I love fresh baked bread, especially sourdough. I love everything about it- the smell, the crunchy crust, the soft, chewy slightly sour inside when you cut yourself a warm slice. Mmm, I love it all, well not exactly all. I actually hate baking the finicky, temperamental loaf, with its irritating starter. Honestly, I usually leave it to the bakery at Whole Foods :)
Well, with the help of a Brooklyn based friend, I have stumbled upon a secret, that makes baking a gorgeous loaf of sourdough (actually a fake sourdough) easy. Technically speaking, this isn't really sourdough, but this almost-no-knead and starter-free recipe is so close, that some of the most discerning palates (your family) may not be able to tell the difference.
The secret is that rather than using a starter containing wild yeasts that you need to cultivate and that lives in your fridge, you simply use compressed yeast, otherwise known as fresh cake yeast. These days you can find compressed yeast in the refrigerator section of most supermarkets or online, and looks like a solid clay brick. It smells slightly sour, and well yeasty... The reason this recipe works to give your bread the essence of sourdough, is because you will let your dough rest overnight to let the depth of flavor develop and the gluten relax (which is what gives you that amazing texture for the bread!)
This recipe is simple and easy to bake, but requires lots of time for your dough to rest and then rise, so plan accordingly and be patient.
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 packed teaspoon fresh cake yeast, crumbled
- All-purpost flour for dusting
- Using your hands mix the flour, salt, yeast and 2 cups of room temperature water in a medium bowl.
- Lightly knead in the bowl by grabbing the corners of the dough and gently pulling upward and then pushing toward the center, until the dough comes together.
- Dust another bowl gently with all-purpose flour and transfer dough to bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12-18 hours.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, dust with flour and then press into a rectangle (8x5 inches).
- Fold rectangle in half lengthwise, then roll highly at narrow end (like a burrito).
- Place both hands on top of dough; working against friction of work surface, pull gently down toward yourself to create a rounded boule shape.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured, parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with a clean flour-dusted towel.
- Let rise at room temperature for 4 hours (preferred) or chill for 6-12 hours.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- Remove towel, and slash dough with a sharp knife in 3 parallel slits (¼ inch deep).
- Transfer baking sheet to oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees.
- Bake bread until crust is very brown, about 30-40 minutes.
- Allow to mostly cool before slicing.