The Sourdough Bread Pro Cyclists Crave

Professional cyclist Robin Carpenter’s home-baked sourdough bread is so popular with his teammates, he brings loaves of it to races. It’s a little more complicated than a yeast-based recipe, and can take a few tries to perfect, but the results are worth it.

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Ingredients

  • For the starter:
  • 150g all-purpose flour
  • 150ml tap water, preferably filtered
  • For the bread:
  • 400g bread flour
  • 275g filtered water
  • 100g liquid starter (see recipe below)
  • 9g salt

Directions

  1. First, make the starter: Mix flour and water in small bowl or clean glass jar. Let it sit loosely covered at room temperature.
  2. Once a day, throw half of the mixture away (or use it to make waffles or pancakes), and re-feed the starter with 100g each of flour and water.
  3. The starter is ready to use once it smells pleasant (like sour apples) and develops lots of small bubbles a few hours post-feeding. It should roughly double in size after a feeding. If you won’t be using it within a few days, it’s best to refrigerate it. When you’re ready to bake, remove the starter from the fridge, discard all but 150g, feed it as you normally would, and wait 4 hours before using.
  4. Note: While your starter is refrigerated, you might notice some yellow liquid pooling on top, but that’s okay—just pour it off (it’s a naturally occurring alcohol that bakers call “hooch”). But if you notice any of these warning signs—a pink or red color; a really putrid smell (like something rotting); mould growing on the sides or top—the starter has gone bad and needs to be tossed.
  5. To make the bread, mix the flour and water together until just combined. You don’t need to eliminate all the lumps but make sure all your flour is hydrated. Let the mix sit for an hour—this allows the gluten to develop without fermenting.
  6. Add the salt and the starter, mixing until the dough is uniform (it does not have to be smooth).
  7. Allow your dough to ferment until it has roughly doubled in size. (This part is tricky because figuring out when the dough is fermented but not too fermented can take experience and guess work. Timing depends on temperature and how lively your cultures are. I like to allow about 5 hours but this can vary considerably. Overproofed dough is always a disappointment.) While the dough is fermenting, wet your hands lightly and reach under the dough, pulling up and stretching and folding it over on itself. Do this two to four times over the course of the fermentation.
  8. Once the dough is sufficiently fermented, pour it onto a clean counter and form it into a tight ball. Allow the dough to rest for half an hour. During this time, line a proofing basket (or a bowl about twice the size of your dough ball) with a towel and a good coating of rice flour.
  9. Shape the dough: Flour the top and use a scraper to flip the dough over. Fold the dough halfway over on itself on all four sides. Lay the dough seam side up in your bowl, cover, and leave in the fridge overnight.
  10. The next morning, preheat the oven (and baking stone, if you have one) to its hottest temperature for about an hour.
  11. Remove your dough from the fridge and carefully turn it out of your bowl. Bake the dough seam side down on a baking stone or in a cast-iron pot with a lid at 260 degrees for 20 minutes with the lid on and 20 minutes at 230 with the lid off, until the crust is a dark brown. Let the loaf cool for 1 hour before slicing.

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