Welcome to the latest way to use your sourdough starter, which you started a month or two ago and have since used to make endless waffles or pancakes and biscuits! Today, I thought I would share my all-time favorite bread recipe. It’s a versatile dough which I use for sandwiches, toast, to accompany soup (clam chowder is a perfect pairing!), or even for pizza dough.
Basque Shepherd’s Bread
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (no warmer than 110 F)
- 2 cups unbleached white flour
Mix together (don’t forget to feed your starter!), cover, and let stand overnight or up to 24 hours.
When you proceed, add:
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (110 F)
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
For bread-making, it is way easier to use a heavy duty mixer for kneading – such as a KitchenAid, which we’ve used for years. However, if you don’t have one, kneading by hand can be quite a good workout. Simply flour a clean surface generously and knead for about 10 minutes until another 1-2 cups of whole wheat flour has been absorbed and a good elasticity develops.
If you use a mixer, gradually add another 2 cups of whole wheat flour. If it’s still sticky, sprinkle in white flour by the half cup. When it’s done, the sides of the bowl should be clean, and the dough should be elastic and resilient. This is usually after about 6 minutes.
Turn the dough into a greased bowl, cover, and let rise at least half an hour. Then punch it (a good time to take out your aggression!), cover again and let it rise for another half hour. A second rising lets the dough develop a good flavor and texture.
Divide into two or three equal portions, and shape into rounds or oblongs (roll a bit to let out any big bubbles that might have formed). Place on a baking sheet or stone (I love stoneware!), dust with flour, slit the tops, and let rise 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 F, and when it’s hot, pop in your dough (carefully so it doesn’t fall). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and the bottoms thump when you tap them with your knuckles (yes, this will burn your hands – but that helps make you feel like a real baker!).
Now, the difficult part: You must let the bread rest and cool for at least half an hour – which is torture, because it smells delicious! But it’s very important to let it cool, so that it doesn’t become doughy and weird when cut.
Enjoy, with butter and local raw honey, or jam, or alongside stew, or torn off and dipped into cheesy fondue!
A few variations:
- Let the dough rise overnight and bake it early in the morning (a very baker thing to do!). This develops a distinct sour flavor, wonderful crustiness, and an artisan feel.
- Use a quarter of the dough to make a medium-size pizza.
- Make dinner rolls. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Put into bread pans, for a sandwich bread look.
- Form the dough into 5-6 inch rounds, bake, cool, then cut off the tops, scoop out the insides (useful for breadcrumbs or croutons!), and fill with clam chowder.
The possibilities are endless!