Fast Track to Sourdough
Sourdough English Muffin Bread
If you just finished our "Introduction to Baking" recipes, you may be having a deja vu moment. However, this is one of those breads we make both as a yeasted bread and as a sourdough bread. This one is part of our :Fast Track to Sourdough" series of articles.
Which one is better? We think the sourdough version is better, but both are very good. You can make up your own mind. In any case, this is one of our favorite breads. It's like a loaf of English Muffins, only better than what you get at the store. Just slice and enjoy! The recipe will make 2 1.5 pound loaves, or 3 1 pound loaves. Finally, please be aware that the cups and gram measurements are approximations of one another. Most people who measure in grams do not want to weigh out 1,234 grams. 1,230 is close enough. Nor do people using cups want strange cup measurements like 3/16 cup. So, please don't think that, for example, 90 grams of flour is 1/2 cup. The most accurate numbers here are the bakers percentages.
|Volumetric Measurement (Cups)||Ingredient||Grams||Baker's Percentage|
|1 2/3 Cups||Water||390 Grams||71%|
|2 cups||Active Sourdough Starter||540 Grams||98%|
|4 1/2 Cups||All-purpose Flour||550 Grams||100%|
|5 1/3 tsp||Sugar||32 Grams||5.88%|
|4 tsp||salt||23 Grams||4.12% (1)|
|1/2 Cup||Instant Milk (2)||54 Grams||9.8%|
|1/4 tsp||Baking Soda (3)||.5 grams||.6%|
- The amount of salt is rather high. In his younger years James Beard loved salt. If I revisit this recipe, I'll probably cut the salt down to 2 tsp or 12 grams, or about 2%. While salt ads savor, it also can be a problem for salt sensitive people. In the UK and EU, bread is limited to about 1.5% salt.
- Instant milk. I love it! I hate it! We didn't use much fresh milk at the bakery, so instant milk kept better. Still, fresh milk tastes better. You can replace the water with whole milk and omit the powdered milk.
- Dissolve the baking soda in 2 TBSP (30 grams) of water and hold it back until called for.
Method: Put the flour, milk powder, salt, and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the water and sourdough starter. Stir well.
Mixing the ingredients The idea is to stir this until it is smooth, and to develop gluten in the dough through stirring. Gluten is a stringy protein that gives bread its structure. It is a major protein in wheat flour. The dough comes together as you stir it. The stirring process helps align the gluten. As you stir, you'll see strands begin to form. This stirring technique is used in many Italian breads, because Italian flours have a lot less protein than American flours. Stirring helps combine ingredients and, while this bread is NOT kneaded, it gets dough ready for kneading. (Or, you stir all doughs, you only knead some. Not this one.)
The Rise Once the dough is well stirred, which should only take a few minutes, it's time to cover it and let rise until doubled in size. This should take about 45 minutes to an hour to an hour and a half, depending on your starter and the temperature in your kitchen. During this time, the rise will help further develop the gluten.
Adding the soda Once the dough has doubled in size, it's time to add add the baking soda dissolved in water. Stir the dough to deflate it and mix in the baking soda and water. As you stir the dough down you'll again see the gluten strands. They'll stick to the side of the bowl and your spoon. You want the dough to be small and smooth again.
Loafin' Once the dough is smooth, it's time to pour it into greased bread pans. Pour equal amounts of the dough into two or three oiled bread pans. Once the dough is in the pans, smooth the surface of the dough, either with a spatula or floured hands. The dough is quite sticky. As soon as you get the dough out of the mixing and rising bowl, fill the bowl with water - it will make cleanup a lot easier! Once again, cover the bread pan and allow the bread to rise in a warm place until it's doubled in size, which should take about an hour or so.
Preparing for the bake About 40 minutes into this rise, start pre-heating the oven. That is, turn it on and set the oven temperature to 375F. Once the rise is complete, and the oven is at the correct temperature, put the loaves of bread into the oven to bake.
The end game Check the loaf about 25 minutes later. You want a nicely browned loaf. The baked loaf should have begun to pull away from the edges of the bread pan. This bread is intended to be toasted, so you may not want it to brown as much as most loaves. When you think the loaf is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack and in the pan for 5 minutes or so. Then gently remove the loaves from their pans and let them cool completely on the rack. This is a very fragile bread, so don't get it out of the baking pan too soon and be careful or you could tear it up!
Enjoy! Once it's cool, slice it into 1/2-inch slices, toast, and enjoy! You may also treat the slices like an English Muffin and fry them in butter.... just don't tell your doctor I suggested this.
Now that you're done with this bread, it would be a great time to move on to the Black Canyon Sourdough Bread.