Pan de masa agria (Sourdough Bread)

By: Claudio Alberto Cortés

Given that  Rona has us all hanging out in la cocina more than usual, it is high time to sharpen one’s baking skills. Today, we dive into Sourdough, a genre of bread quickly rising in popularity among quarantined bread bros and claim it for Milwaukeños as Pan de masa agria.

This recipe makes two loaves, one to eat one to share…if you are in a sharing mood that is, it is also divided up into three processes, the easy part…the tedious part..and the exciting part. Frankly, the whole process is actually quite rewarding. Listen to great music or a very long audiobook while doing it. I recommend avoiding my initial mistake and starting the endless folding process at 8pm on a monday. When I eventually do it again I would follow the following schedule: 

  • Make the leaven on a Thursday 
  • Bake the bread on a Sunday. 

What you will need 

  • Time (seriously… 3 days, kind of) 
  • Bravery
  • Patience 
  • Good music, I recommend the Milwaukeño spotify playlist
  • 2 tbsp Sourdough starter (get some from a gabacho friend, they are usually glad to part with it, also for the right price I can be convinced to share some of the funky starter thati use, I call him, Rick James)
  • 6 cups of Bread flour – un chingo! 
  • 2.75 cups of water (divided for two processes – ½  for the leaven and 2 ⅓ for the dough)
  • EVOO (you know the vibes)
  • 1 large mixing bowl 
  • 1 small mixing bowl 
  • 1 Jalapeño 
  • Salt
  • A dutch oven or other lidded bakeable pot (no, not that kind..unless you want to) 
  • 1 cup and 2 tbsp leaven (you will make this as a part of the process) 
  • Three clean dish towels  or 3 cheesecloths 
  • Silicone bowl scraper 
  • Parchment paper
  • An oven 

Step 1 – Making your Leaven (The Easy Part)

  1. Prepare this two days before you bake 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ¾ cup flour, ½ cup water and 2 tbsp of starter 
  3. Mix until everything is incorporated 
  4. Cover bowl with cling wrap or  a clean dish towel (i prefer the cling wrap, it just feels more sterile. 
  5. Let that leaven mix bloom by leaving your bowl out but covered overnight. ( if you decide to check on it you will notice that it will look bubbly. 

Step 2 – The endless folding (The tedious part) 

Shaggy Mix
  1. In your large bowl, stir together the  flour until combined, add the water and your lovely bubbly leaven. Squish the mixture through your fingers until there are no lumps. Keep squishing until a homogeneous mass forms — it may be shaggy and that’s okay. Using the scraper, scrape down the sides of the bowl and your fingers. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  2. When your ten minutes are up dimple the dough in the bowl with your fingertips, and sprinkle with the salt. Flip the dough over.
  3. Start kneading: With the dough in the bowl, use a pull-and-stretch motion to make about 30 kneads, pulling the dough toward the center of the ball (stretch vigerously) . Flip the dough back over, cover with a plate large enough to cover the bowl and place it in a warmish spot in your kitchen for ten minutes (I place it next to my oven, which i have set at an ambient 200 degrees, so that it gives off some heat, but does not screw the whole ordeal up) 
  4. Repeat, again with 30 kneads to the center. Flip the dough over, cover and place back in your warm spot for another ten minutes. 
  5. At this point the dough will start to come together and become a more solid round.
  6. Repeat a third time, then flip the dough over, cover and let rest in your warm spot for 30 minutes.
  7. Fold
    1. Now we fold, to fold, wet your hands, and then loosen the dough from underneath, stretch, pull up and fold the dough up over itself. Rotate the bowl and do this 2 more times. re-cover and let the dough rest for another 30 minutes. Repeat, and continue this for two or three hours, fold every 30 minutes until the dough doubles in size.
Shapely Buns
  1. Shaping.
    1. First shaping: Very lightly dust the counter with some flour and transfer the dough to it. Divide the dough in half and gently flatten each half. Form each half into a round by loosely rolling the dough toward the center from both sides  and then again. Flop the now-slightly-rectangular dough over on itself, this will give you a loose package looking little thing, from which you can guide it into a round. Let the dough rest on the counter for 15 minutes.
    2. Second shaping: Gently lay out each dough round and fold the top two corners down,then start to roll it toward you. Next, using both hands, pull the edges of the dough and fold them back toward the center as you go, to stretch the surface of the dough and turn it into a ball. 
    3. Flour a clean cheesecloth or linen napkin.This process is as was as it sounds, you run the cloth through flour. Place your floured cloths into bowls big enough to hold your two dough balls. 
    4. Place each ball, seam side up, into the above mentioned bowls big enough to hold them.
    5.  Cover your bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Step 3 – Baking Day 

  1. Position the baking rack in the middle of your oven, place your large dutch oven/ bakeable lidded pot with a lid in the oven, and preheat to 500 degrees for 45 minutes.
  2. Cut a large square of parchment paper and have it ready on the counter.
  3. Remove one of your dough balls from the bowl by quickly turning it over onto the parchment, and leave the other one in your bowl in the refrigerator. Using a baker’s lame, kitchen scissors, or your favorite sharp knife score the loaf quickly in just one move make sure it is at least a half inch deep.
  4. Carefully take the Dutch oven out of the oven and remove the lid. Lower the dough in its parchment sling/liner into the Dutch oven and recover with the lid. 
  5. Return the Dutch oven to the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes
  6. After 20 minutes is up  remove the lid and continue to bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer your masterpiece to a wire rack, and reserve the parchment paper.
  7. Place the lidded dutch oven back into the oven, raise the temp back to 500 and wait an additional 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the other ball of dough from its bowl, score and bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then remove the list and bake until golden brown (15-20 mins) 
  9. Transfer this loaf to the wire rack, next to its brother and let both loaves cool completely before slicing.

I made bread now what?

So, now you have two loaves of bread, what are you going to do with your new found free time? Here is my suggestion, roast up that one jalapeño then slice it into rounds. Take two slices of your fresh bread, smear one side of one with lime tinted mayo, and then pile mixed greens, tomato and very thinly sliced mortadella on top of that, schmear one side of that second slice and then have yourself a sandwich. Deliver the uncut loaf to one of your homies in a COVID appropriate way. 

What did you think? Did you try to make this for yourself? We’d like to see your results , hit us up on Twitter @Milwaukeno 

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