Mild Country White Sourdough Bread

As a gluten-free baker, I gave up on producing a showy loaf a long time ago.  I always rolled my eyes a little when I saw photos online of perfect bloom or wide-open crumb.  "The mustard is going to just fall right through," I would think to my self disapprovingly, shaking my head a little.

It turns out, I was just jealous. After a decade of gluten-free bread baking and recipe development, and through a collaboration with some other bakers, I've come up with a sourdough bread recipe that produces an open crumb, a large bloom, and sometimes, if I'm lucky, an ear.  

The bread has a very mild, pleasant sourdough flavor and is very light in color.

The crumb is very open but not too delicate.  It has a chewiness to the texture that I associate with a good sourdough bread.  The crust gets a nice browning and it toasts up nicely. And I don't mind the mustard falling through as much as I thought I would.

Many thanks to Michael Hollesen who came up with the original version of this recipe.  We both borrowed ideas from other recipe developers including Roman Jan, and many others helped by sharing their experience and ideas.

Mild Country White Sourdough Bread

Mix #1: 20-30 min
Rest time: 2 hours
Mix #2: 1-2 min
Rise time: 6 hours
Chill time: 20-40 minutes
Bake time: 45-55 minutes

Total time: 9-10 hours, or more if needed

Gel in a separate bowl:

265g Spring water at room temperature
25g Psyllium husk, ground

Mix in a stand mixer:

145g tapioca starch
145g potato starch
60g ivory teff (or brown teff for a more rustic look and pronounced whole grain flavor)
50g millet flour
30g potato flour
24g sugar

When dry ingredients are mixed, add:

40g sourdough starter, at or past its peak, preferably either teff or millet
12g or 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
100g egg whites (3 egg whites for me)
150g Spring Water*

Mix with paddle attachment on low.  The dough will look crumbly at first but mixing for three minutes should create a wet dough. If mixing by hand, it may take a little longer but you don't have to mix constantly.

Add the psyllium gel from the first step to the wet dough and mix until well combined, about two minutes.

Mix on low until incorporated:

15g pink Himalaya salt 

Let rest in bowl of stand mixer, covered, about 2 hours.

Mix the dough again about 1 minute, scraping down the sides and re-mixing if needed.  Scoop the dough into a floured banneton and smooth the top so it's evenly distributed. 

Check the level it’s at and note the height of the center of the dough or take a photo. 

Let rise (covered) at room temp ~70°f/21°C until it just barely starts rising, 6 more hours or about 8 hours total ferment time from first mix.  The top will dome up about one rung higher on the banneton.  Other indications of readiness are that the dough starts looking puffier on the surface, that it no longer smells like raw flour, and it’s jiggly and springy when poked.  The surface is suddenly less tacky.

Conversely, signs that it is not ready at the 8-hour mark are that it has sunken, spread out or shrunk slightly, that it still smells like raw dough, and that the center looks very raw and maybe even transluscent. The pattern of dough on the surface is still very sharp and defined.  If the dough is not ready yet and shows these signs of underfermentation, it may take several more hours for it to proof.  This can be a sign that the starter was not active enough or that the ambient temperature is a little low.  It will proof but it can take some extra patience.

Once the dough starts rising, place the banneton, still covered, in the freezer for 30-40 minutes.  In the mean time preheat your oven to 450°f/230°C.  Remove the chilled dough from the freezer and carefully invert onto lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Lightly flour around the edges of the boule. Shape the dough into a boule by carefully and gently pulling the edges toward you and tucking them under the loaf with the long side of the hand or a bench scraper.  Be as gentle as possible since the dough is already proofed.  The chilling helps with handling but care is needed to shape gluten-free dough after it has risen. After shaping transfer the bread to the pre-heated baking vessel and score.  If doing the one-slash score on a boule (as pictured) it needs additional decorative scoring to expand correctly and vent additional water as the hydration is so high.  

Bake 30 minutes covered, 5 minutes uncovered, and 10 minutes straight on the rack.  If at any point it starts looking too brown on top before the bottom is set, then turn down the heat in the oven.  Since this recipe has so much egg it’s best not to brown it too much because egg burns easily.  If it still needs additional time (not hollow sounding tapped on bottom) then leave it in the oven right on the rack with the oven turned off and the door closed. After the bottom of the loaf is set and firm, and makes a very hollow sound when tapped with the knuckles, you can cool it on a cooling rack, or, if you would like to prevent shrinkage, you can cool it in the oven for awhile with the door cracked open.  I usually do this if the seam of the bloom isn’t completely set and crusty on top. I’ve been baking at night and cutting open the next day but I don’t know if that’s necessary to wait so long.

*A note about hydration:

My recipes in general seem to need hydration adjustments for other climates/other grinds of flour/random acts of nature. This recipe for me can go either up or down in hydration and still come out.  A higher hydration might create a slightly tackier feel to the inside, but the bread will stay fresh longer and have a more open crumb. A lower hydration makes the dough a little bit easier to handle and shape.  It can take a few tries with a new recipe to nail down the perfect hydration for any baker.


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