How to Bake a Weekday Sourdough Bread

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I think you have overlooked one of the most important weekday baking tips: Be retired. :^)

(Seriously, though, I have found retirement to immensely helpful, as I can now make breads pretty much whenever I want to. In fact, I’ll be starting a sourdough rye at about 11:00 tonight, specifically to have it ready for tomorrow’s dinner.)


@zepp Ha!! I’m a half step behind as I work from a home office (self employed computer programmer) that is situated just off my kitchen :slight_smile: And no husband or children to get out the door or prepare meals for, so theoretically, I have a LOT of “free” time. It doesn’t always feel that way but I do know that 90% of the time, life does not interfere with checking on dough.

I do bake frequently: every 3 or 4 days. I tend to make smaller versions of things. I think the point Melissa made of knowing your ingredients and how they typically perform in your oven/kitchen is key to mostly stellar bakes.

I started baking kneaded breads over 40 years ago. About 10 years ago, I changed to no knead ala “Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day” and then made my first sourdough almost 4 years ago. There is always, always something to learn and that is part of what I love about baking and sourdough in particular. But years of experience is helpful as well and also as Melissa noted: it is good to be able to roll with whatever :blush:.

One of the things I took from the “Artisan in 5” approach is that dough is storable. I tend to go with not much room temp time and a lot of refrigerator time. That not only gives me a lot of flexibility about when I bake but I find my breads are lighter in texture. AND, I can make a large batch of dough and bake small-medium fresh loaves through the week.

I rarely have a very busy time in my house as I just do not live that way. But, the challenging part of sourdough baking, for me, in the beginning was thinking ahead: feeding/refreshing starter, enough time for fermentation. Over time that has become easier and I don’t “think” about it all that much but at first, I kept a lot of “time” notes so I go things going in time to have bread when I wanted it.

The other “trick” when my inventory control and planning fails, is something I learned from Melissa (@Fermentada) which is to increase the amount of starter to speed things up. I’ve only done this a handful of times, but it has worked each time.

Great topic!

I work full-time in an office downtown and I’ve come up with a weekday sourdough baking routine that has delivered great results. My secret weapon is the refrigerator and a typical schedule looks like this:

Tuesday night: feed starter
Wednesday night: make a fist-sized firm sponge starter
Thursday night: mix final dough (this involves a 30 minute autolyse followed by 4 sets of stretching/folding. After the fourth stretch and fold, the dough goes immediately into the refrigerator (by now it is bedtime))
Friday night - arrive home from work and remove dough from refrigerator. Leave at room temp for 2 - 3 hours. Pre-shape, 30 minute rest, do the final shaping, then immediately put Breadtopia banneton baskets into refrigerator at bedtime.
Saturday afternoon: remove the banneton baskets from refrigerator and preheat oven to 500F (which usually takes about 45 minutes). At long last, score the loaves (with my Breadtopia lame), then bake at 450F (in my Breadtopia clay baker)!

Some very good tips. I almost always make same day sourdough whole grain breads using fresh ground flour. The secret I have found most useful is using a preferment using about thirty percent of the flour for the whole loaf. In the morning the flour is ground from a mixture of whatever sounds interesting that day. It is sifted through a 40 mesh screen and the particles sifted out is reground and sifted again and the sifted out particles are weighed and reserved. To those particles sifted flour is added to make up the 30 % of total flour weight as well as water and starter and mixed. AN EXAMPLE : for a 350g flour loaf 120g of flour and sifted out particles are mixed with with 50g starter and 84g water for a 70% hydration , this is covered and allowed to ferment until it is double and you can see bubbles around the edges. This is now like s supercharged starter. The remaining flour and liquid for the loaf is then mixed and autolysed for a short time salt for the loaf is dissolved in a little water and that and the preferment is added to the autolysing flour and everything is mixed until a homogeneous mass forms this is adjusted by feel until the dough reaches the desired consistancy. Stretch and folds are done in rarely frequent intervals, 10 to 20 min. Three or four times depending on how the gluten is developing. The dough is put aside to ferment and once it has about doubled or a little less turned out on the counter for bench rest and shaping. It is then put in a rising basket or just on the counter for final proof. Once it is ready it is baked and cooled. Using this method if I start grinding flour at 7AM the loaf is usually out of the oven by3PM. If anyone has a question or needs clarification don’t hesitate just speak up.

Don’t forget the freezer. Keep a stash of prior baked loaves, sliced, in the freezer. That way, you don’t need to rely on having a weekday loaf ready at a particular time. Whenever I have a new loaf ready before the old loaf is done I just slice the remnants and toss it in a freezer bag. I don’t always know which loaf I’m eating but it’s always great.

@zepp Good point! Retirement (and making bread for work as i do) is fantastic strategy for baking when and how you want lol. I hope your rye turned out great for this evening’s dinner.

@easummers Thank you for sharing your insight. You get credit for teaching me how to use the refrigerator like a boss :slight_smile: I remember the forum thread where you wrote that you can retard dough that’s basically done with the bulk ferment, and then use it as needed for a few days. Woah game changer, though once i heat up the oven, i still tend to bake everything in sight.

@mateo912 and @titanpilot2004 you two demonstrate the amazing flexibility of sourdough baking, with one of you having a multi-day approach and the other making the bread happen in a half day. Very neat - thank you both for sharing.

@improbablepantry haha I do the same with mystery slices in a bag in the freezer. Some mismatched sandwiches have been made and tasted great.

When I don’t have time for “regular” bread I turn to flatbread—pita, roti, nan, phulka, English muffins—they are all good and very forgiving of over-rising.

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