This post has been brewing in my head for about two years – and it’s finally here. I’ve hinted around and told you a few times it was coming…better late than never? The early bird gets the worm? Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today? All I can say is…it was my kids’ fault! :-p
I’ve been making this bread for 10+ years. It’s SO popular with my family and friends and everyone asks for the recipe once they have it one time. Some of you have asked for a post and some of you have asked for a video. Sooooo, I decided to do both. This post will be an exhaustive look (I’m exhausted already) at the recipe and the video will walk you through the steps…we’ve put it into three parts (well, Barry did because he’s the genius behind the scenes) so that you can watch them all together or little by little if you’re like me and taking a 2 year old to the potty every 15 minutes.
Sooooooooooooooo, let’s get this party started!
I found this particular recipe in a church cookbook – it piqued my interest because my mom had always made sourdough when I was little and I loved it. I wasn’t successful at keeping a starter alive like she used. Because I would put it in the fridge, forget about it, come back later and it was a green science fair project. It was my kids’ fault!
I tried my hand at traditional sourdough using Sourdough A-Z. I was pretty successful with that starter and I enjoyed it…but there was this problem. Except for English Muffins and Pancakes, my family didn’t like most of the recipes I tried using it. So, I felt like I was wasting time, energy, and ingredients to harness yeast from the air like a pioneer woman. So, we just decided it wasn’t for us. And it wasn’t for the dogs or birds either, because they wouldn’t even eat the bread I threw out to them in the yard. Such picky wild animals around here. Lame.
Enter this “sourdough” recipe. The premise behind this recipe is you only make the starter as you need it – the night before. It ferments on your counter overnight, eating potato flakes and sugar and then you use the entire starter to make your loaf. There is NO starter to keep alive. Hooray! The mommies rejoice!
This recipe uses store bought yeast – so it’s more predictable and less fickle like natural yeast can be. The only idea behind the overnight starter is to give it a bit of a sourdough flavor. It is so good. Really. So. Good. It makes good sandwiches and toast. It makes a good snack. It makes a good meal. Butter. I need butter.
I’m going to go through this recipe for you step-by-step and also talk about the ingredients. I said it was “the complete guide,” remember? I want to make sure I try to answer all your questions before you ask them…and I’ve been writing this post in my head for two years, so you better just sit back and grab a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Because you don’t have bread yet.
I’ve tried just about everything in this bread. So I know what works and I know what doesn’t. I know what’s best and I know what’s just “okay.” And really, if you’re going to make bread, “okay” shouldn’t be in the same sentence. How about stupendous instead? Butter.
For the starter you’ll need: sugar, potato flakes, active dry yeast, and hot water.
I’ve used all sorts of sugars. I’ve used white sugar, brown sugar, sucanat, honey granules, coconut sugar, organic sugar, and honey. What works best? White sugar, hands down. Honey granules also work well, but I’m just gonna tell you honey…something about white sugar just works best in this bread. Organic or not, who cares? Just use white sugar. I’ve used the others mentioned and get a “just okay” result. Again, not gonna go there. As much as I love my honey granules and sucanat, they pale in comparison to white sugar.
Potato flakes – yes, I know. It’s weird. But, it’s beautiful. It works together with the sugar and yeast to make this mouth watering result that when married with butter will change your life. Make sure you use potato flakes and not any other types. I’ve tried other potato products, but potato flakes work the best. I like Bob’s Red Mill from Vitacost.
I use active dry yeast that I buy in bulk from Sam’s Club. It’s one of the best prices around. Store it in the freezer to extend its life and quality.
Water – well that’s pretty self explanatory. But for the starter you’re going to want HOT water. We’re not worried about killing the yeast, we want to dissolve the sugar. We’ll be adding more yeast to the bread, so it’s not a worry.
For the bread dough you’ll need: the entire starter, warm water, 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 tbsp is what I use), oil/butter, honey, salt, and flour.
You will use warm water for this process so you don’t kill the yeast. You’ll add the whole starter to it and dissolve the yeast. Again I use bulk yeast from Sam’s. I am more prone to using 1 tablespoon instead of the 2 1/4 teaspoons because it rises just a bit faster. But it works just as well with one package that’s only 2 1/4 teaspoons. I don’t like to wait too long on bread. And neither do my kids. They come running as soon as the buzzer goes off. Who are these people who keep hanging around expecting me to feed them? 😉
You’ll need 1/2 cup oil or melted butter. If you use butter, that’s 1 stick, melted. I’ve used the following oils: melted coconut oil, canola oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and vegetable oil. Pretty much any oil is fine…except sesame oil. I think it’s too strong. And definitely NOT toasted sesame oil because then your bread will average out to about $100/loaf. True story. Bread should be yummy and cheap. That’s it’s allure. Oh, and the butter. That’s a huge allure.
