sourdough bread: a beginner’s guide update + a gift to you!

sourdough update + a gift to you! | theclevercarrot.com

Are you a bread baker?

Do you aspire to be a bread baker?

I did.

Two years ago, my culinary resolution was just that.

I started out with yeast breads, mastering buttery brioche and various sweet doughs. I was really into it. Whoever walked through my door was greeted and welcomed with the aroma of warm, homemade bread. At one point, I boasted my baking skills to my grandfather thinking he’d be proud of my new found self sufficiency. He was from the recession.

But you know what he said?…

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sourdough noir

sourdough noir | theclevercarrot.com

Allow me to embarrass myself:

When I can’t sleep at night, I think about food.

I analyze recipes. I scrutinize them. I think about ingredients and techniques and plan out what I’m going to make in the morningFor whatever reason, I find comfort in this soothing mechanism because it tires out my mind. And I enjoy it.

This isn’t  something new- it all stared when my youngest son was born. He had severe colic and screamed his head off from 6am- 6pm for six weeks straight. It was mental torture. There was no sleeping, no showering, no putting him down. I thought about food to stay sane. It distracted me. During this time I taught myself the metric system, demystified sourdough, scribbled recipe ideas on the back of junk mail, and dreamed of an heirloom garden. Was I going mad? Probably. But in retrospect, this otherwise noisy difficult time in my life turned out to be surprisingly productive.

Three years later……

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dukkah sourdough

dukkah sourdough | The Clever Carrot

Current obsession: dukkah.

My first introduction to dukkah was in South Africa, back in 2007. Did I ever tell you that my husband is from there? Yes, he hails from the land of lions and wildebeest (bet you didn’t know how to spell that). Anyway, we were grabbing a bite at a local restaurant where they served us dukkah, bread and olive oil as a prelude to our meal. At the time, I had absolutely no clue what it was but quickly learned that this complimentary nibble was quite common throughout the country.

So what is dukkah, exactly?

Pronounced ‘doo-ka’ it’s an Egyptian spice blend made up of toasted nuts and seeds. It reminds me of an everything bagel, minus the onion (and the bagel). The idea is to dunk your bread in olive oil first, and then swipe it through the dukkah. It’s nice and crunchy and has a wonderfully unique flavor.

Fast forward to present day and a new thought: let’s bake it on the bread.

dukkah sourdough | The Clever Carrotdukkah sourdough | The Clever Carrot

The concept of dukkah might seem a bit foreign to you, but it is very easy to make at home. All you need is a food processor. I prefer making it myself because most store-bought blends are a little too cumin heavy for my taste. In fact, I leave out the cumin altogether in my recipe. It gets an Italian upgrade with some fennel seeds instead.

For the sourdough, here is the breakdown:

  • 50/50 whole wheat + bread flour starter (100% hydration)
  • 1 hour autolyse
  • Salt added after autolyse
  • Stretch and fold every 30 minutes for 2 hours
  • Bulk ferment at room temperature (currently 72+ F), about 5- 6 hours
  • Refrigerate overnight for 2nd rise
  • Rest dough for 1/2 hour, then slash
  • Bake in Dutch oven @450 F for 20 minutes (covered) + 40 minutes uncovered
  • Crack open the oven door during the last 10 minutes of baking to harden the crust

To clarify this crazy bread talk, please visit my beginner’s guide for all things sourdough.

dukkah sourdogh | The Clever Carrot

I had my best friend read this post prior to publishing, and she asked me flat out- so what’s the point of baking it on the bread? Why not just dunk?

Good point.

Here’s why: because you get to do things like toast it golden, rub it with garlic, and then submerge its crunchy goodness into soup…. You get to make sandwiches stacked with grilled chicken, tomato and avocado that will change your life… You get to enjoy them as croutons, where their final destiny could only be a bed of crunchy greens with lemony caesar dressing… (catch my drift?) The seeds and spices create this harmonious paring that’s different from the usual bread-dunking suspects. I will warn you though, the dukkah will fly all over the place when you try to cut the bread!

But that’s ok, just rip off a chunk and do this…

dukkah sourdough | The Clever Carrot

You see? We’ve now come full circle.

