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Hokkaido Sourdough Sandwich Bread

This enriched sandwich bread is a loaf that I developed for the grilled cheese and pb&j eaters in my life. The rustic, country loaf is my personal favorite but all the holes in its beautiful, open crumb don’t hold mayo or jelly very well. It also has a crunchy crust that can be undesirable for certain sandwiches. I had to perfect a loaf that is very soft and has a fine crumb so that we could completely opt out of buying bread at the grocery store.

Let me quickly explain why this is important to me. Almost none of the bread that you can buy at grocery stores is naturally leavened. No matter how much you pay for a beautiful, organic, (expensive) whole grain loaf of bread, if it was risen with commercial yeast, it’s just not that healthy. I want to restate that… breads made with whole grains are not healthier than white bread if they aren’t naturally leavened. It was worth it to me to figure out how to make a soft sandwich loaf because what I want to feed my family is simply not available to buy.

I need to be real with you about how long it takes to make this bread! Since the leaven is really best when it sits overnight AND the bread has the best nutrition and flavor when the formed loaf also sits in the refrigerator overnight, this is a 3 DAY loaf of bread. Luckily, during almost all of those 3 days, the dough is sitting on the counter or in the fridge. It will take a couple of loaves for you to get the feel for how the process works, but once you get going, you can easily schedule the mixing and folding into a busy day. So since this is a 3 day loaf, I usually make two loaves at once. It is hardly any extra effort and then I only have to do it once a week.

One last note – You really must have a kitchen scale to make this bread. The amounts of ingredients like starter or milk are very precise. The measurements do not translate well into teaspoons and cups. The scale will also save you a lot of dishes! When you measure the ingredients for the leaven and dough, you can add each one into the bowl used for mixing, taring (zeroing out) the scale between additions. When you are finished, you won’t have a bunch of measuring cups and spoons to wash!

Leaven

Start this leaven one day before you would like to make bread

40 grams Active Sourdough Starter

50 grams Whole Milk

56 grams Bread Flour

Mix ingredients together using a spatula or wooden spoon.

 

Adjust with a small amount of extra flour or milk (if needed) so that the consistency resembles thick pancake batter. Keep the sides of the bowl as clean as possible by scraping it down with the spatula. Cover and allow the leaven to sit until very active and full of bubbles, at least 8 hours or overnight.

 

Dough

All of the Leaven

200 grams Bread Flour

76 grams All Purpose Flour

34 grams Sugar

1 Large Egg, Whisked

134 grams Whole Milk, 80 degrees

Add all of the dough ingredients to the bowl of a standing mixer. This is where having the scale comes in so handy. Put your mixing bowl with the leaven already in it on the scale and tare it out. Add the 200 grams of flour and tare the scale again… Keep doing this as you add the ingredients and when you are done, no extra dishes!

 

Now a Attach the dough hook and begin mixing on the lowest speed. As the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and allow the mixer to knead the dough for 7-10 min, until it is very smooth and comes away from the bowl.

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Remove the dough hook and cover the dough with plastic wrap. Let it sit undisturbed for 30 minutes. This process, called autolyse, gives  the flour time to fully absorb liquid, allowing the glutens to swell and form the chains that trap the gas released during fermentation. This is what causes your naturally fermented dough to rise so don’t skip this step!

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This is how the dough looks after its 30 minute rest

After Autolyse Add –

34 grams Butter, Softened

10 grams Fine Sea Salt

After the 30 minute rest, reattach the dough hook and add the softened butter and salt.

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Mix on medium speed until well combined and smooth. Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or place the dough into a covered container like a cambro.

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This photo shows how the dough becomes very smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl when its properly kneaded.

Set a timer for 1 hour. When the dough has been rising for 1 hour, give it 10-15 turns to activate the gluten and strengthen its structure.

 

Set the timer for 1 more hour.

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Notice how this dough has gained volume during bulk fermentation.

After the two hours have elapsed, gently roll the dough out onto a very lightly floured counter-top. It will be sticky so go slowly and carefully so as not to disturb the bubbles that have been created during bulk fermentation. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces and allow it to bench rest (sit covered) for 10 minutes.

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Now create 3 smooth, tight balls of dough. Use the envelope method shown here to stretch the dough over itself left to right, top to bottom, right to left, and then bottom to top. As you do this process, gently pinch the dough at the seams to form a ball. Repeat with the 2 other pieces of dough.

 

Place your dough balls into a buttered loaf pan. Use a brush to butter the top of the dough as well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof at room temperature for 6-8 hours.

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Once the dough has proofed, let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. This step is not absolutely necessary but will increase the nutrition and enhance the flavor of the bread without adding any more active work to your process.

When you are ready to bake, remove the loaf from the refrigerator and preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Allow the dough to come to room temp for at least 45 minutes before placing it in the oven. When the dough is ready to bake, place it in the preheated oven. Immediately turn down the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for 15 min. Now reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees and set the timer for another 20 min. During the second half of the baking, you may want to loosely tent the loaf with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent it from over browning before it bakes all the way through. You may also turn the loaf pan once, to ensure even browning.

