Orange-Raisin Sourdough Bread
A rustic sourdough loaf infused with citrus flavor and lightly sweetened with raisins. This is a slight modification on my go-to sourdough recipe .
I’ve dabbled in sourdough baking for a few years now–well, truthfully, it was more like a mild obsession at certain points and I wound up taking a break from homemade sourdough because I grew impatient with parts of the process I couldn’t get right.
My efforts sometimes yielded picture-perfect loaves, more out of luck than skill, admittedly, and the rest, not so much. If you would have asked me then how one loaf could turn out so beautifully and have a half-hearted rise the next even using the same recipe, I wouldn’t have had an answer. I knew that several variables could affect each bake–water temperature, room temperature, the type of flour, the strength of my starter–but I didn’t understand how everything worked together.
I’ve heard seasoned bakers say that it takes time “to get a feel for the dough”, to know when it’s ready to bake. These same bakers would also say that it doesn’t matter if your bread rises perfectly–it will always taste great. Well, they were right about the latter and of course the former, too, but I didn’t get it at the time. I started to feel that I’d never produce consistently well-risen loaves so I stopped baking them entirely…for one year. I dutifully fed my starter, Ida, keeping her ready until the sourdough bug bit me again one day.
That one day happened this past winter. I had missed baking bread so I picked up where I left off the year before and decided that I’d put in the time to truly understand the process. I had been mostly using the Ken Forkish no-knead technique (my go-to recipe here) and I decided that I would stick with it until things started to click…and I’m happy to say that yes, I’m finally starting to get it.
There’s not one right way to bake bread and even unattractive loaves–misshapen and flat–made with your own two hands are still tasty and gratifying. I’ve baked a lot this winter and the things I’ve observed and learned have emboldened me to make some changes with my normal bread-baking process and try new things…and they’ve been working!
This recipe mostly follows my base recipe using the Ken Forkish method (link above). Besides using all white flour for this recipe (I’ll talk more about flour in the next post) the key difference is that I used less sourdough starter. One thing I realized was that with the greater amount of sourdough starter I had been using (based on the original Ken Forkish recipe) the yeasts have been consuming all the sugar in the dough during the overnight bulk fermentation, inhibiting optimum rise when baking.
I don’t fault Mr. Forkish for this–his recipe was designed to make two loaves which makes overnight bulk fermentation the ideal amount of time for the yeasts to do their thing and for the dough to develop good flavor…but I’ve halved his original recipe. This winter it occurred to me that the smaller amount of dough I’ve been working with might perform better with a shorter bulk fermentation time. But rather than overhauling the entire process (I did anyway with great results and I’ll explain in the next posts) by reducing the bulk fermentation time and getting up at the crack of dawn to tend to the dough, I decided to reduce the population of yeasts (i.e., using less starter) working through the dough instead.
This one change has made a big difference in my bakes. I’ve been achieving more consistent results–great oven spring and a light, airy crumb. I’ll share more changes I’ve made with my usual routine in the next two posts but for now I hope you like my Orange-Raisin Sourdough bread. Dried orange peels infuse this loaf with a pleasant hint of citrus and a light sweetness from raisins. Feel free to add sugar if you like but I prefer not to do this and we’ve been enjoying it with the Kumquat Marmalade that I shared in my previous post.
If you’re excited about sourdough baking like I am, stay tuned for the next two recipes. This one is already quite straightforward and simple but I’ll be sharing a method that’s even easier and with some of my favorite flavor combinations.
Part Two of this series: Sourdough Bread using Unfed Starter
Part Three of this series: A Sourdough Baking Guide and Chocolate-Cherry Sourdough Bread
Note: For the techniques mentioned in this post, please watch these Ken Forkish videos.
Orange-Raisin Sourdough Bread
- 80 grams fed sourdough starter
- 440 grams all-purpose flour
- 342 grams water at 90-95ºF (preferably filtered)
- 6 grams kosher salt (I use about half the salt normally recommended)
- 65 grams raisins (soaked in water for 30 mins; okay to use more)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons orange peel (okay to use more)
- Rice flour for sprinkling on the banneton to prevent sticking
Day 1 (around midday), feed the levain. Before refreshing your mother starter, set aside 20-30 grams of the unfed starter and to it add equal amounts flour and water to end up with 80 grams of levain required in this recipe. For example, if you use 20 grams of unfed starter, add 30 grams each of flour and water to get 80 grams levain. Set aside until at peak rise (about 4 hours; longer on cold days. In winter I store the levain inside the oven, turned off with the light on.)
Day 1 (“Autolyse”: See Note). Stir in the fed starter and orange peel with the water in a bowl. Once the starter has been evenly distributed in the water add the flour. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let sit for thirty minutes to one hour.
Day 1 (evening), add the soaked and drained raisins and kosher salt to the mixture in the bowl. Combine the dough using a wet hand and folding the dough over from the bottom to top. Then Ken Forkish employs what he calls the “pincer” method to make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Imagining your hand as a lobster claw (my description), cut through the dough pinching a few times, mixing, then pinching again. If you’re using the caraway seeds at them at this step.
Day 1 (evening), fold the dough. Pick up one portion of the dough (without taking it out of the bowl) and fold it over. Repeat this folding step a few times, inverting the dough with the folds at the bottom of the bowl when done. This folding step should be done three to four times before the dough rests overnight over a period of one to two hours. I fold every thirty minutes in the space of two hours before the overnight rest. After folding, cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rest overnight.
Day 2 (morning), shape the loaf and final proof. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. The dough will relax and flatten when you take it out of the bowl. Taking one section of dough at at time, fold the sections over the rest of the dough until you have a somewhat tight ball shape. Then tighten the dough by pulling it towards you by cupping the dough with both your hands using your pinky fingers as the anchors. This tightens the dough shape as you pull it towards you. Rotate then repeat three to four times until the dough holds its ball shape. Transfer the dough on a floured banneton with the seam side down. Cover the entire proofing basket with a plastic bag and let rest for one to four hours (if your kitchen is warmer the proof time will be shorter; check the dough after one hour). To test for readiness, poke the dough with a floured finger, making about a 1/2-inch indentation. If the dent springs back immediately, the dough needs a longer proofing. If the dent springs back slowly and doesn’t completely disappear, the dough is ready to bake.
Day 2, bake. This recipe uses a dutch oven for baking. Preheat your oven to 475ºF with a rack in the center of the oven. Put the dutch oven with the lid on the rack while the oven preheats. Once the oven has reached temperature, invert the dough on a lightly floured countertop. Even better is to invert the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Make sure you have oven mitts then take the (very hot) dutch oven out of the oven and place on the counter or stove. Remove the lid and rest one of your mitts on top of the lid so you don’t touch it by accident. Take the ends of the parchment paper and carefully lift and transfer the dough to the dutch oven. Cover the dutch oven and place it back in the oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes then uncover and bake for another 20-25 minutes, checking your bread at the 15-18 minute mark just in case your oven runs hot. When done, tilt the bread out of the dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
- This recipe is my modification on Ken Forkish’s Overnight Country Brown Bread and employs the techniques in his book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast which are illustrated in this set of videos. I recommend viewing them for proper execution of stretch-and-fold, shaping the dough, proofing and baking.
- “Autolyse”: A true autolyse means combining only the flour and water–not the starter and salt–for a brief rest to hydrate the flour without starting the fermentation process. Lately I’ve been incorporating the starter during the short rest period and have been yielding better results.