This is The Kefir King’s guide to baking your own Sourdough Bread in KL Malaysia.
If you’ve baked before, you’ll know that sourdough baking especially, is heavily dependent on time and temperature.
And being in Malaysia, with the hot and humid weather, it can vary very differently from baking in other countries.
So we’re going to share with you our recipe that we’ve worked very hard on, over many hours and many loaves to perfect.
You can take it as a guide, but you’ll need to adjust according to your own ingredient types and equipment.
But as a guide, we hope that by following this recipe, you’ll be able to make beautiful bread just like us!
The sourdough baking process in KL Malaysia consists of 7 steps.
Sourdough Bread in KL Malaysia Recipe Step #1: Feeding the Starter
The first step in the sourdough bread baking process is feeding the starter.
Now the starter is the most important thing in bread baking. It’s the heart and soul of your bread.
Why do we feed the starter?
It’s to basically activated it, to let it wake up and be ready to start the process of fermentation. That way you can actually shorten the entire fermentation process because the starter will be ready to ferment as soon as you use it.
If you don’t have your own starter you can actually purchase some from us here.
Right, so with your original starter (we call this the Mother), you’re going to determine how much to take out of it to use in your sourdough loaf.
For our recipe, you need 32g of starter, but we always prepare about 30g more, so we’ll aim to prepare 60g of starter for our sourdough loaf.
To do that, you’ll need to take out some starter from the Mother, and feed it with equal parts of water and flour.
So what you’ll need for 60g of starter is this:
- 20g of Mother starter
- 20g of water
- 20g of flour
Take the above ingredients and add them into a glass container. Be sure to mix it up very thoroughly so that there are no dry bits.
With Malaysia’s weather and temperature, it would take 3 to 5 hours for the starter to reach its most active state.
You can make an initial mark on the jar to pinpoint its starting point. To identify if it’s reached its most active state, below are some things to observe for:
- The starter has doubled or tripled in volume from its initial mark.
- There are air bubbles at the surface and throughout the starter.
- The surface of the starter is curved upwards, indicating that it’s still rising.
- Using the float test
The Float Test
For the float test, take a little bit of starter. Be very careful to not knock out the air.
Place it very gently into a container of water. If the sourdough starter floats, it’s ready to start fermenting. However, if it sinks you just have to wait a little bit more, and test it again every 20 minutes.
How do I identify if the sourdough starter has passed its window of peak activeness?
The starter would have started to sink and you can actually see its residue stains at the side of your glass container. When that happens, it means you’ve missed the window of starter activeness.
Try feeding your starter again.
But if it’s only JUST started to sink, you can chance it and start the next step, the mixing process, immediately.
If you’d prefer to watch this step in video format, here you go!
Sourdough Bread in KL Malaysia Recipe Step #2: Mixing
The next step is the mixing process. This process is quite straightforward.
The recipe that we going to be using is basically for a 70 percent hydration sourdough loaf. And all that means is that the ratio of water to flour is 70 percent.
In this step, we have to mix the ingredients below together in a big bowl.
- Starter: 32g
- Water: 232g
- Bread Flour: 275g
- Rye Flour: 45g
- Salt: 5g
Start with the starter, then add in water and mix it around until the starter has loosened from the bottom of the bowl.
In a separate bowl, add the dry ingredients together, and mix them together to get a uniform mixture of bread flour, rye flour and salt.
Next, dump the dry ingredients into the big bowl of water and starter.
Mix these ingredients really well so that there are no dry bits in it, else you’ll find in the later steps, there will be clumps of unmixed flour in your dough.
Once you’re done mixing, your dough will look a little bit shaggy, not the smooth kind that you might be expecting, but that’s alright.
Cover it with a towel or a plastic or a shower cap and leave it for about half an hour for the dough to relax, and then you can move on to the next stage!
If you’d prefer to watch this step in video format, here you go!
Sourdough Bread in KL Malaysia Recipe Step #3: Stretching and folding
After mixing, the next step involves developing the gluten in the dough.
Now why is this important?
As your starter begins to activate and eat its way through the dough, it will release air and cause your dough to expand. But your dough needs to have enough gluten structure in order to hold all that air together and not just collapse.
If your dough’s gluten structure is not strong enough, it will not rise in the oven during the final bake.
There are actually several ways to strengthen the gluten structure of the dough. We have chosen one of the simplest methods, which is the stretching and folding process.
