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How to Mix Sourdough

Learn how to mix sourdough in this bread making video from Howcast.


I'm going to show you how to mix my version of sourdough bread, by hand. The first thing that we start out doing is we start out scaling the water. We need 554 grams of water, so I'm going to tear this scale. My water is at 73 degrees, and I want my dough temperature to be 76 degrees when I'm done. My water is a little cooler than the final desired dough temperature, only because I'm going to be kneading the dough and adding a little bit of heat in. I'm going to scale out 554 grams of water. Perfect.

The next ingredient in sourdough bread is a sourdough starter. I made my sourdough starter about 12 hours ago, so it's been growing overnight. If you can see the bubbles on the surface of the sourdough starter, they're starting to get frothy and form little valleys, and that's a perfect sign of ripeness. This sourdough starter is made from a percentage of 125% water, to 100% flour, and then a very, very small amount of existing sourdough starter. I think that my sourdough starter was about 25 grams of sourdough starter, then about 300 grams of flour, and then the equivalent. . . I 300 x 1.25 to get the equivalent of water.

To check to make sure your sourdough is ready to use, you want to do what is called a float test. We'll use the water that we haven't scaled to do the float test. Wet your fingers so the dough doesn't stick to your fingers, and then you're going to take a little bit of the dough, and it should float on the top. That's an indication that it's ripe. What happens when you're making the sourdough starter is you're basically, the natural yeast are fermenting and they're producing carbon dioxide. The sourdough starter's filled with carbon dioxide, and also alcohol, and it's the carbon dioxide that's causing the dough to float to the top. That's a sign that your sourdough starter is ready to go.

We're going to scale out 405 grams, or about 40% of the weight of the flour. 405 grams. See how it's floating? That's perfect. That's exactly what you want. Perfect.

You're going to take your liquid ingredients and you're going to add them to 900 grams of bread flour and 120 grams of rye flour. This is a stone-ground rye flour. You can see the speckles of the flour. I think that that's really beautiful and adds a really beautiful flavor and substance to the bread.

What I do is I combine the 2 flours, and then I'm going to make a well. I'm going to pour the sourdough starter and water into the center. Then this is my salt. My salt is . . . let me just check. It's 23 grams of salt, it's sea salt. I'm going to hold this to the side. We're not going to add the salt right away. What we're going to do is we're going to mix the dough and then we're going to do what is a process called, autolyse. You're going to let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes. What happens during autolyse is that that resting period, when salts not present, helps the gluten to form in the bread. You get better gluten development if you let the dough rest before adding the salt.

What I'm going to do, I'm just going to . . . like you're making pasta. You're going to start swirling hand clockwise to bring in all of the dry ingredients. As I'm swirling it around, at this point, I'm doing some squeezing too, because I really want to incorporate all those dry ingredients.

I have one hand in the dough, and one hand that's on the outside of the bowl. I always try to keep my left hand clean. I'm really going to try to work the dough to really get all of the dry incorporated. Right now, it looks like a shaggy mess, but if we keep working it, we can incorporate all of the dry ingredients. I think at this point, I think I'm going to get both hands in there to really bring up those dry ingredients. I just want to hydrate my flour with the water and the sourdough starter, and that's going to start the autolyse process of hydrating the flour and helping the gluten to form.

At this point, I'm not going to knead the dough, but I'm going to set it aside. As I set it aside, I'm going to sprinkle my salt on the top of the dough. That will help the salt to dissolve and it will be easier to incorporate. We're just going to set this aside for 20 to 30 minutes.

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