Making sourdough bread is a fabulous adventure in food science. Each loaf is a living colony of health and no two loaves come out alike. It's such a rewarding process to start with a few simple ingredients and end up with a fabulous loaf of sourdough bread soft and fluffy on the inside, crispy and crunchy on the outside. You'll need some fresh sourdough starter to make this delicious sundried tomato and pecorino sourdough bread recipe. Make the starter a week before you plan to bake. We guide you through the process of making your own sourdough starter.
Rice Flour for Dusting
3 1/2 Cups Spelt Flour. We use spelt flour because it's lower in gluten than modern wheat flour. Studies show that spelt flour is tolerated by many gluten-sensitives and IBS sufferers. You can substitute all-purpose flour or bread flour and you'll have equally fabulous results.
2 1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 1/4 Cups Warm Water
1/2 Cup Sundried Tomatoes Marinated in Oil, roughly chopped
3/4 Cup Coarsely Shredded Pecorino Cheese
Combine the Ingredients for the Sourdough
Combine the flour and the salt in a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour and add the sourdough starter. Add 1 cup warm water and mix with your hands for a few minutes until a rough dough starts to form. The dough will be stringy looking and some parts will be drier than others. That's perfect! Don't overmix it. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes to autolyze. Autolyzing allows the flour some time to absorb the water. Set the sundried tomatoes and pecorino cheese aside for now. You'll add them later.
Stretch and Fold the Dough
After it has rested for 10 minutes, you'll need to stretch and fold the dough.
Gently pull one side of the dough up out of the bowl and stretch it upward. Fold it over onto itself and turn the bowl a quarter turn. Gently pull the next side of the dough up and over itself toward the middle. Continue this process for a total of ten stretches and folds. Once you've completed ten stretches and folds, cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for ten minutes. Repeat the stretch and fold process a total of three times ten minutes apart. The dough will begin to come together and be easier to handle with each of the stretch and fold processes.
Add the Sundried Tomatoes and Pecorino
After the dough has rested following the third stretch and fold, add the tomatoes and cheese. Roughly chop the tomatoes and grate the cheese and add them to the center of the dough. Gently stretch and fold the dough over the tomatoes and the cheese for a total of ten stretches and folds to evenly distribute the tomatoes and cheese throughout the loaf. Some of them may end up on the outside of the dough. They'll get a little crispy in the baking process and add a bit of texture and flavor to the loaf.
Let the Dough Rest Overnight
Once you've completed four stretch and fold sessions, it's time to let the dough rest overnight for a bulk ferment. This allows the beneficial yeast and bacteria in the sourdough starter to break down the FODMAPS in the dough. This long fermentation process is key to baking a great loaf of bread that may also be easier for sensitive stomachs to digest. Research shows that some people with gluten sensitivity and or IBS are able to digest sourdough that has been allowed to bulk ferment for at least 12 hours followed by a refrigerated fermentation lasting up to three days. Read more in our post: Sourdough Bread on a Gluten-Sensitive Diet? It Depends.
Shape the Dough
The dough should have risen to at least double in size overnight. Gently stretch and fold the dough a final time for only four stretches and folds. On the final fold, pull the dough all the way over itself to create a ball. You'll need to create some tension on the outside of your dough so it holds its shape in the oven. Traditionally, the dough is turned out on the counter for final shaping. A dough scraper is used to gently tuck the edges of the dough underneath itself to create the desired shape. I like to allow gravity to work in my favor. Instead of turning the dough out onto the counter, leave it in the bowl. Gently pick the entire dough ball up by the sides and allow gravity to pull the dough downward. Shape the dough as tension is being created. Either method works great.
Once you've shaped the dough, place it in a banneton or glass bowl generously dusted with rice flour. Loosley cover with a cloth banneton liner or plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to continue fermenting for up to three days.
Score and Bake the Best Sourdough Ever
Technically, the dough is ready to bake about an hour after the final shaping. However, as noted in our recent post, research studies show that a longer fermentation time (3-4 days) creates a more easily digestible bread that even some gluten-sensitives and IBS sufferers can enjoy without repercussion.
Preheat the Oven
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to at least 495 Degrees. This high temperature is important as it promotes the best initial rise.
Line a bread cloche or a cast iron dutch oven with parchment paper. Crumple the parchment with your hands to make lining the bottom of the vessel easier.
Score the Dough
Scoring the dough is an important step in sourdough success. Steam escapes from the loaf as it bakes into fluffy goodness. Scoring gently encourages the steam to escape in a controlled and artful manner. Skip scoring and your loaf will burst wherever the steam finds a way through the dough. That could end up being on the side or bottom of the loaf. It's still wonderfully good tasting but might be a bit misshapen. You can score using a very sharp knife or a bread lave.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and place it on the parchment-lined cookware surface. Slowly score the dough. You can create an artful pattern or simply score a straight line down the center of the dough.
Cast Iron Tip:
I use a cast iron dutch oven with a flat lid for bread baking and it works great. It's easier to place the dough on the lid, which is shallower and use the pot as a dome cover. It works like a bread cloche. I also take this opportunity to season my dutch oven! Give your cast iron a swipe with some avocado oil before baking and the high oven temperature will season it beautifully.
Bake the Bread
When the oven has preheated to at least 495 degrees, cover the scored dough with the cast iron pot or cloche dome and place it in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 475 degrees for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the cover and allow the steam to escape. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature before slicing. Be patient! Cutting before cooling results in a gummy mess. Let the steaming process continue until the bread is fully cooled.
Store the Bread
Sourdough is a fermented bite of healthy goodness. It's best to store it in a bread box made specifically for storing bread so it can breathe. Avoid storing it in plastic and above all else, leave it on the counter at room temperature and never in the refrigerator.