Tips:

  • Store your dukkah in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.
  • Save any dukkah seeds that fall off your bread when slicing. Sprinkle them on salads, soups and croutons.
  • I like to bake my bread dark, which means that the almonds will get pretty toasty (which I don’t mind). You can always reduce the oven temperature to control the browning rate. Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes (covered), and then lower the temperature to 400 F. Continue to bake for an additional 40 minutes until golden (uncovered).
  • This bread is best if consumed within the first 1-2 days of baking. If you prefer, you can cut the dough in half to make 2 small loaves. Eat one + freeze one.
  • To freeze, wrap your bread in plastic wrap and then in foil. It should last up to 3 months.

dukkah sourdough
 
Author:
Serves: 1-2 loaves
Ingredients
Dukkah
  • 1 c. whole almonds
  • ¼ c. fennel seeds
  • ¼ c. coriander seeds
  • ½ c. sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tbsp. poppy seeds
Bread
  • 150g active, fed starter
  • 350g water, preferably filtered
  • 500g bread flour (not all purpose)
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • fine ground cornmeal, for dusting
*6 quart Dutch oven
** My starter is 50/50 bread flour + whole wheat (100% hydration)
*** This recipe was tested with King Arthur, Gold Medal + Pillsbury bread flour
Instructions
  1. For the dukkah, place the almonds, fennel and coriander seeds into a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. You want the texture not too chunky, yet not too fine. Stir in the sesame and poppy seeds. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use.
  2. To make the dough: in a large bowl, combine the starter, water and bread flour. Squish everything together with your hands until all of the flour is absorbed. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour.
  3. Add the salt + ½ tsp. of water (to help it dissolve). Lift and fold the dough over itself several times, and squish with your hands to incorporate. The dough will tear slightly as you fold, and the salt will not fully dissolve. Don't worry- this is normal. Work the dough as best you can until it comes back together into a rough ball. At this point, you shouldn't feel any grains of salt beneath your hands.
  4. Bulk fermentation: Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm, sunny spot to rise. Your dough is ready when it no longer looks dense, and has increased in volume about 1½- 2x its original size. This can take anywhere from 3-12 hours depending on the temperature of your ingredients, the potency of your starter, and surrounding environment. *See note below.
  5. Stretch & fold: To strengthen your dough, do a series of stretch and folds every 30 minutes for 2 hours during bulk fermentation. Simply gather a portion of the dough, stretch it upwards and then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl ¼ turn, and repeat until you have come full circle. You will have completed 4 folds.
  6. Shaping the dough: When your dough has risen nicely, it's time to cut and shape the dough. Divide your work surface in half; lightly flour one side (for cutting) and leave the other half clean (for shaping).
  7. Remove the dough from the bowl, and place onto the floured section so that it does not stick. You do not need to 'punch down' the dough; it will gently deflate as you fold and shape it.
  8. Cut the dough in half to make 2 loaves, or leave it whole for a single loaf.
  9. To shape, use a bench scraper to move your dough to the non-floured section. Gather the dough, one side at a time, and fold it into the center. Flip the dough over and place it seam side down. Using your hands, gently cup the sides of the dough and rotate it, using quarter turns in a circular motion. You can also pull it towards you to even out the shape. Repeat this process until you are happy with its appearance. Brush away any excess flour from the dough.
  10. To coat the dough, add all of your dukkah to a large bowl. Roll the dough around in the seed mixture until well coated. If there is too much flour on the dough, the dukkah will not stick.
  11. Second rise: Place your seeded dough into a cloth lined basket. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  12. Preparing the baking vessel: When you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to rest for about ½ hour (in the bowl). Preheat your oven to 450F. Generously coat the bottom of a Dutch oven with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Sprinkle a good amount of cornmeal on top of the dough as well (this will be the bottom once it's flipped over).
  13. Carefully invert the dough into the pot, cornmeal side down.
  14. Slashing the dough: Right before your bread goes into the oven, make a shallow slash about 2 inches long in the center of the dough. Use a bread lame, sharp pairing or serrated knife.
  15. Baking the bread: Place your bread into the oven (lid on) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue to bake (uncovered) for an additional 40 minutes or until deep, golden brown. I like to bake my bread dark, but if at any point the top is getting too brown for your liking, turn down the oven to 400 F.
  16. During the last 10 minutes of baking, crack open the oven door. This allows the moisture to escape, leaving your bread with a crisp crust.
  17. You can also take the internal temperature of your bread to double check that it is done. For sourdough, it should read about 205 F.
  18. Cooling: Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing. The longer you wait, the easier it will be to cut. Don't slice into it too soon or else the texture will be gummy!
Notes
* Because sourdough does not contain commercial yeast, it takes considerably longer to rise. In the summer months, it can take anywhere between 3-4 hours @ 85 F whereas in the winter, about 6-12 hours @ 55 F. It is very important to watch your dough and not the clock. It's ready, when it's ready.

dukkah sourdough | The Clever Carrot