The honey speaks for itself. But if you don’t have honey, that’s cool…actually, it’s not. Buy honey. You’ll thank me. However, you can sub white sugar here if you need to…but trust me. Just buy honey. And I don’t usually use raw honey in this bread. Mainly because since it’s more expensive, I keep it for those times when I am going to consume it raw for the benefits. Sam’s honey all the way for this one.
Salt – I use Real Salt from Vitacost or Bread Beckers. I make sure not to add my salt until I have some flour mixed it already. Because salt and yeast don’t care for each other. They are arch enemies. Like the Hatfields and McCoys.
Flour – I use fresh ground hard white wheat. It works beautifully. You can also use: white flour, white bread flour, or white wheat flour (as seen here). Do not use 100% whole wheat flour from the store. I hate it – and that might be an understatement. I think it makes everything taste like a brick. Even butter can’t help a brick. You may use 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat if you desire. But the best result is going to come from fresh hard white wheat or white wheat flour from the store. If you use white flour, try to use white bread flour and you’ll get a better result.
The night before you want to make bread, you’ll mix together your hot water, and sugar. Stir until it is mostly dissolved. Then you add the potato flakes and yeast. Stir well and cover. Let it sit overnight to ferment on the counter. Not the fridge. And do cover it – because gnats love it. What could be sadder than to wake up to a starter that’s been invaded by gnats?
Okay, so we start out combining the warm water and sourdough starter from the night before. Sprinkle your yeast on top and stir it a bit – then just let it dissolve. This will only take a couple minutes.
To this mixture, add the oil/butter and honey. Stir and add 3 cups of flour. Stir this mixture well.
At this point you can add the salt and the remaining flour. You don’t need to knead it at this point, so your goal is just to get it all mixed together.
It’s not going to be as stiff as some of your other yeast breads might be. It will still be a little tacky and that’s okay.
Now, you need a large bowl (as pictured in the video) for your bread to rise in. You don’t want something small or it will just run over the side as it raises. Or so I have heard from OTHER PEOPLE. *Cough* I like to grease the bowl that it’s going to rise in. In the video I show you that I’m using the same bowl that I mixed it in. So, I dump the dough out on a cutting board, pour a little oil in my bowl, and use my hands to grease the entire inside of the bowl. Then I put the dough back in and flip it over, so the whole surface it covered with oil and it won’t stick to the bowl.
Cover (some people say that’s not needed, but I don’t like mine to get crusty on the top so I cover with a shower cap) and it and let it rise until doubled. This might take two hours. It might take four. It might take 5-6. Gosh, sometimes it might take 8! It all depends on the humitity, the temperature, the brand of yeast sometimes, the amount of yeast, the color of your underwear, or if you’re in a hurry, it’s gonna take all day. It just is.
So, my advice is: don’t make this bread unless you’re going to be home all day and don’t count on it for dinner. It’s just as good the next day. If you try to leave the house, it will over-rise or make a huge mess. It’s just less stressful if you make it while you’re at home. Trust me…or ask my friend Helen. 🙂
Finishing Your Bread
When your dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two to get out all the bubbles. I use a large cutting board, but a clean counter is just fine. Emphasis on clean. Because my kids sometimes bring in weird stuff from outdoors and put it on the counter for me. Dead bugs. Rotten cherries. Toadstools. Etc.
Divide your dough into three pieces if you are using 8 inch loaf pans or 2 pieces if you’re using 9 inch loaf pans. I like to make 3, 8 inch loaves for this recipe. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just eyeball it.
Knead each piece just a bit to make sure it’s nice and smooth and form into a loaf looking shape. Again, you don’t have to be very specific here. It’s going to form to your pan. I just like mine to be smooth on top.
Now, I use USA Pans, so I don’t have to grease my pans. They are the best pans EVER. EVER I SAID! Seriously, invest in these pans. They are amazing. I’m slowly replacing all my sub-par bake-ware with these.
In the video I show you three different types of pans so you can get an idea of how they work and the shapes they give you. One is a store brand pan, one is a Wilton loaf pan and one is a Norpro pan from our local Amish store. Norpro is the next best option up from USA Pans. It will give you a loaf looking shape where the Wilton and store brand pans give you more of a sweet-bread look (think, Banana Bread).
If you’re not using USA Pans, make sure that you pour a little oil in each pan and use your fingers to grease the entire inside. This is critical. Because while a gnatty starter is sad, a loaf of bread that won’t come out is TRAGIC! Oh, it makes me cry just thinking about it.
Place each loaf in the pan, upside down, then flip it over – this will make sure the whole loaf is greased so it will come out of the pan. Now, we don’t need to use a ton of oil or we’ll have a greasy loaf of bread. Just enough oil to make sure everything is coated.