In this process you basically just stretch the dough continuously so that you’ll be developing its gluten structure.
In your bowl, take one end of the dough and stretch it out, folding it across to the other end. Turn the bowl a bit, take another end of the dough, stretch it and fold to the opposite side. Repeat this until you’ve done it about 25 times all around and it’s nice and folded.
Leave it aside for 20 minutes. Repeat this process for about 3 to 5 times. You only have to do 25 ‘stretch and folds’ the first time round. During the second, third, fourth and fifth time round, make just 10 ‘stretch and folds’ and that’ll be enough.
Once you’re done with the final round of ‘stretch and folds’, you’ll notice that the dough will actually be a lot stronger than it was when you first started.
If you’re not sure whether the dough is actually strong enough, you can do a Window Pane test.
How do we do the Window Pane Test?
Take a small section of the dough. Stretch it out gently with your fingers until it becomes thin enough that you can see light through it. If your dough remains intact without tearing or breaking into small holes then you’ll know that your gluten structure has been developed enough.
So after you finish the stretch and fold process, is very important to leave it and not touch your dough for 3 hours. This period is called the bulk fermentation stage where you let the dough ferment and let the starter work its magic throughout the dough.
Sourdough Bread in KL Malaysia Recipe Step #4: Shaping the Sourdough
Now the next step will be shaping. This is the one that actually requires the most skill. You need the most practice to master this stage.
Why do we have to do the shaping step?
First is to portion the dough out. When you want to bake more than one loaf, you’ll need to divide the dough according to the weight you’d like each bread to be.
Second, shaping is what gives the bread its final shape, be it a boule, batard, croissant or pretzel, whatever shape you’d want it to look like in the end.
You’d want to create a really nice and tight ball, and to really strengthen that surface tension of your dough so that when you finally put it into the oven, it’ll have great oven spring.
Before you start shaping, you’ll need to prepare a bowl to rest your dough in. Also, you’ll need a tea towel. Line the bowl with the tea towel. Then take some rice flour, and gently dust the surface of the towel so that it will not stick to the dough when you dump it in.
Okay so if you followed our recipe, you should have enough for 1 loaf and that’s about 590 grams.
If you were making for 2 or 3 loaves, you’d have to divide it out into 590-gram portions.
To recap, this dough has been resting for about 3 hours since the last ‘stretch and fold’ round, and about 5 hours since you started mixing the dough.
Alright, to begin shaping the dough, flour the surface you’re going to be working on, and dump your 590g of dough out on the floured surface. We do this to make sure that the bottom of the dough does not stick to the surface. This helps with the shaping process. Use your dough scraper and tuck more rice flour underneath the dough if it’s still sticking to the surface.
Next, gently tease the edges of the dough to sort of flatten the dough out. Then, take one edge, stick it to the middle to fold the dough into itself. Do this for all the rest of the edges so that a nice tight ball is created.
Now flip your dough ball over. The next step is to basically develop the surface tension of your dough. Take your dough scraper, and gently roll your dough across the surface of the table. The friction of the dough on your work surface should be enough to generate surface tension. Do the same thing about 4 to 5 times until you’re satisfied.
Then move your prepared floured bowl beside you. Pick up the dough with your dough scraper, and flip it upside down into the floured bowl.
Cover the bowl with a shower cap so that the dough does not dry out.
Sourdough Bread in KL Malaysia Recipe Step #5: Fridge the Sourdough
Why do we have to fridge the dough?
It is because we live in a hot and humid country and that will cause the dough to be soft and sticky and very difficult to handle in the next process. So when your dough is ready, before baking, we will need to fridge the dough to firm it up.
Following up from the previous step, once you’ve shaped the dough, and placed it in its proofing basket or bowl, leave it for a bit to rise in the proofing basket. This is called the proofing stage. It is when you allow the dough to relax in its bowl.
For our recipe and adapting to Malaysia’s hot and humid climate, the proofing time will be around half an hour. However, it actually depends on the conditions of where you are, how hot it is and how humid it is. The hotter it is, the faster the dough will proof, and if you’re in an air conditioned place, proofing might take a bit longer.
So how do you identify when your dough is ready to go in the fridge?
There are 2 aspects you should consider.
The first is the volume of your dough.
