf completely on a cooling rack for 1-2 hours. Slice only after the loaf is fully cooled