Soft Sourdough

A friend shared her sourdough starter with me several months ago. I've used it to make English muffins, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and, of course, sourdough bread. I've also used it as a substitute for yeast in other bread recipes. I've been very pleased with the results, but the last batch of bread I baked knocked my socks off.

Some of the sourdough bread attempts have ended in a dry, crumbly bread with a dense crumb. I don't mind dense bread, but I like my bread to be soft and tender. I happened across this recipe from Home Joys after following a link from Pinterest for something else (who among you hasn't done that?).  I was intrigued that the recipe called for whole wheat flour in addition to all-purpose; that made me want to try it even more! The neighborhood cookie exchange party was a great excuse to make the bread, and I'm so glad I did. (Sorry there are no pictures, but you know what bread looks like, don't you?)

Soft Sourdough Bread (from Home Joys)

2 cups active starter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1/4 cup honey
2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour *
3 cup white flour *
3 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients except salt for 2-3 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for about 20 minutes.

After rest, add salt and knead dough for about five minutes. If dough is too sticky, add slightly more flour but dough should be soft and not dry and stiff. Place in oiled bowl and allow dough to rise for 3-4 hours or until nearly doubled in size.

Divide dough into two pieces and shape into loaves and place in two greased bread pans. If a free form loaf is desired, place on greased baking sheet. Spray with oil and cover with plastic wrap to keep from drying out. Allow to rise for 2-3 hours.

When dough has risen, slash the top of the loaf. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes. For even browning, turn loaves halfway through baking time

*Note that the amount of flour you'll need is dependent on how thick your starter is. Mine tends to be on the thin side, so I usually have to add flour.

I found the dough to be sticky even after adding more flour, but I was concerned about adding more and kneading any more than I already had, knowing that it could result in a tough loaf of bread. I also found that the dough didn't rise quite as much as I had hoped, but this is a common problem for me. (I need to do some studying up on bread baking, I suppose.) I also didn't slash the tops of the loaves before baking because I had 2 little ones hovering around me and the very hot oven. Despite all this, the bread was a success.

We've enjoyed it with just a bit of butter, toasted, and on sandwiches (it grills up so nicely on the panini press). There's still just a little bit left. But it won't last through the day tomorrow.

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