When the timer goes off for the second half of baking, your loaf should be golden brown and sound hollow when thumped gently. Remove the loaf onto a hot pad and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Once it has cooled slightly, you can turn it out onto a cooling rack. Resist the urge to cut into it for at least an hour!

Once completely cooled, you can store your bread in a zip-lock or bread storage bag. You can also freeze these loaves, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and defrost them in the refrigerator without any loss of quality.

Sourdough Spelt Pancakes

img_6492If you know me, you know that I don’t like to waste food! I save bones and stems to make broth and rollover recipes so that I don’t have to throw away things my family is tired of eating as leftovers. So, one of the things that bothers me about getting a happy sourdough starter going, is that most recipes recommend that you discard part of your starter before feeding it. This is because it works best to feed the starter an amount approximately equal to its weight with flour and water. This isn’t much at first, but as you continue feeding the starter, it can turn into quite a lot.

Once you begin to make bread, you will use up some starter and that will help with volume control. You can also refrigerate your starter, pulling it out each time to make leaven, 24 hours before plans to bake. Only mature starter will last well in the fridge. My favorite way to control my starter volume though is to make pancakes! This recipe uses an entire cup of starter, making it a perfect way to use up what recipes suggest throwing away.

These pancakes taste great! That’s the point of pancakes right? They are a celebration food in my house, served on birthdays or special weekend mornings when everyone has time to gather for breakfast. In addition to being delicious, though, they are packed with nutrition, unlocked by a long, slow fermentation of the dough. It takes just a few minutes of effort the night before you wish to make them to stir together the flour and starter. Then the next morning, adding the eggs and other ingredients is just as simple as a standard recipe or boxed mix. The recipe yields a lot of pancakes so you may have leftovers. They will keep well in the fridge or can be frozen and heated throughout the week. Serve them nice and hot for the best texture.

Recipe

8-10 hours ahead:

240 grams or 1 cup sourdough starter

480 grams or 2 cups warm water

* The thickness of the starter greatly impacts how much water you need. This is just an approximate measurement. Add water until you have a thick batter. I thin mine with milk more in the morning if needed.

480 grams or 2 cups unbleached, organic, white flour

360 grams or 1 ½ cups whole spelt flour (finely ground)

22.5 grams or 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal (chia seeds make a great substitute)

The night before you plan to cook your pancakes, combine sourdough starter, warm water, the two flours, and the flaxseed meal into a large mixing bowl.

Stainless steel or ceramic work well. Try not to use plastic and avoid other types of metal bowls. Mix your ingredients well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Scrape the edges down well so that small bits of dough won’t dry out overnight.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and leave on the kitchen counter to ferment. The room temperature should be comfortable for you. If you are cold or sweating, your dough will be too and not get an ideal fermentation.

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This batter has been rising overnight and is ready for the next stage

To prepare the pancakes:

3 large eggs, beaten

37.5 grams or 2 tablespoons raw sugar or honey

60 grams or ¼ cup melted butter or coconut oil

5 grams or 1 teaspoon baking soda

5 grams or 1 teaspoon salt

Heat a large, nonstick, skillet over medium to medium/high heat.

Add the eggs, sugar or honey, butter or coconut oil, baking soda, and salt to the dough that you fermented the night before. Stir well to combine the ingredients. The batter will be clumpy at first and then come together to be very sticky and stretchy. It will not look much like standard pancake batter and will definitely not behave that way. Don’t lose hope! They will be nearly identical once they are cooked. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes before you start your pancakes.

Once the batter is well combined, coat your skillet with a small pat of butter and let it melt. If the pan is the right temperature, it will sizzle nicely but not brown straight away. If the skillet is too hot, the butter will turn brown and begin to burn very quickly. If this happens, turn your heat down just a little and wait a few minutes to start cooking. When the butter is melted, wipe the pan over gently with a paper towel to spread the butter evenly and remove excess.

Scoop ¼ cup of batter into the skillet with a measuring cup for each pancake. Since this dough is quite stretchy, you’ll need a large spoon or butter knife to scrape the dough off of the sides of the cup before transferring it into the skillet. Shake the batter out of the cup with one or two firm jolts towards the skillet. It will not just pour out like standard batter. Add three to four pancakes to the skillet, depending on the size of your pan. The batter will spread and rise a lot as it cooks so leave plenty of room between each one.

Leave the pancakes to cook on medium heat for two to three minutes per side. You can tell they are ready to turn when they are just beginning to dry at the edges and most of the bubbles in the batter have popped. Once they are golden brown on both sides, you are ready for the next round.

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You can reserve them under a paper towel so that they won’t dry out or inside a container for longer storage once they have cooled completely. Enjoy them with butter and maple syrup, honey, nut butters, or jam.

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My favorite way to eat pancakes is with a perfectly poached egg on top!