I’ve made a bunch of loaves from Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish, but they always felt like a special occasion. Which is delightful. I love special occasions. But, what about that romantic idea of being a person who bakes bread regularly as a normal and charming part of your weekly routine? That’s where The Long Loaf by Andrew Barton comes in.
The Long Loaf is a blend of essays, stories, recipes all devoted to the romance of bread. And in particular, to the romance of bread baked in a loaf pan. The Long Loaf gave me permission to play with the recipes. Skip steps. Add steps. Make a process that works for me. Below is my weekly bread ritual. It’s pretty similar to the one in Barton’s book, but with a few bits of process I liked from Forkish’s, and the timing that works for my schedule, preferences, and somewhat cold kitchen.
In addition to the recipe and schedule below, if you’ve never made sourdough bread before, you would be well served by getting one of the above books, or watching some youtube videos to get a feel for the techniques used to mix, fold and handle the dough.
Weighing your ingredients is great. Baker’s percentages in parentheses. If you aren’t familiar with baker’s percentages, you can ignore them, but here’s a quick explanation.
- 300g all-purpose flour (60%)
- 150g whole-wheat flour (30%)
- 50g rye flour (10%)
- 450g water at 95F (90%)
- 13g salt (2.6%)
- 115g mature sourdough starter (I mix my starter with the same baker’s percentages as the loaf so that I don’t have to do any math when adding it in).
Day 1 - Morning: Feed the starter
- Take your starter out of your fridge (both books have good instructions for how to make a sourdough starter). I store my starter in a glass Weck jar. I use the rubber seal and the glass lid, but I don’t use the little clips. I have no evidence that it matters, but this feels right to me.
- Discard all but a few tablespoons of starter. I save my discard in the fridge and occasionally make it into pancakes or other quick breads.
- Add 100g of flour to your starter jar. I like to use the same flour ratio I use in my loaf, so that comes out to 60g all-purpose flour, 30g whole wheat flout, 10g rye flour.
- Add 90g of 95F water to the jar. Mix well and leave covered on the counter until the following morning. Whatever you use as a lid, make sure that gases can still escape.
Day 2 - Morning: Mix the dough
- Mix and fold the flour and water with your hands in a large bowl or tub. I like the mixing techniques in Flour, Water, Salt Yeast. Let the mixture autolyse for 30 minutes.
- Add the starter and the salt and again, mix and fold the mixture.
- Discard any extra starter so that only a few tablespoons remain in the jar. Feed the starter with the same ratio of flour and water as the previous morning. I like to leave it out on the counter for an hour before returning it to the fridge, but that may be mostly superstition and it can be returned to the fridge right away.
- Over the next 5 or so hours of bulk fermentation, fold the mixture at least three times.
Day 2 - Afternoon: Into the pan
- Butter or oil your loaf pan. The Long Loaf bakes a dough with 1000g of flour in a charmingly large pan, but that’s more bread than I eat in a week, so I use a smaller 9” x 4” Pullman loaf pan. I like the square sides and built in lid of the Pullman pan.
- Transfer the dough into the loaf pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Day 3 - Morning: Bake
- Preheat the oven to 500F and set the load pan out on the counter to warm up. Make sure to grease the lid of the loaf pan. I’ve never been very good at interpreting the finger poke test, but you can try your hand at poking the dough to see if it’s properly proofed. I usually don’t bother and trust the wonderful flexibility of the loaf pan method.
- Put the pan in the oven with the lid on and bake for 25-30 minutes. In my pan, the loaf will rise up and press gently against the lid, but doesn’t turn into a full square like some Pullman loafs.
- Remove the lid, turn the over down to 450F, and bake for another 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Once it is culled, I store the loaf in the Pullman pan, thanks to the integrated lid!
That’s a lot of steps all typed out, but the flexibility of this approach has allowed it to become a lovely weekly ritual for me, and I’ve got The Long Loaf to thank for that!
Edit: here is a brief loaf update as my starter has continued to evolve!