Pascale's Kitchen: Decorating sourdough bread

My latest quest has been to learn how to make sourdough bread, and now I always keep a bit of sourdough starter in my pantry.

Decorated sourdough bread (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Decorated sourdough bread
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
I absolutely love baking. In my opinion, the aromas that waft from your oven as you bake a cake carry with them feelings of warmth and caring. And when you bake savory pastries and breads, you are filled with a completely different type of feeling – one of creativity and a love of feeding and caring for your loved ones.
Learn more about Pascale's Kitchen here>>
Savory pastries and breads are extremely versatile and can be served at any point during a meal. More than any other type of dish, making pastries is a great way for you to express your creativity through unique flavors, textures and tastes. It’s amazing to see the magic that occurs as dough bakes and turns golden brown.
Over the years, I’ve prepared countless cakes, cookies and bread for my family members and friends, including challot, rolls and bread made with a variety of flours and topped with a variety of seeds.
I love hearing the sounds of enjoyment and seeing the big smiles on the faces of my friends and loved ones when they taste the treats I’ve prepared for them.
My latest quest has been to learn how to make sourdough bread, and now I always keep a bit of sourdough starter in my pantry.
Over the last year, as we’ve all been self-isolating at home due to the coronavirus, I’ve found myself numerous times in my kitchen experimenting with new techniques and recipes as I prepared dinner for my family.
I’m always thinking to myself, What new creation can I concoct that I can then tell my readers about in my weekly column? For years, I’ve been telling myself that I’ll experiment with new ideas when I have the time. And, voila! This year I found myself with all the time in the world to try out recipes with ingredients I’d never used before.
One of my most successful experiments has been decorating and scoring sourdough bread.
I began by making one incision in the side of a loaf of dough. I was so surprised by the results that I couldn’t wait to try making more marks on more loaves of bread, including diagonals cuts. This was enough to set me off in search of bread scoring and decorative sourdough tutorials. Each loaf I baked came out tastier and with more sophisticated designs.
It soon became clear to me that I would need to invest in a few utensils if I wanted to make more intricate designs. I went online and ordered a set of different-sized rattan dough baskets and sharp bread knives.
I thought finding a suitable knife would be a simple matter, but it turns out there is a large variety, and it took me months of experimenting until I found one that made perfect cuts in my sourdough. In the end, I found that a simple razor blade, which costs next to nothing, made the most precise cuts. However, it’s awfully hard to hold this type of blade, so I began searching for a tool that can hold a razor blade, which, luckily, I successfully located.
Another tip I learned was that you need to dust the top of the loaf with flour before you do the cutting, so that when the bread bakes, the flour helps make your scored design stand out.
I thought I would learn how to score the bread quickly, but actually it took me many tries until my scoring began appearing close to what I had intended for it to look like.
You need to make deep cuts with a sure and decisive hand without stopping in the middle of a cut. In addition, you need to make sure that your designs don’t get ruined when the bread continues to rise.
Your first few tries probably won’t come out as you expected, and that’s normal. It’s best to start with a few straight lines and then each time try something a little more complex, as you get used to holding the knife and how the knife cuts into the dough.
Below, you will find two recipes for sourdough bread. You will be surprised how easy it is to make this type of bread, and how much fun it is to make designs in the dough with a knife.
For me, playing around with these techniques has definitely made getting through this difficult and strange year a little easier, more enjoyable and certainly tastier.
LIGHT SOURDOUGH BREAD
Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves.
80 gr. sourdough starter
1½-1¾ cups water
250 gr. bread flour, sifted
250 gr. white flour, sifted
1 Tbsp. salt
Flour for work surface
Add the sourdough starter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and add the water. Mix slowly for 2 minutes. Add the flour while mixing.
Mix for 3 more minutes, then add the salt. Continue to mix for 8-10 minutes. Flour a large bowl and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 60-90 minutes.
Knead the dough well to get out all of the air pockets. Fold the edges of the dough into the center. Cover and let rise again for 1 hour. Knead the dough again and then form 1 or 2 loaves. Let the dough rise in a basket lined with a towel and covered for 5-6 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Cover a pan with baking paper and sprinkle with a little flour. Place the dough on the pan and sprinkle a little flour on top. With a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 cuts or any other marks on the dough.
Place the pan in an oven that has been preheated to 250° and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 220° and bake another 30-40 minutes, or until when you tap on the bottom of the loaf it sounds hollow.


SOURDOUGH BREAD

Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves.
500 gr. white flour
200 gr. rye flour
150 gr. sourdough starter or rye sourdough starter
½ cup oat bran or ¼ cup ground flax seeds
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
2½ cups water
1 Tbsp. salt
Wheat or corn flour for work surface
Add the flours and sourdough starter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix slowly. Add the bran and all the seeds, while mixing slowly. Add the water slowly while mixing.
Mix for 3 minutes, then add the salt. Continue mixing for another 8-10 minutes. Flour a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 60-90 minutes.
Knead the dough well to get out all the air pockets. Fold the edges of the dough in toward the center. Cover and let rise again for 1 hour.
Knead the dough again and then form 1 or 2 loaves. Let the dough rest on your work surface for 20-30 minutes. Place the dough in a basket lined with a towel or a cloth that is sprinkled with wheat or corn flour. Cover and place in the fridge for 12 hours.
Place a baking stone or an iron pot inside your oven and preheat on maximum heat for 30 minutes.
Place a sheet of baking paper on your work surface and sprinkle with flour. Put the loaf or loaves of dough on the paper and sprinkle with flour. Form whatever shape you desire with the loaves, and then make a few diagonal shallow slices on top of the loaf, or create any design you want.
Remove the iron pot from the heated oven and, using the sides of the baking paper, lift the dough up and place it inside the pot. Cover the pot with its lid and bake at 250° for 20 minutes. Then, remove the lid and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes until the bread turns golden brown.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.