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Bread & Sourdough Baking

Sourdough Bread Log

Standard Bread Log



Bread & Sourdough Baking

I've been baking bread off and on since around 2010 or so, but that has really increased during the time of our lord COVID-19.  Like many others, I've been stuck at home and trying to social distance, so what better way to spend my time than bake delicious bread?  I'm fairly new to sourdough bread baking, but it's been a very fun and interesting adventure.  With sourdough baking, there is more time and planning involved, so keep that in mind if you decided to start down that road.  Basic bread making is fairly straightforward, and you can knock out a recipe in a few hours as opposed to several hours up to a couple days.  I've included links below to some of my recipes & experiments with both standard & sourdough baking and also a "Getting Started" section that includes information and equipment needed to get you baking some awesome sourdough right out of the gate.  Enjoy!

Bread & Sourdough Baking Logs & Experiments

I've been keeping notes on a few of the batches I've brewed starting in mid 2020, so I decided to put a few of them out here in case someone wants to take a look.  I've made a lot more bread that what's listed in the logs below, but I wanted to put some of the more interesting and important recipes and experiments on the site so others can learn from my successful batches as well as the failed attempts.  Take a look at the links below or on the left Nav bar for recipes and processes.


* Sourdough Bread Baking Log & Experiments *


* Standard Bread Baking Log & Experiments *



Getting Started with Sourdough & Bread Baking

Books - There are several good books on baking bread and sourdough that I wanted to provide below. I'd suggest starting out with one of the traditional bread books like "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" or "Flour Water Salt Yeast" before moving on to the sourdough books like "Tartine Bread" or "Artisan Sourdough."  It's important (but not necessarily mandatory) to understand the process of making bread, gluten development, water to flour ratios, and other processes before diving into sourdough directly.




Instant Yeast & Sourdough Starters - For standard bread baking, Instant yeast (as opposed to Active yeast) is the only way to go in my opinion.  I've had good luck with SAF-Instant, but other good brands include Fleischmann's & Red Star.  For sourdough I would suggest you eventually try making your own starter, but that can take some time to build up enough wild yeast and good bacteria like lactobacillus, so you may want to buy a commercial starter to get started while your homemade starter builds up.  When I decided to get into sourdough bread baking, I wanted to start with a culture that I knew was solid so I could later compare my homemade starter with one that was proven.  I went with the Breadtopia starter from Amazon, but I also looked at a couple others that also get good reviews.  You'll also need a container to keep your starter(s) in.  You can use a quart mason jar (make sure you never tighten the lid down all the way unless you want it to shatter all over your fridge), but I prefer to use a swing-top jar that I have removed the rubber seal on.  You NEVER want to completely enclose your starter since it's always fermenting and will build up pressure and potentially explode.




Stand Mixers & Mixing Bowls - While you don't need a stand mixer for making bread, it's helpful to have around for standard dough that requires several minutes of kneading. I've had a KitchenAid Artisan mixer for years, and I just upgraded to a KitchenAid Professional after seeing a great deal before the holidays.  The downside to the KitchenAid models is that they're pretty expensive for someone just getting started in bread making. I've included links to a couple other mixers as well that get good reviews on Amazon and on the sourdough FB groups I'm a member of.  For sourdough, I tend to use rustic/no-knead recipes, but I've been experimenting with using my stand mixer to produce a bit more gluten up-front.  For mixing bowls, I like metal bowls with a silicone base. They are lightweight, hard to break, and the silicone helps the bowl not move around on you.




Proofing Baskets & Bread Pans - A lot of sourdough recipes have a fairly high water to flour content, so you can't really form them into loaves/rounds and expect them to stay put. That's where a proofing basket (also known as banneton) comes in.  After the first rise/proof, you can form your sticky sourdough dough into a rough ball and place it in a well floured (use rice flour) proofing basket for a couple hours on the counter, or an even longer cold proof in the fridge overnight.  This way it won't just flatten out into a pancake and you'll be left with a baked hockey puck.  For standard bread, you can usually just form them into the desired shape since you typically knead these doughs more vigorously so they have a tighter gluten structure.  There are some no-kneed bread recipes that are stickier like the sourdough recipes, so you can use the baskets on these as well.  I also have a French bread pan at home that I have used quite often over the years. One thing I figured out though, it does NOT like the more wet sourdough recipes. When I tried that, the bread dough ended up filling up the tiny holes in the pan and basically fused to it while baking. Live and learn I guess.  A standard bread pan is also helpful if you want to try making enriched (egg & milk) bread, which is lighter and more airy than traditional artisan or sourdough bread.




Dutch Ovens & Baking Stone/Steel - What/how you cook your dough will really depend on what type of bread you're making.  You can make bred on a cookie sheet, on a pizza stone, in a Dutch oven, or any number of ways. I started using Dutch ovens when I got into sourdough, and they're far superior at creating a crusty exterior and airy interior that so many bakers are after. This can still be achieved using a pizza stone and tossing a couple ice cubes in the bottom of your oven, but I prefer the Dutch oven.  I started out with a standard cast iron Dutch oven, and I've now picked up a couple enamel-coated models, one that I found used and another I received as a gift.  Both types work great for sourdough or higher hydration doughs.  I also recently purchased a baking steel, which is a similar concept to the baking stone that has been around for years.  I ended up cracking one of my pizza stones, probably by trying to get some extra steam in the oven, so I decided to go the steel route.  So far, I've been very happy with the new pizza steel, and I've made both pizza and bread on it with very good success.  There also seems to be a new style of baking stone that is more thermal shock resistant, so that would probably be a good option if you didn't want to spring for the baking steel.





Other Useful Items - There are several other useful items to have around when baking bread & sourdough.  Cooling racks, parchment paper for transferring bread, flour shaker filled with rice flour for dusting proofing baskets, and storage containers for bulk flour that I buy from Sam's Club.




Cutting & Storing Bread - It's good to have a sharp serrated knife when cutting bread, especially the crusty sourdough loaves.  I really like the knife below, and I've been very happy with it.  For storing bread, I usually just use the large stainless mixing bowl with the lid on top.  Others have talked about using bread bags that can be found on Amazon, especially if they want to give bread away to friends and neighbors.  I'm planning on picking up some of those in the near future, but I haven't done so yet.






Contact Information:  MikeYoungHB at gmail.com