Published March 1, 2005.
Could we take the most difficult bread recipe and turn it into a foolproof, one-day affair?
Sourdough is the most intimidating style of bread for the home baker. Most recipes require weeks of preparation just to make the starter, then another four to five days to make the bread. There had to be a better way.
We challenged ourselves to develop a sourdough bread recipe that would take only days, not weeks, but still deliver the taste and chew of real sourdough.
In buying a ready-made starter--easily available by mail order--we eliminated the weeks of intense babysitting that cultivating a home starter requires while still producing a flavorful loaf. Turning our attention to the next two time-consuming stages--sponge development and fermentation for the dough--we discovered that the time required for both steps could be reduced from two nights to just one day, again without sacrificing flavor.
On a roll, we also tried to finish the third step--proofing the shaped loaves--in the same day, but we determined that they really did need to spend the time overnight in the refrigerator. The loaves proofed at room-temperature just didn't achieve the same wonderfully irregular crumb and deep, nutty sourness. But day two was a breeze; the only tricky part was determining when just the right amount of proofing time had passed. We figured out a couple of reliable indicators: the size of the shaped dough (it should double) and the elasticity of the shaped dough (when given a gentle knuckle poke, the dough should sluggishly recover). We baked the bread in a hot (450-degree) oven, as high heat promotes crust development and a good rise; the bread was done when it had reached an internal temperature of 210 to 212 degrees.list of recipes