Sourdough Bread -

Charlotte ensures me these is a fairly easy bread to make. Just take it one step at a time.

Quintessential French Sourdough (from Local Breads, Daniel Leader - find it on amazon)

Here I use the pâte fermentée which is a bit of a shortcut (instead of a true sourdouch starter). Daniel Leader gives instruction in his book for both as well as far more detail. Love the book!

Step 1: Pâte Fermentée

1/4 cup tepid water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. organic, stone-ground whole wheat flour

Pour water into a 1 quart size container. Add yeast and flours. Stir with a spatuala until water is absorbed. The dough will be stiff and a bit tacky. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Place the container in the refrigerator for at least 8 and up to 12 hours. I usually do this the night before I want to bake.

Step 2: Mix the Dough

1 1/2 cups tepid water
2 1/4 unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
1/4 cup fine or medium rye flour
Entire batch of pâte fermentée (Step 1 above)
1 1/2 tsp. salt (sea salt if you have it around)

I usually take the pâte fermentée out of the fridge about an hour before mixing the dough to allow it to come to room temperature.

Pour water into a large bowl or bowl of a standing mixer (I use my Kitchen Aide). Add flours and mix until a shaggy dough forms. Cover and let stand 15 - 20 minutes to hydrate the flour and let gluten develop a bit on its own.

Add the pâte fermentée and salt, mix.


By hand: on a floured surface for 12 to 15 minutes (will probably be quite sticky for the first couple of minutes).

By machine (I usually use this method): Use the dough hook on medium speed (4 on Kitchen Aide) for 8 or 9 minutes.

This dough can hold more water than you might expect and a well-hydrated dough rises nicely in the oven.


In a lighly oiled 2-quart container, covered. Let rise at room temperature for an hour or two until almost doubled in size (doesn't rise as dramatically as some doughs do at this stage)

Divide and Shape Batards

Lightly grease a cookie sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina. (or use parchment paper). Flour counter. Cut the dough into 2 equal parts and shape each into a batard about 12 inches long with tapered ends.

Check out this video for shaping and idea of dough consistency): (mine don't looks quite so professional!)

Form the Couche

Place the bâtards on the cookie sheet lengthwise. Dust with flour. Use three tea towels. Tightly roll each tea towel into a cylindar. Dust the towels with flour. I usually roll them in the leftover flour on counter. Put one between the bâtards and one tea towel on each side to hold the dough and encourage it to rise up rather than out. Drape lightly with plastic wrap.

Proof the Bâtards

Let the loaves rise at room temperature for about 1 hour until they inflate to about 1 1/2 their original size. (1 to 1 1/2 hours). The dough will look slack and relaxed (don't worry - lots of spring in the oven!). When you press your finger in dough, it should spring back slowly.

Prepare Oven

About 1 hour before baking place a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven (I use a pizza stone since that's what I have!). I haven't tried the recipe without a stone but I think you would still get good results by baking without, perhaps a little less oven spring. Heat the oven to 450. Place a cast iron skillet (or I use an old heavy metal 8x8 cake pan) on the bottom rack.

Score the Bâtards

Uncover and score loaves with a serrated knife. Make 4 diagonal slices on each loaf (at a 45 degree angle and about 3 inches long). Dip the blade in water and use a fluid motion so as not to snag dough too much.

Bake the Bâtards

Put the cookie sheet directly on baking stone. Or if you used parchment, you can slide the loaves parchment and all directly onto the stone. My pizza stone is smallish so I have always left the loaves on the cookie sheet. Place 1/2 cup of ice cubes in the skillet to produce steam. Bake for 15 minutes, lower the heat to 400 and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more. Loaves should be evenly browned with a deep mahogany tone along the edges where slashes.

Cool on a wire rack (in theory for 1 hour though this doesn't usually happend in my house). Grab a tea, some butter and heavenly... Yummm.

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