Set loaves aside and let rise until doubled. Time it will take? Can’t tell ya. Depends on what socks you’re wearing or if NCIS is a re-run.
When loaves look almost ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you wait until they ARE ready, they might rise-over and cave in. I let mine rise until they are just starting to rise above the top of the pan.
Place loaves into preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. At this point you can test them with a thermometer if you want – I do. You should pull them out when they are 190 degrees. Some people say less, but they’re wrong. Hahahahaha! Okay, no. I just like them best at that temp. If you don’t have a thermometer like mine, you can simply thump the loaves on top. If they sound hollow, they are probably done.
Pull the loaves out and let them cool for 10 minutes before turning out. This is so that they firm up without the pan supporting them. Any longer than 10 minutes and they start to sweat in their pan. Anyone want sweaty bread? I didn’t think so.
I let mine cool completely on a wire cooling rack that I’ve had since college. I don’t cut the bread until it’s completely cooled. I think it just cuts better. I’ve got some friends who can’t wait (they shall remain nameless!), but let me tell you…it’s just easier. Try to ignore the pleading children around your skirt. Give them a bucket of water on the back porch. Problem solved.
When I am ready to cut, I use an electric knife. I’ve had the same one for almost 10 years and I love it. It gives a nice, smooth cut.
I store my bread in a knock-off Tupperware bread box – Amazon no longer sells it. But do you know what works just as well? A plastic bag. Preferably one that already had bread in it but now it’s empty. So I’m always pilfering these bags from family to store bread in. Frugal and effective. Yup.
In the winter I keep at room temperature but in the summer the humidity will eat it alive…so after 2-3 days, I move it to the fridge if we haven’t eaten it. And that happens rarely because we’re
bread hogs healthy eaters.
It freezes great! When I want to do that, I place in a plastic bag and double it with another bag. It will be good for about a month or two and then it starts to get crumbly. Don’t let that happen. But if it does, it makes great croutons or breadcrumbs.
My bread didn’t rise!!! Okay, so make sure your yeast isn’t out of date. If it is, then you can check your yeast using this method. Again, store yeast in freezer. If your yeast is fine, then maybe you just didn’t let it sit long enough. If your home is very cold, you can put your dough in the oven with the light on and that makes a great warm environment for it to rise in. DO NOT FORGET IT IS IN THERE. Or else you might preheat and bake it. Or so I’ve heard from OTHER PEOPLE. *Cough*
My bread is tough/dry. You used too much flour. It’s always better to have a wet dough than a dry dough. So, if you feel like the 6 cups of flour might be too much, just scale back a bit.
My bread stuck! I told you to grease the pan. Liberally.
My bread caved in the middle! You let it over-rise. It will puff up in the oven and then cave back in on itself if it’s too high. So, make sure to be vigilant when watching it rise. I mean, don’t stand there with it…but keep a close look out between toddler potty breaks. I just let mine rise to when it starts to come over the top of the pan.
Okay, so I told you it was the “complete guide.” I wanted to make sure I included everything. Even potty jokes. I hope you find this guide helpful and if bread has scared you in the past, don’t let it scare you any longer! You can do this! It’s like keeping a puppy alive, except totally different.
Things to take away: stay home to make bread. Buy USA Pans. Use butter. Don’t use 100% whole wheat flour.
I love you guys. Bake on. Here are the videos for you. Enjoy!
Mock Sourdough Bread
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons potato flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 3/4 cup hot water
- Dissolve sugar in hot water. Stir in potato flakes and yeast. Cover and let stand on counter overnight.
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- Entire starter
- 1 tablespoon yeast (or one package of yeast which is 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup melted oil or butter
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 6 cups flour (fresh wheat, white wheat, white flour, or white bread flour)
- Combine warm water, starter, and yeast. Stir until dissolved. Add honey and oil. Stir well. Add 3 cups of flour and stir well. Add remaining flour and salt. Stir until smooth dough forms – will still be tacky.
- Put into large greased bowl and flip to cover all sides with oil. Cover and let stand until doubled.
- Turn out onto lightly greased surface. Knead until smooth – maybe 1-2 minutes. Divide into 3 pieces for 8 inch loaves or 2 pieces for 9 inch loaves.
- Knead loaves slightly to smooth and remove bubbles. Form into loaf shape. Place upside down in greased loaf pans and flip over to cover all surfaces.
- Set aside and let double. When almost read, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place loaves in oven and bake for 25 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped (190 degrees). Remove from oven.
- Cool 10 minutes in pans before turning out to cool completely on wire rack.
Yield: 3 8 inch loaves or 2 9 inch loaves