Your dough should have risen a bit during the proofing stage. It differs with environment, the bowl you’re using, and the baker, so you’ll have to learn to identify this with practice. As you get better, you’ll learn to identify what height in the bowl the dough should achieve so that it’s ready to be put into the fridge.
The second is the texture of your dough.
As it proofs, the sourdough starter in the dough continues to aerate the dough, making it lighter and fluffier.
You should feel the difference, between the time when you first put it into the bowl and when it’s ready to go in the fridge. At first, the dough will feel denser but as it proofs, it’ll feel much softer and airier. Again, this comes with experience.
If you are a beginner, and it’s difficult for you to identify if the dough is ready, you can do a Poke Test. Use your finger, make sure it’s not wet or sticky, and prod the dough a little bit and release. The indentation in your dough should fill out slowly and that’s when you know it is ready.
If it springs back too fast, you’ll have to wait for a little bit more.
If it doesn’t spring back at all, then you’ll know that you’ve waited too long. Your dough may now have over proofed.
Be aware, that even after you put your dough into the fridge, the dough will continue to ferment. So don’t wait until it’s too late to put in the fridge. Better fridge sooner rather than later, and from there, adjust your proofing timing accordingly as you experiment.
Leave your dough in the fridge for around 2 hours for it to cool down and harden.
Sourdough Bread in KL Malaysia Recipe Step #6: Scoring
We have to score the bread because it is a very important to let there be a proper channel for air to escape from the bread. Otherwise, the air might burst out in unexpected places when there is no channel for it to escape, which will affect the aesthetics of your loaf.
Your dough should be resting in the fridge right now. About 20 minutes before the 2-hour mark, where you have to take it out of the fridge to bake, make sure you preheat your oven to about 230°C or as high as your home oven can go.
You also have to prepare 4 items:
- Baking tray
- Parchment paper
- Bread Lame
- A spray bottle full of water
So when you have your tools ready, and the oven preheated, take your dough out of the fridge. Be sure you do the next steps as quickly as you can because the longer your bread is out at room temperature, the more it’ll spread out like a puddle.
Take your parchment paper, put it over your bowl, and place your baking tray OVER the parchment paper.
Flip the bowl upside down onto the parchment paper and baking tray. Then remove the bowl and tea towel and it’s ready for scoring.
Take your lame. And confidently score your dough. You can use any scoring pattern you like but the one we’re suggesting is a simple cross because it’s the easiest for beginners to try out.
You need to be confident when you score. Start with slow shallow strokes and as you get better, scoring technique can develop into swift, deep strokes. Nevertheless, don’t cut too deep. The right depth of your cut should be around 1 cm to one inch deep.
Immediately after you score your dough, take your spray bottle and spray the surface of your dough generously. It’s now ready to be put into the oven to bake.
Sourdough Bread in KL Malaysia Recipe Step #7: Baking
The final process in this extensive sourdough baking process is the actual baking.
This step is highly dependent on the equipment that you use, so feel free to adjust the temperatures we’re suggesting, to identify the best temperature to use with your oven.
Your oven should be preheating at 230°C for about 20 minutes now. Don’t begin without preheating, because if your oven isn’t hot enough, your bread will not have good oven spring.
Another very important part in this step is to make sure that you have enough steam in your oven. Steam is extremely important when you want to get a really nice rise in your loaf. You want a lot of it because steam deters the bread from cooking too fast on the outside, hence creating a very tough crust. Also, steam gives the air within the bread time to escape before the crust fully forms, preventing any unexpected bursting.
Okay so, place your bread into the oven at 230°C. And generously spray water into the oven with your spray bottle to create steam in your oven. Leave for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, lower the temperature to 210°C and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
Again, keep in mind that this these temperatures and timing are specific to our own oven. Every oven is different so you should experiment to find out which temperatures and timing are perfect for your own oven.
Now at the end of the bake time, you should have a nice beautifully brown loaf. Take your bread out of the oven and leave it on a high rack to cool.
Remember to wait about 2 hours for the bread to cool down completely before you slice into it.
We hope your bread turns out well, but even if it didn’t, it’s alright. Expect to screw up the first few times. Just remember that baking is a skill that you acquire over time and experience.
If you’ve succeeded in making your very own sourdough bread in KL Malaysia, we’d love to see what you’ve made! Please send us pictures! It would make us so happy. Feel free to ask questions there or in the comments, we’ll try our best to reply.
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See you in our next article! Thanks for reading, and happy baking!