Sourdough Toasting Bread

Sourdough English Muffin Bread-2For me, breakfast is not breakfast without toast. But it can be difficult to find a bread that toasts well. Most commercial loaves are too soft making rather gummy toast. I have experimented with several recipes to get what I consider just the right density. Using sourdough starter gives the bread a slight tartness that works very well with jam.

This recipe makes four 500-gram (1.1 pound loaves) in standard medium loaf pans. I wrap three of the loaves in heavy duty aluminum foil and freeze them.

A note on measurements: it is nearly impossible to achieve consistent results baking bread by volume—only gravimetric measures are accurate enough. (The weight of a cup of flour can vary by 10% or more.) Digital kitchen scales are very inexpensive today and every serious cook should own one. For making bread I much prefer to use metric units because they are more precise. Even those not familiar with the metric system can use it by simple setting the scale accordingly. 

Ingredients

100% hydration sourdough starter

350 grams

Warm water (45°C, 100°F)

483 milliliters (grams)

Sugar

23 grams

Dry milk powder

47 grams

Unbleached white bread flour

800 grams

Whole wheat flour

200 grams

Oil or butter at room temperature

58 grams

Salt

24 grams

Instant dry yeast

10 grams

Method

I make bread using a heavy-duty stand mixer. If you do not have one simply use a large bowl to mix the dough then knead by hand on a well-floured surface.

Place the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer onto the scale and zero it. Weigh in each of the ingredients, zeroing the scale between each addition. Mount the bowl on the mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead on the recommended speed setting for your mixer for five minutes after the dough comes together.

At this point I like to weigh the dough to make dividing it later more accurate.

Warm a large, heavy earthenware or glass bowl with hot water then dry and pour in enough oil to just cover the bottom. Form the dough into a large ball, place it in the bowl, and roll it around so that it is evenly coated with the oil. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the dough and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Set aside to proof until doubled in size, about one to one and a half hours depending on the temperature. Note that a long rising at a lower temperature yields a more finely-textured bread.

At the end of proofing, preheat oven to 190°C (375°F), punch down the dough, and divide it into four equal portions. (I use the scale to get them exactly equal.) Form the loaves and place them in lightly-oiled pans dusted with the cornmeal or semolina. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again until the dough is about 1 cm (½ inch) above the sides of the pan. Bake for about 35 minutes. The best way to determine doneness is with a thermometer; the center of the loaf should be between 90°C and 95°C (195°F and 200°F).

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