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  • Brian Bender, PhD

Ikarian Bread: How to Make Sourdough Bread

Ikaria, Greece is one of the healthiest places on the planet. It is home to one of the highest rates of active centenarians, and the life expectancy of men in this region is particularly high compared to the rest of the world.

And for those worried they can’t eat carbs to achieve good health, rest easy knowing Ikarians are one of several healthy communities that eat bread regularly. So what is Ikarian bread?

As pointed out by Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones, sourdough bread is the Ikarian bread of choice.

Not only is it delicious, but the process of making sourdough bread is arguably as important as the nutrition itself.

First you need a starter. And like many of you out there eager to try baking sourdough bread, a common first step is to borrow some.

By sharing with friends and neighbors a key ingredient of your baking needs, the starter can help keep communities tight-knit. Interaction with others in your community decreases stress and improves your emotional well-being.

The other component of sourdough bread that leads to good health is the long, active process of baking it.

Many will be intimidated by the process. But you shouldn’t be. The process is a large part of the value!

It requires you to stay active, mixing and folding the dough. It also leads to greater satisfaction when you pull fresh bread from the oven and cut off a slice for dinner!

A recipe from thekitchn has been a great start for a _middle-of-the-road _level of difficulty for creating this Ikarian bread.

This recipe takes at least two days, so prep accordingly.

In brief, the only ingredients you will need are:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Starter

  • 6 Cups of All-Purpose Flour (or Half Whole Wheat Flour)

  • About 3 Cups of Water

  • 1 Tablespoon of Salt

Mix Starter with Flour and Water to Make Leaven

In a small bowl, mix:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Starter

  • 1/2 Cup of Flour

  • 1/3 Cup of Water

Let it sit overnight for around 12 hours until a little bubbly.

Ikarian Bread – The Leaven

After 12 hours, mix 2 cups of water with the leaven. Some clumps may persist.

Then add 5 1/2 cups of flour. Mix thoroughly with a spatula until all of the dry flour is mixed in to a clumpy mess.

Then, wait.

Autolyse Step

Let the dough rest for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours (autolyse step).

In the meantime, dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt in 1/4 cup of water.

Ikarian Bread – Autolyse Step

Mix in the Salt and Fold the Dough

Mix in the salt solution with your hands, folding and working the dough to absorb it throughout the mixture. This stops the autolyse step.

Next, you’ll fold the dough over the course of 2 1/2 hours.

You will complete 6 folding cycles every 30 minutes.

In each cycle, you will grab the far end of the dough, pull it up slowly, and fold it over the top. You’ll turn the bowl 90 degrees, and repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 folds per cycle.

Towards the end of this process, the dough will become progressively smoother.

Ikarian Bread – Folding the Dough

Divide and Shape

Put some flour on the counter or workspace and gently transfer the dough out of the mixing bowl and onto the surface.

Gently divide the dough into two, and shape the dough used a flat spatula or other tool by moving in circles around the dough, pulling the sides around and causing tension along these outer walls.

After you’re done, let it rest again for 20 - 30 minutes.

Ikarian Bread – Shaping the Dough

Final Shaping in Proofing Baskets

Prep some proofing baskets. Here, you can also place clean dish towels in a large bowl and generously dust the towel with flour so the dough does not stick.

Now, add some flour to the tops and sides of each piece of dough.

Gently move the dough to the baskets face down (sticky side up).

Now, add more flour to the tops and sides while in each basket.

Cover the basket with plastic, and let it rest for 3 - 4 hours.

Ikarian Bread – Rest the Dough

Bake the Bread

For those with a Dutch oven, I will refer you again to the original recipe at thekitchn.

Instead, this modified version produced great results, too.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (F).

Carefully move the dough rounds to a baking sheet.

Score the top of the bread with a sharp knife to give that characteristic fold along the top of the bread.

Bake for 20 minutes. Here, you can occasionally mist the breads every 5 minutes or so with a spray bottle to add moisture during baking.

Reduce the heat to 450 degrees and bake for 10 minutes while continuing to mist every 5 minutes or so.

Now, bake for another 30 - 45 minutes without misting. The loaves will begin to brown near the start of this final step, but will get deeper brown as you continue. Aim for just short of burnt.

Then, remove and let them cool for a couple hours on a cooling rack.

Ikarian Bread – Baking

Eat and Enjoy your Ikarian Bread!

Relax and enjoy your well-earned treat!

Now top it off your Ikarian bread with some Ikarian jam and add it as a side to some traditional Ikarian soufico and you are all set. You’ll see why the Ikarian diet is healthy and delicious!

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